Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections, part 2

Having a baby was actually something that my husband and I planned for very carefully.  In fact, as a way to escape my stressful government job, I had taken all but three courses needed for a masters in secondary education.  My goal was to be teaching before I had the baby, so I could have better hours and probably work much closer to home (my commute to the office was about 1:45-2:00 EACH WAY) after the baby was born.  But after completing all my hours of observation, plus a couple of job interviews, I realized that while I absolutely loved the coursework and adored preparing lesson plans, I wouldn't fit in at all in the public (or even private) school world.

It isn't my intention to offend those who are strong supporters of compulsory, state-sponsored education, but my observations, including those at one of the top high schools in the country, led me to conclude that schools are nothing more than prisons for children where psychological abuse is quite common.  Many teachers, even those at the elementary level (I observed some 6th grade classes too), use sarcasm and humiliation as weapons to induce compliance, and that is incredibly damaging, especially to more sensitive kids.  My classes had taught me all about research-based methods of teaching, that were based on how kids really learn, but public school systems as a whole disregard those methods and replace them with teaching to the test and rote memorization in a desperate attempt to improve standardized test scores.

After watching some 8th grade special needs classes, 10th graders in a "team taught" interdisciplinary class of 65 kids where I couldn't even hear what the teachers were saying in their constant lecture mode, and some 9th graders in a history class where their teacher constantly called them names (even the department chair acknowledged the teacher was probably doing illegal things in the class room, but nothing had been done to start the firing process), I felt so sick about our education system, that the thought of participating in it was too much for me.  I have many friends and family members who are teachers and school administrators, and I know they try hard to do the best they can.  But it is a losing battle.  I think there are some alternative private schools (and probably a few innovative public schools) out there, but it was one thing for me to work in an environment where Federal dollars and fellow co-workers were abused, and it was another to do that to kids.  So I dropped out of the masters program, and I was angry.  I felt like my dream job had been taken away from me.

Meanwhile, my husband and I continued to talk about timing for the baby, and as I mentioned in my last post, I did get pregnant.  It was about the only thing that worked out as planned for me, except that it didn't in the end.

For the first trimester, we only told a few close friends, wanting to save the big news until after the first trimester had passed.  And those first many weeks were wonderful.  I was excited to be pregnant and while my husband became focused on finishing up a variety of home improvement projects, I just loved reading about how the baby was developing.  I was also fantasizing in a real way about leaving my job.  My husband and I had agreed that I would quit after having the baby, and I was so thrilled to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for leaving that world behind.  I couldn't wait to be away from the constant stress and long hours.

Unfortunately, one of the close friends that I told got angrier and angrier with me as my pregnancy progressed (she had a young son of her own).  She was constantly offended by my thoughts on baby-raising and at the end of my first trimester, she broke off our friendship, accusing me of being a "hateful" person.  I was devastated and so upset that I thought I had a miscarriage the next day.  As it turned out, I didn't, but for her to deliberately put me through that kind of stress when my pregnancy was still vulnerable made me very angry (I hope you're starting to see the theme here...)

Once my pregnancy was announced to the world, I realized that my body wasn't my own anymore.  I had been going to see a local midwife with a birth center in hopes of having an attended home birth (the nearest hospital is only 10 minutes away and paramedics could be to our house in 5 minutes).  I despise doctors and hospitals and my research had led me to believe that I would be much better off with a midwife to assist with the delivery of the baby than with a doctor.  But as my pregnancy advanced, the constant tests got frustrating (blood tests, pee in a cup, etc.)  And everyone seemed to have advice and opinions for me.  I just wanted to enjoy the wonder of a new life, but I kept getting the life sucked out of me by people who couldn't help but criticize my choices, especially the one to keep riding Nimo.

It was my intention to ride as long as possible into my pregnancy.  In fact, during the first trimester, I took Nimo to a cross-country jumping course for the first time.  I was careful, though.  I choose a course that had tiny jumps (maybe 12") and I brought a close friend for supervision.  Nimo was awesome and we had so much fun.  I continued to take lessons until the end of my first trimester, when they just got to be too much for me.  The new trainer I'd gotten the year before was descending into the same hell pit as my previous trainer with the constant circles and minute "fixes" of my position and Nimo's headset.  I had made it clear I had no intention of showing, but she couldn't stop herself, I guess.  Anyway, this time I recognized the problem much sooner, and I stopped taking lessons, although I continued to have her ride Nimo once a week.  She seemed to do a good job with that and I wanted to keep him in some work while I ended up doing shorter arena sessions for my second trimester.

