There was a social media trend going around the past couple years in the women’s hiking groups that I follow. Single women or groups of women would post pictures of their chests bare to the mountains and backs to the photographer. I never thought much of it. I would think, “Huh, good for them”. Although, I could have never imagined myself taking a similar photo and definitely not posting it on social media. Especially when most of the trails here in Colorado are full of people.
Fast forward to the Friday after Thanksgiving 2020.
It’s been about two months since Dan and I have been hiking. Between the wildfires and fertility treatments on the weekends, it’s been impossible. (Time and energy towards hobbies is another thing infertility robs of you but we’ll save all that for another time). Therefore, we made it a point over the long four-day weekend to make sure we spent some time in the mountains. Dan selected the Niwot Mountain Loop from Brainard Lake Recreation Area and out we went.
This hike was not easy. We were trudging up, up, up through deep snow, postholing, and falling. We moronically didn’t bring our snowshoes and left them safely behind in the car thinking the snow didn’t seem that deep. For much of the way, this hike didn’t follow a traditional trail. We were at times walking over snow covered slippery rocks and tree branches up the side of a mountain. It was a rude awakening back into hiking.
As I was making my way up the mountain, Dan ahead of me, my mind drifted to infertility, which it often does. Somewhere in that sea of thoughts, I had an indescribable awareness of my body (which I often have during a two week wait seeking out any little rumble, grumble, or sign that I could be pregnant). Instead of going there, I thought about the fact that I haven’t hiked in months. I haven’t been working out normally or to the extent I usually do. But I felt strong. My body was easily carrying me up that mountain.
Actually.. my body has carried me up lots of mountains.
It flipped me around in gymnastics for nearly 15 years. It ran four mini-marathons. It took me up the Himalayas, Machu Picchu, Mount Fitz Roy, and Mount St. Helen. It completed two triathlons, a bike race over a mountain pass and thousands of miles of biking and hiking all around Colorado and National Parks.
Instricically for the past year, infertility has created a lot of shame in my body (not to mention in my womanhood). That this body doesn’t work, that there is something wrong with me. Why can’t it do this one thing women are biologically born to do when so many others are able to without even trying? It has made me question what my body is capable of. I’ve done everything I can to fix it so I must be somehow broken.
On Niwot Mountain Summit, I came to terms with the fact that in reality.. it is quite the opposite. My body is resilient. It is strong. It has been poked, prodded, scraped, ingested more vitamins and pills than should be humanly possible, has gone through serious wine withdrawals and it keeps coming back for more.
It is time to stop putting my body down and feeling at odds with it. My body is my ally, not my enemy. Yes, it has yet to accomplish this major event but look how amazingly far it’s taken me. Look how many incredible things I’ve accomplished because I’ve been blessed with this otherwise healthy, strong vessel. It is carrying me through infertility the same way it carries me up those mountains.
As I was nearing the top of Niwot Mountain Summit, the body-positive, freeing images of other women topless to the mountains dawned on me and I knew what I had to do. I had to rip off my shirt, claim control back, and make amends with this beautiful body of mine.
When I got to the top to meet Dan, I did a quick scan around to make sure no one was anywhere near us and told him, “I need you to do something and please don’t laugh and don’t ask questions. Just take the photo”. And even though this was completely out of character for me, he did without hesitation. The cold air felt surprisingly marvelous and inside, I was bursting with joy and a sense of freedom and connection.
I am not broken.
“We are all born so beautiful. The greatest tragedy is being convinced we are not”.
– Rumi Kaur