Sunday, September 6, 2009

NEWS FLASH - Baby Climbs to 14,000ft! - Parents Celebrate From Jail

It all started by accident really. When Jen was still pregnant and we were interviewing doctors, he asked, "What are you struggling with right now?" Jen told him that she was struggling with a loss of identity. That she was afraid that she would be giving up a lot of herself in sacrifice to the yet unborn baby. And that this would be our first summer without climbing a 14er in a few years. To which the doctor replied, "Well, we took our 8 week old up a 14er." Not only did this guy immediately become our doctor. He planted a seed.

Fast forward to the end of July. Rigley is 6 weeks old and the parents are just starting to get their feet back on the ground. "Hey hun?" Jen says, "If we were to take Rigley up a 14er, which one would we do?" "I hear Quandary is the easiest." After just a tiny bit of research (aka looking in one book from our basement) we decided to go for it.

A team was assembled because we knew we would not be able to pull this off by ourselves. Sherpas Haley, Meredith, Ashley ("Whistle Girl" from our wedding fiasco), and Pops Johnson (flying in from St. Paul just for this) joined us on September 2 for an attempt of an assent of Quandary Peak, 14,265 ft.

It was a gorgeous morning. Clear skies but a little hazy because of the fires in California. (No joke. If they find that arsonist, add "hazy-ing up the skies for a baby's first 14er" to the list of crimes.) After loading up the car and packing up enough food, water, diapers, and wipes to hike up an orphanage we took off to find the trail head. This was our first set back. "Trail Head Closed" was the first sign we saw from the parking lot. A quick reorientation and some back tracking brought us to an alternative site. We would not be denied!

We headed up the trail at 8 am in good spirits. We had a steep 3300 feet of elevation to tackle in only 2.8 miles. No easy feat for your average people without a baby. Good thing we had an above average team.

Really our only trouble was Rigley's first poopy diaper. Or should I say poopy diaper, poopy socks, poopy sleeper, poopy blanket, poopy feet, poopy back, and poopy hair. Yowsers. I'm guessing the lack of air pressure allowed her to get a truly awesome force behind her evacuation of her bowels. Good thing Chris insisted that she wear 2 sleepers for the hike. Rigley only got really pissed when she had to get completely naked at 11,000 ft. Hey who wouldn't.

Everyone took a shift on this hike. Though some shifts were shorter than others. I was carrying Rigley for well over an hour. I think I took 36 steps.

It got a little cool and breezy near the top so Sherpa Haley used a gigantic rain coat to insure the precious cargo's warmth.

We hit the top just before noon and took just a few minutes for photos before heading back down.

I have to say that Rigley did amazing the entire day. We were on trail for 7.5 hours and Rigley started to get annoyed with being in the Baby Bjorn around hour 7. Not too shabby. Otherwise she slept and looked around and sucked on a pacifier in peace and happiness.
I am sure that many of you have been reading this with some reservations. Was this really a good idea? Did they have to do this? What's the point of taking a baby up a mountain anyway? Is there any way the payoff would be worth the risks?
Believe me, we asked ourselves these questions too. As well as several people on the trail. We had one person who stated that she was a pediatric nurse and what we were doing was "really dangerous." She wanted to know if we were monitoring Rigley's oxygen levels. Another person said her husband was a doctor and she was (frowning) "going to ask him about this." Meredith's response was that "You could kill a baby's soul by trying to keep it 'safe'."
So why did we do it? Part of it was for us, but part was for Rigley too. Jen needs that sense of adventure in her life. She needs to do something "epic" every once in a while. Little Rigley is going to need to get used to endurance challenges. The only one off the hook in this family is Euchre and he has a paw impairment.
Really this whole thing was a negotiation between parent's needs and child's needs. I really struggle with balancing this back-and-forth. I see children in my office that suffer from growing up in a house with extremes on both sides. Some kids have parents that sacrificed nothing. The parent's lives were the same (typically the father's) and the child was an addition that did not get due attention. Other kids (more common these days) had parents that gave up everything of themselves in order to give their children everything and protect their children from everything. The consequences of this style are no joke either.
So how to do you balance this? When do you know when to put your own shit aside because that's what's best. And how do you know when its time to take care of yourself because that's what's best. We're still working it out. It seems, like most stuff with kids, its a game time decision. Decide in the moment, because it changes all the time, every time.
For us, we didn't feel like Rigley's life was in any danger. We talked it through with our doctor. He thought her biggest risk was sun exposure or if we fell. We knew we would pull the plug if we saw any warning signs, even if we were just a few feet from the top. We always talked about it as an "attempt" just in case we couldn't pull it off, but we were dedicated to trying.
It was worth it to us. We will be better parents because of this hike. Just as importantly, I want Rigley to know that sometimes the best way to take care of someone else is to take care of yourself. There is a reason the airlines ask you to put your own mask on first before helping someone else. I know its a pretty American sentiment. To be oriented as an individual rather than the collective. She'll learn that individuality vs. collective is a balancing act too.
I want her to look at these pictures and feel permission to go off and have an adventure, become a musician, or even vote for a Republican. Whatever it is that she needs to do. For herself.


Kim Swift said...

Awesome. Next time, I'm there.

Chris L said...

well said, my friend!

Kelsie said...

My sister Chris shared your blog with me. Very inspiring!

Kate Seager said...

I couldn't agree more! Way to go!! Almost 18 months in and we are still regularly working on how to find that balance. However I will always believe that we have a very happy kid, because he has very happy parents.

Kate said...


Jersey said...

"There is a reason the airlines ask you to put your own mask on first before helping someone else." ...i love it!

"I want her to look at these pictures and feel permission to go off and have an adventure, become a musician, or even vote for a Republican."... youre a much better mom than i could ever be. voting republican will rank right up there with setting the house on fire or killing grandma.

LA said...

Love this post! Hurray to your family for having courage, a sense of adventure, and enjoying life. Too often folks live in fear. And it all does seem to involve the journey of finding balance.

Liberator said...

Team Johnson-Leck rules.

Errol said...

Wow that's epic.

Way to go Rigley!!!

Linda said...

Way to go Rigley, Jen and Chris! If any family can accomplish great feats, you will be the ones! Congratulations.

Jarad Niemi said...

I can't help but think that half of this story is missing. `Parents celebrate from jail'?????

Haley said...

I am so honored I got to take part of this epic adventure! It was meaningful on so many ways. You two are inspiring as parents.