Then a heat wave hit in July and I stopped riding because it was literally over 100 degrees outside plus high humidity.  And then my in-laws came to visit for some final home improvement tasks.  And work hit a zenith of stress too.  And that trifecta was too much for my body.  I got my first high blood pressure reading at 31 weeks, and my midwife dropped me like a hot potato.  I got thrown into the medical system with an obstetrician who I believe was a misogynist, and because I was an "elderly" (yes, that's what my medical chart said) first-time mom, with the high blood pressure reading, I was treated like I was on death's door.  When my tests came back normal, I just had to repeat them, because there must be something wrong with me.

And finally there was.  I started excreting extra protein in my urine.  For those of you who don't know, high blood pressure plus extra protein equals PRE-ECLAMPSIA.  Pre-eclampsia is considered to be a very bad thing because it can mean that the placenta won't provide enough nourishment to the developing baby and the mom's kidneys and liver can be permanently damaged, particularly if the condition worsens to full blown toxemia.  It's not something to scoff at, but my research uncovered that there is no standard for diagnosing it (which means medically it's not a real disease) and that a lot of the care practices, like full bed rest, are misguided and may even be harmful.

I was ordered to go on bed rest anyway, and to be honest, for the first week, it was actually pretty nice.  But full bed rest means that you're likely to develop gestational diabetes, which I did.  (Note, for some reason that there seems to be no scientific basis for, pregnant women are subject to a different standard for blood sugar levels than normal people.  My blood sugar levels were actually fine for a normal person.  And I discovered that there were some researchers who believed that gestational diabetes didn't exist - that it was literally made up...)  Now I had to see a nutritionist because I couldn't possibly eat on my own.  When I refused to see the one my OB referred me to because she wasn't covered by my insurance (I said I would go see a different one who was covered instead), my OB issued a "termination" letter for noncompliance.  You see, I wasn't allowed to question him.  Or see my own nutritionist.  (Or my own endocrinologist).  I wasn't allowed to do my own research and take care of my own body.  So as shocking as it seems, OBs can just get rid of the patients they don't like.  Even more horrifying is that you can't get another one.  OBs will not take on new clients once they get much beyond their 4th month, particularly if they already have problems, for liability reasons.  So, in the United States of America, late-term pregnant mothers with fabulous insurance can end up with no medical care.

So, I kept my endocrinologist, who encouraged me to get off the bed rest and to not take the drug prescribed to me by my OB (it was not approved for pregnant women and was contra-indicated for women in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy).  Luckily, I had never taken the drug in the first place, and I took walks around the neighborhood and hung out at the barn with Nimo for exercise.

And shortly after I lost my OB, I lost my perinatologist (because I was old, I had to have a specialist in addition to my OB), who was told of my noncompliance and who informed me that at 37 weeks, I needed to just go to the nearest hospital and demand an emergency c-section.  When I refused, I was told not to come back to the office again.  That didn't bother me too much because the doctors there were so awful to me that I had to bring my husband with me for protection.  At one appointment when I refused to just have a c-section (I think at 35 weeks), I was told I was playing Russian roulette with my health and my baby's life and the doctor pantomimed putting a loaded gun to his head and pulling the trigger.

So, with no doctor for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy, I got my own blood tests and checked them myself.  I had found a lab that would do blood testing for a reasonable price (because it wasn't through my doctor's office, my insurance wouldn't pay for it), and I knew what to look for to check to see if my organ function was affected.  My plan was to go to a nearby hospital for care (they had to take me - if a pregnant women shows up and needs medical care and she has insurance, they cannot legally deny her service) if anything looked off in my blood work or if something seemed wrong with the baby.  Ultrasounds up to that point had shown her to be above average in size, so I wasn't too worried about her nutrition, and I was determined to carry her as close to term as possible to ensure the best brain development possible.  I should note that I went to this hospital several times for monitoring throughout my pregnancy and I did find that one of the OBs there was actually pretty reasonable and she supported my decisions, although I did have to check myself out Against Medical Advice twice because one of the other doctors was nuts.  She tried to give me an emergency c-section at 31 weeks for no reason other than that my blood pressure was slightly elevated.

