Somewhere, still bouncing down the icy path or helpfully adorning a twig like many items lost to the trail, is a little blue soother.
Winter hikes with a baby are dominated by two thoughts.
One, is he too cold?
While the kiddo was still snug in my belly, safely hidden from the elements and constantly fed and cleaned, it was easy to assume that our adventures would continue as normal once he arrived.
Now that he’s here, he is easy to take out, really. If his stomach is full, he’s content to stare up at my chins, dodge nose drips and be slowly trekked to sleep.
An obstacle to spending hours outdoors is anxious mom brain, an unexpected item in the package deal that is motherhood.
But it also gets blisteringly cold in Alberta, and Google tells me -15°C (including windchill) is as low as is safe for a baby.
So, we wait for it to warm up.
As soon as it does, I wrestle him into fleece mittens, woolen booties, a sizes too big fleece bunting and a puffy snowsuit with fold over hands and feet.
Once his hands disappear, he fights to access his thumb, soaking the layers with gallons of drool. A blue soother intervention saves the insulation factor.
He can barely move once I’m done, but the guilt of realizing that his feet might be cold is more of a challenge to get over than the mountain itself.
When he was really tiny, we shared warmth under my puffy jacket. I could zip his wild-rose-petal-soft face away from the wintry winds, and he snored the trail away. But when his feet (and then dangling legs) popped out of the bottom and the zipper began to strain at its stitches, he was banished into his own snowsuit to gulp against the wind with the rest of us.
Now five months old, he prefers being able to watch the dog trot along and branches flash by than be buried out of sight anyway. He practices his inevitable future launch out of the carrier and occasionally some of the new sounds he learned to make.
I pat down my pockets in a rising panic, searching for the little blue soother.
Usually it bobs in his mouth, preventing escapee smiles, and his unblinking, stoic face barely convinces other hikers that he’s enjoying himself.
Everything is new to him: the piney smells, geese convoys honking overhead, crunchy ice, cold snowflakes, a squirrel cussing us out from a tree branch.
Watching him experience nature for the first time, in between hoping the odour wafting up is just a dog fart, is a load of fun. It’s opened my eyes to all those little parts of getting outdoors that I’d normally overlook.
His hungry howls do inevitably reverberate into the valley below, and I search for a spot to breastfeed. Would his cries attract or scare off a bear, I wonder in passing? Probably scare it off, I decide as his wails reach a desperate pitch and then abruptly stop.
He snacks and I relax against a rock or tree trunk, taking in the view as my sweaty back dries out.
Once he’s full, we rescue the little blue soother from where it’s been bouncing since it was ejected to share his woes with the wild and move on.
He and his 16-pound bulk seem amused at the panted baby talk.
Thanks to visions of slipping and falling on my son, ice cleats vie for priority on my packing list with supplies to deal with potential blowouts (the technical term for a digested milk explosion landing everywhere but inside the diaper).
Which raises the ultimate question: how does one safely change a baby on a snowy trail? When its tingling cold, baring bottom is unappealing enough for me, so I can only imagine how my baby’s fresh skin would react to being wet and exposed.
So far, we’ve been lucky, and these colourful events have only happened near or at the truck.
Probability is on the side of things getting messy at some point, though, because we plan on getting out as much as is tiny humanly possible.
Adriena van Klei
Somewhere, a baby fusses and a mom realizes that this time, the little blue soother is gone for good. She and her fellow mama hiker stop under some trees to let the babies get their wiggles out in the snow, and a little green soother is fished out of fellow mama hiker’s pack, saving the day.