When my son was 4 weeks old, I broke down.

Everything seemed perfect. We had a fairly easy labor and he took to breastfeeding quickly. I got through a bout of mastitis and though nursing had been quite painful in the beginning, that too had passed. He was healthy, happy, and an amazing sleeper. I had just enjoyed some quality time and help from my family. The flowers in our garden were blooming and beautiful. My husband was so supportive and had also switched his job to be closer to home. And we had some dear, old friends who had come to visit.

But as we drove to the photographer’s house to look at pictures from our newborn shoot, I felt like there was an oppressive weight sitting on my chest. I was barely able to breathe and tears started falling as panic set in.

What were we doing? How could we be parents? Who thought this was a good idea? Who let this happen? I knew it was only a matter of time until I really screwed things up. These thoughts and more flooded my head as we made the 10 minute drive.

Concerned, my husband asked what was wrong. “I don’t know,” I answered. I just felt awful. Wrong. Completely out of my own skin.

He assured me that he loved me — and that I was doing a great job as a mom. I pulled myself together as much as I could, went in to look at our photos, and passed off my quiet sobs as a tribute to the beautiful pictures we saw.

Afterwards, we drove up into the mountains to a lake to have dinner at our friends’ campsite.

The thing about old, dear friends {at least for me} is that I don’t have to hide. They’ve probably already seen me at my worst. And this pair were a couple of steps ahead of us in having a family, with a 3 1/2 year old daughter and 1-year old twins. There was nothing I could have said that would have fazed them.

My life prior to baby was very much my own. I had been an outdoor educator, guiding teens and adults on camping, sailing, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, and snowshoeing trips for much of my career. When I wasn’t guiding — and after, when I became a massage therapist — I spent my free time backcountry skiing, trail running, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or backpacking, often solo. I was on my own program and not afraid to spend time in the woods by myself. It’s where I thrived and felt most alive. It’s where I found myself.

But now, I had a little creature that needed to be fed every couple of hours. I had a body that — though it had performed feats beyond my wildest imagination — didn’t feel like my own. I was unsure and afraid of making a mistake — and even more so of the consequences that might ensue.

We arrived at the campsite and quickly were surrounded by the flurry of life that is four small children. There were flowers to look at, pebbles to remove from mouths, and snacks to eat. It momentarily took my mind off my fears as I breathed in the crisp mountain air and passed the baby off to another set of capable arms.

That was all lovely, but the real treasure came when the other mom and I laced up our running shoes and left our families behind for a little while.

Wow — I made that sound easy. To be honest, there was a lot of nursing, the strapping on of no less than 2 sports bras, and the coaxing by my honey for me to take a little time away. I knew I wanted it, but it was So. Hard. To. Leave.

Out on the trail, we laughed, cried, ran, “ran,” walked, and she told me stories when I was too out of breath to talk. We stopped and looked at the world around us. We felt the sun on our shoulders. When it got too hot, we took off our shirts and let our mama bellies jiggle.

And when we finally got back to camp, I knew that all was right with the world again.

I can’t explain in words what being out in nature — exercising, endorphins, mountain air, and the company of trees does for me. Except that it offers perspective.

Perspective to know that no matter what happens, it is all going to be alright. And that the world is a beautiful place. Maybe it’s just relief knowing that there is a force out there, far more powerful than me.

Whatever the reason, nature saved me that day. Well, nature and the support of a dear friend.

I wish I could say that it was all sunshine and roses from that day forward. I wish I could say that I’ve been an amazing mom ever since and have never broken down in frustration, but that wouldn’t be the truth. What I can say is: I know a way to make myself feel better.

More often than not, I don’t have the opportunity to shirk all responsibility and run by myself for hours — like I would have before baby. Sometimes, all we could manage was a walk around the block in the stroller. Sometimes I strapped on the ergo and hit the trails. Sometimes we met another mom at the park. For me, just getting a chance to be outside and experience nature — to feel the wind in my face, the sun on my hair — made a world of difference. If there was a chance to add in some endorphins too, it was a powerful combination.

Want learn more about how nature can make your child a better person and you a better parent? Click here: bit.ly/2gc7ik2

Originally published at www.mercedesturino.com on June 4, 2015.

Originally published at medium.com