And then Nimo added to the fun by getting a nasty case of choke 4 days before my due date.  It wouldn't resolve on its own, so I had the vet out at 9 pm to take care of it.  A good friend came with me and I made sure she knew how to take care of Nimo for the next few days in case I went into labor.

The next morning, I was feeling light-headed.  That can be a sign that a person's blood pressure is too high, so I packed my hospital bag and headed to the hospital to have the staff check me and the baby.  My blood pressure actually wasn't too bad (it never worsened from the first reading), but they found that the baby's heart rate was depressed with a couple of contractions.  (Apparently, I was having contractions but didn't know it, they were so mild.)  Anyway, that was all she wrote.  Because I was already starting to dilate and was 100% effaced, I was a good candidate for induction, and that's what the doctor attempted to do (I got the good one, thankfully.)

But after several hours, I was no farther along in dilation.  I could feel the baby jammed up against my left side and I knew she wouldn't come out without me walking (which I wasn't allowed to do because then they couldn't constantly monitor the baby and pound her with high-intensity ultrasound waves that I expect will eventually be determined to be only used in extreme cases, due to the FDA's recent statement on not getting medically unnecessary ultrasounds) and probably massage from a midwife, which I no longer had.  I resigned myself to the inevitable emergency c-section that is quite common after failed inductions.  But first, the doctor raised the dosage of pitocin (an induction drug).  She wanted me dilating on a set schedule and she insisted on raising the dose.  Well, that led to me having incredibly painful contractions every minute and a half.  Let me say that those kinds of contractions are meant for the end stages of labor and are designed to get the baby out.  They are not meant to be endured for hours before the baby is ready to emerge.  So after 30 minutes of the most pain I've ever had in my life, I was forced to accept the constant drug-pushing by the nurses, even though I'd said I didn't want any drugs.  I have been run over by horses, and had the crap kicked out of me, but I've never felt anything like induction contractions.  I'm told they tend to be stronger than regular contractions and I believe it.  But the anesthesiologist was busy, so I endured the powerful minute-and-a-half contractions for an hour and a half before I got relief.

Shortly after getting the epidural, the baby's heart rate started to decrease (likely due to the massive amounts of pitocin I was getting plus the epidural), so the doctor finally gave up on the pitocin and that stabilized the baby's heart rate.  I'd already had an epidural, so preparations were made for a c-section.  In the meantime, I could tell that the epidural was wearing off (I guessed there was a problem with the catheter).  The anesthesiologist was sent for to fix it.  But instead of fixing it, he just gave me another dose.  A full dose.  Too much of a dose.  And paralysis began to creep upward from my waist while my arms and head started flailing on their own.  I was freaking out, but the nurses said it was normal, while quietly conferring with each other about getting the anesthesiologist again.  They thought he'd given me too much medication but he hadn't written the amount on my chart, and I could tell they were concerned.

But then, my baby's heart rate plummeted toward zero, and my husband started yelling, and the nurses started running.  I was wheeled into an operating room a short distance away.  All I really remember is feeling the numbness creeping up to my neck and the constant twitching of my arms, and the horrible knowledge that I was going to die and that my baby might die too.  I didn't know if the paralysis would affect my heart and lungs but I wondered what it would feel like if it did and whether death would hurt.  I wondered how my husband would cope with having a baby without a wife.

There was no time for proper sterilization, but the image of betadine being splashed everywhere is burned in my brain.  The doctor made the incision, and pulled the baby out.  I heard her cry shortly thereafter, and I was so grateful that she was alive.

After the surgery, I was given another drug to counteract the negative affect of the epidural, and after about 45 minutes, I felt better.  But because my arms didn't work, I wasn't allowed to hold my baby right away, as I'd requested.  And the cascade of problems continued.  My daughter wouldn't nurse properly and the hospital lactation consultants were useless at providing advice.  She started to lose weight and I was forced to start using formula because my milk wasn't coming in and my colostrum dried up, even with breast pump usage.  My blood pressure continued to climb instead of starting to go down (although it is supposed to come down over a period of weeks, not hours).  The nurses were constantly interrupting my sleep and the baby's sleep, and they wouldn't let me sleep with her, despite her insistence that she wanted to be near me (and my insistence that I wanted her near me and not in the nursery).  So, I stayed up, taking short catnaps while my husband held her.  Day after day went by and my health was not improving (probably due to lack of sleep and stress), so I told the doctors I wanted to check out.  They advised against it, even going so far as to say my insurance company wouldn't pay for the hospital stay if I checked out AMA.  I called their bluff and contacted my insurance company, which was horrified to find out about the lie the hospital had told me.  Of course they would pay for my stay and they were thankful if I could make it cheaper by leaving.

