Pregnancy diary: week 23 – swimming

I’ve been meaning to write a post on swimming in pregnancy for ages: in fact since before I was pregnant with this baby, because I was so impressed with how it helped me in pregnancy with Andrew that I wanted to share it with others who are (or will be) pregnant. This week isn’t particularly special in terms of how much I’ve swum, it’s more that I’m writing it now because nothing else has sprung to mind, and swimming is such a normal part of my weekly routine that I often forget about it. So here’s what I have to say about swimming in pregnancy.

Between about weeks 6 and 18, I can’t deny that I did less swimming than usual, because the sickness took over my life and forced me to take things a lot more easy than normal in terms of exercise. Before I had Andrew, I used to swim 3 times a week for about half an hour (60 lengths or 1 roughly mile). Obviously I had a gap of about 2.5 months after he was born when I didn’t swim, but since then I’d been managing to fit in about 2 half hour swims a week (not including the once a week I go with Andrew), which was as much as I could fit in around the times our local pool is available for public swimming and Tom is around to look after Andrew. This dropped to once a week when I started being sick with pregnancy; instead of half an hour of 60 lengths front crawl, I managed to do about half this and just breaststroke. I used to go in evenings, but as this was the worst time of day for the sickness, the only time I could make was a Saturday in the late morning. I didn’t enjoy it as much when feeling sick, but it was the form of exercise that made me feel the least sick – walking and cycling were worse, though I still had to do one of them most days. And it did make me feel refreshed for a short time afterwards, I guess because I always feel refreshed when I’ve been for a swim.

I thought it would be a good idea, given the theme of this week's post, to take a photo in my swimming costume. Incidentally, this has been a very good costume, it's still going strong half way though my 2nd pregnancy. It was from Mothercare maternity range, though I'm not sure they still do it. I wish I had a photo of me in the pool, but as I go on my own, there's nobody to take it!

Since about 18 weeks, although I’ve still not been feeling great with the lingering nausea, I have managed to get in one more swim in the early evening most weeks, even if only for 20 minutes. At about 20 weeks I did find that my energy level started to slowly increase, and I’ve been able to generally do more stuff (though I’m trying to remember not to go all out with my newly re-found energy and wear myself out again – easier said than done when life is so busy!) I’ve always found that swimming is a great way to feel energised. Whenever I’m feeling a bit lethargic or tired, although it’s an effort to get to the pool when I’m like that, I know that I feel so much better with 10 times more energy when I finish the swim, so it’s worth it in the end. This has certainly been true in pregnancy, perhaps even more so than usual. So I would definitely recommend swimming as a way of boosting your energy and feeling more positive about the tiredness at times when you inevitably feel low in pregnancy.

Swimming has always been something that gives me some ‘me-time’, time to be alone and think, to calm down after a busy day or to wake myself up slowly in the morning. When I’m under water, just hearing the sound of water swooshing around my ears, I find it helps me block out all the other noise of daily life and just concentrate on what I’d like to think through, for example my day at work or what activity I’m going to do with Andrew tomorrow. This is particularly important in pregnancy I’ve found, and even more so this time when I’m so busy with all the things that I try and fit into an average week, including running around after an active toddler. I’m very grateful to Tom for letting me have this time to myself, and I really appreciate just how important it is to me.

At the moment I still don’t feel particularly heavy, but I know it’s rapidly approaching that time, if this pregnancy is anything like the last, when the bump will suddenly grow a lot very quickly. When I was pregnant with Andrew, I found that swimming was the most comfortable form of exercise after about 30 weeks, because it isn’t weight-bearing. The time I spent in the pool was amazing, as it was the only time when I could forget just how big and heavy I felt on dry land! I still did quite a bit of walking, because that’s how I got around Cambridge without a bike, but it became quite tricky towards the end of pregnancy, when I would get a sudden pain in my hips and have to stop for a while. Swimming wasn’t at all painful though, even when doing breaststroke which uses the hips a lot.

Another good point about swimming is that you don’t get all sweaty whilst exercising. Given that I generally feel so much warmer in pregnancy already, I really don’t like getting even hotter when walking or cycling. This was less of an issue last time, because I was heavily pregnant in late autumn and winter when it was cold, but this time (if we get a proper summer!) it’ll be harder on this front. Swimming will be my way of cooling off.

