Superwoman: becoming a mother and a climber

Posted by Peter Burnside on 06/01/2017
Caroline digs deep on the classic Avalanche Wall (HVS 5a) at Curbar. Photo: Ian Couldwell

Climbing bums make way for climbing mums! When Caroline Schofield became a mother she expected her life to change. But she never thought it would involve climbing.

When I had a baby, my life changed. Yes, I know, it's obvious. However, before you become a parent nobody can really tell you how much really changes. That it's not just that you're more likely to have seen Peppa Pig than the latest drama, or that you consider a day without vomit on your shoulders a success, but how it changes your perception of yourself.

When my son was born in 2012, I went from a woman who loved designer heels, bought expensive dresses and who always saw the latest films, to a woman sitting under a baby with a social schedule that only included "get dressed today?". As I looked in the mirror, I saw a woman I didn't even recognise. I saw a mummy: a woman who had a body that no longer belonged to her, but her baby.

When I went back to work and my “normal” life, the disconnect between the old me and the person I had, literally, grown into continued. I looked at the dresses I'd once adored and felt mocked by the fact I was no longer the woman that belonged in them. I was no longer in touch with myself as my own entity. As much as I loved being a parent, I struggled to see myself as anything else. And then I went climbing.

Becoming a climbing mum

Trying not to look down on Excalibur (VS 4c) at Lawrencefield. Photo: Caroline Schofield

I'd love to say that I saw rock and had an epiphany, but it was more of a slow build. Climbing was something my husband loved, and I knew that coming along would give us time together. After my first trip to Lawrencefield (while I chatted away about the moves and holds and conceded that my pumps were probably not the best footwear) I was mostly just pleased to be doing something for ourselves.

A few weeks later, as autumn closed around us, we went to an indoor wall for the first time. The scale was so intimidating; I went straight back to square one. Having climbed barely ten feet up, I felt so scared, I might have even cried (just a little bit if nobody was looking). I was terrified, both by the foreign environment and by being acutely aware of my own limitations. I was a chunky 30-something year old mummy with no experience and zero skills in a room of graceful and fearless vertical dancers.

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My husband and his best friend cheerleaded me up that first wall with limitless patience and encouragement. I probably took 30 minutes to get to the top. A mere 25 metres, but to me like climbing Everest. I had to push myself to a limit I didn't know I had. I had to drown out the screaming in my head, to let go of my self-doubt, to shed my grumpy-unable-mummy status. With one last reach, I took the last hold and proved to myself that I was capable: that even though my body wasn't the same, my head was stronger.

Although I only got to the top of a short 3+, I had given it my absolute everything. I learnt that my body was not a ruin of its former self but, instead, an incredible feat of engineering that I could use to be able to climb mountains (or, at the very least, plastic). I was hooked.

Baby steps to Superwoman climber


Making short work of The Peapod (HVS 5b) at Curbar. Photo: Caroline Schofield

Now, every time I climb, I use that experience to push myself a little bit further. I keep getting on the wall to keep remembering how amazing I can be. With each move upward, I’m using every inch of my being to reach my own set goals. I’m succeeding in something that is entirely about pushing myself. Every small improvement that I’ve made in the eight months, from that first 3+ to my clean 6a+, has been my achievement, my success.

Leading my first 6a made me feel like Superwoman and I walked taller than in any high-heeled shoe. I’ll never be the best climber, but I'm the best climber I can be and that's enough. I’m no longer disconnected from the body I live in, because when I'm climbing a route I’m in charge of every inch of it. I am strong, powerful and I am slowly becoming a vertical dancer.

When I first had a baby, my life changed. But now I know exactly who I am: I'm a mother, I'm a wife, I'm a nurse.

And I'm a climber.

Caroline Schofield started climbing in her 30s after having a baby. She wrote this after “having been incredibly motivated and inspired by the This Girl Can campaign”.


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1) Anonymous User
11/01/2017
Absolutely fantastic article Caroline, extremely inspiring and impressive! I am an ambassador of this girl can and it's women like you and your success stories that make it all worth while! Keep crushing hard lady!
2) Anonymous User
13/01/2017
Love this. I'm mid-30s and a newcomer to climbing, I started less than a year ago now that both my 'babies' are in school. So many parts of this article resonated with me. Thanks to such supportive climbing friends, I led my first 6a+ yesterday, and I too felt like Superwoman! I'm completely addicted :-)
3) Anonymous User
10/02/2017
Awesomely inspiring article. I'm in my late 30's, a mother of two and took up bouldering a few months ago. I have also described other climbers to my partner as 'vertical ballet dancers' that initially I felt I would never in a million years arrive anywhere near in terms of ability, or agility. At the moment I'm only climbing v2 with any level of competence whilst having the occasional a pop at V3, but I'm learning so much about who I am now and what I am (still) capable of. I'm the one with sloppy footwork and atrocious body positioning but Christ-on-a-bike have I got my mojo back!

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