10 Ways Childbirth Is Like Mountaineering

How is childbirth like mountaineering?

The road is long, the journey is challenging, the reward, unparalleled.

The road is long, the journey is challenging, the reward, unparalleled.

Let me count the ways....

  1. Preparation
  2. Waiting
  3. Early Labor
  4. Active Labor
  5. Transition
  6. Pushing
  7. The Birth High
  8. Postpartum
  9. Unpredictability
  10. Planning Again


You're not going to go to a mountain without some preparation. You plan, you train, you eat well, you get the beta, buy the gear and necessary provisions, you seek advise from experts and fellow climbers. Sometimes you hire a guide. Some expeditions have a team, and every member plays a vital role. Much like birth, there is some amount of risk involved, but you utilize preparation, your gear, your team, patience, and a little bit of luck to mitigate those risks, and give you the best shot at the summit and a safe return. 

hiking 14ers


It's not really up to the climber when they can make their push for the summit. The Mountain Weather is the king here, and IT will decide when the time is right. Sometimes it looks like you're about to get an opportunity, and then it fades. And you wait some more.

bad weather on mountains

The early labor phase of mountaineering is the approach.

It's often somewhat long, not very difficult, but something you have to move through to get to your end goal. Sometimes you start and stop, other times, you just move slowly through it. You'll chat with fellow hikers, laugh, and generally have a good time, even if you're working up a little sweat. You begin finding which layers are working for you, if you need to lose some or add some. You find a nice little rhythm, and are enjoying the excitement of what's to come. 

hiking in colorado

Active Labor

At some point in time, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually, things start to get harder. The hills are steeper, the trails less groomed. Sometimes you're faced with challenges like wind, iffy weather, or the like. You rely more on the support and encouragement of others. While you're trekking, you're quite focused on the task at hand, but breaks are still enjoyable. Sometimes the breaks can be lively and full of chatter, but more often the breaks are used for much needed rest. This is the phase where you begin to wonder why the heck you're doing this, but the end goal is still alluring and you're, for the most part, still confident.

The Saddle, Mt. Lindsey, Sangre de Cristo Range

The Saddle, Mt. Lindsey, Sangre de Cristo Range


This is the crux of your climb. This was a stupid idea. Perhaps, this may involve a knife edge, or some class 4 or 5 climbing. Nothing else matters at this point, the air is thin, and all you can do is move forward one.step.at.a.time. 

By MostlyDeserts (Own work) [ CC BY-SA 3.0  or  GFDL ] via Wikimedia Commons

By MostlyDeserts (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL] via Wikimedia Commons

Pushing comes on your push the summit.

The air is thin, the work is hard, or maybe it's not and you just have to breathe through it. You're probably on that stretch past a false summit, wishing you were done; so ready to gain the summit. Sometimes, this section is only 20-30 minutes. Other times, it's 2 or more hours of challenging ordeal. Either way, the end is often in sight. 

The Suxdorf, Mt. Adams, Cascade Range. View of the false summit.

The Suxdorf, Mt. Adams, Cascade Range. View of the false summit.

The summit. Finally. What you came for. What you've worked for. You did it!

reaching the summit, the birth high


I like to look at the decent as the postpartum period. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's painful. You're often sore, or at least tired. You fall more. You thought the hard part was over, but sometimes that's not the case. Especially if you have to move through a gully, or if there were other challenges you overcame on your ascent. Eventually, things level back out, and you can look back, and remember forever this great achievement.

By Carl via  14ers.com Trip Reports , Mt. Rainier

By Carl via 14ers.com Trip Reports, Mt. Rainier

The mountains are unpredictable.

The planning and preparation, while helpful, doesn't guarantee your trip will go exactly according to plan. Sometimes you need extra support from those around you. Sometimes there's high wind and big storms. It can be scary. There can be emergencies that must be skillfully handled. We've all heard the stories that make us weep. We've all heard the stories of clear blue skies, and picture perfect journeys. As you get closer and closer to the big day, you experience trepidation, excitement, and everything in between. Your journey will be yours alone, and how it will unfold, no one can tell. 

planning for birth, planning for an expedition

Time to plan the next one. 

planning your next hike