When I was pregnant with Joshi I did heaps of ocean swimming. It was just great. I loved being in the water, feeling weightless and free despite this growing bump. I also really wanted a waterbirth for Joshi, which we got. It was beautiful. Him coming out straight into the water and into my arms. What a moment that was. Right from the start Joshi was destined to be a waterbaby.
So last week was Joshi’s first swimming lesson. He was 18 weeks old. It went pretty well. I wasn’t so keen on all the chemicals in the water, but what do you do when you’ve got lots of baby’s in a pool together! All those wees!
I was quite surprised. I wasn’t expecting it to happen in his first lesson – the instructors giving our babies their first underwater experience. Suddenly Joshi was in the arms of the instructor. She held him, counted to 3, said ‘under,’ blew in his face and then lowered him under the water and gently moved him towards me. Those instructors know the score … They know that freeked out parents are far more common than freaked out babies. Joshi was, for the most part, just fine about going under the water. He looked a bit startled when he came up and into my arms, but got over it really quickly.
So I decided to enroll us for the rest of the term.
One week later – Joshi’s second swimming lesson …
This was unexpected. Suddenly they’re telling us that we’re going to be the ones taking our babies under the water. I’m a little nervous. Plus I’m feeling sleep deprived from a rough night, so my concentration levels are down. (I’m also feeling a little bad because just when Joshi finally feel asleep this morning I had to wake him to get to our swimming lesson). Anyway, so the instructor gives the instructions. She says, “Count to 3, say the word ‘under,’ blow in your baby’s face and then gently take him under the water, moving them forward, towards me, and then let go of them.”
Here we go. I’m ready. I count to three, I say ‘under,’ I blow in Joshi’s face (he closes his eyes and holds his breath) and then I take him under. But this sleep deprived mum isn’t thinking about the next step, ie. letting go of her baby! Instead I’m moving him underwater towards the instructor, probably moving him a whole lot faster than I should be. Poor little tyke. When Joshi came up you should have seen his face. It was no surprise that he started to cry. He cried and cried and cried and cried. While all the other parents and their babies were singing happy songs about wheels on buses and ‘if you’re happy and you know it,’ etc, Joshi was crying in my arms.
I felt so bad. Like it was all my fault and that I could have prevented it from happening if I’d just been a bit more alert. Look, I didn’t do anything majorly wrong, but if I’d been a bit gentler and then let him go he probably would have surfaced to the water very effortlessly and been quite happy. (But who’s to say, right?) I’m realising that it’s very easy for mums to send themselves on a guilt trips for the smallest of things. I’m also learning that sending yourself on a guilt trip is pointless. And yes, there are going to be many opportunities ahead in which I can either choose to blame myself or not. Mammahood, you need a whole lot of compassion, not only for your little one, but also for yourself.