The Parent Trap

Being a parent is hazardous.

By Dr. Julian Saunders | August 25th, 2018


This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 251 (July 2018).


 

My wife and I became parents five months ago. I had no issues when the tyke was under 10 pounds, but now I find that holding her plus training for bouldering causes pain in my left shoulder. I cradle her in my left arm so I can do other tasks with my right. Now whenever I extend my arm down and rotate it so my palm faces out, the front of my left shoulder hurts where it meets the chest. My neck also hurts sometimes. Bouldering is a huge part of my life, and we plan to have kids again. So even as this little one starts to walk and perhaps the issue goes away, I would love to find a way to strengthen and stretch to avoid recurrence.

——Anonymous

 

The early days of climbing parenthood might involve pain and woe in either direction, but it all eases. Alison Osisu with son Teddy Benge, then age 1, at Penitente, Colorado. Osius returned to previous levels of climbing and competing. Ted is now 24 and even employed.

The travails of parenting make you wonder about evolution. I mean, really, does it need to be so hard? The seemingly impossible task of squeezing the wee tacker out in the first place turns out to be only the beginning. The physicality of parenting is often overlooked, or at least seen as secondary to the mental stress. To that end you’d think that climbers are simultaneously better prepared than most.

The ability to stay calm in the face of an unexpected shitstorm is real and metaphorical. Being able to hold your 10-pounder all day, however, is beyond the pale. The only reason you are even trying is because you feel your climbing and training have prepared you for much harder tasks. Wrong. Name the last undercling you pulled on for three hours straight.

Cradling an infant for hours on end followed by bouldering is easily sufficient to tip the balance to a point where recovery is not possible. That you find yourself inexorably slipping into decrepitude does not require a palm reader to foresee.

The way you describe the positional aggravation could be lifted and put in a textbook outlining how to test for biceps tendonitis. The Speeds Test, as one such is known, involves raising the arm, with a straight elbow and palm up, under resistance.

This injury has come about due to unremitting load, a war of attrition waged on your bicep tendon. The means by which you can reduce the stress are wide and varied, but the simplest is to change your arm position. That said, if you unload the bicep you must engage other muscles, namely ones around the elbow, such as the brachioradialis, that are at least as histrionic when it comes to new and unreasonable stress, so be careful how you play them off.

Although you boulder V-really-hard, you have trained up to it. Your 10-pound bundle of mayhem arrived in a moment and sent you down a road for which you are not physically or mentally acclimated.

During your first few years of feeding and watering the new lifeform you may need some help managing musculoskeletal issues. Although the physical pain will eventually subside in the coming years, the mental anguish is still to come. Nothing quite compares to the first time your daughter tells you to fuck off! See a variety of therapists.


 

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