Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim, swim– Dory, finding Nemo.
If you’re here you probably already know I’m swimming the distance of the English Channel in my local pool to raise money for two charities who helped me in the immediate aftermath of Henry’s death. I’ve shared information about the swim (22 miles, 35.4km, 1416 lengths of a pool) on social media and have written a bit about the charities on the swim’s JustGiving pages but I wanted to write a little about why I’m doing it.
This challenge comes from a very deep need to do something for Henry. I can no longer do what I’m supposed to do as his mother and take care of him physically, instead I take care of his memory. Fundraising in his name is one way of mothering him, it adds a little more to his story and lets me say ‘this is what I’ve done for my son’. I also need some good to come from Henry’s death. Both the charities I’m fundraising for, Sands and Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, have it in their power to support families at the hardest time of their lives, this support is crucial to parents’ ongoing health and wellbeing. Additionally Sands also fund research into preventing babies from dying and if I can help in even a very small way to preventing even one other family losing a child then I need to.
I’ve swum on and off since university. For several years I’ve had a pretty consistent routine of swimming once every week or two for a few months, stopping for a few months and then starting up again. Since Henry’s death it has become almost therapeutic. When I’m swimming I feel calm and in control. Focussing on the next stroke, the next breath, staying afloat and moving forward gives me a control over my thoughts and lets me block everything out for a while. There is nothing else that keeps my mind occupied like this, that settles the unwelcome thoughts and the constant restlessness of my body. The physical exertion is also a good mood booster. Right now my self-esteem and confidence is at a very low point, which is common in grief I’ve been told, exercise can’t cure this but it does help.
It’s also a challenge for myself. The actual swimming part is well within my capabilities but doing this sort of distance in a month and fundraising on top of it is something I have to commit to. Right now my time should be completely taken up caring for a baby but instead I’m floating around on maternity leave not really sure what to do with myself. Completing this swim means committing to swimming several times a week, getting myself ready and out of the house each day. I have to make sure I eat properly and have breakfast each morning. These are all things I find challenging right now so having a reason helps, the swimming is actually the easy part.
I’m four days into the swim and so far am up to 364 lengths, 9.1km, 5.7 miles. Thanks to the very generous donations of friends, family and fellow vilomah parents I have already reached my original fundraising target but anything extra raised over this will go towards helping families during the darkest moments of their lives, and may help prevent some families ever experiencing it. Any donation you’re able to make, large or small, will help do a lot of good. You can sponsor me over on Henry’s Team fundraising page.