Pregnancy is a new world to me and, due to previously mentioned fertility problems, it’s a world I never imagined I’d have the fortune of inhabiting. So that’s my first excuse for why I suck at aqua-natal. Secondly, it’s the realisation (come on let’s be honest here) that I’m just not like most women. And I’m fine with that. It just needs saying.
I was reminded of this the exact moment I rounded the corner at our local leisure centre onto the training pool, where a line of yummy mummies sat elegantly at the pool-side waiting for the session to start. I was first of all aware that my costume was different to theirs. Mine was by Speedo and in sensible shades of blue and navy (so I could be camouflaged in the water?). Theirs were colourful, pretty and frilly and all halter-necks, underwired and showing off voluptuous pregnant breasts. Mine was designed for swimming galas.
Manicured and painted nails tipped feminine limbs, attached to slim and pregnantly curvy bodies, and smiling gossiping faces beautifully adorned in makeup. Their immaculate hair was done stylishly above their heads. I was briefly confused and worried on their behalf about how much their makeup would run once we were in the water. Hmmm. As my goggles swung from my hand I noted I probably wouldn’t be needing them. I felt relieved I’d left my swimming cap in my locker. It’s not one of those classes. I sensed I was in completely unfamiliar territory.
My walk from the end of the pool to where they were all sitting seemed agonisingly long and I became aware of every muscle in my body for some reason as I walked sheepishly past them to take a seat. Be graceful, Rach. Try.
When the instructor (or class leader or midwife or whatever you want to call her) told us the session was beginning, I successfully resisted a strong urge to jump into the pool. Instead I watched the other mums-to-be carefully descending the pool steps. I never use pool steps, I dive. And I was only half paying attention, so I got it wrong. I descended them facing into the pool rather than facing the steps so I couldn’t possibly achieve gracefulness. Plop. Water everywhere. Some may even have touched some of the other women. Bloody hell.
We arranged ourselves in a circle and the exercises began. I pumped my arms and legs enthusiastically, enjoying the feeling of being pregnant in water for the first time. A really funny feeling. My hair was drenched in moments, of course. My eyes stung. I wished I hadn’t self-consciously left my goggles by the pool-side.
The women chatted. They all seemed to know each other. I looked for a face I might know, a girl I perhaps went to school with. It’s not a big town. But alas, all strangers. So instead of trying to catch the eye of a friendly face I concentrated on the exercises. I listened out for the instructor so I could quickly change direction when she shouted “change”. More splashing.
After our warm up we had to pick a float and we began doing various gentle exercises over lengths of the pool in shuttles. After the third length, I realised to my horror that I was winning aqua-natal.
Far, far too late I realised that I was arriving back at the side much quicker than everyone else, sometimes an entire length ahead, even beating the instructor. I looked over my shoulder and saw a tableau of pretty colour and dry heads paddling serenely towards me as I stood there, hair dripping, patiently waiting.
It’s not that I thought it was a race… as such. It’s just that it’s hard to swim really, really slowly. Besides, I’d assumed this class was for fitness so I had to push myself, right? Well yes, if you want to look like a competitive tw*t.
What on earth did the seasoned aqua-natal mummies think of the new arrival in her needlessly streamlined swimsuit? I could just tell they didn’t like me. I’d read the situation completely wrong. And I was going to pay for it. The instructor told us to get into pairs and obviously no-one wanted to go with Rebecca Adlington over here. I had to pair up with the instructor. The shame.
Eventually my excruciating ordeal came to an end as the clock struck seven and we got out of the pool. I at least remembered to use the steps the right way round, rather than heaving myself out of the pool via the side. Every face was still immaculate and every hair in place. I marvelled at their self-restraint and care as my own hair dripped into stinging eyes. So as to avoid not being included in post-aqua-natal small talk (if that’s even a thing) I headed straight for the changing rooms alone.
I did not win at aqua-natal. I suck at aqua-natal. Next week I’ll try harder. Next week I might wear a bikini and mascara which may help me bond with other expectant mums. Or maybe I’ll just do an hour of lane swimming before the class starts so I’m suitably knackered in time for our gentle and dignified floaty activity. We’ll see. I know one thing for sure; I won’t be bringing my goggles.
 A proper update on how we got from there to here via IVF is coming soon.