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E13 TRANSCRIPT: Talking pregnancy with Keri Williams from Girls on Hills

THIS IS CURRENT A ROUGH AUTO TRANSCRIPT - full transcript is on its way...

[MUSIC starts - Bassbeat by Alex Norton: "Funky and upbeat, jangling guitars, a fat bassline and a full horn section create the perfect soundtrack to a late summer block party."]

FRAN: Hello. On the outside listeners, it's Fran here. Before we get into this episode, I want to take a moment. If you listen to the last episode about climbing whilst pregnant. You might remember Kirsty talking about the judgments people faced during pregnancy and it being part of a much bigger conversation.

KIRSTY: In my mind, I kind of also see these judgements as a similar mindset to the kind of abortion debate that's going on in the US where the kind of the women or the pregnant person is forgotten about and it's all about the baby. And yeah, I think it's a similar mindset, although in a much less extreme way.

FRAN: On June the 24th, the United States Supreme Court overturned the historical Roe versus Wade legal case. This ruling has stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people, which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. In the uk, we've already had Tori mp, Danny Kruger say he does not believe that women have an absolute right to bodily autonomy. I encourage you, all American and otherwise, to learn more about what you can do to help those most affected by this decision, you can head to pod for more information. And if you'd like to learn more about Roe versus Wade, I've also linked to a podcast called Slow Burn in the show notes, speak up, take care, and spread the word. Hello and welcome to On the Outside the podcast that shares diverse views on outdoors news.

I have a bonus episode for you. This episode follows on from our last one about climbing whil pregnant. But if you haven't listened to that episode, don't panic. This one does stand alone because today I am sharing the full conversation I had with Carrie Wallace from Girls On Hills. So if you listen to episode 12, you'll have heard some of this conversation in that episode. Carrie wasn't able to join the rest of us for the main podcast recording, so I caught up with her beforehand. I asked Carrie to talk to me about her experience of climbing whilst pregnant, and we ended up speaking for quite a long time. Some of it made it into the main episode, and Kirsty and Sophie were able to listen to that and discuss it. But a lot of my conversation with Carrie was edited out. Some of it we edited because it was similar to something Kirsty or Sophie had said, and some of it was edited because I was asking very basic questions about pregnancy, and I wasn't sure other listeners would find that interesting in the context of the main conversation. But I did want to share my full chat with Carrie, whether you are a pregnancy expert or a pregnancy novice like me, and whether you are a climbing expert or a climbing novice like me, I do think this conversation really expands on what you heard in the main episode, and it was a really interesting chat. So I hope you enjoy it.

I am recording this conversation on Monday the 23rd of May, and I'm joined right now by Dr. Keri Wallace. Keri, for those of you who aren't familiar this is your first time on the outside. Can you just give us a short introduction to who you are and what you do?

KERI: So I run an outdoor trail and mountain running company called Girls On Hills based in Glencoe in Scotland. And I suppose I came to that from just a long, kind of many years of climbing and fell running and just being a general sort of mountain sports enthusiast. Really

FRAN: Beautiful. Thank you. And we are talking today, one of the big topics of the conversation is climbing whilst pregnant. And this has been in the kind of climber sphere and the outdoor sphere for several years, but particularly over the last few months because of Shawn Coxy talking very openly about climbing while she's been pregnant, and that has now permeated into the mainstream news and media. We've had news articles on b BBC in independent I T V News. There was one a couple of days ago in The Guardian. So it's become a really massive conversation outside of the Cryosphere, as it were. I really wanted to get some insight from people like yourself, Carrie, because I'm not a climber for one thing, but I also have no experience of pregnancy. You on the other hand have talked about that quite openly in the past. So I'd like you to, for the listeners, just give us a short insight into your personal experience of being active and specifically climbing whilst you were pregnant.

KERI: Sure. So I now have a seven year old and a five year old. So this was maybe seven years ago. My first experience of being pregnant and trying to continue my sport in through pregnancy. And at the time I didn't really feel there was any information specifically about climbing. And I was searching the internet and I couldn't really find any particular advice. There was some advice about sport, but at that time, even just seven years ago, it was still, the predominant message was still actually just to take it pretty easy to be active, but in a really gentle way and sort of step back from anything unusual, basically anything that might be even at all controversial or strenuous say. And it was like, go for walks, go swimming, do yoga, kind of thing. And I said, well, they're not my sports. What about the things that I do all the time that feel normal to me?

