I was that girl who would ride any horse, anywhere. I didn't care if I knew I was likely to get bucked off; I was determined, brave, and thrived on the challenges of a difficult horse. Then, everything started to change...
I can remember it like yesterday. I felt the excitement of pregnancy, all the ideas, visions, and promises I made to myself before I had my first child. I’m not going to stop being me; I’m not going to let my baby needy, so I can’t go anywhere alone. I’m still going to ride a lot, not as much as now, but a few times a week will be easy. Our baby will go everywhere with us so that we don’t have to be isolated, restaurants, play days, coffee dates, travelling to see my parents or for holidays. There’s no way in hell my girl will sleep in our bed, this is my bed, and she will learn to sleep alone right away. We will be a family who still rides and rodeos! I never imagined it would be my last summer to rodeo.
I can’t help but laugh at my naivety. The second my first daughter was born, every preconceived notion I had, every plan, evaporated like the morning mist. Perhaps you can relate? We have this idea in our heads for how life will be like once we become a mother; I can guarantee we were all in for the shock of our lives.
I had a traumatizing experience after the birth of my oldest daughter, Joy. I had opted for a natural delivery; I had a fantastic doula and a great doctor. In the end, Joy got stuck -- and one massive push later, she came flying out into my doctor’s hands; I tore terribly. I had to go to the neighbouring town for day surgery via ambulance to get stitched up a few hours later. Now the surgery was a nightmare and a story for another time.
The following months were the most challenging moments of my life. Joy, we found out later, was tongue and lip tied. But for the first six weeks of her life, we didn’t know that. Nursing was excruciating. I dealt with endless rounds of thrush, blocked ducts, mastitis, blisters, bleeding, and I even had a cyst in my breast, which had to get drained with a needle numerous times. Once we had her ties lasered, things started to get more comfortable nursing wise around three months postpartum. Because of all the complications, I was co-sleeping; skin to skin is always advised to keep a breastfeeding relationship as healthy as possible. I didn’t go anywhere. Nursing was almost always painful, awkward, and not to mention all the creams and salves required for the thrush, bleeding or blisters.
It’s not surprising that with all of the complications we had, I developed postpartum depression. My depression presented itself as extreme anger, not towards my daughter, but most often towards objects, or unfortunately, my spouse. I was feeling the weight of everything I was going through.
Joy was born on February 25; my first ride after her birth was April 28. It still hurt, but I went anyway!
I soon became a helicopter mom, always hovering, never able to relax if I wasn’t in control. I felt scared to ask someone to watch my daughter so I could ride because what if something happened when I wasn’t there? I would get sweaty just thinking of it, but my drive to try and ride more kept nagging and eventually, I would ask someone to come over. I still remember that I would leave the house and literally run to catch my horse, speed through brushing, tack up, ride, and try and be back in the house before an hour had passed. Riding became almost a chore to do. I loved it, but I wasn’t there at the moment anymore. My head and heart were worried about my daughter while my body sat in the saddle.
As months passed, it slowly started to get more comfortable to ride, but the mom-guilt was always present. Feeling guilty that I was having fun away from my daughter; guilty for pulling my husband or inlaw away from what they were doing so I could ride; guilt for the housework not getting done.
At this time in my life, I was only riding my trusted barrel horse, Sonny. I felt safe riding him; we knew each other inside and out. Our barrel racing improved that summer because I had spent so much time thinking about barrel racing while pregnant I was able to be calmer at the moment. I did become timider if there were any uncertain conditions outside of my control: was the ground too muddy; was it going to storm; were horses slipping around a barrel; was Joy too fussy with someone else. I was trying to stay inside the horse world, but I was half in, half out.
Enter Ace the following year; our then, three-year-old green broke gelding. I felt drawn to work with him but also scared. It was like I had something to prove to myself by getting on a colt again. I was scared every second we worked together. We fought about everything. I was a bossy dictator determined to get this colt some more rides. I pushed myself way too far, trying to show the world I “still had it.” After only a handful of rides, I was soon relieved to find out I was pregnant again, an excellent excuse to not work with a greenbroke colt.
It wasn’t long before I had to stop riding all together; this pregnancy had me very sore in the saddle at only 3-4 months into the pregnancy. While I missed riding Sonny, I was also grateful not to feel that pressure to try and do it all anymore.
Find the rest of the story and how I worked my way through the fears in part two here!