In general I’d say that swimming is a great way to keep fit, both aerobically and for toning muscles. In pregnancy I found, and I’m finding again this time, that it’s a particularly good way to keep fit when your body is carrying extra weight and working extra hard. In my last pregnancy I swam right up until the day before Andrew was born (I didn’t have time on the day he was born as the midwife came in the morning and by the afternoon I was starting to get contractions and he was born at 10.22pm), and I intend to do the same this time. The midwife who was with us in labour and delivery said that she could tell I was fit for a pregnant mum, and I reckon all that swimming paid off in how quickly and smoothly labour went. I’m hoping the same will happen again, though I know complications can unexpectedly happen.

If I haven’t convinced you by now that swimming in pregnancy is a great idea, I’m not sure what else I would have to say! I know I’m biased in that I’ve always loved swimming and done a lot of it, but I think it can be something for everyone, because you take take things at the pace you want. I totally understand that some people are not too keen on wearing just a swimming costume in public, and that might get even harder in pregnancy as the body changes shape. I’ve personally found that having a bump is a great conversation starter in the pool, as others are amazed to see a pregnant swimmer pacing up and down the lanes, overtaking some of the other swimmers on her way!

Next week I get to see baby again at an extra scan that we’re having, as part of doctor training (I wrote about this back at week 14 – I can’t believe how time is flying, it seemed like ages until 24 weeks back then!) So there’ll be another picture to see/try and figure out. I’m looking forward to it 🙂

Busy bank holiday weekend

There’s nothing like a good bank holiday weekend, especially when you’re feeling exhausted like me! We’ve enjoyed a lovely three-day weekend; we’ve managed to sort out lots of stuff, spent time with family, and had a rest too. It’s amazing what an extra day to the weekend can do for productivity and rest levels.

It all started on Saturday morning, when my parents arrived with a car-load of flat-pack Ikea wardrobes. For a while now, even before we realised that there’d be another cot to fit in the kids’ room at some point, we’ve wanted to get some more storage for all the bits and bobs of baby/toddler equipment, clothes, toys etc. that have mounted up since Andrew’s arrival. Very kindly, my parents gave Tom for his birthday (back in January) a voucher saying that he could choose a storage solution of his choice for that room. With one thing and another, we’ve not got around to getting it sorted until now, and now that we know it’ll be handy to have it all sorted before number 2’s arrival, that made us more motivated to get things sorted. So Saturday’s task for the men was assembling Ikea furniture – it all went quite smoothly, with only a couple of fixable errors, and no extra pieces that you can’t figure out where they were supposed to go and wonder if it will all fall down by lunchtime. Meanwhile I rested (pregnant mum’s prerogative) and went for a leisurely swim, and Mum looked after Andrew and did some housework whilst he was asleep – though he helped with some sweeping up and ripping up cardboard packaging to put in the bin before nap-time. This did remind me of when we last moved house: I was about the same number of weeks pregnant with Andrew, also feeling sick like I do now, and Tom, my parents and my brother and his girlfriend did all the furniture sorting, unpacking and general cleaning, while I sat there and did nothing (except rest).

Our little helper - Tom is keen to foster carefully this fascination with sweeping that Andrew currently has
More sweeping

The furniture assembly extended into Sunday, but Granny and Grandad got to stay a bit longer at the end of that day and play with Andrew. We were all pretty shattered afterwards, but it’s definitely worth the effort – take a look for yourself…. here are some photos of our very tidy looking children’s room. I was going to take some ‘before’ shots to compare with these ‘after’ ones, but (a) I forgot and (b) I’m not sure I really want to expose our cluttered-ness on here. But the clutter is no more! (Well, it’s there, but hidden behind closed doors with bright and cheery pictures on.)

A wall of wardrobes, decorated with bright pictures
Hanging space for nappy stacker and some clothes, and some little drawers with dividers in - perfect for little socks and hats so they don't all get mixed up in one big draw
Lots of room in boxes that pull out - currently housing things like toys, books and blankets
Lovely big baskets that pull out and you can see into them - perfect for nappy supplies and clothes, sorted into different age ranges

Then today (Monday), Tom and I decided that we would have a more relaxed day, particularly since Andrew is pretty miserable with some mean molars cutting through his gum – naughty teeth! The weather forecast was better for this morning, so we set off once we were ready to Wandlebury Country Park. Of course we were some of the first people there, along with a few keen runners – ‘spot the families with young children’ is an easy game on bank holidays! Andrew was keen to have a wander rather than ride in the buggy, so we had a little adventure together, which involved Andrew dragging Daddy ‘off piste’ into the woods. I stayed on the beaten path for fear of losing part of the buggy over a tree root or inconspicuous branch lying in the way. But then the teeth got the better of him, and Sir Walkalot turned into Sir Grizzliness, so we headed back home, just as the car park was filling up with normal bank holiday visitors and the inevitable rain drops.

