Growing and swimming

At the weekend we went swimming as a family for the first time in a few weeks. I used to go at least once a week when Andrew was little, but now that I have 2 under 3s, it’s impossible to go on my own and I need to wait until we can go as a family. There aren’t many times that our handily very local pool is free when we are all able to go (when Daddy isn’t at work and the boys aren’t asleep). So it was great to seize an opportunity while we could and head to the pool.

We have used the Delphin float system with Andrew since he was about 14 months old, because he was getting so distracted in the pool and wanting to swim off on his own and not be held be me all the time. I decided that floats were easier than arm bands, which I can’t stand blowing up, and you can take one float of the 3 on each arm away to reduce the buoyancy a little at a time. We took it down to 2 a little while ago and he coped very well, and today we thought it was time to try with just one on each arm. He did very well and knew exactly what he had to do to keep afloat by kicking his legs hard, and only needed a little more help than he had done with the two floats per arm.

Andrew at 14 months old modelling his Delphin floats. Can’t believe Joel is this big now!

At one point I saw a noodle float – one of those long cylindrical floats that they seem to use with teaching kids how to swim and in aqua aerobics classes. I tried him with one of these when he was having his distraction issues before I bought the arm floats, but at that time he wouldn’t keep hold of it as he wanted to grab toys and generally splash about and didn’t understand that it would help him stay afloat. But this time he fully understood that this long float could help him, and he was happy to swim with it under his chest with one hand holding on to it and still have a hand free to grab toys. So we took the last remaining Delphin float off each arm and just let him use the noodle, which he loved. Of course we kept a close eye on him because he did occasionally let it slip from underneath him, but was generally able to right himself.

There is usually at least one of these noodle floats in the pool we go to, but now I’m looking out for a cheap one to buy, because then we’ll have it wherever we swim and also at the local pool if it’s busy and someone else is using any that are there. I’m hoping this will now encourage him to swim unaided and give him confidence to do so. I want to avoid paying for expensive lessons as long as possible, and I’m hoping that my knowledge of technique from my competitive swimming days will help me teach him how to go from just splashing about to purposefully moving in the water.

Joel is now starting to get very nosey in the water, just like Andrew was, and is less happy just to be held and swooshed about by us like he used to. So we put the arm floats on him instead, and he was happy to have a bit more freedom and independence. He still needed supporting under the tummy otherwise he tended to float onto his back which he’s not keen on. Having seen how well Andrew has got on with these floats and that it clearly hasn’t impeded his learning to swim as he didn’t seem to get overly reliant on the buoyancy, I’m glad we can now use them on Joel too.

It’s exciting watching my boys grow and develop their water skills, and I’m so glad they find swimming a lot of fun, because that’s the most important thing at this age.

Another fast birth story

As I didn’t have a blog when Andrew was born, I didn’t write his birth story online. I did, however, write it in his baby journal, but that was in pen and paper (that’ll be a rare thing for him to look back on in years to come!) so I can’t just publish it quickly here. When he was a year old, I wrote a blog post comparing the day of his birthday that year and the day of his birth. In a nutshell (wow that’s restrained of me), here’s how Andrew was born…. My first contraction was around 2pm, and I had mild, not very painful, irregular contractions until about 7.30pm when suddenly my waters broke. We rang the midwife-led Birth Centre and were told to come in for an assessment due to my waters breaking. Suddenly whilst we were in the car the contractions got much stronger and much faster. Once we were at the Birth Centre and they’d established that I was in active labour, they filled the birth pool and I got in some time after 9pm. Not long after I had the urge to push and did that in the pool for a while until the midwife suggested that I wasn’t pushing efficiently in water because it was relaxing me too much and that if I got out baby would come faster – she was right, within minutes of being back on land Andrew arrived, just 3 hours after I felt I was actually in labour.

This time I knew there was a possibility that baby would come even quicker, so we prepared for the eventuality of a home birth just in case, though my preference was to make it to the brand new Birth Centre and hopefully have an actual water birth. Of course there was no guarantee, but I was hoping that this second labour would go as quickly and smoothly as before. At my 38-week midwife appointment, baby was in back-to-back position, so I’d been a little worried that this would mean a longer labour and I’d been doing everything I’d heard of to try and turn baby into a better position. It turns out that either these things worked, or it didn’t matter anyway!

A few hours after birth, just where he wanted to be - snuggled up to Mummy!

Baby’s due date rather handily fell in the middle of half-term; as Tom’s mum is a teacher, she was happy to come and stay for the week, and we hoped that the arrival would happen some time that week, so that she could take care of Andrew; of course we knew that it might not happen then and we’d need a plan B. The weekend at the start of half term came, and there were no signs of an imminent arrival. We carried on as usual, and showed Grandma the ropes for looking after Andrew, like where to find nappies, what the bathtime and bedtime routine is, and how he likes to be entertained these days. On the Monday morning, we all went together to our usual playgroup, and then Andrew napped, followed by lots of reading with Grandma in the afternoon.

