We met Meghan online and were intrigued by her gorgeous baby, her active lifestyle and the fabulous photography on her website, The Adventures in Parenthood Project. She kindly agreed to take time away from her suitcase packing to do this interview.
1. You live in an international tourist destination, Banff, Alberta. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Banff?
I was born in Calgary, Alberta, just outside of the mountains, but my family moved to Ottawa, Ontario, when I was just five weeks old. When I was 15, my family went on a camping trip to Banff National Park, and that was the first time I laid eyes on the mountains. Years later, when I was window washing during my summer break after my first year at Queen’s University, I had a longing to do something more adventurous with my next summer off. I applied for a job at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake in Banff National Park, got hired, moved to the mountains, and met my (now) husband, Paul. After three summer seasons at Bow Lake, I eventually moved to the Town of Banff in 2008, and have lived here ever since. I love living right in nature, and having easy access to incredible wilderness and backcountry trails.
2. Your beautiful daughter Mistaya was born almost a year ago. We would love to hear about Mistaya’s birth and your early weeks with her.
Resting together in those early weeks. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
Mistaya’s birth was an incredible experience. I am a firm believer that birth is an empowering experience – not some hardship to be dreaded and endured – and I brought this perspective into my own labor and delivery experience. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Her birth involved 28 hours of active labor after a full day of laboring at home. It isn’t easy to summarize a birth experience but suffice it to say that the little adventurer was just too excited to be out in the world, and was coming out with her head tilted up, which prevented her from descending. I’ll never forget the moment the nurse placed Mistaya (or Maya, as we call her) on my abdomen, and I just lay there totally exhausted, counting her fingers and toes.
Our early weeks with our daughter were blissful and completely exhausting. We don’t live close to family, so it was a month before we had any hands-on help. We had a few breastfeeding issues, but we gradually overcame them, and she gained weight fast. My daughter is wonderfully spirited and wouldn’t sleep; it required a Herculean effort every night to get a few hours of rest. She eventually settled into a better pattern.
For those first few weeks I tried my hardest to be easy on myself and let myself rest and heal. My husband was a total rock, even though I’m pretty sure we were both sleeping vertically at times! Parenthood really has a way of pulling you to extremes, all in a matter of seconds. One second you’re totally done, feeling like a failure, and the next you feel completely overcome by love and like you’ve been a mother forever.
3. We can tell from your website that you love the outdoors and being active. What were some of your earliest outdoor adventures with her?
After her birth it took a week before I could walk outside with Mistaya, and then it was only for a few minutes at a time. Within a month, however, I was doing a bit of light hiking with her, including Tunnel Mountain, a small peak here in Banff. When she was 11 weeks old we took her camping for the first time (I wrote these 10 Tips for Camping with a Baby based on that experience). I gradually got more comfortable taking her out, and by six months we took her up her first big peak in the Rockies, Mt. Fairview, and also hiked into a backcountry lodge. It’s amazing how convenient it is when all you have to do is pull over to breastfeed! I’ve fed that kid in a tent, at a snowy mountain pass, on a summit…even in a canoe!
I have kept a logbook of all the hikes and trips I’ve done with her, and it’s fun to look back on it.
4. We are in the middle of a cold and snowy winter. Do you find yourself getting cabin fever being home with a baby? How do you keep Mistaya warm when you do get outside?
I’ll admit I don’t get out as much as in the summertime, or for long periods of time. But I will get cabin fever if I don’t get out, so I pretty much plan my whole day around getting outdoors with Mistaya, even if it’s just for a walk. There were only two days this whole winter when we didn’t take her outdoors. One of my favourite things to do is push her down to the river in the Chariot, lace up my skates and push her around on the rink. She usually falls asleep, and I get some fresh air and exercise.
I have my 7 A.M. ENFANT Blanket 212evolution (Meghan reviewed it here) to thank for keeping Mistaya warm during all these outings. It’s a lifesaver and helps me feel confident when I’m taking my baby out in really cold temperatures.
5. Do you have any tips or advice for other families who would like to be more active but have a baby?
En route to Skoki Lodge, our first backcountry experience. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
My advice to these families is to just get out and do it! Being active outdoors with a baby requires some planning and preparation, but it also involves practice. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get. Start small, and work your way up to larger, longer adventures.
Babies are incredibly adaptable; it’s often the parents that need to learn to be more flexible and easy-going. Be ready to laugh at your mistakes and mishaps, and treat every outing as a mini adventure. You can’t go wrong!
For some activities, you’ll need the right gear. My website is full of tips and resources, and if anyone is looking for some specific advice, they are welcome to contact me.
6. Do you have favorite product that has made outdoor adventures with a baby easier?
There are a number of products I recommend, but the #1 product would have to be a quality baby carrier. This is essential for hiking, walking and traveling with baby and gives parents more hands-free time overall. I personally recommend Boba Carriers (or carriers that are a similar model). This carrier offers optimal support to the parent and baby, and can be worn on the parent’s front or back.
Another carrier worth checking out is the Onya Baby brand. Their carriers come with a built in baby seat! I’ll be trying this one out on some upcoming travels, and I think the built in seat will come in really handy.
7. You are going abroad soon. Can you tell us a little bit about what adventures lie ahead and how you are preparing for travel with a baby?
In just a few days we depart for nine weeks of what I’m calling “Island Hopping with an Infant.” Our travels will take us to New Zealand, Niue, various islands in French Polynesia and Hawaii. Even before she was born, my husband and I had the goal of travelling with our daughter in her first year. We are so excited to share our love for adventure and travel with her!
I think that all my time spent outdoors with Mistaya has offered me great preparation for our upcoming travels. We have also already travelled with her to four other provinces in Canada, so are accustomed to meeting her needs on-the-go. Additionally, I have been reading articles about traveling with a baby (I have compiled them here) in order to learn as much as I can from others.
For the most part, I know we just need to dive in headfirst. There’s only so much preparing we can do. A lot will have to be figured out on the spot. All the more fun, right?
Introducing Mistaya to Bow Lake. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
Meghan J. Ward. Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer and outdoorsy mama based in Banff, Alberta. She is the founder of The Adventures in Parenthood Project, a website exploring the transition of outdoor adventurers to parenthood. A mountain sport enthusiast, she also enjoys international travel, photography, yoga and healthy cooking. You can learn more about her at meghanjoyward.com, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.