Before becoming pregnant, I like, many horse people, could be accused of making some questionable health choices. How long has that yogurt been sitting out in the hot truck? I’m sure it’s still fine, and I’m starving! Can’t feel my arm after a fall? Just take ibuprofen. It will get better.
However, now that my health decisions are impacting someone far more fragile than me, I am at least trying to be more cautious.
Take for example last night. Ordinarily, I don’t get sick. When I do, I whine copiously and swallow every OTC medication in my cabinet, regardless of expiration date, so that I can go about my life like normal.
However, that’s not recommended for junior. It’s one of those cruel twists of fate that this time when your immune system is at its weakest coincides with the time when you shouldn’t take unnecessary medications. In practice, this means that for the last four days of a particularly vicious cold accompanied by aches, pains and chills, I’ve taken exactly three Tylenol. And felt guilty with each dose.
However, last night I finally broke down and began frantically Googling the words “Nyquil” and “Pregnancy.” Much to my relief I discovered that, while doctors don’t recommend taking any medications while pregnant if you can avoid it, the active ingredients in Nyquil (yes, even the minute amount of alcohol) will probably be OK, just this once. I caved and enjoyed a glorious night of uninterrupted sleep.
This isn’t the first, and definitely won’t be the last, time I’ve turned to the Internet to answer my questions and calm my fears. Silly, I know. When I actually have the chance to quiz a doctor, she tends to be much more laid back than the anonymous chat room Mother-of-the-Year types. For example, when I complained of morning sickness, my doctor cheerfully recommended actual drugs rather than saltines and sanctimonious suffering.
However, I’m unlikely to pester my doctor with every question, lest she tell me to find a new practice. Thus I do find myself Googling and clicking on random links in my weekly “Your baby is the size of an heirloom tomato” emails.
Sometimes you need to just step away from the keyboard…
Which led me to this week’s rage-fueled blog inspiration. “Is it safe to ride horseback during pregnancy?” I just couldn’t stop myself from clicking…
I knew the answer. Of course it’s not particularly safe to ride during pregnancy (or ever for that matter). Horses are unpredictable. Falling off could be dangerous for your unborn child. I expected that part. What I didn’t anticipate was this next choice bit:
“Even more important is the jostling motion of horseback riding. Unless you’re riding at a very slow walk, that motion creates a risk of placental abruption—a serious pregnancy complication in which the placenta separates from the uterus. If a pregnant woman falls or is in a low-speed car collision, we monitor her for signs of placental abruption. I would equate this with the kind and level of sheer force you could be subjected to on horseback.”
I nearly choked. On what planet is an experienced rider doing flatwork on her broke horse similar to a low-speed car collision?!? As I sputtered incoherently, my husband laughed and suggested that perhaps this particular doctor was a very poor rider whose only horse experience had been more like a car crash than my everyday habit.
But as much as I wanted to write this doctor off as an ignorant fool, the decision to keep riding (and jumping!) hasn’t been an easy one for me. On the one hand, I literally don’t know what I’d do with my time and energy if riding wasn’t part of my day. I firmly believe that staying mentally and physically healthy are two of the most important things I can do for baby while I’m pregnant, and let me tell you that not riding does not equal a happy, healthy mama.
On the other, it is a short period of time in my life. I’ve already made the tough decision to stop competing (at least over fences), and I suspect jumping is going to get crossed off the list shortly. I’ve had lots of wonderful people tell me, “Mary King jumped around the European Championships when she was five months pregnant,” and “You’ll know when it’s time to stop.”
But I’m not Mary King, and I don’t quite have the same confidence in myself that others do to be sensible. Half of what makes me an OK athlete instead of just a mediocre one is that I’m hard headed. That tired aphorism of “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”? That’s kind of how I live my life and accomplish the athletic things that I do. It surely isn’t innate athletic talent! Let’s just say I don’t always trust myself to listen to my body.
So what’s a dedicated horse girl to do?
Step 1. Get off the Internet.
Step 2. Think of creative ways to stay involved with my horses that don’t actually involve putting baby and myself at risk, such as focusing on dressage for now and asking my trainer to ride my horse over fences in our weekly lesson instead of doing it myself.
Step 3. Chill? Does it actually work to tell yourself to chill out? Sort of like yelling “Relax! Relax!” to the frightened ammy rider? It’s worth a shot!
For now, I’ve resigned myself to just watching and taking pictures as my trainer jumps my horse.
Every so often, we feature a blog from a member of the Chronicle staff. We’re just like you—juggling riding and competing with work and family. A graduate “C-3” from Penobscot Pony Club (Maine), Sara Lieser spent a year working for Denny Emerson before attending Amherst College (Mass.) and is now learning the sport from the ground up by training her own horses. She and her husband, Eric, share their 20-acre farm with two dogs, three cats, and an ever-changing number of horses.