It’s hard work, learning to relax

Laurence bought me a voucher for a spa day at the Lido in Bristol for my birthday. He worried that I wouldn’t like it and I could see why. I’m rubbish at relaxation.

I’d promised myself I wouldn’t take any parenting, birth or baby books with me and packed a novel instead. There would be no eyeing up Facebook or Twitter. I could unplug. I would. But as I sat there munching kippers for breakfast, I couldn’t help thumbing through a baby magazine I’d ‘accidentally’ left in my bag. I told you. I suck.

I slammed it shut, forcing myself to look at the swimmers instead. I used to love daydreaming, inventing stories for strangers. When did my thoughts become so frantic, needing to flit from one thing to the next? Swimming. Swimming would help.

I changed into my bikini and walked out to the pool. I swear, you’d think those people had never seen a heavily pregnant woman before. One woman seemed to entirely lose her manners in either my bump or my breasts. So I stared back. She didn’t notice.

My reflection often shocks me. Looking down, I don’t notice how much I’ve grown. It’s only a look in the mirror or Laurence struggling to hug me that reminds me. But that’s because I remember my flat stomach back in September. Would a 36-week pregnant woman in a bikini surprise me? I doubt it.

Despite my bizarrely attentive audience, I was struck again by how un-self-conscious I was. I’ve said this before about swimming a lot earlier in this pregnancy.

It’s not that I suddenly walk around feeling like I’m the shiz because my body is some gorgeous life-bearing vessel, but whereas these breasts, thighs and stomach before seemed primarily sexual (though they weren’t) I now feel their usefulness in ways I didn’t pre-pregnancy.

These breasts will hopefully feed my child. This stomach isn’t actually my stomach – this is her home for now. These thighs support the weight of this whole new vandangle.

They’re still sexual. It’s just also become easier for me to see how they’re useful and there is beauty in that.

A couple of hours swimming, a brief stint in the hot tub (yes, I know, but it really wasn’t that hot) and it was time to check in for the day’s highlight – letting a stranger touch me.

As she pressed her hands into my back I suddenly realised just how angry I’ve been towards my body. These last eight months have been uncomfortable work and the tension has been stored in my back. I felt different areas of it beg for her touch.

It’s hard to explain without sounding like I’m putting it on for dramatic effect but, honestly, I felt like crying. It didn’t hurt. It’s just that the release wasn’t just physical. There was something emotional in it too. It was if my back had needed to be loved.

Afterwards, when I sat in the tea room, sipping peppermint and enjoying the after effects of the experience, I marvelled at my energy and peace. For once, I didn’t feel worried about anything to do with the baby. I just felt incredibly grateful and appreciative.

Next pregnancy, I think I’m looking for a doula specialising in maternity massage. I can so see why some people do this on a regular basis. Massage therapists are nothing short of healers.

Image: Lido Bristol

PS: Wishing my mum a happy 50th birthday today.