The other evening when I returned home from the pool, glowing and singing to myself, my husband admitted that he's occasionally wondered if I'm having an affair.
Swimming is, indeed, much more than exercise for me. The mindless, repetitive laps and deep, rhythmic breathing relax my chattering mind and center me the way staring at a candle flame calms a meditator. When I get to the pool, my head is dizzy with daily dross and family concerns: how to counsel my sons, when to visit far-flung relatives, where to go for vacation. An hour later, my swim complete, I feel calmed and empowered; decisions have been made, perspective has been gained. Endorphins flow through me like an elixir.
I started swimming regularly before I became a mother, but though harder to arrange, it became even more necessary after my children were born. I discovered that swimming complemented and improved every phase of motherhood. When I was pregnant and feeling increasingly whalelike on land, the pool made me feel weightless. Soon the pool became my solitary escape as a weary nursing mother. Sometimes I'd persuade my husband to sit poolside, holding our infant Nate in his arms. I'd nurse the baby and then duck into the water, depleted; by the time I emerged, Nate would be ready to feed again and I would be magically revitalized by my water therapy and once more ready to nurture him.