Some strange things started happening to me last winter. It was really odd. I was living my dream, having opened a livery yard with my husband, Jerome, and yet something just wasn’t quite right.
To begin with, I slowly started to be less than delighted at the thought of going down to muck out in the mornings. Now, you might not think that particularly strange — cleaning stables is hardly riveting stuff. But, bearing in mind that I was still very much in the honeymoon stages of our new yard and I actually quite like mucking out, I was a little concerned. Was this all just a lot more hard work than I had thought it would be? Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for working seven days a week?
It was nothing terrible and nothing I could put my finger on, particularly. I just felt that I wasn’t at the top of my game physically or mentally. I carried on as normal and thought little of it.
After Christmas, I started getting very breathless during normal activities. I struggled to walk up to the field and hold a conversation at the same time. Riding a horse on the flat for 10 minutes made me turn purple in the face. A bit worrying for a non-smoking marathon runner (well, I did run a marathon… once.).
I Googled my symptoms, resigned myself to the fact that I was dying of lung cancer (never Google your symptoms) and continued on with the daily routine, feeling slightly embarrassed that we riders are all meant to think of ourselves as athletes these days and I was not demonstrating a very good example with all my puffing and panting.
The final straw was something that happened at training one day. I usually train at Lakefield EC in Camelford on my day off with Becky Monk and Mark Cunliffe. I was riding in a jump session with Mark. We were working on a grid and I was riding one of their best jumping horses — an experienced, reliable, point-and-shoot type.
The session was going very well and as I came round to jump through the grid for the final time, Mark put the fences up from 90cm to 1m. I cannot tell you what happened, but I suddenly pulled my horse up, turned to Mark and said; “I’m not doing it. I’m really sorry, but I’m not doing it.”
He laughed and told me to stop messing around, but for reasons even I didn’t fully understand, I point blank refused. It was an exercise and height I’d jumped hundreds of times before on that same horse. I wasn’t scared, but my head would not let me take the approach to that line of fences. I was a bit baffled, wondered if I was losing my nerve in my old age, continued on with a great flat session and thought no more about it.
It was only a couple of days later that I realised.
I was feeling particularly queasy after only a couple of glasses of wine the night before and suddenly I knew…
I was pregnant! It explained everything: the reluctance to go to work; the breathlessness; the ‘loss of confidence’ jumping; the queasiness.
Equally, I couldn’t possibly be pregnant. Even though we had our daughter with no problems, after an ectopic pregnancy and some other issues, I was diagnosed with secondary infertility and we had our son through two rounds of IVF.
Having been told; “You will not get pregnant without IVF,” Jerome and I knew that our son, Jasper, would be our last child. IVF is not fun and is incredibly expensive. We felt very content and fortunate to have the two children that we have.
Now, I was pretty sure that I had not been injecting myself daily and enduring embarrassing, uncomfortable procedures for the past few months. And yet, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions. I was indeed, against all odds, pregnant. Oh, bugger!
After working through a range of emotions (shock, dismay, disbelief, elation etc.), we slowly came to terms with the fact that we would be having a third child, alongside running the yard and another big project we were working on.
It took me a little longer than Jerome to get on board with the idea. I was so certain that I had finished that chapter of my life, that it was an awful lot to take in. We went to an early scan to ensure everything was okay as I was at high risk of another ectopic. Tears started streaming down my face as the doctor explained that this was a normal pregnancy. The nurse squeezed my arm and gave me a knowing smile and exclaimed how happy I must be at this miraculous occurrence. Hmmm, yes. Happy tears. They were definitely happy tears.
We were on a tight schedule that day and had some children’s party bits to get in one of the pound stores. So, we trundled around Poundland, me following Jerome around the aisles of paper cups and streamers, shaking my head in disbelief and sobbing from the enormity of it all (must have been the hormones, I’m not usually like this).
Between sobs and sniffles I struck an intricate equestrian trade deal with Jerome. Namely that if we were going to go through with this I needed to know that I would still have a life and a career afterwards. Included on my list of demands were that I would need a horse of my own at some point, I wanted to dedicate some more time to competing and exams and I wanted to keep up my own training.
After initially protesting that he would not negotiate with terrorists, Jerome saw that it was best not to argue with an emotionally unhinged pregnant lady and agreed to all my demands. None of them will be happening anytime soon, but it means there is light at the end of the nappy and puke-filled tunnel for me.
“Okay, good,” I said. “I think I can do this. Oh, and we’re going to need to go to Primark now and buy all of their size 20 clothes. And I’m going to need lunch. A really nice lunch.”
We took the decision not to tell anybody straight away. I’ve had an interesting few months of covering up the growing bump, making excuses as to why I can’t ride certain horses and suddenly being otherwise engaged when horses have needed holding for veterinary X-rays. I’ll tell you more about it next time.
It didn’t take me long to get over my initial uncertainty and I am delighted to tell you that our third baby is due on 26 August 26 2017. It is a Malone, however, so it will be late.