I leant back on the hospital bed, with the baby heartbeat monitor wrapped around my large bump, on FaceTime to my poor non-horsey parents who were attempting to muck out Ruby’s stable for me. It dawned on me then that life would absolutely not be the same again and that despite being used to being completely rushed off my feet every hour of the day, nothing was quite going to be like juggling a newborn with horsey life.
My waters had broken on Boxing Day, nearly a month earlier than my baby’s due date. I had absolutely nothing prepared and so my poor parents and best friend Beth immediately became in charge of Ruby. Already, I was having to learn to rely on and accept help from other people, something that I hadn’t been particularly good in the past, especially where Ruby was concerned.
Whenever you’re considering starting a family, or when you tell others that you’re expecting, it seems to be an unwritten law that people must offer you unsolicited advice such as the following:
‘You’ll have to sell the horse.’
‘You won’t ever have any time to ride.’
‘The baby will consume your whole life.’
Couple this with seeing adverts on Facebook for horses for sale or loan because the owner ‘doesn’t have enough time due to the arrival of their new baby’ and I was beginning to feel quite panicked.
I knew that I wanted to get back to the yard as soon as I possibly could. I wanted to get back into riding ASAP and I knew that I wanted to settle back into a routine with my new little team member in tow. But it certainly felt like an impossible task.
My son, Jago, was born 4 days later on the 30th December 2022. 3 weeks early, battered due to the traumatic delivery we had and very jaundiced whilst I had been cut open like an envelope downstairs after the Doctors realised that he was back-to-back, twisted and stuck. Cue a further 8 days in hospital to ensure that Jago was fit and well enough to come home for good.
Jago arrived home on the Friday, and by Sunday I had driven him (by myself, that feels like an achievement in itself!) to the yard to meet Ruby. Ruby ignored Jago, Jago slept through the whole thing and I don’t think my heart could have been fuller than in that moment.
For the following weeks, I began to get used to tackling all of my yard jobs with a tiny baby with me. As long as he was fed, changed and wrapped up super warm, he would snooze in the tack room whilst I rushed around making sure that Ruby was taken care of.
Beth and I worked it that one of us would turn out the horses in the morning and the other would bring in at night. However, as she works as a Nurse (hero), it made sense for me to turn out in the morning as often as I could.
At this point, Jago was solidly feeding every 3 hours without fail, so I could make this work in the morning that we’d leave after his 6/7/8 feed and be back home in time ready for his next one. However, as he’s gotten older and begins to sleep more at night, this becomes more challenging as his wake up time in the morning becomes more unpredictable! Cue further routine adjustments, bedtime adjustments and figuring out and I think we’re now just about getting there to ensure that we make it to the yard before 10am – with a pre-made bottle at the ready and a camping chair in the tack room specifically for feeding times.
As Jago becomes more awake and alert, the naps at the yard are becoming ever more elusive. This means finding more inventive ways to keep him happy whilst I bustle about making sure my stable is sorted for when Beth brings in of an evening. This can include listening to his favourite soundtrack of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ or doing the jobs with me in the sling (excellent weight training for me) and I know that I will need to come up with more and more ways as he gets older such as using an old highchair with toys attached or a travel cot in the tack room!
I also try to make sure that I’m extra prepared with hay nets and feeds, especially if I have an evening at the yard to myself where I can bulk-prepare everything for the week. This just saves extra time in the mornings if Jago really is finding the morning tough and I need to be extra speedy.
But with each new challenge, I feel so proud of being able to carry on in a similar way to before. To be able to keep Ruby, to ride and to look ahead to competing again all whilst spending every waking moment doting on and loving the socks off my new little boy. I certainly look forward to the day I can tell him about the time I had to change his poonami nappy on a bale of Jenkinson’s shavings in the tack room!
Having something to get up for in the morning, that I cannot make excuses for, has made the postpartum recovery far easier for me. I don’t do well at home by myself, I can very easily feel overwhelmed and down and so the yard and Ruby have become my sanctuary in that sense. It makes me get up in the morning, get both myself and Jago dressed and sorted and out of the house with a purpose.
At 6 weeks postpartum, I had the most important appointment for myself so far: the one where I would find out if I was able to sit back on Ruby again for the first time in 6 months…
Follow Cerys' story more closely on her instagram page: @DiaryOfMyDragon