If you go down to the woods today....
Oooh you've got the silver shiny thing out again
Come on Mummy, keep up!

Now I’m sat here having another rest (can’t get enough of it these days), while Andrew naps off some of his teething woes (hopefully) and Tom finishes some bits of DIY. Oh and it’s showering outside. A pretty typical British bank holiday it’s been for us then. DIY, family time, and a walk in the country. I guess a picnic in the rain would make it complete – we chickened out of that and lunched at home. What have you been upto over the weekend? We’re very lucky in that Tom gets the day off (and I don’t work Mondays anyway), but I guess not everyone even gets a holiday for May Day, so maybe you or someone in the family has had to work? Whatever you’ve done and wherever you’ve been, I hope it’s been both productive and restful for you too! 🙂

Learning to swim, and learning how best to learn how to swim

I don’t write anything about swimming for a while, and then two posts come along at once! For a few weeks now, I’ve been reflecting on how Andrew’s and my swimming sessions are going. He loves the water, that is clear to see, and he has great fun splashing about, chasing toys and other children. I’ve been trying to do some specific exercises with him that I found on a great website called uSwim. In theory these look great, gradually building up to letting your child swim unaided in the water. But I’ve been finding with Andrew that he’s simply too distracted by being interested in everything else going on in and around the pool. He rarely looks directly at me for more than a few seconds, even when I try and keep his attention with singing or talking. This means it’s incredibly difficult to set up a situation in which I can count to three with him looking at me, and then let go. He’s pretty good at holding his breath, and doesn’t mind being let go of for a few seconds, but I don’t feel like we’re making much progress, because he would rather just go off on his own to chase the toy that he’s got his eye on, than do things on my terms when I say it’s time to go under. He tries to wriggle away from me, and he’s confident to do so, but he doesn’t have the strength or skill yet to swim completely on his own – he just flounders for a few seconds before I scoop him up out of the water again.

My glamourous assistant modelling his arm bands - I know it looks a bit odd with his nappy on and not trunks, but I don't have enough hands to take a picture at the pool whilst carrying all our kit, so home photos will have to do for now until I can enlist the help of a willing grandparent photographer!

So…. I had a scout about online, and got Mum to ask a friend who has kids and is a keen swimmer, for advice on buoyancy aids for toddlers. I had thought, and again came across this advice, that it was best to not use buoyancy aids at all. But as I’ve just explained, I don’t think in Andrew’s case that this is working. Some suggested a woggle/noodle float – a long thin tube-shaped float that you can wrap around them, or get them to hold onto. I’ve tried that as they have them in our local pool to use for free, but again Andrew is interested for a short while, before he exchanges his interest for another exciting toy/float/person across the pool. In the end, all things seemed to be pointing towards the Delphin System arm floats.

The Delphin System: 1 red, 1 yellow and 1 green disc on each arm, clipped together to make the arm bands

These are like traditional inflatable arm bands, in that they fit onto the upper arm and give buoyancy in the same place. However, they don’t need any blowing up and deflating each trip to the pool (I’m not very good at generating enough puff for those kind of things at the best of times, let alone when I’m having to keep an eye on an active toddler!), and they can’t be punctured by sharp objects. Instead they are made of a lightweight material similar to what kickboards or those big floats you see during splash sessions in pools are made of. They are shaped like thin discs, with a hole just below centre for the arm to go through, and a blue foamy bit in the hole which adjusts to the size of arm – they are apparently suitable for ages 1-12 years. The discs clip together so that you can have more than one on each arm; the idea is you start with 3 discs on each arm, and gradually take them away one at a time over the course of your child learning to swim. It’s supposed to build confidence and allow you to easily adjust the buoyancy as they get stronger and more skilled at swimming.

Being cheeky and trying to hide from the camera around the back of the table, giggling about it to himself at the same time!

