I was so excited to take Kate to her first swimming lesson. I took Piran when he was just five weeks old but second time round I wasn’t quite so organised so I had to wait for a space on a course when she was around 10 weeks old. After taking Piran for so long I felt like an old pro at this so slung all the bits and pieces I would need into a bag and set off to our usual pool. I arrived and went and got us changed, and nervously checked out the other mums and babies. It seemed a little strange as there were three there and they were all chatting away like they knew each other already. A bit put off because I have always been rubbish at starting conversations and when people are already friendly they don’t tend to include people I sat at the side of the pool and held my baby girl. For once she wasn’t crying which was a relief anyway. We were early, and they seemed to be running late, but the last class had to finish soon and although Kate was starting to get restless I thought we would be in the pool soon.
Then the teacher looked up at me from the pool and asked if this was Kate’s first lesson. I said that it was and she explained that I had the time wrong. Our class didn’t start for another 30 minutes.
I could feel the eyes of everyone on me. The mums in the pool with their babies. The mums waiting to go in the pool with their babies. I felt so stupid. I got hot and flustered. The temperature in the room is always crazy hot anyway and even in a swimsuit I feel boiling. I got hotter and hotter and I could feel that empty hollow shameful feeling in my stomach and my chest and rising, through my troat reaching my eyes. They got hotter and hotter and the tears began to well up. I held my baby girl close, her heat making me hotter and I just wanted to disappear. I felt huge and fat and hot and bright red and now I was crying and I couldn’t stop. I hid it behind my baby, swiping at my eyes, hoping that no one would notice. It was all to obvious and you could tell that the other mums didn’t know where to look or what to say.
I took Kate to the changing room and got my towel to try and wipe away the tears. I took deep breaths to try and calm my racing heart. I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to ruin this special experience for Kate and for me. I know that she would never have known but I would have and getting anywhere with a small baby is so hard that leaving would just make me feel like even more of a stupid failure. I left the changing rooms as the mums came in from the pool, perhaps they offered words of comfort, we have all been there, forgotten something, the baby brain gets us everytime, I just cannot remember.
I went and sat at the side of the pool again and the teacher asked if I was okay. I couldn’t speak, I knew any words would restart the tears and then they would never stop. I think I mumbled something about feeds, and not knowing if she would last but I would try. The next half hour was the longest I can ever remember. The panic had set in and the tears kept sneaking out. All of the constant worries that I always had as a mum of a newborn flittered around my mind, would she need milk, how tired was she, would she start to cry. How long since she last ate, what time would we make it home, would she scream if she was hungry. After a while a lady joined me who was early for the class I was meant to be in and she started to talk gently to me. It was obvious I was in a real state. She saved my sanity in the end that day, she distracted Kate when she cried, she talked about babies and about nothing in particular and time started moving again and I started to feel a little better. We got in the pool, we swam, she loved it and I went home in pieces.
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This memory is one that has stuck with me. When I think of my journey with PND this is the one instance that made me realise just how bad things had got. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who I could talk to about it, and I wasn’t afraid to go to the doctor and say that I thought something was wrong. Other women may not have the support or be able to be upfront and open about how they are feeling. I remember getting quite mad at a Health Visitor at baby clinic as when I tried to discuss a course they were going to send me on she turned her back and started whispering to me like it was something that I should hide. I wanted to write about this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I want people who might feel like this to know they are not alone and it is okay to feel like this. Secondly, PNI.org have a month long initative called FrOctober. They are encouraging everyone to wear a frock every day in October to support women’s mental health and to draw attention to their charity and raise some funds in the process. I am trying to join in, I only came across it on the 2nd October and there may have been some excessive pyjama wearing so far this week but I really do feel a bit better about myself when I take some time to care about what I am wearing (not just jeans and a top like I wear every day). I have some lovely clothes and thankfully it is tights and boots season so wearing something pretty is easier. What is not easy is taking pictures of myself when Mr C is not around! These are the four that I have pictures of. One of which was taken by a 3 year old.
I think it is a great initiative and I am going to try and keep taking part for the rest of the month. They have some great fundraising ideas on their Facebook page and there is also a blog. I have also decided that any dresses or skirts that I haven’t worn by the end of the month I will sell and donate the proceeds to the charity.