When Alpine Boy was born I was starry-eyed and naive. It was only months and even years later that I started to realise I’d missed a trick, when other mums would casually query what present Alpine Papa had got me for giving birth.
“Eh?!” I’d respond, before finally noticing those enormous hunks of diamonds painfully weighing down their earlobes. Apparently that’s what other husbands buy you for harbouring an ever-growing being inside you for nine months and then pushing it out of somewhere delicate (and never-quite-stretchy-enough).
I got bugger all.
Not one to passively aggressively let an opportunity pass me by, I spent my entire pregnancy with Alpine Girl dropping obscure hints about how ‘rewarding’ giving birth apparently was for other women, and how a new baby is ‘like a precious jewel’.
And when that failed I took the direct route with Alpine Papa and told him to buy me a damn necklace. Which, fair play to him, he duly did. And beautiful it was.
Thank you Alpine Papa, you rock.
But by the time Alpine Baby was born in 2014 I’d given up the bejeweled life to which I’d become accustomed (ha. Yeah right). Nice necklaces and a bit of bling didn’t really cut it for me anymore.
What I really wanted?
A huge pair of walking boots.
Massive ones that weighed more than a newborn. Ones that took an hour to lace up, and which you could walk up glaciers in and not even notice the crevasses. (Actually less useful to me than spangly jewellery, seeing as I’m less likely to climb a glacier than model for Cartier, but that’s not the point. They were my dream.)
Thank you Alpine Papa, you rock.
Anyway, all that to say that three weeks after Alpine Baby was born my dream had come true, and I had to try them out. Our first hike as a family of five. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
It was April. The snow had (nearly) all gone and Spring had (nearly) sprung, but it was still pretty chilly. The plan was to head out of our village, up the side of the mountain, to a perfect picnic spot we had found earlier that winter. I had waddled up there in snow shoes and with a huge pregnant belly – it surely would be an easy stroll now my belly was (slightly) less huge.
I had Alpine Girl on my back, then aged 22 months, and Alpine Papa had the brand-new Alpine Baby snuggled up against him in a sling. Those epic shoes were on, the babies were hoisted into position, and we were off.
Ha! We were doing it! Walking as a whole family of five!
Babies and bags strapped to every spare bit of available adult, and a stick-wielding five-year-old happily jogging along next to us, we made our intrepid way through forests and up hills and past snow drifts.
Bliss. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I was smug with smugness: eyes gleaming as I imagined a whole summer of easy-peasy family hiking stretching ahead of us. Head in the clouds, I was walking on air.
But those enormous boots were keeping me grounded. Which meant there was no floating over that enormous puddle which suddenly appeared before us like a lagoon.
We were trekking up a muddy forest track, which had spent the winter hibernating under a duvet of snow and was now awakening rather grumpily. The mud was thick, the puddles were deep, and the snow and rocks on the side of the path were uninviting, to say the least.
Alpine Papa and Alpine Boy skirted to the left, not even breaking their conversation as they tightrope-walked over a thin rock, skillfully avoiding disaster. I approached the puddle (lake…) and stopped. I looked to the left (“no way can I do that”), looked to the right (“ditto”), and then smiled as I saw the strip of firm ground between what was, on closer inspection, actually two separate puddles (forming as they had in the tyre tracks of loggers’ Jeeps).
So I didn’t even think twice as I firmly stepped between those two puddles in my beautiful, sturdy, hurculean boots.
And then got the shock of my bloody life when the ‘firm ground between two puddles’ turned out to be a ‘massive bit of soft sticky mud floating in the middle of one damn enormous puddle’.
I was down! I was in!
My beautiful boots were sinking into the quagmire, and I was sinking with them!
My feet were firmly stuck, but the rest of my body ignored this fact and tried to keep on going. So, with a huge pack of toddler on my back, I fell forward, in slow motion, and found myself up to my arms in stinky, sticky, stagnant mud.
With flies in it.
And probably a bit of dog poo (this is France, after all).
By time I had scrambled out I was covered. It had soaked through my jogging bottoms and right through my knickers. I had just given birth, remember, and all I could think about was those horrid germs which would no doubt be making their way, swarm-like, into my still-unhealed fanny stitches (too much information…?).
My hands and arms were black. And stunk. I had splashes on my face and in my mouth. Mud had gone inside my beautiful boots, which now looked like I’d been wearing them for three years, not thirty minutes.
My mud-clad trousers weighed a ton – there was no way I could walk in them (and I had visions of slowly turning to clay as they dried)…
Amazingly Alpine Girl didn’t get a splash on her, and didn’t even gasp as we fell face first into a swamp (one of those kids who wouldn’t make a sound if she fell off a cliff, but screams the house down if her brother dares so much as to breathe anywhere near her).
But what to do? The kids needed to eat (Rule #1 of hiking with kids – if you’ve promised a picnic, you deliver a picnic) and Alpine Baby needed boobie, but we couldn’t stay where we were (too damn muddy) nor could we hike all the way back to somewhere not muddy (too damn far). We knew the picnic spot wasn’t far away – we just had to continue.
Which is when I made Alpine Papa strip, right there, and give me his boxer shorts.
Thank you Alpine Papa, you rock.
My pants and trousers came off and into a plastic bag (adding a good two kilos to my already heavy toddler carrier), and bare-bummed and exposed to the elements I made good use of some of those three million wet wipes any self-respecting mother always has about her person.
And then, with Alpine Mummy dressed in hot pants and epic mountain boots, we carried on.
Not a look I would be comfortable with at the best of times, but three weeks after giving birth, with my white wobbly legs slowly turning blue as we walked past snow drifts, I wasn’t having much fun.
Buy hey, never give up, right? (Wrong, actually. Though more about that another time.) The picnic spot soon appeared out of the forest like a beautiful desert oasis, and life was good again. The kids got their picnic, the baby got her boobie, and I got to shiver on the grass half-naked.