“When are you due,” asked the instructor, as I lowered my burgeoning belly into the pool at my local community centre.
“Oh, not for another three-months,” I said, stretching out in the cool water. “Just enough time to dip into something new.”
I was pregnant with my third child and had heard rave reviews from other women about the benefits of water workouts, so I thought I’d give aquafit a try.
I’m not sure if it was the salt water or the fabulous septuagenarians I splashed about with every week, but I felt weightless and buoyed every time I stepped into the pool.
Some weeks there were so many of us in there that we could barely move without walloping one another with a foam noodle. Other weeks, we’d float more freely on our backs like sea otters. Either way, we were having fun. We’d sing along to The Crystals or Abba or Taylor Swift. The ladies loved music, it didn’t much matter what it was.
I was the youngest in the pool by at least 30-years, but I can tell you that some of these women were fitter than most women my age. In the changing rooms, before and after class, they would sit around chatting like Renoir nudes –– so beyond caring about saggy arms and bottoms that wobble like blancmanges. It inspired me. And so did their spirit, attitude and sense of humour. Most ladies opted for bright florals and frilly shower caps over a drab Speedo and a latex cap. Aquafit was an occasion and a ritual for them –– something to put lipstick on for, a reason to leave the house.
Most women came thrice weekly, even on holidays. “While the men are all walking on treadmills, we're talking and laughing and doing the Cha Cha,” said one lady about how the classes keep her young and ticking.
We talked about politics and hairdos and where to buy good challah bread. I heard stories about their children’s births, about their careers, travels, struggling with illness. And unlike the young mothers groups that discuss pregnancy symptoms, birthing plans and breastfeeding ad nauseam, these women rarely asked me anything about my pregnancy and upcoming birth. To them, you carried a baby and gave birth to a baby. God willing, all went well.
Sometimes, I’d bump into one of my swimming ladies at the supermarket or at the subway station and be taken aback by how different she looked with hair and with her clothes on. We’d chat a little, maybe about the music in last week’s class, (“I think it needs to be louder”) or the weather (“it’s meant to bucket with rain this weekend”) and then off we’d go in our respective directions.
On days when I couldn’t make it (and there were very few) the ladies thought I may have gone into labour. “I was waiting to see you at Sinai,” said one lady who volunteers at the hospital.
When I did give birth, and took a break from the pool, I kept meaning to stop in and leave a note with reception: “I had a little girl. She is healthy. Her name is Luma.” But the weeks and months passed, and I kept forgetting, until it seemed the moment for announcements had passed.
I am now back at the pool, only these days I’m doing laps in the fast lane. My fellow swimmers are younger and svelte and no one wears colourful bathing suits. I’ve even retired the turquoise frilly cap I used to wear for aquafit in favour of a navy, streamlined one. I miss my lovely dames and the conversation and camaraderie that came with them, but laps are quick and convenient.
Last week, as I was getting into my suit, a woman with reddish hair and a heart-shaped face I remember from our class, approached me asking if everything was okay with the baby.
“Oh yes,” I said. “She’s lovely. She turned one last week.”
“It’s just that we haven’t see you in so long,” she said. “We were worried about you.”
A wave of nostalgia washed over me as I remembered those months waiting for my daughter to arrive and the wonderful community of women that embraced me during that time.
A week later, I brought Luma to the pool for the first time. Needless to say, she was a duck to water.