Before becoming pregnant I was very much into spending most of my time up the yard with my pony or college studying Equestrian Science, so horses and my eldest daughter took up a lot of my time. My partner also liked horses so he did not mind spending time up the yard either, though he did not live with us at this point and just came down to see us when he was not working. Once I found out I was pregnant, apart from riding the day after I found out, which was more for myself as I knew it would be the last ride I had in a while and I was not wrong. I did not ride whilst pregnant as I had bad morning sickness so the motion of riding was not the best and I had a trapped nerve in my leg a few months into the pregnancy. Though personally my confidence vanished once I was pregnant and felt very aware it was not just me anymore, so I took the choice not to ride and let my pony have that year of, as we had a busy year beforehand with competitions and figured it would not harm her. For the majority my pony stayed out on grass and I managed to do most things with her whilst pregnant apart from when I was close to being due and my partner helped where he could and people at the yard did too. During this time my partner had moved in after finding a job within the area.
Once baby arrived in the back of my head the excitement of being able to ride again was there but I also knew all the pain I had meant I would have to wait awhile. With my lower back pain it was very familiar to me as a couple of years before becoming pregnant I had a fall of my pony and landed funny and somehow managed to damage my coccyx then, which made it agonising at the time with muscle spasms. This was the same pain I had now and knew it would not be a quick fix and had the extra bonus of stitches too. For the first week with struggling to get about, seeing other people and being tired I did not get to see the pony, so when the time came to see her I was quiet excited but also nervous. In the back of my mind I believed I would be able to pick up from where I left of, have the time for the pony again, looking after her and riding and resume college without too much trouble – sadly this is not how it played out and proved a lot more difficult (will be explained in more detail the more chance I get to write).
The first visit was quiet a brief one and just to see how the pony was and make sure all was fine and to thank those who had helped look after her. My partner let her out of the stable as she had come in at this point with bad weather and muddy fields, so she was let into the sand school which I was parked up next too and I was able to see her from the car. Not long into the visit baby wanted a feed and I had to find a position in the car to give her one whilst my partner quickly sorted her out and checked all was fine with her. As I was getting comfy and getting baby latched and happy, I looked up to see a pony starring at me through the car window, almost to say “why are you not coming out?” as it had been a little while since she had seen me as well. It was really nice and she stood there for ages to starring, wondering what was going on but it made me miss her so much more and feel useless that I could not do what I was normally capable of doing. I was hoping to be riding and sorting her out myself already and the reality of having a baby and breast feeding was starting to become slowly apparent, as none of what I had in my own happy head bubble looked like a possibility for awhile. After the visit and saying goodbye and heading home it was back to newborn routine and waiting to see her again.
The first ride
I know I can be extremely stubborn and wont be told, is this not the case with a lot of us? I think it had been 2 – 3 weeks or so roughly since having baby and with my back in constant pain and not giving me a break and beginning to feel like a cow on tap, I spoke to my partner about braving to ride. Now in the back of my head I knew this was not a good idea as my stitches were no where near healed, comfortable or ready to be irritated but did I let this stop me? Of course not, in my head I thought having a ride what make things feel a bit more normal, would help with the back pain as just sitting there, trying to get about when I felt brave enough was not enough to try ease the pain. Feeds had become a lot more frequent for baby and could be any time and any where, this made doing whatever was planned a bit more difficult. Once we arrived at the yard, baby was asleep and I set on sorting pony out for a ride, this was agony alone, which should of been a warning light right there, but I persisted to try tack her up, not quiet realising how heavy her saddle was – or basically how physically weak I was. Once she was tacked up and I felt quiet worn out from that ordeal I got ready to ride.
