Sarah Jane Hatfield, a former graphic designer at The Mountaineer, has embarked on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. During her journey, she’ll be sending dispatches from the forest, which we’ll publish each Wednesday.

This week, we join Hatfield in Florida, as she welcomes to birth of her first grandchild, Maverick Ross.

“Truth be told, being a grandma is as close as we ever get to perfection. The ultimate warm sticky bun with plump raisins and nuts. Clouds nine, 10 and 11.” — Bryna Nelson Paston

I don’t even know where to start this week’s article. Do I talk about the trail? Do I talk about being a grandma?

As week two in Florida drew to a close, my heart is heavy. My grandson, Maverick Ross, has completely stolen my heart. The thought of leaving him and my daughter, Allyson, makes me sad. I had no idea becoming a grandma would feel this amazing.

Little Maverick Ross came into this world, and into our hearts, on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 7. Due to a small setback during the labor process, the doctors decided to schedule Allyson for a c-section. She was pretty upset about that, since she really wanted a natural birth. However, she understood the importance of the doctors’ decision. She was surrounded by people who loved her. And so brave, too. I was proud of her strength. She looked beautiful, even though I know she didn’t feel it.

I eagerly, and nervously, waited for news of the surgery, alongside Chase’s parents, Stacy and Ernie (aka Gigi and Pops). The hospital plays a lullaby when a baby is born. Stacy and I knew that the one playing as we sat there was for our new grandchild, and we confirmed this at the nurses’ station. Eventually, one of the nurses radioed to a surgical nurse. That’s when we heard the most beautiful sound come over the speakers: Maverick’s newborn cry. He was really here.

Stacy and I started crying, then shared a huge hug. Having him in the world felt wonderful. His little cries sounded so sweet. I instantly fell in love. I couldn’t wait to meet him, and to kiss my baby girl.

Soon enough, the nurse wheeled in this perfect little baby boy, his father close behind him. I melted at the sight of his face. I knew, right then and there, that I’d be relocating to Florida at the conclusion of my thru-hike. There was no way I was going to miss a thing that this little bundle of joy had to offer.

Allyson was close behind her son. When she entered the room, I went to her side, kissed her brow and told her that Maverick was absolutely beautiful. The nurses brought Maverick to her, and the two of them began their skin-to-skin introduction. Although Allyson had met him right away after the c-section, this moment felt much different, much more intimate. They were able to seal their inseparable bond as mother and son. It was beautiful to witness.

Maverick weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds, 9 ounces. He was 20 inches long. What a big boy! The doctor jokingly told Allyson that she’d just given birth to a little toddler.

Our hearts are so full.

Being by my daughter’s side as she and Chase brought Maverick home was the most important thing on my agenda. As I’ve said before, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Being present to help new parents adapt to their new routines is what grandparents are for, right? I, too, am very new to this, of course, but already I feel as though I’ll do anything those three ask of me. Being the best grandma ever will become my newest endeavor. And I’m 100 percent prepared for the challenge.

As Sunday quickly passed, we knew what Monday would bring. I had an afternoon flight back to the trail. As much as I couldn’t wait to return to my journey, I also couldn’t imagine not being around the newest member of our family. My heart broke as I kissed Maverick and my daughter goodbye. Then I watched them from the truck window, fading further and further from view. Tears fell from my eyes, but I tried to keep it together. I started calculating my on-trail time, looking for the exact date I’d be able to return to them. As focused as I need to be to hike the remainder of the A.T., I know my mind will often drift back to Florida, to my daughter and precious grandson. I miss them immensely already.

As my time in Florida neared its end, I was in constant communication with Broccoli Rob, who was still on the trail. He’d pushed heavy mileage during my absence, and I’ll be skipping up about 275 miles from where I left off. My plan is to return to the section I missed, after summiting Mt. Katahdin. I was ready to begin the adventure again. I hadn’t done much physical activity in Florida, but that didn’t worry me. I knew I’d need a few hiking days to recondition. Besides, I’d been off trail before, and bounced right back. How was this any different? I also had brand new shoes, which made me excited. There’s nothing like a new pair of hiking kicks to build confidence.

I struggled with the thought of returning to the trail. Was I doing the right thing by leaving them behind? Was I being selfish? Would my daughter understand?

During a deep conversation with a good friend, she reminded me that if I didn’t finish this adventure, I’d regret it forever. She also pointed out that, years from now, when I share this journey with my grandson, what message would I be sending if I had to tell him that I’d quit? I understood what she was saying. Though one part of me wants to get off the trail and back to my grandson as soon as possible, another part of me wants the hike to last forever.

Maybe Maverick will get into hiking one day. How’s that for a thought!

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