And sometimes the medical professionals would say, well, you must do what feels normal for you. But the question in your mind is, well, what if what's normal for me is quite unusual for people? Where do I find that information? And there wasn't really anything out there. So I did a lot of interviews and speaking to other people. And finally, I have a scientific background. So I suppose that made me more curious to dig a bit deeper into what's happening with the body and what does that mean in terms specifically of climbing? Yeah, so I had taken a particular interest in it because I wanted to keep climbing. And I think unlike Shauna, my main thing was sort of trad climbing. So I had different questions. It was things like, well, what happens? What kind of harness do I need and what do I need to, different questions.

The issue, will I do a strenuous move? And what happens if I fall off maybe quite as much? Or if I jump down at the bouldering wall, it might be more a question of what happens if I take a slip on a rope or I'm belaying somebody else and they fall off? Or what kind of roots are safe for me to do? So there were different questions and there weren't really answers out there. So I did have to find my own way with it a little bit. And obviously there were people out there, women out there who had climbed through pregnancy, but there just weren't, as you say, in the mainstream media for sure. And there was a little bit of information in the climbing space that you could find, but none of it had really been pulled together. But now, already just seven years later, there's masses more and there's even mum's climbing groups and there's just much more awareness around it. And what Sean has done is has totally, as you say, pushed that into a whole nother level. So my own experience was finding my own way. So I suppose I was quite uncertain and I had negatives and positives for sure.

FRAN: And when you say negatives and positives there, is that in terms of the way that people were reacting to you climbing or in terms of some of the things that you came across whilst you were finding your way?

KERI: So I noticed in one of the articles that interviewed Shauna, that she mentioned that she actually didn't really experience any negativity from people in real life just online. And that's actually something I found as well which was that people don't really come up to you and criticize you to your face, but if you put something up online, then you are just wide open to that criticism. And so I did write an article about it, which went up online. And when I did do that, I had to actually decide, make a decision not to read the forum and not to read the comments, because I started by trying to respond to them. And I just found it really upsetting and I had to step away. And now I've no idea what they say and I don't really want to know because you know, have to make your own decisions and everyone will always question you but you have to do what is best for you and for your child. So I did receive quite a bit of negativity online, but I didn't really experience it in person. I suppose there was some surprise when you meet people, but mostly with traditional climbing, you're not going to places where there's loads and loads of other people. So it still felt like quite a solitary activity. So I wasn't getting seen by loads and loads of people. Yeah. So I didn't have that face-to-face negativity.

FRAN: That's interesting. I hadn't thought about that in terms of the difference between trad climbing like you did and


FRAN: Bouldering and the boulder and that kind stuff.

KERI: Really do a lot of bouldering until actually while I was pregnant, we went to, I think this was actually my second pregnancy, I went to Anglo with some friends and we went on a bouldering holiday. And it wasn't until I started sort of really, I thought I'd just do really easy bouldering that it occurred to me that, yeah, I haven't got a rope on. So I felt like what I fall, even though I'm not very high up, if I fall, it's actually potentially worse because I haven't got a tight top rope on me. And also I have to get off the boulder. And some of those boulders are really big. So you had to be suddenly quite selective, which bouldering problems can we do? Could you definitely down climb them and could you definitely get off the boulder a different way? You couldn't really jump down. And I did end up quite covered in chalky hand prints because my friends were like, man, have on me off these boulders and get me down safely so that I didn't have to do any jumping down. So yeah, it was a bit of a team effort, if I'm honest. But it did strike me suddenly. Really different questions for you climbing, burst bouldering. Yeah.

FRAN: Yeah, no, that is really interesting. It seems like such a simple thing, but then again, not coming from the climbing background, it's just like it's climbing

KERI: To me. So I,

FRAN: And I suppose that's, that's part of it with the feedback that people are getting. If they're not climbers, you can understand why there might be a little bit more apprehension from onlookers if they just don't understand the sport.

