As we approach the first anniversary of my son’s birth (and my surgery), I want to look back on how swimming has been a huge part of not just his development, but my recovery too.
1. Time in the water is uninterrupted time with my baby
It’s a hard thing to explain but, especially during the newborn stage, time with your baby often doesn’t feel like quality time. There can be a lot to mentally process – getting that latch right, sterilising bottles, quickly tending to your own food / sleep / personal hygiene in the few spare moments you have. Committing to a regular, tranquil half an hour in a quiet pool with my baby gave me proper time to stop and take everything in, really take him in, and also make important memories.
2. Swimming lessons have taught my baby important skills…
… and encouraged me to be passionate about his development. If you’ve been reading my Swim Works blogs you’ll know that I’ve enjoyed seeing my son progress during his weekly swim lessons, grow confidence and learn skills. Learning about how best to support my baby’s progression whilst at the same time not being too pushy about milestones, has also in turn influenced the approach to parenting I wish to take.
3. Seeing my son form a positive relationship with water has been so rewarding
A big fan of being in the water myself, we began a bath routine from about four weeks and from four months visited the pool together at least once a week. From early on, I could see how much happiness he derived from being in the water with me – seeing this joy increase over time and watching him feel safe so easily in water has been amazing.
4. Swimming has helped with my physical postnatal recovery
Post c-section, it took me a good while to get my physical strength back. From wiggling my toes in a hospital bed at six hours, to properly lifting a car seat at six weeks, to going for my first run at six months… recovery happens in stages. Swimming has been part of that journey, from standing in the water during lessons to enjoying my first proper cardiovascular swim this week, almost an entire year post-surgery. Water has provided a gentle structure for my physical re-emergence, a peaceful place to feel weightless, relaxed and under no pressure to recover quickly… the right attitude to take when you’ve had a major operation.
5. Swimming has helped with my mental postnatal recovery
To begin with, getting out and about felt like an impossibility. With the swimming pool as my safe spot, I was able to find my place back out there in the world after about eight weeks. Choosing to swim regularly didn’t just aid my mental recovery and encourage me to feel part of a new community, but it also played a huge role in my developing a new relationship with my postnatal body. A lot goes through your mind as your body heals, scar strengthens and belly deflates. Stripping off naked in a public changing room once a week and feeling the touch of my child’s soft skin on mine, helped us bond and made me feel re-connected to the new body that sometimes felt like someone else’s.
6. I was able to fall back in love with water again
I loved swimming whilst pregnant – I’d do laps of the pool whilst visualising my planned water birth, excited that my son would enter the world in the tranquil environment of water. After an emergency c-section, I had moments when I felt like the water and my body had let me down. Bringing swimming into mine and my son’s life re-built my passion for water and my faith in my body – reflecting on how much it has brought to us in the last year makes me so happy, encourages me to look to the future and “just keep swimming”.
7. Water brings calm and peace into what can be a chaotic world
Navigating the challenges of feeding, teething, weaning, naps, and so on for the first time can take its mental toll sometimes. With sleep deprivation and lack of self-care often thrown into the mix, things can seem overwhelming at times. Especially during private lessons with a small group (in comparison to a crowded pool), the water becomes a calm, tranquil, quiet and still escape from the everyday. There’s a reason why I prioritised it over other more lively activities like sensory classes, and I think the calmness of its nature has had a positive effect of both mine and my son’s peace of mind over the last year.
8. Swimming can help establish a nap routine!
Who knew that trying to get a baby to go to sleep when they were exhausted would be so hard?! Rocking, changing position, feeding, going out in the pram, driving around, singing, cuddling… or sometimes just a calming swim really does do the trick!
9. Swimming has given my baby a sense of familiarity
Seeing the look on my son’s face during lessons and bath-time lets me know that he now recognises the water and acknowledges it as somewhere safe. He’s always been a baby that loves routine and familiarity – I know he’s happy that we’ve stuck with the same hobby during our first year together, and I hope that he goes on to feel the same way in the years to come.
10. Swimming has encouraged reflection
I originally thought that swimming (lessons especially) would be primarily focused on my baby’s development. A year in, I now see that the water, for us anyway, has come to mean so much more. It’s not just been a big player in our bonding journey, but has frequently given me an arena to think, a place to consider these ten reflections, a space to slow down and take stock of everything we have progressed through in the first twelve months.
With a birth that didn’t go exactly to plan, we may not have met each other for the first time in water, no… but we’ve grown together in it, and for me, that’s what matters the most.
Photography by Swim Works