So that’s the theory, but how do they work in practice? I decided to take the plunge (financially) and buy a set with some money that Andrew had been given as a present. From my Googling around, the cheapest I found was £26.39 (including postage and packing) for a set of 6 discs from SOS Swim Shop. On Tuesday we had our first trip to the pool with them, and I was very impressed! For the first time in a while, Andrew was much less frustrated and we had no whinging about the fact that he wanted to go his own way – this time he could do as he pleased. It took a little while for him to get used to the buoyancy effect and how he should move to go with it and not resist it, and I think that will take a bit longer to get completely right, but overall he reacted very well. He figured out that his head needs to stay above the water, or he needs to hold his breath if it goes under slightly. He was best when swimming on his front towards me or a target object, and I encouraged him to kick his legs to keep the forward motion. Again, this will take some practice to get right, but for a first attempt it went well. Of course I didn’t just let him go completely unsupervised, but I found my hands were much more free to encourage him and help direct his body in the best way, like using a finger to push his tummy upwards to get him onto his front rather than upright in the water so he could move forwards.

Mummy, this isn't the right time to have arm bands on - are you mad? We're not at the swimming pool! By the way, the blue circles you see on the left-hand arm band are how the discs clip together - they slot into indents in the adjacent disc, like you can see on the right-hand arm band.

As the weeks go by, I’ll try to put some updates on here as to how we’re doing. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has the problems that I’ve mentioned with their young toddler getting distracted in the swimming pool. All the discussion I found online whilst researching buoyancy aids seemed to be from parents with older pre-school-age-ish kids, and distraction didn’t seem to be the main issue, but rather gaining confidence in the water – we don’t have that problem, probably because he’s been swimming since just 6 weeks old. Please let me know if you found this post useful and/or interesting. I’d love to hear from anyone who shares my love of taking a toddler swimming!

Too many to choose from: my favourite swimming memory

Recently I saw a competition advertised on BrtiMums (via Twitter) which I thought would be easy enough to enter. It’s called the Joy of Swimming Competition, sponsored by British Gas, and this post is my entry for it. To be in with a chance of winning a Merlin family pass, which gives year-long entry to theme parks and zoos around the UK, or £250 to spend in JJB Sports (I would easily spend that on swimming-related gear for the family), all I have to do is post on my blog about my favourite swimming memory. So I set about writing a quick post (it has to be at least 100 words, but that’s no problem for Little Miss Wordy here!) But it turned out to be harder than I thought: in fact I have so many swimming memories because swimming has been and still is such a big part of my life, that it’s so hard to choose. In the end I chickened out, and decided to write about a selection of a few favourite swimming memories. I wrote about this fairly recently on the blog, so you may get a feeling of deja vu in certain parts.

From one generation..... (me swimming at Bedworth pool aged about 2)

Although we have photos of me (as above) swimming as a baby/toddler, of course I don’t remember that far back personally. I’d say my earliest actual memories of swimming were of lessons at Ernesford Grange swimming pool in Coventry when I was aged somewhere between about 4 and 7. I remember enjoying myself so much when I was at swimming lessons. I wasn’t much good at any other sports at school and was always the last to be picked for a team, but swimming I could do, and do well. It was also great to work towards badges, and I enjoyed getting stronger in the water, so I could swim longer distances and learn new skills. I found it great fun to do things like picking up bricks from the bottom of the deep end, tread water for a while (with or without 1 or 2 hands in the air!), or do some skulling (lying on my back. legs still, just pulling through the water with circular movements of the hands). I particularly remember the teacher I had for most of my lessons – the infamous Mrs Leigh. She was lovely really, but did have a bit of a reputation for being slightly scary with her big booming voice and concentration on getting you to swim to your potential – not one to stand any messing around in the ranks!

Moving on to later-primary-school age, I have fond memories of my time as a member of the City of Coventry swim squad. It was there that I learned all about good stroke technique, and got to improve my speed and stamina swimming. The first Friday of every month we had time trials, where we had to swim one 25m length of each stroke (front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke and butterfly), and we were timed doing them. It was a challenge to see if I could beat my personal best and improve my times over the months and years – that was great fun. I also enjoyed the galas we took part in against other squads, both as individual swimmers and relay teams. Most of these were local, usually based at the pool in Nuneaton, but I particularly remember a tour we went on to Devon, where we swam in galas against teams down there in the evenings, and got to visit nice places in the day. Little did I know that I’d end up marrying someone who lived down there! (We met years later and not through anything swimming-related though.)

