I’ve been spending some of my spare moments these days thinking about anxiety and its place in my life as a new Mom. I’ve always harboured my share of anxious feelings, and to be honest I worried about becoming that overbearing parent because of how tightly wound I typically felt. I’m reminded of last week at the pool during Finn’s swimming lessons. Swimming is Finn’s time with Daddy, as is bath time, and anything else I feel anxious about when it comes to caring for Finn. During these lessons Finn is to be dunked under the water. Sometimes this is done by Daddy and sometimes by the instructor. Especially when the instructor is holding my baby, I find myself checking into mama bear instinct mode and dive to the edge of the pool deck to make sure my baby safely surfaces. This typically prompts fellow lesson spectators to toss knowing glances my way as they ask “first baby?” I’ve discovered that having a baby doesn’t immediately do away with anxieties in the way I had hoped. As with most things, a little self-reflection and mindful action is required.
Since having Finn, Joel and I have been practicing mindfulness in how we parent. Together we try to cultivate a life based on simple living and focused on what really matters to us. Life these days is slower in some ways as I’m home with Finn, but can become quickly filled with the busy-ness of the day-to-day; an open schedule begs to be filled and I find it easy to do so. Worse yet, I find my mind distracted by the chatter of social media feeds and Internet articles on various parenting topic I go endlessly in search of. As I mention in my recent “Winter Retreat” post, I find myself craving the quiet, contemplative hibernation of winter if only to block out some of the rattle of being busy.
the idea of wiping away some of the anxieties I had been sheltering under my new mama umbrella seemed worth the long drive north
So after exchanging a few articles and conversations about the influence of nature on the brain, especially this article from National Geographic, we decided to head out in search of wilderness with our friends Matt, Krysta, and their labradoodle, Oakley. Braced for cold minus sixteen with the windchill temperatures, we loaded four adults, two large breed dogs and one baby into one SUV and headed for the West Gate Visitor’s Centre. Once there, we sought advice on the best trail to tackle with a baby, and settled on Two Rivers Trail.
Getting away into wilderness is something I have been craving for many weeks now. Winter has been more muted this year than is typical in the area in which we live. I have been missing the big flakey snowfalls and the cozy snowed in feeling I had been hoping would characterize my winter on maternity leave. Maybe it’s all of the Alaskan wilderness shows Joel has been watching and Instagram feeds I’ve been immersed in lately. Maybe it was the lure of wiping clean the mental windshield Florence Williams talks about in “This is your brain on nature.” To be sure, the idea of wiping away some of the anxieties I had been sheltering under my new mama umbrella seemed worth the long drive north.
While we were somewhat daring in bringing our six month old along for the hike on a day with such cold temperatures, we knew to call it quits after the first trail. From there we switched gears and checked out the nearby Algonquin Visitor Centre.
By the time we meandered through wilderness exhibits at the Visitor Centre, we were all starved — and not all of us could be satisfied with mama’s milk like Finn. So off we went to On the Docks Pub in Huntsville where we ordered so much food that the server clarified multiple times whether we were sure we wanted THAT much food. We ended our day with bellies full of both nachos and wings AND laughs. In terms of ridding oneself of the anxieties of constant care for a baby, the day proved that wilderness is good, but there’s nothing quite like an easy-going day spent with genuine friends.