KERI: Totally. And I think it's understandable from the general publics, they don't understand the sport and the association with climbing is immediately, well, it must be risky because you fall, that you could fall. The idea that you're on a rope, and particularly you might be on a tight rope coming from above, you would mean that you don't go anywhere. So actually it's really pretty safe from that point of view. So yeah, it's sort of expectations. The actual fact of the facts around it were more to do with things. Actually, my shoes don't fit anymore. Or actually I have to wear a full body harness because you can't wear one that goes around your waist cause it puts pressure on the bump and it would put pressure and forces in the wrong places. So from sort of 12 weeks onwards, I had to buy a full body harness and use that. And that changes

FRAN: Things. So that's one that would go over your shoulders

KERI: And stuff. And that many changes. How you climb and how you ab sail and how you lower off and then where you put your gear, everything was a bit different basically. And you had to start thinking about the roots that you climbed in a different way. But a lot of it is just misunderstanding from the general public about what the risks in climbing are.

FRAN: Yeah, I think that's probably true of quite a lot of just judgment in general, isn't it? It's to do with misunderstandings. But the only touchpoint that I have on that kind of thing is because I do things with an epilepsy diagnosis. And it's a very similar thing in terms of if people hear the word epilepsy, they just don't understand it and therefore they go to the immediate absolute worst possible scenario. I think it's possibly similar in terms of if you don't understand pregnancy and you don't understand climbing or you have a little bit of information about either you going to the worst case scenario quite quickly in people's brains. So

KERI: Definitely, and I think there's been, for so long there's been a real emphasis on mums and mothers or pregnant people to be all about the baby almost as soon as you become pregnant, that you are not relevant as a person anymore. And there's so many reasons why a climate might continue to climb in pregnancy. Obviously the baby's health is really important. That kind of goes without saying, but there's also the mother's fitness and their health identity. If something climbing's a part of what they do and their life and maybe their livelihood they're obviously going to need to keep that going. And if you just step away from everything that you are, as soon as you become pregnant, you lose your confidence. And it's much, much more of a journey back. I actually didn't climb outside climbing right through into my third trimester. I can't remember exactly now when it was, but I think it was at some point in my second trimester it just got less and less did less and less toward the end.

But obviously I wasn't doing a lot of hill running or a lot of mountaineering or anything like that. Cause those days were very big and strenuous for me at that time. And I did used to look on at the mountains and think, oh, I'll never do that again. And my confidence and my expectations of myself just really shifted. And I found it quite frightening because I felt I was already changing into a different person, perhaps the person that I didn't really want to be. And you're desperate that you'll get that person back again afterwards because, and it's super important for mom as well to have that health and health is more than just what your body is doing. So I think that's why it's important.

FRAN: And just for those that are dense to it, like me. About what stages the second trimester and third trimester, what kind of weeks are we talking?

KERI: So first trimester is the first 12 weeks and then the second trimester is after that 12 weeks. And I actually can't even remember off the top of my head now, at what point they say the third trimester actually is.

FRAN: That makes me feel a bit better.

KERI: That was, there were literally on the tip of my tongue is now completely gone seven years later. But yeah, so by your third trimester you are really quite big and you're sort of showing quite obviously. And your first trimester is, it's pretty much not obvious to anyone. And you can't actually climb with the normal climbing harness at that point. And then your second trimester the baby, the position is sort of up out of the pelvis a bit more and you start to show more. And then you grow quite a lot more obviously pregnant during that second trimester. And by the time you reach your third trimester, you're starting to look quite big. Really?

FRAN: Yeah. <laugh>, that's it. Yeah. No, can't a really stupid thing of me to say, but it's a constantly evolving state when you are.

KERI: Well, no, it's because your body are literally changing. I can remember walking into a room and accidentally knocking things off shelves with my tummy because you've got literally no concept of how big you are. Turn around and knock over a buzz of flowers. Oh, sorry, didn't realize I was that wide. Yeah, it's totally ridiculous. But you're constantly changing.

FRAN: And then you feel like if you are doing something that's physical, you are making sure that you're still aware of your body. If you're being physical every day, if you're sat down resting for your entire pregnancy, you might not realize how much you're changing so much. But if you're being quite active,

KERI: And I think if you don't use, for example, your strengths, and I, it's really impress impressive with Shauna, you can see that she's still, like she's saying in her social media, I was really pleased I could do still do that. I didn't think I'd be able to do this or that. And she's managed to maintain a level of strength and fitness and core strength even that she didn't think she would be able to have at this stage in her pre. Yeah. Yeah. That has obviously given birth, but late in pregnancy that it's all still an experiment because for every woman it's an whoever, every point in your journey. It's an experiment because you, your body and you've never been through it before. So it's a learning curve for everyone. So she's surprised herself. And there's a lot of evidence that climbing aside, staying really active during pregnancy is actually really good for the baby. I think it's better sort of rates of brain development and placental growth and less depression in the mothers and less gestational diabetes. And there's so much data now that it's totally shifted in favor of, yes, you must exercise and keep reactive. And it's been a real phase change but there's still obviously a lot of social misunderstanding around climbing because of you can see what Shauna's been through. Yeah.