Apart from badges and competitive swimming, I’ve always loved swimming just for fun too. Family holidays in France always included a lovely blue outdoor pool – I wouldn’t let Mum book a campsite without one! I would spend most of the afternoon and early evening every day in there, just swimming about and playing games with family or friends that I made. I reckon that’s something that helped my French at a young age – one year I made friends with a couple of French girls my age in the pool, and we managed to communicate between us enough to play games in the water.

I’ve continued to swim regularly into adulthood. I particularly enjoyed swimming in the University of Nottingham swimming club as an undergraduate student, and more recently swimming was a real benefit for me during pregnancy – the feeling of weightlessness and still being able to exercise was amazing, especially towards the end when I felt so big!

....to the next generation (Andrew, aged around 9 months, and I swimming at Abbey pool)

Of course I can’t finish this post about swimming memories without including the next generation of swimming fun! I remember, like it was yesterday, taking Andrew swimming for the first time. It was quite an effort to get everything together and go at just the right time between feeds (naps weren’t his strong point so we weren’t too restricted by that), but it was all worth it when we got there. Back in those days I could lay him down on the fold-down changing table in the cubicle, knowing that he wouldn’t go anywhere. I got changed first, so he wouldn’t get cold waiting for me, and then got him into his little trunks. He was just about big enough by then to fit in the smallest size of Boots brand swim nappies which were on offer at the time so worked out the cheapest, and I’d bought a cool little pair of swimming shorts for him that were a bit big for his non-existent bottom (now he’s walking that has definitely muscled up!) Then I wrapped him in a towel, and, after I quickly got into my swim costume myself, took on the actually very difficult task of carrying a tiny baby, a rucksack, a nappy change bag, my handbag and a towel to the locker. That was nothing compared to juggling them all whilst trying to put the coin in the locker. We survived it though, and then headed through to the pool.

It was fairly busy in the small pool, but there was still plenty of room to get in gently down the shallow steps at the side. I introduced him to the water slowly, by sitting down on a step, holding him in one arm and using the other arm to pour water gently onto his skin with a cupped hand. After a few minutes of that, I eased us down into the water a bit more, so that he was completely immersed except for his head. He wasn’t at all phased by it, and was very happy for me to walk around and pull him through the water with me. Of course I was supporting him a lot, especially his head which was still floppy then. He was fascinated by everything that was going on – all the other boys and girls, the lifeguards walking round in bright yellow t-shirts, and the brightly-coloured bath toys like ducks and octopuses that were floating around. Incidentally, the staff at the pool have written a different name on each toy – so there’s Vinny the duck, Alice the octopus and Olly the bear etc. Not that he was really old enough to do much with these himself, but his little eyes and ears were clearly soaking it all up like a sponge. As he was so at ease in the water, I even tried splashing some water around him, and he loved that. It was just about the time when he was starting to smile, and I got lots of smiles and splashing that day. We only stayed in for about 15 minutes, because I didn’t want to risk him getting too cold, though the pool always feels lovely and warm to me, but you can’t tell what a baby’s perception of it is. As we got out, I wrapped him up in the towel again, and then we headed back to the changing cubicles to get dry and dressed. This time I sorted him first, as I can cope with the temperature and still being in a wet costume for a while. He fell asleep on the way home and napped well that afternoon. I soon discovered that swimming was a way to wear him out and guarantee a good nap.

So there we go, a selection of my swimming memories. I’m looking forward to adding many more with Andrew over the years, as that part of our swimming story has only just begun.

A year in the swimming pool

Supporting him under the chest but letting his legs and arms move freely

It’s almost a year since I took Andrew swimming for the first time. He was just 6 weeks old, and loved it! I think at one point there was some advice floating around that you shouldn’t take a baby swimming before he/she had had their first three lots of vaccinations. But the latest NHS guidelines are that you can take them whenever you like. In fact, in my opinion, the earlier the better, because they haven’t lost their newborn natural instinct for water when they’re still just a few weeks old. As I wasn’t blogging back then, I didn’t write about our swimming trips together. Now they’ve become so part of our weekly routine that I almost don’t think about them as something interesting to write about, even though we both have so much fun and really enjoy them. So here’s a round up of Andrew’s first year in the pool, with particular emphasis on his first ever swim. All the photos were kindly taken by Grandma when he was 9 months old (until then I’d only been on my own with him so couldn’t take pictures). In a follow-up post (when I get round to writing it) I’ll share some tips on how to have a fun trip to the pool, some ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, what not to forget etc.

