Last weekend I met Lizzie Simmonds’ Mum at dinner. Her mum and my mum are friends. They seem to think Lizzie and I have common ground; we are both strong, confident, hard working, resilient… survivors even. Our dads are both extremely tall and our mums are both proud of us. We are both hyper mobile and we both like to swim.
Sadly, I am not the UK’s number one female swimmer, (as Lizzie was for a long time), but I do like to swim. As we talked, my parents were insistent about what a serious swimmer I was and I felt surprised … am I?! It got me thinking about how I’d been swimming often, but not really swum – hard – without fear, since Liberty died. I’ve been doing other things like yoga and running but yes, I remembered that swimming used to be my thing. I remembered being on a yoga holiday with Olga Allon when I was about 8 weeks pregnant with Liberty, and she was teaching me to do tumble turns!
But when Liberty died, every single fragment of me got thrown up into the air like a million little jigsaw pieces, and it all came down again in different places, taking me the best part of ten years to find it all and put it back together. The picture doesn’t look the same anymore of course, but I’ve grown to accept, if not love, it’s flaws.
I had some issues over the pregnancy years with my posture, my muscles, my spine and even my nerves – all as a result of hyper mobility, of carrying a huge amount of stress, grief and tension, and, of course, having three babies in five years. Nevertheless, I’ve spent the last few years since Rocco was born, turning that around. I’m almost totally fit and healthy again. Not like a national athlete of course, but like a mum of three in her forties who is in decent shape. However, every time I’ve got into the pool, I felt aware of my terrible posture. Where my muscles were weak seemed more apparent and I thought about all the times I swam with Liberty, doing my best to keep fit but growing weaker each day, thinking ‘it’s OK, we can grow strong together when she is born.’
So, on bank holiday Sunday, the day after our dinner with the Simmonds, I abandoned the boys with their Dad in the kid’s pool, went to the lanes and I swam properly for the first time in years. By which I mean, without fear, without judgement. Just flinging myself with my poor technique, but the immense confidence and courage that I always had in the water, since I was a toddler myself, up and down the pool. It felt good. I felt really strong. Thank you to Helen, (Lizzie’s Mum), for the chat.