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Water Works

I went swimming today.

And it was wonderful.

I slipped into the cool water (it is bloody hot here!), moving deeper and deeper into the wetness until I was submerged, feeling the bubbles blurrbilling to the surface where, after a few seconds, I also re-emerged. Walking gingerly towards a lane, I smiled as I felt the Vitamin D soaking into my skin.

Once in the lane, I began swimming, slowly at first, but increasing the speed (as best as I could) and glory-ing in the ripples flowing over my ample flesh.

(Don't I sound like I am writing porn?)

I write about the deliciousness of swimming every season, but each time I make myself go to the Y, I remember why water is so vital to my mental health.

I'd begun walking Lilo, mostly for her needs, but it was great for me to get out m'self. But, it seems I might have given myself a stress fracture in my left foot. We'd thought both feet at first (they both were excruciating to walk on), but now, with my moon shoe on my left foot and a Birkenstock always on my right, it seems the left is the only affected foot. I go Monday for a bone scan to diagnose it for sure. If it is fractured, I'll do about the same thing as I am now - resting it, always wearing the funky/ugly shoe, taking NSAIDs and visualizing the whole thing healing quickly and whole-ly.

And the podiatrist told me I have to swim. I have got to get some weight off.

Let's go back to exercise porn.

It was wonderful taking the weight off my foot and floating floating floating through and on the water.

As I was swimming my 22 lengths of the pool (yay!), I thought about how healing water is, and not just for me.

Women in labor love the water. Even when a pool isn't an option, the shower or wet washcloths will fill the bill. In tubs and pools, water surrounds the swollen belly, lifting the uterus UP off the nerve endings that can make even normal labors painful. Rocking, leaning, tilting side to side, women find their rhythm and often can't possibly consider getting out of the water. It's rare they would be required to do so.

Most of us are aware of the wave analogy when it comes to birth. Riding contractions can often feel like the swells and dips of the ocean's waves. "Letting go" in order to stay afloat requires a stringent "in the moment" attitude; thinking too much pulls even the best swimmers underneath the rolling sea.

You know how visualization exercises have us think of "that safe place" or that location where we feel the most relaxed? Mine is Wekiva Springs in Orlando. I immediately relax thinking of floating in the 72 degree spring water, feeling the seering sun above and the icy cold beneath... the line down the length of my body meeting in a schizophrenic tug-of-war between goose bumps and sweat beads.

I've turned to that memory dozens of times during painful ordeals.

For care providers/doulas/partners, labor can be as hypnotic as watching the ebb and flow of the Hawaiian ocean. The moans, rocking, noise - and silence - mimic the crashing waves. I've known partners and midwifery students to fall asleep during the latter parts of labor because the rhythm is so hypnotic. When they apologize, I let them know it's okay - and normal.

It's the woman herself that needs to stay afloat and in this place in labor, she often rides, effortlessly - up over the contraction, down into dip, waiting again for the swell to lift her towards the birth of her baby.

The women who struggle often do well with water. Drinking more, submerging more, having cool cloths and warm hands touch their brows, these women simply need to know they are not alone.

Water draws us towards it. We build communities around water sources. We die without water. It's no wonder water's such a draw to women in labor, women who carry quarts of water inside their uteri, protecting their babies, they, too, want to feel such protection.

As I felt the ripples of water around me today, I kept thinking, with every swimming breath, "Heal. Heal. Heal. Heal."

I went swimming today. And I am continuously healed. 

Reader Comments (1)

I loved the part about wave analogies for labor. I had never heard this before, but had come up with it on my own to describe my labor prior to getting the epidural. It was like being the ocean, in rough surf. The wave would come and I would go under (contractions), but then it would recede and I could get my feet on the sand (in between contractions) and get my face above the water for a breather. But the surf was getting rougher and rougher and the waves bigger and bigger, until there was no time between the waves to get air. I literally felt like I was drowning. I asked for the only thing I could think of that might stop it, the epidural. That experience itself was horrible, and I WISH I had the presence of mind to ask for the tub (a large jacuzzi in the bathroom just feet from my bed and a birthing tub in the room next to mine). That was the ONLY thing the nurses didn't offer me (the ball, rocking chair, moving around, walking, and drugs, were offered, and rejected by me). Next baby, I am having TUB tattooed across my forehead and my belly.

September 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer B

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