Getting on was the fun part as I would have to throw my leg over, now in between those legs were painful stitches and a bad lower back and coccyx area, so this was very painful but I was still determined. Every movement on the horse in walk was definitely not how I remembered and once I had walked round for a bit on her I choose to have a trot, hoping that going faster for some strange reason would help, again it did not and caused burning and shooting pains in all kinds of places. This did not make me stop however I just had a hideous position instead, leaning quiet far forward and almost trying to stand up out the saddle to take the pressure of the sore areas. Credit to the pony for putting up with that ride as I think I would of thrown myself of if I was her, as my balance and weight was terrible and I never even considered that my breasts would also hurt. Not really having any before becoming pregnant I had not had to worry to much about this, but with full breasts as a feed must of been drawing closer, they moved and jiggled a little bit and the bra I had on did not support or help this pain whatsoever. After attempting a couple of small canters and walking the pony round once I was done come the fun part of having to get of and not give away how much pain I was in. Baby had woke by now and was upset and wanted a feed so my partner took the pony back in so I could feed baby, this gave me a few minutes in the car to say all kinds of mix – match words in my head whilst baby snuggled in and settled in for a feed. This time round though feeding was still painful, there was a bit of relief from the fullness of my breasts and riding so this time it was almost a welcome feed and a bit of the pain taken away, even if a small amount. Knowing I had pushed too quick to ride this time round I did leave it maybe 2 – 3 more weeks before riding again so as not to cause damage to the stitches and set myself back with the healing process just because I was stubborn.
Finding a way to ride and do more
As the weeks passed I aimed to try ride once a week if I could in the hope it would help strengthen my back, I think it was just unnecessary agony looking back but seemed a great idea at the time. I would muck the pony out and sort her out a bit more too which I had missed cleaned out large amounts of horse ‘waste’, doing a haynet and feeling able to do a bit more than the week before. Most parts of my body would ache when doing any of these actions which included riding, but I saw this as a good pain not a bad one. Only all of this was do able with my partners help, without I do not think it would of been possible, though it did get stressful a few times. We would aim between us that I would feed baby and then hope she fell asleep on the journey there, I would quickly tack up and ride and keep everything that was not sore, crossed that she would not wake so I had time to get back and able to feed her with minimal upset. There would be times she just would not settle so riding would not be possible and I would become milk on tap and we would just brave the 10 minute journey home when we thought we had an opportunity, other times would time it for when I got back from the ride and she would want a feed. This left me feeling rather bad on my partner, as he was always handed a pony and I was in the car or on a hay bale feeding the baby again. I even attempted lessons every couple of weeks, but this did not last long at all and on my second one, my pony decided it was time I fell off, which was very unlike her but did put my confidence very far back. I did get straight back on and do the lesson as this was at the start but I knew if I got hurt it could affect baby, my eldest and partner, which was enough to make me feel extremely anxious about riding for awhile.
On one occasion my partner suggested we all attempt to go on a ride, so I put the wrap on him as he had not tried this before and we gave this ago. This just turned into a ride of stress, tiredness and we realised half way in, it was a very bad idea that we probably would not be trying again. It seemed a lovely one in the beginning and started of well to start with, but it was not long until baby began to fuss and was getting upset, which is when I came of the horse and swapped baby for a horse with my partner as per. We found a point in the ride where I sat down on my partners jacket and fed baby in the hope it would settle her enough to fall asleep with partner. Whilst feeding baby, my clumsy pony managed to step on my partners foot, which is never pleasant and caused more stress and upset at the time. I think in the end I carried baby and she drifted of and I handed her back to my partner who carried her outside of the wrap, with myself jumping on my pony again for a little bit more of the ride. Lesson was well learnt on this occasion that it was a lot longer ride than I remembered, no one benefited from it and both my partner and myself agreed not to try this again, being able to laugh about it by the end of the day. We did manage a few short rides round the block with baby in pushchair and eldest on her scooter or walking the odd time which was nice and definitely not as stressful.