FRAN: Although I have to say, I did see the post of her showing her core strength with the bump and stuff, and it did freak me out a little bit. Again, as somebody not familiar with pregnancy, I was looking at it going, oh, that's so bizarre. Yeah,

KERI: I remember that happening to me for the first time and being like, what is that pointed? Yeah, like a pointed tummy. It is really, really strange. But I mean, yeah, as I say, it's like, yeah, it's a learning experience for every pregnant person.

FRAN: Yeah. Beautiful. Oh, I think we touched on quite a lot of the points there. Was there anything else in particular that you'd like to add to that? Anything that we didn't particularly speak about or

KERI: Only I think just to say that I think that this sort of judgment around the decisions that mothers make when they're pregnant is also true in other spheres of having children or being a parent. So for example, just staying active and adventurous in general. So for example, walking up hills, still being out there in the mountains with a big bump. I got a lot of people commenting to me about, should you be not out here, but oh, didn't expect to see you. In fact, overtaking people whilst pregnant. Get some negative comments about that. Passing people on the trail, even working, being a parent. And the judgment and the stigma around being a working mom is like, are trying to make the best decision for your family and your life and your work job and your dynamic. And there's this judgment constantly around your decision because you should be, this kind of is what a mother is, this is what your job is, or this is where your responsibility lies.

And there's just, yeah, I'm surprised. I'd like to see more people stepping back from that and letting, respecting people's judgments about their own life choices really. And it extends beyond childbirth because I then went to experience baby carrying my two in a backpack walking up and down hills and now started to take them climbing. And I know it's going to be the same with them climbing young children in a climbing harness on a rope horror. So it is actually the first step in a journey of judgment around parenting and staying active and adventurous. But obviously if you just wrap everybody up in bubble wrap and don't experience anything and don't stay true to the values perhaps that you have and the interests that you have, and if people don't respect your judgment, then yeah, you lose out on the life that you've enjoyed and then you have to become somebody completely different and you don't get to full go. Don't get to, in my case, show your young family the stuff that you love and give them the many benefits that come with that. So yeah. Yeah, just the widest sort of judgment around parents staying active in the adventurous, I think. Yeah.

FRAN: And that'll be a brilliant segue into asking Sophie about all of the mums that she speaks to and all of the stuff that she does there. Beautiful.

KERI: Good.

FRAN: Yeah, that was really interesting and really good to just get, I say get some proper, yeah, sorry,

KERI: Authentic. I just goes to show you how much I've put it in the box.

FRAN: <laugh>

KERI: Trimester, just blank it out.

FRAN: It's the one we don't talk about. It's

KERI: The one that starts to get real. Do you know what I mean?

FRAN: No, that makes me feel better as well, because there seems to be this thing of if you're a woman or if you're somebody that is expected to get pregnant at some point and you're like, I know nothing. And it's quite nice to know that even mums alike,

KERI: I was the most clueless person who ever got pregnant and had a baby, I swear to, I just remember being like, well, what do I do with it now? They were like, well, look after it. Look,

FRAN: Oh, I have to do something now. I thought this was just

KERI: Dress it or feed it. I'm like, how? Honestly, it was embarrassing, but I had zero ideas, <laugh> because I, I've never had family members with young kids and I don't have friends with kids because I was kind of the older person in my sort of friendship group and lots of my friends decided not to have kids. And so yeah, it was a total experiment, life experiment. No guide, well, not no guidance. Cause obviously there's all the books out there, but yeah, I didn't read a lot.

FRAN: That's like, yeah, actually semi reassuring to me.

