How baby swimming helped me
My name is Emie Kitson, I have been involved with Birthlight since attending a class with my baby boy over 13 years ago. I had severe post natal depression and the classes helped me to bond with him in a way that was not possible for me on land. My aim when I became a Birthlight teacher, and subsequently a tutor, was to spread the wonderful joy water can bring to life with a small baby, this gift later extended to older children but Birthlight remains in my blood. For me it is about the way we are respectful of the bond, not forcing but facilitating growth and development of the natural processes which occur when parent and baby connect. I have also trained in other water therapies but Birthlight has recently encouraged me to look more closely at tiny babies and help them to play with the spiraling movements they and their parents can enjoy in the water together and in turn strengthening their ‘forever’ bond. I started teaching because I wanted to help just one person feel the way I felt with my son, I have been very privileged to be involved with lots of parents with postnatal depression but when Carman came into the water with Keider, I was amazed at the magic they have experienced together. They share that experience below.
My son was born very suddenly into this world by emergency caesarean. I remember waking up from the anaesthetic feeling like I had just been to sleep and it was time to get on. I had no recollection of the birth and no belief that I had just had a baby boy. I first saw our baby at 12 hours old in intensive care and only under pressure and honestly I wasn’t really bothered. He recovered quickly and we were discharged 3 days later but within 24 hours were back in hospital for nearly 6 weeks as he wasn’t very well.
He was a tiny baby at just over 5lbs and I found him alien. I was looking after him until the real mother came to get him or I could even give him away. I was in a right state with no natural maternal affection or bond and although I had prepared practically for his birth, mentally I had never been pregnant.
I owe who I am now mostly to my Health Visitor and Aqualight. My HV suggested I go swimming with Aqualight as a way to bond with my baby as the therapy I was receiving was bearing no fruit. I trusted her every word and just signed up without even without a trial. I remember clear as a bell my first lesson. The baby swimming shorts were so big they came up to his shoulders as he was so tiny. I really thought that I would get into the water and it would work like magic and make me feel like a mother who wanted to love and care for her baby.
The water was warm and relaxing and all the other mothers had babies around the same age but my little boy seemed so much smaller. We got in and my baby was just so relaxed and seemed at home. At this stage he was only about 10 weeks old but he just relished in it. I remember Emie saying to me that it’s very physical for the babies and they may not last the session but as my little boy gurgled and smiled in the warm water, for the first time I had a sense of achievement within myself. This was the first time I had EVER held my baby in a skin-to-skin sensation and he liked it. I do believe that pool had MAGIC water in it.
When I got out the pool and after I had changed I said that I really enjoyed it. At that time I only enjoyed it just for myself but the fact that my little boy did was a bonus for him as he didn’t know that I was struggling.
So we went every single week and still do now and my little boy is a proper water baby. He squeals, splashes, smiles and laughs his way through every session.
My post-natal depression has actually proved to be an asset with our swimming as I showed no fear in relation to submersion or any of the techniques we are taught. I masked my feelings to everyone around me as an air of confidence but it is all acting. I was relaxed about submerging my little boy as often as asked and knew that he was always in safe hands. Emie said to me just the other day that the reason my little boy is so happy in the water is down to my confidence. My reasoning is that I probably didn’t care as much as I should have!!
Swimming with your baby forces you to connect with him in an intimate environment by skin-on-skin contact and by maintaining your focus and concentration on them. You are rewarded emotionally when you can see they are enjoying themselves and are at ease in the water. The journey starts before you get in the pool when you put there swim nappy on (and then they wee down your leg) and you start to build that relationship, the lesson in the pool with the interaction and then after when you are getting changed and everyone is relaxed and chatting happily about what you achieved today.
If my HV had not recommended I go swimming with Aqualight, I do not know what would have happened to me. It is down to Emie and Nicola who understood me, by using their instincts, that has allowed me to grow with my baby and form a bond with him. I need to go swimming on a regular basis not just to learn the new techniques of swimming but to maintain that intimate contact. I need to see that enjoyment on my little boy’s face, his twinkling eyes, splashing hands, the chuckling smile and it means that I am doing a good job and he is as happy as he could be. To have that confirmation from him that I am a good mother.
Over the last year, things have slowly got better for both of us and swimming is the most important activity we do together.
Swimming with Aqualight saved both my life and the life of my little boy for which I am eternally grateful.
Thank you Emie & Nicola xx