Taking A Bump

Added by Emily Russell

One of my first thoughts when I found out I was pregnant – after the huge excitement and jackhammer fear – was ‘how many wrestling shows am I going to miss!?’ My husband, thankfully, was both unsurprised and amused by this. He and I, wrestling fans since way before first meeting, had spent the past few years packing a lot of live British wrestling into our lives and I wasn’t looking forward to that changing, at all. Going to shows and becoming part of the Brit Wres community has overall been a really happy and supportive experience for me, something that, thanks to the friends I’ve made through it, has become important as well as fantastic entertaining escapism. So I was hit with wondering; how much was my fan experience going to change from now on?

After all, my whole life was going to change forever – untold craziness that I couldn’t yet imagine was rapidly going to become a hard reality, rewiring my priorities as a tiny helpless life grew inside of me and then depended totally on me once it was out in the world and dominating our lives. Of course there were going to have to be sacrifices as we remoulded our world and I knew that attending Brit Wres shows was on some as-yet unknown scale going to be one of them.

Still, I was surprised and amused at the amount of people, wrestling fans and non-wrestling-connected folk, who said something along the lines of, ‘oh well, you’ll be giving up going to wrestling shows now, won’t you?’, as though house-bound confinement was an absolute must. Um…no? Sure, when I was much closer to my due date then all shows would be out, but only for a short amount of time. My husband and I both wanted our kid to be submerged in Brit Wres during the pregnancy and to be part of our Brit Wres experience once it was out in the world and at least portable. We wanted it to feel the love and excitement that we’ve enjoyed so much as part of the community and to see why we love it, at least until it was able to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ and be embarrassed about mum and dad’s weird hobby.

And to be honest, my experience at shows only started to change once people there knew I was pregnant and when my belly got big and my status as a pregnant fan became very much obvious. The excitement people reacted with once they realised was lovely and overwhelming in a really nice way. Everyone was so happy for us and all exclaimed over the ballooning transformation my belly went through as they saw me month by month. The Brit Wres community became a really positive supportive part of my pregnancy journey. Unlike some insensitive people at my workplace who marvelled over whether I could still fit in my clothes or tried to touch my belly without, you know, talking to me first, folk at wrestling shows always engaged in conversation and wanted to know about due dates and how I was doing, meaning I didn’t feel like a secondary appendage attached to my own growing child.

The consideration didn’t stop there. Any number of wrestlers wanted to make sure I was sat far away from the action – one asked me to please sit up on the balcony and I lost count of how many sought assurance I wasn’t sitting in the front row (the answer was always no to both questions). Even before pregnancy, I liked sitting right near the end of a row so I could vacate when it looked like someone was going to get thrown my way so that didn’t change. Most wrestlers noticed my pregnancy and avoided clattering anyone my way (thanks, guys, much appreciated). 

The only seating arrangement that did change took place before shows – when I was queuing to get in. We started taking a camping chair with us so that I could sit rather than stand as we waited. As part of my pregnancy, I started to feel exhausted for spells without warning so the chair was much needed and became essential for a lot of shows. Unsurprisingly, lot of non-pregnant folk liked the idea too and I got a lot of comments about what a good idea it was.

Once the boy was out in the world, I knew that going to shows like those run by PROGRESS, which have an age restriction, were going to be out. With heavy hearts, we didn’t renew our PROGRESS season tickets and for the first time in three years, had to conceed that we wouldn’t be Ballroom regulars for the time being, at least until we could hand the kid over to be babysat for a long day. At the time of writing, we’re hoping to make September’s Wembley show.

But while we really do miss experiencing shows like that, thankfully, there’s any number of promotions in the UK that welcome kids of all ages, several of which we regularly enjoyed before I was pregnant anyway. Our first live wrestling experience though as a family of three was a month after our son’s birth, no, we really weren’t hanging around. It took place in a local pub’s beer garden on a swelteringly hot bank holiday. There were a lot of kids there, families enjoying a good day out, as well as bemused pub goers wondering just what the heck was happening, and the atmosphere was great. I breast-fed publicly for one of the first times and my husband changed a nappy in the pub toilets, using a closed toilet seat to do the deed. We even managed to stay until the end of the main event, which we didn’t expect.

Since then, we’ve taken our son to several shows, usually hitting one a month, though we’re hoping to up that tally during the summer. My wrestling fan experience now includes a lot of breast feeding (thank you to all promotions and fellow fans who have never made me feel self-conscious or uncomfortable when I’m doing this, you make life a lot easier for me), nappy changing (facilities vary), and my husband and I perfecting the art of tag-teaming our son when the heat of a venue or the fact he’s up past his bedtime gets too much for him.

It also includes complete strangers wanting to chat with us because the sight of our son wearing his ear defenders as my husband carries him around venues tends to get some attention; there’s not always a lot of babies even at all-ages shows. It’s been lovely to experience people’s excited and delighted reactions to him, wanting to know about him and about us. It’s been so good to catch up with our friends in the community at shows who have been excited to meet our son after witnessing my pregnancy progress. Our son has been completely welcomed into that community and we’ve been welcomed back into it too, in a way that has meant a lot to me. Despite social media keeping us well in touch with everyone, it’s still easy to feel like a lot moves on without you when you’re not there but Brit Wres has kept its arms open to us.

As for whether my son will become a wrestling fan, well, he’s already got favourites. Even before he emerged, it became obvious that he was a big fan of Travis Banks. During Travis’ matches, both live and watching on demand from the comfort of home, there was a lot of kicking and punching going on from the bump, appropriately enough. It was incredibly funny how regularly this happened and our son has gone on to become a big CCK fan in general. Watching a CCK match has been known to either calm or distract him – an extremely useful weapon.

So, as I thought before, my fan experience has changed dramatically since becoming a mum. But my ties to the community haven’t weakened – it was very much part of my pregnancy experience and is now part of my life as a mum. My fan experience will keep changing and that isn’t something I need to fear. I know that, for now, I won’t be able to be as attentive as I want to be to the matches I’ve paid to see, especially once the kid is up and walking. I’ll miss a lot of the nuances I love best in wrestling, I’ll miss some matches altogether. 

But I’ll hopefully get to experience my son grow in the Brit Wres community and rush forward to high five or boo at the barriers or if early or later he decides wrestling isn’t for him, that’ll be okay too. The Brit Wres community will still have open arms for him and us whenever we return.