An Interview with Rebecca Caldwell - Climber and Mom.
In honor of Mother's Day, which is up-coming, we’d like to share an exclusive interview with our readers today, and we’d like to thank Rebecca Caldwell for giving us some of her time, even with her hectic schedule!
Editor: How old were you when did you first start climbing, Becca?
Rebecca Caldwell: I got into climbing when I was 22 years old.
Editor: How old is little Fitz?
Rebecca Caldwell: Fitz is a lively 2-year-old little guy.
Editor: Did you always want children before you became a mom?
Rebecca Caldwell: I was that little girl with a room full of dolls and I took care of each of them. I always knew I wanted to have children some day.
Editor: Have you climbed while pregnant and what was that feeling like for you?
Rebecca Caldwell: I climbed in the gym mostly during my pregnancy. I think the last time I climbed in my pregnancy was 4 days before Fitz was born. I started to have some SI joint pain towards the end of my pregnancy so my last day in the gym I only climbed two 5.8 routes and called it.
I really enjoyed the full body movement of climbing during my pregnancy. It seemed like such a gentle way to move my whole body and it was fun. I definitely climbed just to move and enjoy it and wasn’t worried about how hard I was climbing. It was purely for enjoyment. I did stop belaying Tommy on lead as my belly grew and only top roped.
Editor: Was bouncing back from pregnancy easy or did it take a little time?
Rebecca Caldwell: Bouncing back from pregnancy definitely took more time than I thought. I saw a lot of really active women give birth and get back to it really quickly after. I was training for a marathon when I got pregnant and so I had high expectations for myself afterwards.
Retrospectively, I think I should have given myself more time to recover. I am still experiencing some minor prolapse, which I sometimes struggle to deal with. I can still climb, bike, hike, and do most everything, but I feel I have to avoid running, which I love. I am going to see a pelvic floor PT and hope that might be the extra help that I need.
Editor: I'm sure that will help. Which route/s (and grades) did you do and really enjoy first after having your baby?
Rebecca Caldwell: My first climbing was in the gym and cragging around Estes Park and in Lander, WY. It was enjoyable to do easy routes and get back in the flow and move my body. We road tripped up to Canmore, Alberta to visit our good friends Sonnie Trotter and his wife Lydia when Fitz was almost 4 months old.
We climbed at the back of Lake Louise one day, and I remember top-roping a route that maybe was an easy 5.11 and it felt amazing to try a little harder and focus. For whatever reason, this route is one that sticks out in my mind.
Editor: Can you describe the feeling when you topped out? It must have felt exhilarating!
Rebecca Caldwell: It was an amazing feeling. I don’t know if it was the focus that a little bit of a harder route requires or what it was, but it just felt so good. Something clicked.
Editor: Climbing is one of those sports that really becomes a part of you emotionally. Did you ever think you’d have to give up climbing due to a mom’s hectic daily schedule?
Rebecca Caldwell: Since Tommy’s job is a professional climber and since he was so focused on training for and climbing the Dawn Wall, and then having a small baby I changed my mindset and got to a point that I was just happy whenever I got to climb. I was okay with stepping back.
We went to some amazing climbing areas and I would be happy to climb what I could, and then be in mom and support mode and enjoy being out in the beautiful places climbing brings us. I didn’t ever have a moment that I thought I would have to give it up, but it just had to change for me at that time.
Now that Fitz is getting older and Tommy climbed the Dawn Wall I’m excited to think about setting some goals.
Editor: How has being a mom changed you as a climber? Are you more intuitive and more emotionally in-tune with how your body reacts to climbing?
Rebecca Caldwell: At first, I think I had this weird survival instinct that I almost got a little scared on an exposed route even though I was top-roping and had to reassure myself that I was okay and safe.
At some point it switched and I feel like I got more comfortable. I don’t know what the change or difference was – maybe it was becoming more intuitive with my body.
Editor: When your child reaches the toddler phase, you’ll be doing a lot more running around as your little one begins to explore the world around them. Who are/will be your go-to people who you can trust your toddler with when you go climbing?
Rebecca Caldwell: Fitz is in that toddler phase and running and exploring everywhere we go. At this point we have thought about going climbing at places that Fitz will enjoy, too. We just returned from an amazing bouldering trip to Fontainebleau with friends.
It was the ideal place to climb with kids. There was something for everyone, and the boulders are in the forest so it’s an ideal place for kids to run and explore (especially at Fitz’s age when they don’t have as much of an understanding of dangers like cliffs, etc.).
Fitz had as much fun as we did. Typically when we go climbing, we make sure we are with another person who is up for helping out with kid duty. I wouldn’t say we have any go-to people, but it’s fun to go with other families who understand what it’s like and then there is a friend/friends for Fitz, too!
Editor: What advice do you have for young women who love climbing or climb professionally when it comes to having children? Is there a right time, a right age, a right frame of mind so that they have the best advice possible going in?
Rebecca Caldwell: I think having a child is a huge personal decision and the right time and age is going to be different for everyone. Having a positive mind frame and an open one is pretty important. You just never know how you’re going to feel during your pregnancy, or how fast or slow you might recover after giving birth.
You don’t know if you’re child is going to be “easy” or require more attention. I knew I wanted to be a mother and I wanted Fitz to grow up outside, so when it happened I was okay with however it went and I knew that regardless we were going to be outside and that was the most important to me.
Editor: You have goals when it comes to climbing, and Fitz will grow up watching you climb as you take him with you on climbing trips to amazing places. If he takes to climbing, he’ll be learning from the very best. But if he doesn’t show an interest in climbing, how will you handle that?
Rebecca Caldwell: Right now the trips we go on revolve mostly around climbing, but it’s important to us to encourage Fitz in whatever he might be interested in. The most important thing for us is to instill a love of the outdoors in Fitz, which will be a win-win situation for everyone.
So hopefully he’ll be happy hanging out at the crag and we can spend time on our trips doing what he loves outside as well. We will work to find a balance!
Editor: Are there any climbing locations in particular that you’d love to show your little one when he's a bit older?
Rebecca Caldwell: There are so many amazing places to climb that we’re excited to share with Fitz. When he is a little bit older and can handle a longer plane ride we’d love to bring him to the boulders in South Africa and explore Australia and New Zealand.
I think it’ll be fun to climb with Fitz on the Diamond on Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park as we have a stellar view of it from our house and Tommy climbed it for the first time when he was 12 (the youngest person to climb it until recently).
And of course Patagonia again when he’s a bit older and can remember it so he can see the mountain we named him after.
Editor: What advice would you give to men who don’t climb, whose wives are pro-climbers or just love the climbing life? While their wives climb, how should they handle the role of care-taker? They should be supportive to begin with, of course.
Rebecca Caldwell: I think it’s important to support and encourage your partner in their own passions and hobbies, and this shouldn’t change when children enter the relationship.
It’s always a balancing act when you have a child to care for, but I would hope most men would enjoy the opportunities they get to spend one on one time with their son or daughter.
And to always remember…happy wife = happy life. Haha.
Editor: Ha ha! Indeed! Thank you for your amazing insights and your time. As climbing becomes more mainstream, there will be a lot of women who will become climbers, who have or will have children, and your words will be of great value to them.
We wish you lots of happy, family climbing trips!
Rebecca Caldwell: Thanks so much, Vera!
Editor: It was my pleasure entirely, Becca (and little Fitz!).
Hope you enjoyed the interview!
We've got one more scheduled to be published very soon.
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On the Cover: Rebecca Caldwell
Moms Who Climb -
Managing Motherhood & Keeping the Climbing Spirit Alive
Cover Date: April 19th, 2015