Yeah. Beautiful. I might ask, just so that you kind of might get a chance to put something in there if you want to, I still haven't decided on the third story. We might not even do a third one because it's quite a big topic anyway, so we might just do the two things that tie in quite nicely. You obviously talked about there with the fact of if pregnant when you're pregnant, just doing the things that are part of you that make you feel like you're still you and it's good for mental health and that kind of thing. And we have just had Mental Health Awareness week although it will be a bit further away by the time the episode comes out. But is there anything in particular that you have seen either online or any particular groups or individuals that have been talking about that very nicely, either during Mental Health Week or just in general?

KERI: I think when I started working, so we set up Girls on Hills and we started taking women out on the hills. So that's the purpose, if you like, of the business that I run. It was really to take people hill walking and trail running. It wasn't actually, didn't have an emphasis at all on mental health, but what my colleague Nancy and I discovered almost immediately was that when people get out in the hills, they'll open up and they're, when they're in a supportive group, they'll open up and talk about things that perhaps they didn't think they would talk about. And a group like that can be really supportive and you're meeting like-minded people and you're out there in nature and you've got a lot of time together and there's no distractions of normal day to day life. So what was coming out again and again and again, was that a lot of people who we were seeing are turning to the hills and turning to mountains, sort of recreation for respite, really escapism, mindfulness, all these different things.

But a lot of that was around mental health issues. And we felt a little bit like panicked because we felt that we wanted to help people, but that's not really an area we have experience or credentials in. So the only way that we could help them was just through allowing them to get into these places and meet other people. And so that's what we continue to do. But there is definitely a space there for using the outdoors for the benefit of people's mental health. And I've noticed that Mind Over Mountains, which is Alex Stan's company. Yeah. They've obviously been going for some time now and gaining some sort of traction and then some popularity there. And I just really like what he's doing or what they're doing as a group in making it really accessible for people and getting people outside for these sessions that are free and really, really supportive and across the country and just using what he calls it, the Nat Natural Health Service, which I, yes. Yeah. I just really like that. And I just think I can well imagine the value of that, and so I'm always really impressed to see the work that they're doing around Mental Health Awareness Week. Yeah.

FRAN: I love Alex. I spoke to, as I spoke to, we did a email q and a for my OG podcast, seizure Adventure. Oh yeah. Because he had seizures when he was younger, so he had a bit of experience there, and he was one of the few people that I could find that was, you had seizures and you've been hiking at really high altitude and gone to Everest and stuff. What did they say? What are the kind of health checks that they had to do with you and that kind of thing. Yeah, it was just really

KERI: Easy. Yeah, he's really inspirational and the work that the group do is excellent, and I can imagine that it's for people who join the groups. I can imagine it's extremely beneficial.

FRAN: And he's so young. Well, yes. Yeah, but he was so young when he started doing it. It's just like, oh my God. Yeah, <laugh>

KERI: So wise, so why? Yeah. Yeah. No, no, it's true. It's true. So lots of admiration from us on that. Yeah,

FRAN: Beautiful. Thank you. Yeah, I'm kind of very happy with that. The only thing I'm unhappy about is I might have to cut down some of it.

KERI: I know. Sorry. Have a habit of blathering on, but I thought well and more is more. Right? So you can cut it down.

FRAN: Thank you for listening to this small bonus episode today. On the outside is a very labor intensive podcast, so it's nice to be able to bring you a little bit extra without having to do too much work. If you are ever in need of podcasts to listen to between our episodes, this podcast is part of the TREM Network. So Tremor Network is a group of shows that I work on all with the same theme of outdoor and adventure podcasts that are a little off the beaten path. The Everyday Adventure Podcast with Nikki Bass is one of them, and that has actually had a few of our panelists as guests, including myself. So if you want to find out more about me and the other panelists, you can check out that one head to to find out more, or search for the Everyday Adventure Podcast wherever you are listening to this episode. This episode of On the Outside was produced, edited, and hosted by me, Francesca Takis. On the outside artwork is by a Sophie Nolan Music is Bass Beats by Alex Norton. The transcript was done by Jacko Driscoll, and I will be back with a new episode for you very soon

KERI: And really annoyingly, I was like, oh no, I'm literally be on, it's like the worst timing, and the ferries are only at that. And I was like, I'm going to be, and then I'm going to on this island. And I thought to myself, I could probably just do it by finding somewhere with some wifi, and then we can, I was like, you know what, I'll get, there'll like no wifi, like a remote horrib.

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