When I became pregnant with our son Lochlan, I had always sworn to myself I wouldn’t let the addition of a little one hinder my love for being on the water. To me I saw it as only adding to my experiences and something I could share with my child for the rest of my life.
For me, my fondest memories of my childhood were when I was outside with my family. When I found out I was pregnant, I would often reminisce about the times I spent in the outdoors with my parents and brother as a kid. We lived on a beautiful acreage in the heart of cow country. The living room of our average had big windows that wrapped around the entire wall with a breathtaking view of the rocky mountains in the distance. Nothing but farmland, forest, and mountains for as far as the eye could see. Talk about a way to grow up! We truly lived the rural Alberta life. I was in the local 4H Horse Club with my loyal horse Bixby, my parents would take my brother and I to watch baby calfs be born each season at the neighbouring farmstead. The Sheep River flowed through the river valley behind in the farm land a short distance from our house and I spent many days on that river (attempting) fly fishing with my father and little brother. We would fish hoppers for rising rainbow trout. Though I think my brother and I spent more time throwing rocks in the water, like most kids aged four and six like to do.
Still, I fondly remember those times and the lessons I learned as I spent my childhood largely in the outdoors. I had big dreams when I found out I was pregnant to share those same experiences with my own child in hopes one day he would look back at them the same way I do. So I kept fishing, throughout my pregnancy up until about 8.5 months along. Brendan and I would continue venturing into the places we loved which often meant long uncomfortable walks and a ton of pee breaks. Brendan remained patient as I was a lot slower than usual but getting out there felt like such a great accomplishment and like I was starting my child's life off in the best way I knew. Everyone would tell us our baby would love the water and outdoors because he spent a large portion of the pregnancy listening to the sounds of the outdoor world from the comfort of the womb. The muffled sounds of birds chirping, the wind blowing through the leaves on towering trees and water rushing through our favorite creeks. Though I was uncomfortably pregnant for most of the summer the feeling of being outside and casting dries to eager trout just made me feel good. It always has and it always will.
Any first time Mom will tell you of her many dreams for her child. The many things she swears to do and swears not to do. I did that exact thing. It’s hard to not have expectations for the unknown, at least for me. However, I found that changed completely when Lochlan was born in October of 2016. As someone who always likes to plan I literally had read and done everything, I can think of in regards to having a baby. Including planning out the birth of my child. The day Loch was born he had a different plan and I quickly learned that as a parent we need to adapt and be accepting of the fact that things may not go as we hoped. You have to be willing to embrace and accept change. One thing was certain tho, my idea for raising my child outdoors as much as possible wasn’t going to go away. How I approach days on the water with him would change but the fact of getting him out would not.
The first time I took Lochlan on the river, he was 3 months old. It was just for a couple of hours in the afternoon after Brendan had finished work. It was a very warm winter day. We didn’t catch anything but being out there refreshed my mind and body. When you’re home with a newborn it’s easy to lose yourself in the dirty diapers and a constant feeding schedule. It felt good to feel the sun on my skin, and as Lochlan fell asleep in his carrier on my chest, all felt right. This was where I was meant to be. This is where all the paths I have taken in my life led me. And it was going to be a good life.
The months that followed we spent more and more time on the water with Lochlan. We started taking him on some of the longer hikes when he was a bit older (around 6 months) and he fit snuggly in our backpack kid carrier. The longer days on the water looked vastly different than the ones I had before he was born. We slowed our pace a lot. In the spring as he wasn’t on solids yet this meant lots of pit stops to sit down and nurse him. As he nursed I would watch Brendan and our friend Vichy fish stretches of the river, Lochlan would stare up at the trees and it was honestly some of my favorite times of early motherhood. Lochlan has always been the kind of kid to sit back and take in his surroundings, he seemed so at peace on the water those days. Like the sounds were all familiar to him from when I was pregnant.
As he got older and started on solid foods the days on the water required a lot more planning and preparation. I would bring all the snacks for him and anything to keep him preoccupied in the kid carrier while we moved between spots on the river. Not to mention we would bring back up outfits, sunglasses, hats, rain-gear, sunscreen, baby safe bug spray, a mat to sit on, changing pad, diapers, a few of his fav toys and all the wipes. I went from carrying just a fly box and a camera in my bag to literally half my house. Like anything, it takes some trial and error. The days on the river are a bit more complicated now but it’s all worth it when I get to experience the world through my son's eyes. Everything is new and exciting to him. There is no shortage of wonder and I love walking through a forest or along a river with him on my back and answering his constant "what's that?" questions. He is continually changing and amazing me, each day with him is new and exciting. And though it takes a TON more patience and acceptance that things may not go as planned on the water (hello toddler temper tantrums - usually these happen when it's time to get in the car), having him by my side as he looks to me to help him navigate this new world has been one of the greatest things I have done in my life. Brendan and I will continue to bring him into the outdoor world as much as possible and teach him all we have been taught. A life unplugged and spending time together as a family on the water is a reminder of my childhood and my ultimate goal for Lochlan’s.