Baby, Let’s Go

May 12, 2008 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Written for Portland Trails Newsletter

The roar of the Presumpscot River Falls slowly fades behind us as my husband, Rob, and I wind our way back along the river toward the road.  The sun weaves its way through the mostly leafless woods, weakened but still warming the mid-November air.  Several children run by, coming from the opposite direction, smiling and panting and calling out to one another in a long string.  We meet a woman coming behind them, one of the children’s parents, and she smiles as she looks down at my expanded belly.  “When are you due?” she asks the now familiar question.  “Actually, today,” I laugh.

*****

We leave the sidewalk on Outer Congress and I waddle down the hill next to Rob on the Fore River Trail to the marsh that opens up below.  Thanks to my muddled brain we are an hour early for an ultrasound appointment at the office building next door and have taken advantage of the time to take a meander outside.  “Have you had another one, yet?” Rob asks, checking his watch.  “Just a low level one” I reply.  The day is chilly but the sun shines over the salty grasses.  A few mallards feed nearby.  We make it to the first bridge and I lean against the rail as I take slow, deep breaths through the next contraction.  It is the day before Thanksgiving; the baby is now almost two weeks over due but ever-so-slowly trying to make its way out.  I’ve learned a lot over the past 30 hours of labor and we’ve done a lot of walking.  Mostly on the Eastern Promenade Trail near where we live, but now across town on the Fore River.  I’m thankful for the respite and beauty and distraction they provide.

*****

 3 days old

Rob and I take a short walk on the “labor route” of the Eastern Prom while my parents watch the baby.  I’m still aching and we’re both exhausted, but we turn to each other to echo the words we keep saying to ourselves in half-wonder, “We have a daughter…”

8 days old

We take a walk with the baby.  This time beyond the daily strolls on neighborhood paths, we head out to Falmouth to the Gilsland Farm Trail.  The wind whips us but she stays sound asleep in her carrier, snug against Rob’s body.  We have learned quickly what other experienced parents have always known: when in doubt and when completely overwhelmed by an upset baby, get the whole family outside.

 4 ½ months old

For one of our post-becoming-parents dates, Rob and I leave our daughter with his mom and hop the #5 bus with our snowshoes out to the Stroudwater Trail.  A snowstorm the night before has left the world turned white, and we make our way through the gorgeous drifts to Westbrook.  (Where we take a short hiatus from our nature adventure and hike over to the cinema to catch a movie – a delight because we now can’t just go out to a movie on a whim!)

5 ½ months old

I have to travel to do a presentation day in Machias, so we decide to make a weekend of it and take our first overnight backpacking trip with the baby.  We hike out on a glorious early May day to camp on the Bold Coast Trail.  As we walk along the cliffs we stop to catch our breath at the sparkling water far below, and also for our out-of-shape selves.  It’s breezy enough to need to layer up, and although the wind calms down at nightfall and we enjoy an early-in-the-season bug-free evening, we bundle up in everything we’ve brought to stay comfortable as the temp hovers near freezing.  Sleep deprivation while camping is not much different from at home, with the added benefit of looking up at the stars while nursing my daughter in the night.

6 months old

It’s a warm, sunny spring day – although the forecast is for rain.  The water isn’t quite warm enough for us to feel safe boating with the baby, so we leave her with a friend for another date and take our double kayak out to the new Presumpscot River boat launch across from the Riverton Trolley Park.  The breeze is lazy as we put in and paddle up river, the water showing almost perfect reflections of the trees leaning over the banks on both sides.  We laze along with it, and on the way back we’re quiet enough to catch site of muskrats and even a fisher cat (!)  We get the boat back on the car just as the first raindrops of the afternoon come down.

9 months old

The previous month (July) and this month (August) we take two Jogging Stroller Camping trips with the baby – a fun alternative to traditional backpacking with infants.  Pack your backpacks a little lighter than usual, put the baby in a jogging stroller, throw the heaviest stuff you have to carry in the basket underneath – and go!  (When the baby wants out of the stroller, throw her in a cloth carrier on one parent’s back, and put that parent’s backpack in the stroller.)  The first trek we take is Downeast, walking back roads for a couple of days through the blueberry barrens, with friendly migrant workers gathering just before picking starts (until we are kicked out because of pesticide spraying – this gives a whole new allure to organic agriculture!)  The second trip is with friends who also have infants, all of us Jogging Stroller Camping on the C & O Canal Trail in western Maryland.

11 months old

For our annual 30K walk we pack the jogging stroller and the three of us meet up with my sister and our friends to walk a loop through Portland.  The baby has been crawling for months and is very active.  And while we’ve gone on many hikes with her, we wonder if she’ll balk at being taken on a walk from dawn to dark.  But between the stroller and the cloth backpack carrier and picnic breaks and passing her around to our crew, we have a lovely day.  This year we use the Eastern Promenade Trail, Harborwalk, Fore River Parkway Trail, Thompson’s Point Trail, Fore River Trail, Capisic Brook Trail, Hall School Trail, Evergreen Cemetery trails, Baxter Woods, and Back Cove Trails to make it around and back home again.  The weather holds and the sun makes for a gorgeous late October feast for the eyes: apple trees still laden with fruit, freshly fallen leaves to kick up as we pass.

The Trails have brought us full circle through our daughter’s first year.

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