I took advantage of our babysitter and went for a swim. I did 60 lengths of breaststroke – this was one of several natural methods of labour induction (aka old wives’ tales) that I was trying by this point; others include eating copious amounts of pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating hot curries and walking lots (which I do anyway). Still no signs though…. until just as I was doing bedtime with Andrew at around 7.15pm. During his usual breastfeed, I felt a few very mild contractions. I mentioned this to Tom just as we were reading a story after Andrew’s milk-time, but I didn’t want to say anything to Grandma yet, just in case it was a false alarm, or if it wasn’t then at least she could go back to her B&B and get some sleep before we might need to ring her to come round during the night.

So Grandma left at about 8.15pm, and I settled down in what had come to be my favourite position over the past two weeks of trying to get baby to turn – kneeling on a bean bag and leaning forward onto the sofa with some cushions to support me under the arms. The contractions continued, so we started to time them; they were already quite regular at about 5-7 minutes apart, but were only about 30-40 seconds long and not very painful, completely copable with just by breathing deeply. At about 9pm (our usual bedtime these days) I said to Tom that he could go to bed if he wanted, to try and get some sleep before anything more dramatic happened. I didn’t want to lie down, but was happy to stay up watching a DVD on my own in the living room. Tom decided he wouldn’t be able to sleep, so we carried on chatting and timing contractions together.

By about 11.30pm, things seemed to be slowing down, as the contractions were coming further apart (about 5-10 minutes). Tom decided to go to bed, and I stayed up. By 12.30am, I was getting a bit fed up, as the contractions didn’t seem to be getting closer together, if anything further apart as there were more 10 minute gaps creeping in, and they still wren’t really that painful, just annoying! I said to myself that I’d give it til 1am, and if things were still the same, I’d also go to bed, to try and rest as much as possible, thinking that this could go on for a while.

Just as I was about to give up and go to bed, I had a stronger contraction and with it my waters broke at 1am. If past experience was anything to go by, I knew that the contractions would now ramp up and things would really get going. So I woke Tom and he rang the Birth Centre, because when your waters break, they automatically want to see and assess you. Tom explained that my contractions had been regular but not too close or painful, and also that my previous labour had been fast after the point of waters breaking. They told us to come in, so Tom rang his mum who was 10 minutes away. Within the time that Tom was on the phone, my contractions did suddenly get much more intense, and I did contemplate whether I wanted to get in the car or stay at home for the birth. But knowing that there would be no traffic so it really was just 10 minutes door to door, and that the Birth Centre looked so amazing, I went for it!

The journey wasn’t very comfortable because I didn’t want to be sat down at all, but rather kneeling or standing, so I was relieved to get there (at 1.30am) and be shown into a room by a very friendly midwifery nurse. As she was doing the routine checks (like blood pressure, urine, foetal heart rate), or rather trying to do them as I kept needing her to stop for another contraction, it soon became clear to the nurse that she needed to fetch a midwife.

As soon as the midwife arrived, she took one look at me, felt baby’s position, checked the heart rate, and got out the delivery kit next to me as I was kneeling down on the floor with my arms over the bed. I remember asking to go in the pool, but her response was that baby was nearly here so there was no time to fill it. The next thing I knew I was pushing and could feel that baby really was very nearly here! At 2.08am, just over half an hour after we arrived, an hour since labour really started, and after only a few pushes, Joel was delivered. He let out a big cry as I sat backwards still on my knees and was able to pick him up myself and put him straight on my tummy. When the cord stopped pulsing, the midwife clamped and cut it, and I moved to sitting on the bed holding Joel still on my tummy. He lunged across to my right breast and had a good first feed, just minutes after birth. Meanwhile the midwife took care of helping me deliver the placenta; I was checked for tearing and blood loss, both of which were fine, so I didn’t need to have the injection to help deliver the placenta quickly and minimise blood loss (this had made me vomit several times after Andrew’s birth).

A sleepy moment - he spent the night feeding and sleeping, next to me the whole time, skin to skin.

After Joel had been weighed and given vitamin K once he’d latched off from his first feed, the midwife left us to it and we sat marvelling at the new addition to our family as he continued to feed and feed. As I looked over at the snazzy clock with time and date on, it struck me that he’d actually arrived on his due date! I never thought we’d be part of that rare statistic. From googling I see that the percentage of babies born on due date is somewhere between 2% and 5%, depending on the source – the most reputable one for the UK that I could find was the NCT website.

Throughout the night, Joel slept and fed in alternation, and I sat there just looking at him – the lovely mood lighting with changing colours was amazing, as I could see him perfectly but the light wasn’t too bright. Tom was allowed to stay the night in our room in the new Birth Centre, which he hadn’t been allowed to in the old one; he slept a bit – I guess he didn’t have the hormonal high that I had which stopped me sleeping after the birth.

In the morning, Andrew came to meet his little brother, complete with Grandma, Granny and Grandad in tow. He seemed very impressed with the ‘beh-beh’, though was also highly fascinated with the birth ball in the room and rolled it around giggling loudly. Joel has his neo-natal checks and once all the paperwork was done, we were allowed to go home, less than 12 hours after we turned up!

Overall, I’m very thankful that I was once again blessed with a fast labour and all went ‘to plan’. I still didn’t get to have a water birth, and it doesn’t look like I ever will – even if we do decide to have another child, which isn’t that likely at the moment, then it’s unlikely I’d have time to get a pool filled if labour was even faster! I’m also so glad that we made it to the new Birth Centre – it was lovely, even though we didn’t make use of many facilities like the pool in the room because it all happened so fast.

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 🙂

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.

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.