I’m over 36 weeks pregnant. My baby is due to pop out pretty soon now. I thought I’d share my experience of being a pregnant agility handler so far – because it’s been absolutely nothing like I expected, and pre-pregnancy I spent a fair bit of time wondering how it would affect my agility.
Before I got pregnant, my thinking was that the first couple of months of pregnancy would be pretty straightforward. After all, you’re still the same size and the baby is just a tiny little peanut. How different can it be?
Well, it turns out I was completely wrong. Some people experience zero or only minor morning sickness; others get it so bad they end up in hospital with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (basically where you’re so unwell that you become critically dehydrated).
I didn’t have HD, but I did have awful morning sickness. “Morning” is the silliest term invented to describe this condition. For me it lasted 24 hours a day. Have you ever been in a car or on a boat and felt acutely sick? Or woken up after a night of drinking with a hideous hangover? It was essentially the same as that, and it went on All the Time, Non Stop – for months and months and many more months. And I’m the kind of person who normally doesn’t get ill…
Nothing made me feel better. I tried a lot of things – including all the remedies suggested by friends, Google, the NHS website, the doctor – even special, prescribed morning sickness medication. Nothing touched it. I went from being a super-active, on-the-go person to struggling to get out of the house to walk the dogs. I tried to keep going – managing to do some competitions and bits of training and walks. But it was very, very tough. At competitions I spent a lot of time in my caravan lying down and feeling guilty about how little fun the dogs were getting as they bounced around on my head.
Finally, not far off six months of pregnancy it subsided. Food started to taste more like it used to, and ultimately became enjoyable again. When people congratulated me on being pregnant I understood what they meant and could feel happy about it; rather than feeling as if I was being congratulated on having got the worst flu of my life.
Emotionally and physically the first half of my pregnancy was far tougher than I had anticipated. On the other hand, the second half has been a bit of a doddle. I’ve given training days again – on my feet for hours and hours and moving equipment no problem. I can walk and train my dogs properly. Not only that but I have more time to do so, because I’m not working as much as I was.
I can still exercise, far more than I thought I would be able to do. I can jog 5 kilometres without any problem at all – 4 times a week or more if I want. OK, so I’m definitely slower than I was and I get round ligament pain sometimes or the baby whacks me hard enough for me to need to walk a few metres… but then I can keep going.
And yesterday, I was so happy to feel totally capable of going to do a championship competition in Newark – Derby Show. The entry cost something like 12 pounds, so I submitted for it a couple of months ago thinking that if I couldn’t go I’d only lose that small sum of money, no big deal.
Before being pregnant I wouldn’t have thought that at this stage – over 8 months – I would be able to compete. But it’s actually easier now than it was at the start of my pregnancy. I’m a bit bigger and a bit slower, but I feel good. And yesterday I was able to handle every sequence in the courses without a problem. There was nowhere I couldn’t get or where we had an error because I was too slow.
There were probably some bits where I worked with a little more distance than usual, but I’ve always trained my dogs distance skills because I know throughout my career we are bound to face handlers who are faster than me – that isn’t going to stop us being competitive.
Yesterday we went clear in one run and had a pole in the other, and made the champ final. We didn’t win it… but I was chuffed to bits with our day. Ecstatic to still be able to compete this late into my pregnancy, and to feel really well the whole day.
Once you look heavily pregnant and everyone can see you are expecting, it is assumed you will need to “slow down.” Paradoxically, for me, it was when I didn’t look any different and when many people didn’t realise I was pregnant at all that I struggled; whereas now it is a relative breeze.
Pregnancy is totally different for everyone who goes through it. I wouldn’t dare to presume or judge that anyone else will have an experience similar to mine, but nonetheless I think it’s worth sharing my story of what it’s like to be a pregnant agility handler, because before I got pregnant I worried about how pregnancy would affect my agility life – which I enjoy so much.
It hasn’t been a totally straight or easy road so far, but overcoming the tough bits in life is what makes you stronger, right? I’ll finish with one of my favourite inspirational tunes, which you can watch here…