He loves the watering can at the pool - he tries to 'catch' the stream of water as it comes out

I remember our first swim like it was yesterday. It was quite an effort to get everything together and go at just the right time between feeds (naps weren’t his strong point so we weren’t too restricted by that), but it was all worth it when we got there. Back in those days I could lay him down on the fold-down changing table in the cubicle, knowing that he wouldn’t go anywhere. I got changed first, so he wouldn’t get cold waiting for me, and then got him into his little trunks. He was just about big enough by then to fit in the smallest size of Boots brand swim nappies which were on offer at the time so worked out the cheapest, and I’d bought a cool little pair of swimming shorts for him that were a bit big for his non-existent bottom (now he’s walking that has definitely muscled up!) Then I wrapped him in a towel, and, after I quickly got into my swim costume myself, took on the actually very difficult task of carrying a tiny baby, a rucksack, a nappy change bag, my handbag and a towel to the locker. That was nothing compared to juggling them all whilst trying to put the coin in the locker. We survived it though, and then headed through to the pool.

About to chase the toy octopus, just after I'd thrown it away from us

It was fairly busy in the small pool, but there was still plenty of room to get in gently down the shallow steps at the side. I introduced him to the water slowly, by sitting down on a step, holding him in one arm and using the other arm to pour water gently onto his skin with a cupped hand. After a few minutes of that, I eased us down into the water a bit more, so that he was completely immersed except for his head. He wasn’t at all phased by it, and was very happy for me to walk around and pull him through the water with me. Of course I was supporting him a lot, especially his head which was still floppy then. He was fascinated by everything that was going on – all the other boys and girls, the lifeguards walking round in bright yellow t-shirts, and the brightly-coloured bath toys like ducks and octopuses that were floating around. Incidentally, the staff at the pool have written a different name on each toy – so there’s Vinny the duck, Alice the octopus and Olly the bear etc. Not that he was really old enough to do much with these himself, but his little eyes and ears were clearly soaking it all up like a sponge. As he was so at ease in the water, I even tried splashing some water around him, and he loved that. It was just about the time when he was starting to smile, and I got lots of smiles and splashing that day. We only stayed in for about 15 minutes, because I didn’t want to risk him getting too cold, though the pool always feels lovely and warm to me, but you can’t tell what a baby’s perception of it is. As we got out, I wrapped him up in the towel again, and then we headed back to the changing cubicles to get dry and dressed. This time I sorted him first, as I can cope with the temperature and still being in a wet costume for a while. He fell asleep on the way home and napped well that afternoon. I soon discovered that swimming was a way to wear him out and guarantee a good nap.

Is it the float or the octopus I'm going for, Mummy?

After that first week, we’ve been swimming more or less every week until now, and I have no intention of stopping this. It’s interesting to look back and see how he’s slowly developed his swimming over time, just like he’s developed in other areas (like moving on land, eating, babbling etc.). At first it was just a case of me holding him and walking around the pool, just like I would on land, supporting him quite a lot. I would use one hand to splash him gently, or play with a toy for him to watch, but generally it was a gentle introduction to the concept of swimming in the water himself.

Heading over to the wall to have a go at jumping in and mummy catching him

As he gained strength from all those growing muscles, he became more able to support himself, so I was able to give him less support, little by little. I went from full arms holding him to just holding him with two hands (or sometimes just one) underneath his chest as he is front down in he water (he much prefers ‘front-crawl’ to ‘backstroke’!) When he was about 5 or 6 months old, I started doing brief dunkings, where I would count to three, and on three I would lift him out of the water and then down again so that his head went under for a second, and then lift him up again. He has clearly learned what this means, because now when I start counting, he’s already jigging up and down in my hands, smiling and laughing ready for the dunk; when he comes out he has a lovely look on his face too, clearly enjoyment. I should say that I’m not a swimming teacher myself, though I’ve done a lot of swimming (competitive and leisure), so I feel confident that I know my and his limits at each stage, and we’ve worked up to this over several months, little by little. Every parent and baby pair is different, so I can’t say that what’s right for us is right for everyone. If you don’t feel confident letting your baby go under or only holding them loosely, DON’T DO IT!!

