Saturday, December 4, 2010

just add water

Today, I got back into the pool. There were a few big hurdles to surmount: 1) the baby had to get his first bottle, an event which makes me tear up with the thought he doesn't need me anymore, but that I know is necessary if I'm going to have some freedom in the many months of nursing to come and 2) I had to deal with the bathing suit situation.

I should back up for a minute. The last few months of my pregnancy, after I hurt my back and couldn't do much walking anymore, I swam as much as I could. When I was in town, I swam nearly every day. When I was traveling, I googled nearby pools. Water is fabulous therapy for me. Baths calm me down; showers clear my mind. But swimming is the best. It leaves me relaxed and energized at the same time, and as I stroke along in the water, I often find myself having realizations about issues I am stuck on.

I feel really lucky to have this relationship with a form of exercise. Some people run; some people walk; I swim. I've never swum competitively, and I'm not particularly fast. Swimming laps regularly is a fairly new addition to my life that I really came to rely on during my first pregnancy. And though it requires more equipment than running and doesn't give you quite the same view, it's easy on the joints and something I'll be able to do for the rest of my life.

So anyway, there I was, hugely pregnant in my two-piece suit, waddling my way out to the pool nearly every day. Past 37 weeks, being in the water was the thing that was keeping me sane. I felt so *filled up* by this other life; the baby had taken over my body and mind such that I couldn't focus or deal with things the way I usually do. But in the water, I still had some semblance of grace. I could move lightly. During the autumn heat waves, the pool was the one place I wasn't sweating. I could turn and float. A respite from gravity.

I kept starting to write about my relationship with swimming while I was still pregnant, but everytime I did, the post devolved into lists of the comments I got. Of course, I couldn't really blame people. I was pretty noticeable, with my giant belly and my two-piece bathing suit, the bottoms so worn-out from constant chlorine exposure that they were white and ragged. I was praying the baby would come out before I ended up exposing myself indecently, because I refused to buy new bottoms in the size that would be necessary. I told myself that my belly was so giganticly distracting that no one would notice the state of my bottoms.

Here's that list of what people said to me at the pool:
"Any day now, right?" (starting around 6 months)
"It must feel so good to get into the water" (yes, it does)
"How much weight have you gained, or is that an inappropriate question?" (uhhh...)
"When's that baby coming?" (wish I knew -- ask him/her)
"Wow" (succinct)
Then there was the man in the jacuzzi (yes, I went in the jacuzzi for a few minutes sometimes - I was careful not to boil the baby) who came up to me, blocking the stairs, staring at my belly with concerned eyes: "You know you are going to have a baby any day now?" At first I thought maybe he was a super experienced OB who could tell when a baby was coming, and I wanted to say: "Tell me when!" But then I feared that he was just another Berkeley weirdo, and so I just raised my eyebrows at him like: "this? it's just a watermelon I like to strap to myself for kicks."

And finally: "You should really take a picture of yourself in that bathing suit."

38.5 weeks, 10 days before Emry was born

So today, with Emry 6 weeks and 1 day old, he got his first bottle of breastmilk (cue hormonal mama sniffle). I wished futilely that I possessed a one-piece bathing suit, then swallowed my pride, put on an old two-piece, and slid into the water. Like an old friend, it embraced me. My body felt infinitely different, and yet comfortingly similar. My same old skin, just stretched out here and there. My arms pulling, my legs kicking, my heart pumping, the sound of my own breath in my ears.

And when I was done, I got to steam myself in the jacuzzi, and no one raised an eyebrow.

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