Adventure Parenting: Motherhood in the Mountains with Elizabeth Keane
Home Base: Jackson, WY
Day Job: Nurse
Hobbies: Skiing, surfing, exploring the outdoors
Family: Fiance Zach, 8-month-old John Wolf
Tell me about your pregnancy.
I was travel nursing at the Southampton hospital, I would ride my bike to work because driving made me sick. I had hyperemesis gravidarum, and I felt best when I was in nature and moving, so I moved as much as I could. Every break, I would go outside and run around the building in my scrubs! I’m sure I looked hilarious, but it made my body feel better.
Being outside was what my body needed, what my baby needed. No matter the weather, sunny or raining, I would stop by the beach on the bike ride home and body surf. It made me feel whole, and it was time to connect with my baby. On my days off I was surfing in Montauk.
You surfed through your pregnancy, didn’t you?
I was the crazy lady in the line up with the big belly! The first time I felt the baby move was on my surfboard in Hawaii, at five months pregnant. I surfed until two weeks before I had the baby.
How do you paddle with an eight months pregnant belly?!
I knee paddled, I put my knees on the board and my belly fit between my thighs!
Your lifestyle is super active with traveling, surfing, and skiing - you were on the go while pregnant.
I was ping-ponging around on trips for work, to see friends and family, and taking classes.
I backcountry skied a lot, my friends in Jackson found out I was pregnant because we started skinning and I stopped to get sick! One of the guys said are you pregnant?!
Zach and I flew up to Canada and did a lot of ski touring. We were surfing in California and Hawaii near the end of my pregnancy, and then back to Jackson. In October, two days before I had the baby I did a big hike to a lake in Grand Teton park, I was postholing in the snow. I hiked 3,000 vert the day I went into the hospital to have my baby!
Have you always had a lifestyle of outdoor adventures?
Growing up, I didn’t ski or surf or travel much. I got into travel nursing and being an expedition medic so that I could ski and surf on trips. I started skiing and surfing in 2009, and 11 years later, I’ve been to over 50 countries and lived in a dozen states.
I worked really hard to design a lifestyle I wanted and blend that with my career. I didn’t know what would happen when I had a baby, but I knew I wanted to be a mom and I was ready.
Tell me more about your career.
I’m a family nurse practitioner. I usually do urgent care, or labor and delivery, that’s my favorite with the moms and babies! I also do consulting online, and wilderness medicine teaching and trips.
I went back to working a couple months after I had the baby, at the hospital in Jackson. I was working at a lower capacity, which was hard because my career has identified who I am.
But then, things changed because of the pandemic. The hospital stopped doing non essential procedures, and things really slowed down. So… we’re van living, and currently in Malibu. This trip started as going away for the weekend, we borrowed a camper from a friend in Jackson. We ended up buying a van in Colorado, and a weekend trip is going on two months! Zach can work remotely, and we realized this is what’s best for our family right now.
How’s vanlife with a baby going?
Living in a van is not as glamorous as it looks, sometimes the van gets infested with ants or the electricity doesn’t work! But it’s worth it for the adventures we have.
The hardest thing is, he grows out of clothes so quickly! He’s growing like a weed, I cut off the footies of his outfits and they kind of turn into capris.
John Wolf just turned eight months, he’s been on the road a quarter of his life.
Pregnancy, and now motherhood, is something you’ve done on your own terms.
Being pregnant laid my foundation for motherhood - things are different, but I can still be me and take the best care I can of my baby.
I was never afraid, in the ocean or the mountains, I never thought I would hurt the baby or hurt myself, it was what was right for me.
There is a lot of pressure, being pregnant and being a mom. People judge and have their opinions, but I feel confident that I know who I am, and what’s best for us. It’s different for everyone, there is no right or wrong answer. My adventures with my baby are an aligned expression of who I am, and I can’t imagine it any other way.
Your love of being outdoors is a defining part of you.
Being in the elements always brings me what I need. I unexpectedly lost my father when I was eight months pregnant. That was really hard, and being in nature is how I stayed present. Being outdoors makes you think of everything and nothing all at the same time.
How have your outdoor activities meshed with motherhood?
I’m still breast feeding, it was hard to breast feed in the snow! I’ve pumped at the top of Mavericks and Twenty-five short in Teton park, I’ve pumped in a helicopter in Canada. I prefer for the baby to come with me, so he’s done a lot of ski touring. He’s been up Snow King at least 30 times, and toured on the pass and Targhee. I put him in a little pack in front of me. I ski like everything is a no fall zone, the way I would ski on Denali before is now the way I ski down Snow King! In the winter when he was really little, I planned my touring around when he could nap, he liked napping in the pack.
Now, he’s so curious! He likes being awake for activities, we do hiking and biking. I want to keep myself who I am, for adventures that I don’t feel are safe for him, I tell him mama’s gonna go for a few hours because if not I won’t be able to keep up with you in a few years!
What has your baby been enjoying most lately?
We are spending so much time in the sand and the ocean and he loves it. Who knows if my baby will love skiing and surfing in the future, I want my baby to do what he wants to do. But right now, I’m soaking up this time with him. I got him a little wetsuit, he plays on my surfboard, we go bodysurfing at the beach.
He looooovvves music! I dance with him to hip hop music, he loves when Zach plays country and carries him around and gets him ready for bed! We play a lot of motown and oldies, because that’s what my dad used to listen to.
It’s so lovely to see the beautiful life you’re creating with your family.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I’m fortunate to have an empowering community of friends, and a wonderful partner who understands what I need.
Having a baby is the biggest adventure I’ve ever had, it’s a love that you didn’t know was there. Those baby laughs make anything into the most epic day! I love the mountains, I love the ocean… but I love my little John Wolf more than anything.
Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth! So cool to see parents sharing what they love with their kiddos!