In August 2023, I gave birth to my first baby. Just a few months later –  drunk off happy hormones, or sleep deprivation, or a combination of both – I decided I was absolutely fine to get back to my first love: skiing and snowboarding.

I found flights to Japan, booked a resort with child care for the baby (Myoko Snowsports), and bought him a really cute snow suit. And the snow gods seemed to smile upon this decision; we were welcomed with 40cm of fresh powder on our first day in Myoko Kogen, and such empty slopes that at one point my partner asked a liftie: “Are we… allowed to be here?”

But as I got on my skis, ready to launch myself off a chairlift and into some trees with not a single line through them, I realised something: skiing while freshly postpartum is no joke.

The boots

Every decent skier and boarder knows the golden rule: you always travel with your own boots.

That’s until your feet grow half a size during pregnancy and your custom-fitted boots suddenly become a very expensive pair of bookends.

I decided to rent some on this trip until my feet sort themselves out. “I used to be a 23.5 in boot, but now I’m not sure,” I explained to the guy at the rental shop, who was a bit confused but patiently let me try on every single pair of boots that were somewhere between a 23.5 and 24.5.

But rental boots… no matter what brand or style…  just ain’t it. It took half a run before I started fantasising about the pair I left at home – plus the skis I didn’t pack because of all the baby paraphernalia that had to come instead.

The clothes

So the boots don’t fit anymore – but neither does anything else.

I became the size of a small whale during pregnancy due to eating approximately eight pieces of toast per day and nothing else. Seven months on, some of the weight has shifted, but much has stayed.

“Your body is holding onto the weight just in case something happens,” my GP explained at my six-month post-partum check-up. “It knows you have to feed a baby.”

Yes, but my ski pants do not know I have to feed a baby – and while they were once blissfully large, held up with suspenders, I no longer need the suspenders.

That was an upsetting realisation.

Luckily I didn’t have much room to pack my own clothes, because, as above: baby paraphernalia. So I packed the four things that did fit, and left the rest behind with my ski boots. RIP.

The physicality of it all

I had an emergency c-section under general anaesthetic. The type of birth with details that make midwives wince when they walk into your hospital room to check on you in the days after birth. I couldn’t drive for six weeks, let alone do anything else.

When I did go back to exercise, I took it easy: one pilates class a week. Slow walks, building up the distance every day. Gentle yoga stretches.

In my (possibly delusional) brain, skiing didn’t… count as a physical activity? I’ve been doing it for such a long time, I just assumed that my body would click into muscle memory and let me make my merry way through fresh powder or a tree run without a protest.

On my first run, I remembered all the leg muscles that I have not used in a very. Long. Time.

With the first push of my poles up a flat bit leading to a chairlift, I thought: oh shit. There are those core muscles that have done f**k all for awhile now.

By the end of the first day, I was so tired, I was asleep before the baby. And the second day saw my muscles screaming in the kind of protest that even the hottest of onsens couldn’t fix.

The emotions

Because postpartum makes you an emotional little marshmallow, I felt it ALL on the wintry slopes of Myoko Kogen.

Self-hatred. For going back to being such a hopeless skier after all the years of effort I’ve put into improvement.

Sadness. For not being able to make the most of all the incredible snow, and the picture-perfect conditions. Having to duck out of the trees early when one leg got so sore I thought I might have to sit down in the middle of the mountain. Going to the bathroom mid-mountain even though I didn’t have to go – I just needed to rest my feet.

And above all: mum guilt. For leaving my seven-month-old behind at day care (even though he didn’t even notice I’d gone, blissfully surrounded by toys and care, and making it look much like we’ve never bought him a single toy at home).

There was one thing that helped, and it was having an amazing ski instructor. Andy at Myoko Snowsports encouraged me to take it easy and listen to my body to avoid injuries. He let me stop frequently (although often disguised it as “showing me something” or “taking a photo” so I didn’t feel too bad), and took me through the easier spots so it wasn’t so hard on me (including a particularly fun set of trees usually reserved for kids ski lessons… but also full of untouched powder).

And in doing so, I still found those old moments of bliss. A chance to remember who I was before I was a mum: someone who loved the mountains, and the feeling of a perfect turn on a groomer or an untouched line through the powder snow.

But I want to know from all the mums out there – how did you get back into skiing and snowboarding post-partum? What helped? What didn’t? And how did you get used to this new normal of your body just being…not quite yours anymore?

How to survive a family ski trip without killing the kids