When my son was first born two years ago, I had a lot of anxiety about taking him out in public. Going places with a newborn posed a lot of challenges and I was honestly more content just staying home. Then, after about three weeks of mid-winter maternity leave, I began feeling the serious effects of cabin fever and I realized that a little anxiety was worth a trip out of the house.
In the beginning, I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to bring with me when trekking out with a tiny baby, so I typically ended up bringing everything. The travel system stroller was always crammed into the trunk of my car and the backseat was packed full with the diaper bag (which was more like a suitcase at that time), a baby sling, bottles, formula, the breast pump, and so on. With all the shit that I brought along for every trip out of the house, you’d think I was preparing for the end of the world to occur during every outing. If it was possible to buy an SUV that housed a mini-freezer for storing breast milk and small diaper factory in the trunk just in the case the baby had 400 blow outs while we were in public, I would have purchased it with a doubt.
Ironically, I never really needed any of the crap that I packed during our first few solo ventures into the real world for one reason. While I had finally gotten brave enough to leave the house with my baby, I was still terrified to actually get out of the car. For at least the first month, I only went to stores and businesses that offered a drive-thru window, solely because I was afraid there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get the car seat back into the car if we actually got out. Or what if I got into the store and the baby screamed for 15 minutes in a long check-out line? Or what if he got hungry and I had to feed him immediately?? I sure as hell wasn’t prepared to bust my boob out to breastfeed in public. And so, we stuck to the drive-thru.
Over the course of the next 18 months, I slowly kicked my fear of parenting in public and finally felt comfortable when we were out of the house. As Grey got older, I realized I didn’t need to pack 14 suitcases of baby gear in order for us to stop by the grocery store. I stopped caring if he cried in the checkout line. I learned to mix a bottle when stopped at a red light (talk about distracted driving….) and I wasn’t afraid to change his diaper in the backseat of my car before heading home from running a few errands.
I realized that getting out of the house was the best thing for both of us. We started going to story time at the library every Monday, visiting friends for play dates, and dropping by a free music class in our community when we had time. While I do still have a tiny bit of anxiety when we are out and about, which I’m sure is normal for every mother, I think we’ve gotten pretty good at getting out.
Which leads me to the bright idea I had on Monday. I’m off from work this week so I want to make sure I get in as many exciting things with Grey as possible. The weather has finally gotten a little bit warmer and we’ve been craving some summer-type activities. And so, the idea to try open swim came to be.
While we have taken tons of classes and visited lots of kid-friendly places, swimming is one of those things that I’ve avoided. We have never taken any baby swim classes with Grey and he’s probably only been in a pool two or three times. I have to admit, I’m just not a swimmer. I don’t love it – I’m not good at it. It’s just not my thing, which is probably why I’ve had no interest in signing us up for a mommy and me swim class. But this week, I really wanted to try something we’ve never done before and show Grey a good time.
I found an open swim session at our local high school for Monday afternoon. As I was getting us ready for family swim, I had new-mommy déjà vu. It felt like we were leaving the house for the first time all over again. I had no idea what the hell I was supposed to bring with us. I stuffed something crazy like 40 swim diapers in the diaper bag just in case Grey decided to shit in the pool several times. I had towels and dry clothes and swim shoes and all kinds of other crap that I knew I probably wouldn’t need.
Here’s the issue with trying new things with your children. A lot of logistical questions come up. My thought process went something like this: “Do I need to bring some sort of flotation device or not? I mean, I’m just going to hold him in the pool right? What if the water is too cold? What if he doesn’t like it? Should I get us dressed in our swim suits before we leave the house or change in the locker room? Wait, what the hell should I wear to this? Is a bikini inappropriate for family swim? Do I have to wear a mom-approved tankini or one-piece?? OMG – the other mothers are definitely going to judge me if I wear a bikini. Maybe we shouldn’t go after all.”
Luckily, I had invited a friend and her son to join us, so there was no backing out. As I turned into the high school parking lot, I had another small panic attack as I realized I had no idea where the pool even was within the school. There were four different buildings and about eight different doors to choose from. Thankfully, my friend Googled the information for me while I drove around the high school campus looking for other clueless mothers with kids in swimsuits. I realized that bringing a friend when attempting something new is crucial – otherwise I probably would have nixed this trip when I realized I didn’t know where to park.
Surprisingly, the open swim session was a success. I had no idea if Grey was going to get into the water, but he ended up loving it! It was a little chilly, but we survived. After spending at least twenty minutes worrying that a bikini wasn’t appropriate for family swim, it turned out that there was only one other family there so we pretty much had the entire pool to ourselves anyhow.
And even though I was totally prepared by packing 40 swimmy diapers, Grey didn’t shit in the pool after all. I’d call that a swim session success.