Months obviously flew by along with many other journeys in between trying to juggle the horse too, but I began at some point being able to do more, I took over mucking out and seeing to the pony more so the partner could get more sleep and rest, as he worked nights and doing the pony after work would take it out of him. I found a good routine of morning feed for the baby, bundle her and the eldest in the car, school drop off and then to pony to sort out. I found a nice wrap which I got used to putting on quiet well and quickly which became my best friend with some jobs, and was always careful and thought about what needed to be done and how it would be possible with the baby. The older she got, it did get a bit easier, but there were equally testing times on some days that something that used to take me about 20minutes, could take an hour and a half. which could become draining. Most of the time a feed would be given during our trip, whether before, during or after seeing to pony, trying to be as careful as possible with dirt and germs. I would try time it so I could do the mucking out and hard work before she would wake from her nap, there were times she would be cluster feeding, which at times felt like all the time, which made this task increasingly more tricky. Some days would be quiet easy and I would feel like I had achieved something good, even if it felt no where near what I should be able too, it was still something. Other days I would pretty much join the baby in a crying fit and wonder how I was going to pull of sorting the pony that day and hope for a break, or a 5 minute window where I could get her done.
Over coming small obstacles
Though I had braved the odd jump on the pony in the first few months, these were not the small obstacles that both my partner and myself faced. Along with the feeds and juggling this with tasks and riding, there would be times that baby would decide that the fresh air and feeds she had, had were enough to warrant having a poo whilst up the yard, which with no facilities to change her there, meant I had to improvise. I did not mind doing this as it has not been the first time for me, with having my eldest, my partner however would panic and get stressed over this. There were times I would have to jump of the pony or stop what I was doing to come help and sort her out, to start with on my lap as she was small enough to sort out on there, but she eventually got to big to do this. I then started using either the passenger seat or back seat, and as I could change her quiet quickly, more important in the cold months, meant I was the one who most of the time would see to her.
As baby got older and more alert and awake, relaying on the naps were not always possible or an option, so I had to start coming up with other ideas. This is where the wrap came into action, though I learnt pretty quick it was to painful to muck out with the wrap on and I was constantly worried about hurting baby too. The wrap helped when I had to start finding a way to turn pony out into the field and bring her in, luckily my pony was well behaved, otherwise I would not of considered taking her out with baby securely wrapped up to myself. There was the odd time pony would become slightly strong and more of a handful, which being a horse is more than expected, so I would lead her to the field in her bridle a couple of times, which gave me that extra security should she decide to do anything daft. Considering I would normally treat my pony like a large dog, I would take every precaution I could to make sure no harm would come to the baby when having to do these tasks. My partner would constantly worry and was never to keen on the idea but I did everything I could to show that the babies safety. I completely understood as I was nervous myself as I obviously would not want any harm to come to her but had to also find a way around making the situation work. Baby actually quiet enjoyed the walk to the fields and the fresh air I think, as this after a feed of course, would help her sleep like a log for a bit afterwards.
This is however only the first few months into getting back to doing what was normal before baby arrived. There were many days that I felt I would be unable to do it, or cope with the tasks, but I did not want to let my pony or partner down. For the first few months, finding somewhere comfortable to feed would be a constant issue and I think I became numb to the pain and used to it. There would be days that if my breasts were extremely tender and sore that day, or week/ weeks, riding would be so painful I would be fighting back the tears. On a few occasions I was struggling with mastitis, but I did not fully understand what this was in the beginning and would just try to power through the burning, pain and stabbing feelings whilst riding. Feeding would be so painful but painfully soothing at the same time, as I did not understand that feeding could also help relieve the pain, I just tended to dread each feed when it was this painful and hope the pain would not last too long (this could be days or a week at times). Like most things in life though I found different ways to keep baby entertained, pushchair would work for a bit, or sitting on a bale of hay watching the world go by. Most of the time I would just find a way to muck out as quick as possible as this was the most difficult bit to do and the rest I could usually find a way around doing it. If I ever went out on a hack I would find the time away difficult and just find myself rushing back just in case baby would want a feed, or partner was struggling – plus the anxiety of being away from the baby felt horrible and I would not want to endure that feeling any longer than I needed too.