So I left the hospital.  And within one day, my milk came in and I started getting more sleep and life was OK for awhile.  But I was so angry about what had happened to me throughout my pregnancy and delivery.  I was sad to lose out on having a natural, drug-free birth, and it felt like a physical loss.  But at least I could have some time with my daughter and be away from prying and incompetent doctors.  Except for the pediatrician.

It never ends.  Once you are pregnant, it seems that society and the state have more of a claim on your baby than you do.  I was subjected to frequent pediatric appointments for a baby that was completely fine.  My daughter seemed to have survived the horror of the delivery just fine - no jaundice, no fluid in her lungs, no other indications that anything was wrong.  She was born at a very healthy 9 pounds, 11 ounces, and she had excellent motor skills for her age.

But I was still having trouble breastfeeding (likely due to the introduction of formula in a bottle) and additional consultation with a specialist and the pediatrician yielded only the assessment that I either wasn't trying hard enough, that my breasts were deformed, or that my daughter needed surgery on her mouth.  None of those things was true, but they were demoralizing to hear.  And the pediatrician didn't like my questions anymore than my OB had.

And after several weeks on maternity leave, my husband told me that we couldn't handle it financially if I quit my job.  That was the final blow.  I was so angry with him.  I mean very, very angry.  A kind of slow, seething anger than consumed me and made me hate him.

I went back to work for two hours a day for several weeks with the rest of my paycheck being taken up by leave that I had saved, so I could keep a full salary.  By 15 weeks after Gemma was born, I was on a part-time status and on leave without pay for the rest of my time.  I didn't need a full salary, not even a half a salary, just enough to cover my horse expenses.  Because that is what my husband said we didn't have enough money to pay for.  The implication was obvious to me.  Keep my job or get rid of the horse.

Well, I wasn't getting rid of the horse, so I worked a deal where my position would be converted to part-time and I would be able to telecommute most of the time.  Everyone said how lucky I was.  Just like they said how lucky I was to have a healthy baby, despite some challenges in the delivery room.  But I didn't feel lucky at all.  I felt consumed by anger, and hate, and grief.  I was getting more sleep than when I was pregnant, but it still wasn't enough, so I was constantly exhausted.  And my daughter wasn't an easy baby.  From the very beginning, all she wanted to do was eat and move.  Well she couldn't move much or well, so she was frustrated a lot.  And she didn't nap like the books said she would.

And that was when I realized that my feelings weren't normal.  That something might be wrong with me.  Something like postpartum depression.  Women who get c-sections are more prone to it, and I knew that, but I assumed it wouldn't happen to me.  Because I ate all the right foods and did everything that the attachment parenting books said would yield a happy baby.  But I knew I needed help, and I couldn't get it from a doctor.  (Note: I am not saying mothers with postpartum depression shouldn't see a doctor, but I hope you'll understand why it wasn't a good choice for me.)

I knew that I would find my salvation in my horse.  I always had.  Through all of the crappiest moments in my life, my horse has always gotten me through.  My mom had given me some money for Christmas and combined with some savings I had (in preparation for no job), I had enough to buy a horse trailer.  I wanted to get away from dressage for awhile (no more circles for me!) and getting a trailer (I already had a truck) would mean I could go on trail rides without having to borrow a trailer.  So I ordered a trailer (I had to get extra height and length for Nimo's size) and while I waited for it to come, I looked at trail riding options in my area.

And somehow, I came across Haiku Farms' blog.  And then I found Funder's blog.  And then I started reading the blogs on their blog rolls.  I loved reading the stories - some were moving while others were hysterical and still others were so informative (thank you Mel for posting so much!).  And all of these ladies sounded like the kind of people that I would love to be friends with.  Then I discovered Aerene Storms' Endurance 101 book.  I didn't know much about endurance riding until I read it, but the concept really appealed to me.  I devoured all the information I could find and when my trailer was ready in early April last year, I was ready to commit to conditioning Nimo for endurance riding.  But I was worried about being able to stick with it.  So I decided that writing a blog would help keep me on track.  I honestly never expected anyone to read it, but when I did a Q&A from Funder's blog, she commented on it, and I was beyond excited.

