Mala Fatra + Baby

I wrote an original version of this blog last week, sneaking a few minutes here and there while Baby was asleep on me or in another room.  Though I pressed save multiple times, the post was lost.  Having to write around the care of an (almost) four-month old, the loss of this original post was much more emotional than one would expect.

photos by Karel Dušík

"I can take her," my husband told me as I slathered sun block on my baby's chunky legs.  I thoughtfully spread the cream, deliberating before answering.

"I'll take her.  It's a hot day and I want her to be able to breastfeed whenever she needs it."  Though I relish my time with my baby, I wasn't looking forward to hauling a 15-pound baby up and down the Mala Fatra mountains of Slovakia.  We'd take the cable car up to the base of the ridge, but after fighting hand-foot-mouth disease for a week, I wasn't feeling very strong.  Still, I took the yards of fabric into my hands and wove them around my body, tucked in my baby, and tied her in snugly.  On my back went a backpack of equal shape and size, containing cloth diapers, water, and extra layers of clothing.

My dad had a backpack over his shoulders and my husband had the bulk of our necessities in his backpack: fruit, sandwiches, water and clothes.  In the cable car, I felt the occasional tension of the height, especially with a newly three-month-old baby in my care.   I was concerned about her not getting dehydrated on a hot day, but more than that, my maternal instincts told me that I, and I alone, should carry her over the rocky paths.

It wasn't long before my shoulder ached from the climb.  Our highest peak was our first. In order to help her struggling mother, the babe made sure to scream at the top of her lungs at the trickiest parts. I paced around a young group of smiling hikers as I hoped to coax some sleep into my baby.  It wasn't until a few more screams  and the beginning of the descent that she fell asleep.  I could then finally revel in the views all around me and converse more easily with my visiting American family.

In greener areas, my niece and husband were on the look for blueberries, and I had them regularly deposited in my hand--perhaps an offering to keep me fueled for the paths ahead.  We kept on, my eyes more often on the path and my watch than anything else. (There was no way I would allow us to miss our cable car down.)  We turned back sooner than we had last year before our wedding, and I was relieved to skip an uphill that was still strongly etched into my muscle memory.

We made our way back and I recalled how last year's hike had been exhausting enough that we'd skipped the planned "part II" of our outdoor adventure.  Though I was equally tired this day, part II still happened.  It involved walking through an area carved by a very persistent little body of water.  Rocks were gently shaped over the course of many years and the stream was pleasantly interrupted by curves and waterfalls.

What it lacked in elevation, it gained in slip-a-bility.  I was wearing my new hiking sandals, and though they provide traction, I made use of wood and metal railings, especially as some wet weather had added to the slickness.  Fortunately, we never fell, though my dad took a spill that added some character in the form of scrapes and scratches up and down his shin.

Baby girl was better soothed by the tumbling water than she had been by the wind which whipped around the ridge.  So, sucking on her newly-found thumb, she enjoyed the walk.  We continued until I didn't trust us to go any further.

After a final diaper change at the car, my father and niece sang Ella to sleep in the backseat, and I took a break from mothering in the front.


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