Chasing the toy octopus! Lots of splashing, but getting the idea that he can move forward by kicking his legs and moving his arms

I came across a great website called uSwim. It gives lots of info and advice on how to teach your baby to swim. Of course it’s Australian – they are so into their swimming over there, and also getting kids into swimming from a very early age. With the help of the videos and ‘lesson plans’ on the website, I’ve been trying particular techniques with Andrew. I haven’t bothered being as strict as sticking precisely to a lesson plan, mainly because he is still so interested in everything else going on that keeping his attention for specific things at specific times is nearly impossible. Instead we ‘go with the flow’ and see what happens.

Nearly got the octopus, just in time before the wall got in the way!

So far from uSwim we’ve been doing quite a few ‘front floats‘, some ‘back floats‘ (though as I said before he’s less keen on backstroke swimming), hanging onto the wall whilst mummy lets go and lets him feel the buoyancy of the water (he’s got amazingly strong arms), jumping from the side in a sitting position into the water, sitting on a float and jumping off it into the water, and a fair amount of singing and general splashing. Oh and I can’t forget his favourite, the toy chase, which does what it says on the tin: I throw a toy like a rubber duck a little way away from us, and he loves to swim and get it, admittedly with me giving some support underneath his chest, but he has got a good idea that moving his arms and kicking his legs in a ‘baby-stroke’ kind of fashion does get him somewhere slowly.

About to go for a dunk!

As he gets even stronger, I’m looking forward to seeing his swimming ability develop even more. The main thing for us is that we both find it so fun, and that’s what I’d always hope is the case for him. I don’t want to force him to do something just because I like it, but so far he has convinced me that he loves being in the water just like his mummy. Watch this space for more updates on what we’re doing in our weekly swims.

All worn out after a fun swim. Off to the shower!

And finally…. swimming

At long last I’m writing a post about swimming! That category on this blog hasn’t seen any action yet. It’s not that I haven’t been swimming in ages (it’s so part of my routine that I can’t imagine not doing it), but just that more one-off ideas for posts have come into my head at a specific time, whereas this is more of an on-going thing. This post is a bit of a trip down memory lane, as I go through some of my childhood and teenage years, remembering how much swimming has featured.

Swimming has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents took me when I was a baby and toddler, and I had lessons in which I learnt how to swim unaided when I was about 4. By all accounts I took to swimming like, well, a duck to water. Amongst my earliest memories are times spent swimming widths and lengths at Ernesford Grange pool in Coventry, under the instruction of Mrs Leigh – a slightly scary and bold-voiced but very good at getting kids to swim teacher. I remember ploughing through the ASA swimming badges, first the distance ones from 10m (1 width) to 1mile (about 60 lengths), and later the skill ones from stage 1 to Bronze, Silver and Gold (I even went back to do the Honours badge some years later after it had been invented as the next stage up from Gold).

At Bedworth pool when I was nearly 2 (click here for a (not great quality!) short video clip like this picture)
An outdoor pool on holiday in Cornwall when I was 4, with Mum and Matt (before we started going to France)

When I’d completed all the badges (not sure exactly what age, but sometime around the middle of primary school), I decided that I liked swimming so much that I’d like to join the City of Coventry swim club. That meant swimming twice a week (Friday evening and Sunday afternoon) at the main Coventry baths in the city centre, and one evening at a smaller pool in the suburbs. It was a big time commitment, and I’m very grateful that my parents were so supportive, as they had to do all the ferrying around and buying me kit (swim costumes, caps and goggles wear out quite quickly when used so much). But I loved every minute of it, and learned so much about how to swim with good technique. We also had regular galas against other clubs, and although I was never such a high flyer (or super fast swimmer) that I won loads of medals, it was fantastic to take part and be part of the team. This competitive training did me lots of good for school swimming too, as I was one of the strongest female swimmers in my year, and was awarded house colours (sorry, bit of a posh school term – prize for participating in and winning for my school-internal team) for helping us win in a few inter-house galas.

My stint as a competitive swimmer came to an end in my early teenage years. I had swum the times needed to move up to the next level in the squad, and that meant an even bigger time commitment involving early mornings before school. It wasn’t so much the time of day that put me off (I’ve always been a lark), but the extra time that I would’ve needed to put in would’ve been a strain on my school work, which was getting more important to me as GCSEs were looming on the horizon. I was no longer feeling the fun of swimming with all the pressure to train most days of the week, and I decided to call it a day, concentrate on my school work, and swim for leisure in my own spare time. I’ve done this ever since, and still swim 2 or 3 times a week (as often as I can with a baby) to keep fit and unwind.

