I’m not sure this blog is an article that helps so much in terms of my expertise as a mental skills coach, so let’s go with calling it a social commentary. A social commentary on the utter fabulousness that is the female rider that for whatever reason decides to have children… and the things that can come up when those children actually arrive.
In order to get to the point that motivated me to write this in the first place, I feel that it is somewhat necessary to highlight a few key points about what happens to a woman during pregnancy, which in many cases will barely scratch the surface of the billions of possibilities that may befall you when you are actually “taken over”. In case you may have forgotten.
When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, Tommy, I actually said- and I kid you not- “I am totally going to rock this pregnancy” to my husband (an excellent show of public strength I think from the fact I was so ill with my first baby) and literally four hours later found myself flailing around on floor of the bathroom clutching a bucket that I am not sure that I let go of for the next 9 months. I did rock it, but in the way a large earthquake rocks a tiny town. My body did an excellent job of housing my child but I sure wasn’t pretty in the process.
So there’s that. You may have had morning sickness, you may not have but regardless, your body will have stretched, contorted, forced you liver into your area where your spleen was and moved your lungs into your throat leaving a tiny area of 2mm x 2mm in the big toe of your right foot for you to call your own. It’s amazing yes, but there’s a bus load of action happening in there within a fairly short time frame.
The other thing that is worthy of mention- and I say this because this particular point is pertinent to the whole purpose that I wrote this blog about- is that the exit route for said child ends at the same point your panoonie makes contact with the saddle. Although we like to think we have things under control, the fact is that when it comes to child birth requires a show of gymnastics that is outside the realm of what we consider “every day normal” and thus also requires a period after where we need to look after ourselves and let everything settle into position.
Despite this, what I see, hear and read about time and time again is a sense of urgency from just-had-a-baby-riders to get back on board as soon as it’s humanly possible. I’ve read bios of coaches who state proudly that they were in the saddle only days after giving birth, some of them back to competing. And whilst I am the first to say, full power to you, give you a virtual high five and send you a pair of congratulatory reinforced padded undies as a token of my admiration, this is very far from the case for most of us. I mean lets face it, that whole “physical situation” is the least of our worries when it comes to having a newborn. There’s the tiredness. The lack of independence. And the general tail spin that life is thrown into as you come to grips with accommodating a whole new being in your life.
I’m not meaning to be negative- quite the opposite in fact- but I am here to tell you that despite what you might be feeling at the moment, if you ARE in the situation where you have just had a bambino and are finding it all a bit much, you have time. Go easy on yourself. If you stopped riding in your pregnancy, the time away from something you love can feel endless. If you are or were anything like me you would be ITCHING to get back in the saddle, not only “to ride” but to reclaim a sense of independence, something that is your own, headspace, time to regroup. And just because you love it.
What I see time and time again though is a sense of failure from mums when they are struggling to make it happen. Some even give up. Sell their horses. Feel like their situation has changed for good and riding is no longer a possibility for them. I will never judge these decisions as everyone has done so (rightfully) within the context of what is right for them and their loved ones.
Other get back into riding really quickly, but then beat themselves up when things don’t feel like they did before, or they don’t bounce back as quickly as they had hoped. I get this also. The whole body change thing can be quite the shock.
What I mainly want to say is two things:
- You have time. You need to take time to look after yourself. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.
- Your horse is happy just being a horse. Provided he is loved, has company, food and shelter, and a place to adequately stretch his legs, it’s safe to assume he or she will be there for you when you are ready to get back on board. Yes it might take a little bit of work to get you both back up to speed, but so what? You can do that.
So for those amongst you who fall into any of the above, this one is for you. That baby you just had? You grew that little being of awesomeness from start to finish. You’re basically a human growing ninja. If you can do that, this whole riding caper is basically in the bag. You just need to time, some kindness (mostly to yourself) and a good ol’ dose of you’ve got this.