Ziggy is a recent mother of twins, but has stayed true to her heart and continues to explore the outdoors. Albeit a little differently... this is her story. BONUS: Read to the bottom to see her top 5 tips for exploring the outdoors in New Zealand with babies.
Hiking with the baby twins at Lake Tekapo.
"It is a cold winters morning. The ground is frosty and crunches satisfyingly as we get out of the car at the start of the Invincible track. The cold air is refreshing and cuts through the fogginess of mind. Fogginess bought on by nights punctuated by the periodic waking’s of my twin boys. I never knew a tiredness like this, not even during my student days when going out all night and still getting up at 5am to ride track-work was the norm. The fresh mountain air always helps me to feel more human again. Seems to revive me in a way that coffee doesn't quite do.
Being outside is the perfect way for us to reconnect.
Some people think I am mad taking my babies out on a cold winters morning to trudge up hills or to wander through the bush. They seem so small and vulnerable in this winter paradise. But they love being in the outdoors exploring as much as I do. When we are out here they never fuss or grizzle. It feels so natural to have them out here with us. So, I truss them up in merino layers, warm beanies and their puffer onesies. They are warm as toast and cooing as we load them into our backpacks.
As we climb out of the valley floor, I can feel the twin I am carrying leaning off to the side gazing at the bush at it passes us by. I stop and show him interesting leaves or knotted branches. I point out robins hopping along the track in front of us and a fantail fluttering along at eye level in the lower branches. Maybe this is why the boys have developed a fondness for birds of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they nod off to sleep, lulled by the rhythmic motion of our feet falling and rising. Of our voices as we talk.
Mt Larkins is one of our favourite places to explore.
We try to go out every weekend if possible, my partner and I. It gives us a chance to connect and bond in a way we cannot do when we are at home with the chaos and intensity that two babies consistently bring. Out here it is peaceful and our souls are nourished. As we gain height the sun appears, bathing us in her soft golden glow. The boys babble happily and point out at the valley below.
Above Invincible Mine, in the Rees Valley. The boys loved it!
It is in this mountain paradise we can deal with uncomfortable subjects and talk with loving kindness. Having a baby, let alone twins, is a true test of any relationship. It has been our ability to go out into the wild areas with our boys that has allowed us to re-set and rediscover the magic. We always go home inspired and reenergised for the week ahead; for his long days working, and for my long days and nights of being a full-time mum and part time student. Here in the wild we are who we truly are and our boys are learning the ways of the bush, of the mountains, of our mother nature. It feels like home.
It is for these reasons we make such a conscientious effort to get out there although it is not always easy. Sometimes the sheer effort of getting up and out the door almost defeats us. Finding all the stuff we need for the boys so they are comfortable, watered, fed. Finding all the stuff we need so we are fed and watered - sometimes I'm so baby minded that I forget about myself. (I've learned to keep an emergency stash of chocolate in my car because we all know chocolate makes most situations even a bit better!)
It takes a bit of adaptation, especially the longer hikes. I've changed nappies in some crazy places – including in mid-air while on the move to avoid clouds of sand-flies blood lusting after sweet bare baby bums. Or breastfeeding on Ben Lomond saddle on route to the summit, as other hikers wandered past ogling. Maybe they were miffed at seeing 4-month-old babies up there. Or maybe they were shocked to see an exposed breast at 1326m. I’ve never cared what other people thought about my 'baby rearing techniques'. I guess I am one of those “respond to my babies needs when they need things' type of mums. Not that I attribute to my method of 'mumming' to any way apart from what feels natural to me. I follow my instincts and let my heart guide me. I have no idea if I'm doing things the 'right' way or the 'wrong' way. I just do and try not to overthink things.
Mt Dewar, spectacular but easily accessible with a baby.
My twins were definitely unplanned and an 'unexpected' surprise. I have had to change my mindset entirely when I became a mother. Slow down and enjoy each little moment. Be present. I’ve found beauty in being a mother and watching my boys grow. This was not easy given that I have always been a person who is trying to do a thousand things at once. A person who spent every spare second on an adventure whether it be skiing in winter, biking in summer, always running through the mountains or riding my horse. I love to travel and explore different lands and cultures overseas. This passion has seen me spend months roaming around the mighty Himalayas in Nepal, surfing in Sri Lanka and riding horses in Mongolia.
Therefore, the hardest part of becoming a mother (for me) is the loss of independence. The loss of freedom to be spontaneous and just go. I hear of my friends going on cool adventures and chasing their dreams. And I feel left out sometimes. Hollow. But then I look at what I have and the things I am doing and I know I am on my biggest adventure yet. My heart feels full and I am content. Even when 'getting out' some days is simply hauling my double buggy, which is like the titanic of buggies, around the local boardwalk. It barely fits on [the boardwalk] but I've literally been around there thousands of times and could push it around with my eyes shut. Every time I enjoy it and find peace in the wind on my face and the happy gaggles from the boys. Sometimes they have a pre-nap grumble. Sometimes I stop and let them watch the swans and the ducks on the lagoon. Recently I watched my boys toddle along the track for the first time, picking up sticks and rocks and running through puddles and stomping in mud. My heart swelled with pride and I felt whole. Such a 'small' thing but these boys have shown me how joy can come in pint sized punches.
Having our whānau come along on adventures helps spread the load, literally!
I've learned to follow my instincts and reconnect with my postpartum body through movement and exploration. I've had to adapt to a different way of going on adventures. I am finding myself looking at the world through a different lens. I am seeing how truly magical our flora and fauna is by the way it captivates and enchants my boys. Being outside with them has definitely slowed me down and bought me back into the present. I find that I am more grounded in the moment and appreciative of simple things. Getting into the outdoors and moving my body has given me so many benefits (physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally) throughout my transition into motherhood.
After walking this track a million times, suddenly my boys could toddle along too.
One of my mantras is that going out with my babies doesn't always have to be on epic missions. Small walks in my backyard count too. Pushing my pram just to get some fresh air and stretch my legs while nodding the babes off to sleep count too. My experience with my boys has shown me how babies like to be on the move, they like the fresh air and changing scenery. Hence keeping on the move and enjoying the outdoors has been my sanctuary and my sanity as a mother. It is something I would recommend to all mothers and encourage them to do. It is always worth it."
Sigourney's Five Tip on how to help you get you and your babies on adventures!
- Being fluid and having the ability to go with the flow helped tremendously (i.e with spontaneous nappy changes / feeds / the need for a wiggle on the ground...)
- Having gear that was comfortable for us and the babies was crucial - doesn't have to be the fanciest, it just has to work for you! Good gear means you will be more inclined to get out - (i.e sturdy pram / comfy backpack / good frontpack / suitable clothes for baby etc.
- A muslin cloth is handy for everything - sandfly protection / shade protection/ lay baby on ground / wipe up stuff / changing mat etc.
- Take a double plastic bag to carry out dirty nappies (if on longer hikes!)
- Don't rush, enjoy being outside and take the time to show your baby the world!