Another big part of my childhood memories is spending much of the days we were on holiday in France in the pool! Most years from the age of 7 to 15, my parents, my brother and I spent a couple of weeks each July/August holidaying with in our caravan somewhere in France – we went to a different region each year. When Mum was booking each campsite, she was under strict instructions from her (might-as-well-be-a-fish) daughter that it had to have a nice outdoor pool otherwise there was no point booking it. We would usually go out and explore some local place in the morning, then come back to the campsite for a baguette and cheese lunch, and I would proceed to spend the whole afternoon and early evening swimming. Here are a few pictures from different years showing some of the French pools that I lived in 😉

A lovely pool in the Dordogne region of France (me aged 11 on the right, Matt aged 10 on the left)
The indoor pool at the Disneyland Hotel in Disneyland Paris
Another French pool (me aged 13)
Swimming in a lake in France (me aged 14)
On holiday in the USA when I was 16 (the first year we went further than Europe, but still we found places to stay with pools!)

To finish this first post on swimming. I’ll leave you with two of my favourite swimming memories from teenage-hood (just after my 18th birthday when we were on holiday in Australia). I swam in the Sydney Olympic pool, obviously ages after the Olympics, but still there was something amazing about pacing up and down those lengths, thinking about all those Olympic swimmers who had once swum there too and won Gold. Also on that holiday I swam in the Great Barrier Reef. I’m not normally a great fan of the sea – I love swimming, but only when I can see what I’m swimming in! But the water in the reef was so crystal clear that it was almost like being in a pool, and the fish and coral that we got to see were breathtaking.

Olympic swimming in Sydney 🙂 (I think I'm in the lane just to the right of centre!)
Me getting ready to dive in and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef

That completes my blast to the past. In future swimming-related posts, I’ll write about swimming in my life as an adult, including swimming at university, swimming in pregnancy, and swimming with Andrew.

Starting as I mean to blog on…

I’m not quite sure how to start a blog really, but I’m thinking it would be good to say a bit about why I decided to start one, and a bit about what this mixed bag of all sorts will include.

So, why start a blog? In some ways this seems like one of the least practical times of my life to embark on such a project. Between looking after 10-month old Andrew two and a half days a week, working as a university researcher two and a half days a week, and fitting in housework, swimming and editing a magazine (amongst other things including sleeping and eating), you’d have thought I’d have no time. Well I’d have thought that too, but somehow I’ve managed to carve out pockets of time for writing recently, and I’ve noticed how much I enjoy it. This writing has been in the form of articles, for both academic journals (papers based on chapters of my PhD) and mothering/parenting magazines (based on my experiences of birth and breastfeeding), as well as a sort of mini blog about my Channel swim. The writing ‘bug’ must have got to me! But the reason for my writing is not just about me, rather it’s double-sided. I like to write, so I get something out of it personally, and I like to see others read it and get something out of it – maybe it encourages them, makes them laugh (hmm maybe… if they share my slightly odd sense of humour), gives them a different perspective on something, or introduces them to something they’ve never heard of before. I thought t’internet would be a good way to share my writing with others. Hence this blog. Handy that I have a techie brother who can help me set it up (thanks Matt!)

In the world of blogging, I’m completely new – I’m vaguely aware that this makes me a ‘newbie’ or something like that. Am I also right in thinking that blogs tend to be on a particular theme? Well I’m not sure what I would pick as one theme, because I’m interested in writing about various things (more details to follow…). I guess over time a theme might emerge as the most dominant in the mixed bag, but for starters I’ll have a bit of all sorts and see how it goes (sounds like my kind of meal)!

In the short bio on the ‘About this blog’ page, I’ve listed five things in my life that I’d to write about for now: mum-hood (I try to avoid the word ‘mother’ as it makes me feel old for some reason), my faith, craft and baking, languages and linguistics, swimming to keep fit. These may evolve over time, who knows. A few ideas for posts are already springing to mind as I type, and I hope I can get them written over the coming weeks. A note (more to self than to readers) on regularity is probably in order here: I’m not sure until I start how often it’ll be possible/practical to blog (oooh I love using nouns as verbs like this, also ‘to google’, ‘to skype’, but I digress, that can wait for a linguistic post…), so I won’t commit to a particular time scale for posts. No point in time pressure that would take the enjoyment out of it.

So ta-dah, voilà and there we have it, the first post on my squeaky, shiny, brand new blog. Bye for now and hope you come back for more soon!