Ah mother and baby groups. The very thought of them goes through me.
Yes, it’s lovely for baby, good for Mum to have adult company and so on, but it’s the assumption that just because two women have given birth they will be pals that bothers me.
Of course you might well have met your best mate at one of these classes, and indeed my own Mum reminds me frequently that she met many of her friends for life through her kids when we were little.
And I am in a new city so I bit the bullet and signed up for a baby swimming class. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have started with something a little simpler. A coffee morning or ‘meet other mums on a walk to the letterbox’.
Basically anything that didn’t involve swimming in winter.
But I’d paid up in advance and the first class loomed large so there was no going back. I read the introductory notes start to finish several times. I have noticed that people who work in childcare often speak v.er.y s.l.o.w.l.y a.n.d c.l.e.a.r.l.y and it turns out leaflets aimed at new parents are somehow written the same way.
So there’s no possibility of crossed wires or misinformation, both of which are vital when dealing with tiny incontinent people and a communal swimming pool.
I bought the special swim nappies as instructed. In fact, I bought two sizes just to be on the safe side. I bought the neoprene safety pants that go over the nappy (it’s a belt and braces situation — see previous comment about incontinence and pools). I packed two towels for baby Tom, two changes of clothes in case something dropped on a wet changing room floor. I packed a small travel hairdryer so he wouldn’t have to go out in the cold air with wet hair.
The morning of the class arrived and I packed snacks and warm milk in a thermos; nothing had been left to chance — this was a bag of glory.
And then it struck me; I had forgotten swimwear for me.
In my attempts to pack the Perfect Baby Swim Bag, I had completely neglected to include anything for myself. I’m not a swimmer or a beach person so I don’t have a stash of bikinis, and the only thing I had was a never-worn maternity tankini (I usually eschew clothes with the word ‘tank’ in them). But the the only alternative was swimming in my underwear (which we’ve all done at some stage in our 20’s with varying degrees of humiliating outcome). But I had no option but to pack it; it would be fine, sure it was just a bit of splashing in the shallow end wasn’t it?
All it had to do was stay up.
Turns out Baby Swimming involves more bouncing and spinning than I’d anticipated, and the maternity tank-travesty was about as practical as cutting two holes in a bag for life and stepping into it.
I watched in horror as my massive pants floated away like an angry jellyfish on the second bounce, unable to grab them what with trying to hold the baby above water and all. The worst part was that no one else spotted my mishap so I had to keep bouncing around in the circle of shame praying that I’d catch up with my embarrassing jetsam before anyone else. I didn’t.
Someone else’s baby got caught up in them like a tiny innocent dolphin in a shark net. I think they were most appalled by the fact that I had appeared not to have noticed that I was naked from the waist down. The reaction of the other women told me we wouldn’t become besties who’d laugh about this over mojitos some day.
I transferred to a different swimming group the following week.
And bought a new swimsuit.