But lest you think all was well with my world, let me assure you that it was not.  Conditioning Nimo for endurance rides gave me something to hold on to - a definitive goal to work toward.  In fact, it felt a little bit like I had been drowning and my research into the endurance world gave me a handhold.  Depression isn't something that gets better overnight, and I struggled with being overwhelmed as a new mom, continued stress at my job, being unhappy in my marriage, grief at the loss of my sense of self, and anger toward the people that I believed took it away from me.  Every day when I drove to the barn, I would sob all the way there and all the way back.  All the emotion that I was trying to keep inside would leak out when I was by myself in the car.

With every mile that I rode, though, I could feel myself changing.  Every time I overcame a challenge, whether it was a crazy ride on a mountain in a thunderstorm, being attacked by horseflies and gnats, forgetting to drink enough and getting deydrated, or tack issues, a little bit of me was resurrected.  But it wasn't until after we completed the Fort Valley ride in October that I could tell there was a light at the end of the tunnel for me.  Going those 30 miles with Nimo when I didn't have faith that either of us would really make it fundamentally changed something for me.  The ride also reminded me that I am not alone in this sport.  From the lady who got in touch with me to help me learn where to condition my horse to the new friend who motivated me to ride even when it was cold or or I didn't feel like going, from the wonderful volunteers who helped us to the complete strangers who were genuinely interested in my horse, from the Ride 'n Tie rider who stopped to wait for me on the trail to the complete stranger who rode over 20 miles with me, and from all my fellow bloggers who had written about similar struggles to the readers who commented on my posts, I finally realized that the isolation I had been feeling for years at this point was self-inflicted.

Being part of the endurance world has had a profound effect on me.  I don't mean to say that any woman who is feeling depressed should try it (but postpartum depression is SERIOUS and any woman who has it needs help to get through it).  But no medical professional or drug could have had nearly the same effect on me.  I learned to question everything I thought I knew about horses.  I now have two new saddles, I switched from riding in a bit to a hackamore, I found a new dressage trainer, I moved my horse to a new barn, I trim my horse's feet myself, and I rode more miles in this past year than I probably have in Nimo's whole previous riding life.

The grief that I felt at losing the pregnancy and delivery that I wanted was gone.  The anger at my husband has evaporated.  I stopped crying when I drove to the barn and listened to my favorite songs instead.  My relationship with my daughter improved - I felt more comfortable with what I was doing and she seemed happier too and I started enjoying time spent with my little family instead of feeling an intense need to escape to the barn.  During my most recent performance evaluation at work, I was complimented on my outstanding communication skills (WHAT???  I somehow changed from being sarcastic, insubordinate, and too-honest to diplomatic.)

And my relationship with my horse has changed too.  I had become desensitized to his beauty and personality, even maybe feeling like they were negatives.  But seeing Nimo through the eyes of my readers and other people I've met has renewed my appreciation of him as the unique individual that he is.  I no longer view him as an obstacle to overcome, but as a partner on my journey.

So, dear reader, as 2014 comes to a close, I reflect on the person I was before and the person I have become.  And I couldn't be happier with who I am now.  I am still very much a work in progress.  I will never be perfect and my life will never be the same.  But that's OK.  I no longer want perfection.  I want a messy life that is complete with experiences worth having, friends worth having them with, and a family to share them with.  My happiness is my responsibility, not someone else's, and I have learned how to get my groove back.  The process was not easy - there were so many times that I wanted to quit and there were so many days, weeks, and months when I didn't know if or when I was going to make it to the other side.  But each time, I imagined the supportive comments I would get from all of you when I explained why I wanted to quit.  I knew all of you would understand if I explained it.  But that was the very thing that kept me going.  I could never have imagined how wonderful this endurance-related equine blogging community would be and I owe all of you who blog about endurance and read and comment on my blog a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.  I don't know where I would be without my endurance experience, but I don't think it would be a good place.

For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to a Happy New Year and I wish it for you as well.


