An unnecessary drawback to pregnancy is the sheer number of hours that one inevitably spends at doctors’ appointments, in midwives’ consulting rooms, under ultra-sound machines, having blood samples taken, being given injections and generally suffering from over-exposure to most of the ante-natal medical profession.  At one of my early appointments, the midwife asked me about exercise; about what I did, and how much of it.  Given that I was clad head to toe in full lycra cycling regalia, was sporting a high-vis yellow jacket, clutching a cycling helmet and likely covered in chain grease to boot, I made a snap decision that any kind of denial was likely to be futile.  I opted instead for a policy of full disclosure.

“I cycle”, I said, slowly “and I ride – ride my horse.  Perhaps a couple of hours’ cycling each day, plus 45 mins on the horse about four times a week.”  The two midwives looked at me, baffled.  I ploughed on, digging myself a deeper hole.  “I cycle to the stables” I explained “and then I cycle to work.”  I could see I’d lost them, so I tailed off.

“So, you cycle part way to work”, said the first midwife, confused, “and then you swap onto the horse and then you ride the horse to work?”  I smiled politely.  Crushed the inner sarcastic in me that was screaming a withering response about trotting Vito down past St Paul’s Cathedral, collecting a small haynet for him from London Bridge and finally tethering him at Liverpool Street station, before popping into my office to do a day’s work.

“Not quite”, I said.  “But something like that.”  “Well”, said the second midwife, “We don’t tend to advise horseback-riding and cycling during pregnancy.  If you do want to continue to take some form of gentle exercise, then we normally find that swimming works well, along with a little pregnancy pilates and maybe some yoga, though of course it’s important not to overdo it.”

Pilates, as far as I understand, requires co-ordination.  Quite possibly balance.  Definitely sleek gym-wear, sweat-resistant mascara and a colour coded exercise mat.  I do not possess these things.  Any of them, in any form.  And what, I wondered, what exactly was I to do with Vito, in this world where riding and cycling were forbidden and where the next eight months of my life would be dedicated to perfecting my lotus position?  Leave him tied up outside Liverpool Street station?  Fold him up and put him in the basement with my spare yoga mat?

What I hadn’t told the good midwives of Islington was that I was finding it all pretty tough.  I’d gone back to work, back to an environment where all-nighters are common and where my colleagues keep sleeping bags under their desks in order to catch 30 mins’ kip during a 4am lull, before cracking on with the next set of documents and conference calls.  Work-induced sleep deprivation was back, we had one small demanding child at home and I was attempting to compete Vito at a level at which I barely had any experience at all – whilst pregnant with baby no. 2.

My first concern, of course, was how long my body protector would realistically fit me for.  My plan for the tail end of 2014 was going to be largely dictated by logistical constraints of the bump vs EXO cage contest.   My EXO’s great, but it’s rigid and, as far as maternity body protectors go, I’d say it could use a few modifications before it starts to grace the advertising pages of Mamas & Papas or Maternally Yours.  At four months pregnant, The Cage and I had a nice run around the Intermediate at Aston’s August fixture.  The Cage and I were pleased with progress and we entered Wellington.  Then we stopped referring to ourselves in the first person plural, as we realised that it made for mildly uncomfortable reading and we sounded slightly like Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Just before Wellington, Vito developed cellulitis in a hind leg and he had to be withdrawn.  Throughout September, I pretended that I’d get him ready for a final fling at South of England or Little Downham, but I felt half-hearted about it and, in the end, I didn’t enter either one.

By this stage, it was time to “come out” and to face the deluge of shocked questions about whether I should still be riding.  “But,” people would say in horror, “what if Something Happened?  Are you not worried that Something Might Happen?”  No, not really, is the answer to that.  Sure, there are risks, but I’m not overly concerned that, whilst I am quietly minding my own business in the school one day, a nameless, faceless, Something might creep silently up behind me, pounce on me unawares whilst I’m not looking and spontaneously Happen to me.  “What sort of Something do you think might Happen?” I’ll say sweetly to the proponents of Something Might Happen.  They’ll normally splutter a bit, cast around for ideas and then light upon something concrete on which to hang their hat.  “You might fall off!” They will say, triumphantly.  “What if you fell off?”  At this point in time, I am forced to confess the (metaphorically and physically) painful truth.  If I may refer you to my earlier observation, that I am dismally lacking in both balance and co-ordination, it will come as no surprise when I say that I do fall off.  I fall off a lot.  In 2014 alone, I fell off in a ditch, I fell off in a hedge, I fell off into a jump (twice), I fell off in the school and I fell off in a lesson.  I also fell off my bike at a set of traffic lights, for no apparent reason.  Although it’s generally considered bad form to brag about one’s talents and strengths, I will risk readers’ wrath and indignation to say that, in my most humble opinion, I am very good at falling off.  What’s more, though I never thought I’d be any good at more than one thing, I’d like to say bashfully that I think I am quite good at falling off consistently.  I almost always fall off on my head.  Since there is absolutely nothing of any value in my head, least of all a gestating baby, I consider it perfectly safe to continue to ride, to continue to fall off, and to continue to discount the terrible possibility that Something Might Happen.

Said gestating baby is set to arrive in early January, so 2015 brings another year’s Eventing Leave (referred to by my HR department, confusingly, as Maternity Leave), a reconciliation with The Cage and, I am sure, plenty of opportunities to continue to hone my skills at falling off.  What’s slightly less clear is how to fit two saddles, two child seats (plus resident children), the now infamous Cage, a double pram, a handful of numnahs, the requisite number of nappies and a couple of helmets into the back of the Chelsea Tractor.  Let’s call it shambolic-chic and hope they’ll all breathe in.

Editor’s note this blog was obviously a little bit delayed from our end and we are happy to announce that Materna Eventing’s family is now one larger 😀

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  • Brilliantly written as always…a talent wasted on the legal profession :)Congratulations on the new addition….

  • Fantastic. I’m ~1 week off baby 1 and have been reading your blog with interest since I first discovered I was pregnant – such inspiring (and witty) stuff. I joke that this year off is going to be one massive schooling/competing opportunity but fear that actually my life as an eventer might be over; to see others making it work stops the panic setting in. Congratulations on baby 2 and good luck with the 2015 season!!

  • Yey – Eventing Leave take 2 = lots of blogs from the legal eagle who should be a writer. Just think – working for yourself; allowed to shut yourself away from the kids as writers need ‘space’; riding helps with the creative process…..need I go on?

    Oh yes – congrats on the baby too!