  1. Wow, what a story. I'm so glad you had a horse in your life and the strength and discovered support system to pull yourself through. Horses have absolutely been my salvation. Your comment of "WHAT??? I somehow changed from being sarcastic, insubordinate, and too-honest to diplomatic.)" hits home, hahaha. Those of us paying attention learn that the rage and frustration we harbor towards others nor actions does us no good and is ultimately only detrimental. Finding a way to let go and accept responsibility for our own happiness is so huge, I wish more people were awake to that, though it generally does take intense unhappiness/struggle to find your way there. Anyway, wishing you much support and happy trails in 2015 and beyond!

    1. Thanks, Bird. Letting go of blaming others was an important step for me. It took me a long time to realize how damaging that behavior was and it is still sometimes hard for me. I wish I had figured it out sooner, but I guess sometimes we just have to get to a point in our lives where we are finally open to change.

  2. This post was hard to read - feeling like you have no support system when you are pregnant is devastating. And I understand about not having an easy baby; neither of mine were easy. I used to wonder what I was doing so wrong when other people would talk about how 'good' their own babies were. But my difficult babies have turned into easy-going and fun-loving children that I get compliments on all the time, so there you go.

    'My happiness is my responsibility, not someone else's' - this realization is huge. Congrats on pulling yourself out of depression; that takes an inner strength that many don't possess (not to knock on those that can't). I look forward to continuing to follow you and Nemo on your journey.

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I'm glad you read the post and commented. It was hard to write - I've had bits of it going through my head for awhile, but I could never find the strength to put it together until now. And I'm excited to hear that your kids turned out Ok:)

  3. I don't know how I missed this the first time, but Bird was like "wow part 2" and I was like "what part 2" and came looking. What an amazing story. A lot of us have an "endurance saved/changed my life" kind of back-story, and yours is particularly wonderful.

    I was really worried that I'd have a pregnancy just like yours, but fortunately mine's been the opposite. There really are perks to Berkeley, dude. Other than the paperwork that says "elderly primigravida" that annoys me to no end, my doctors have been really cool, and I think my hospital is going to be quite a bit more cooperative than yours. Like, my BP has started creeping up at about 39 weeks, but my doctors are like "well, no protein in your urine, and you promise you will call instantly if you get a headache or dizzy, so you're probably ok and we'll see if he wants to come out on his own." It definitely feels like the most hands-off medical care, which is exactly what I am comfortable with.

    Big hugs.

    1. I'm so glad that your pregnancy has been going well, Funder. And I think there are regional differences in maternity care. You'll laugh because I toyed with the idea of temporarily moving to Tennessee because of a birth center that is there and really does try to limit interventions to those that are actually medically necessary. I wish you the best delivery ever and I can't wait to hear how getting back to riding works for you:)

    2. Was it the people at the Farm? Cause I've been reading Ina May's book - to keep the GOOD birth stories in my head - and it almost makes me sad to have left. (But not very sad, not very sad at all.)

  4. Like all of your posts, I read this one the day you posted. I became...submerged, is the best term, in your story, and it has stayed with me ever since. I read it on my cell and decided I would comment when I could sort through all of the emotion it stirred. It was hard to read because you basically experienced ALL of my fears re: having a child. I wanted to cry, reading about your pregnancy and birth. And then I was so mad for you to have been asked by your husband to choose between going back to your stressful job or losing your horse. Especially after everything that you had been through before, for him to be unsupportive of the one thing that would end up helping you get through it all. I'm so glad you made it all work, that you were able to make your job work for you in a way that allows you to spend time with your daughter AND with Nimo without all of that additional stress. That that your husband is more supportive now, enough to help you find the time to condition him for endurance. You are a living example of that old saying, "Where there is a will, there is a way."

    What a journey yours has been, and I'm so thrilled to have been a part of it, to have seen your transformation through your blog, to have participated in your adventures at a distance (and a few times in person!). I hope 2015 is even BETTER for you, and I hope to be there in person more often to cheer you on!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Saiph - you have always been so supportive and positive:) There is no question that my struggle was far more difficult than I ever expected. And I think that having a baby really highlights any challenges or differences in a marriage. I didn't fully comprehend how important financial security was to my husband and I don't think he understood how important my horse was to me. Now we both have grown a little and can at least respect each other's feelings even if they aren't the decisions we would have made. And as far as I know, my husband is possibly the most supportive ever about watching our daughter while I ride:)