Water is the place where I feel most authentically myself – a Queen. Water constantly strengthens my mental, physical and spiritual health. When I swim, I feel powerful, confident, happy, strong and connected to my core being, thus a Swim Queen. It took me until I was 30 years old to figure this out and truly embrace swimming again as a Masters Swimmer with the Saskatoon Goldfins.
Growing up in Southern Ontario I spent every summer swimming and house boating on Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. I also did outdoor swimming lessons at Valens Conservation and indoor swimming lessons at Dolson Pool in Cambridge. It didn’t take long for competitive swimming to be recommended to me – I was a fast and strong swimmer. At age 8 I started swimming with the Cambridge Aquajets. Competitive swimming taught me hard work, responsibility, discipline, and sacrifice. The sport also taught me goal setting, how to manage stress and how to be a leader.
Like many swimmers – it took up a lot of my time and by high school I wanted to try new sports and activities. So I gave up swimming and took over a decade break from the sport.
BACK IN THE WATER
I tried swimming again when I was pregnant with my first at 24 years old. I remember crying in the store changing room as I shopped for suits that would cover my growing belly. Nothing fit well and I certainly did not look like those pregnant models flashed on posters around the store. I was insecure, unsure and fearful of what others may have thought of me.
Related: Swimming Through Motherhood
I had no experience with true self love at this point in my life, so this fear literally took over. I was full of anxiety the first time I jumped back in the water. I remember trying so hard to cover my body with my towel as I walked on deck.
“Don’t let anyone see. Don’t let anyone see. Don’t let anyone see.”
This was on repeat in my head – how sad. I couldn’t tell you how many meters I swam, how I felt in the water or how many times I did swim that pregnancy. I don’t remember because I didn’t celebrate myself. I was so wrapped up in that fear. I was letting the fear of other people’s opinions determine my worth – people I didn’t even know! Eventually, I decided I couldn’t swim anymore out of shame & fear of how I looked in a suit. It didn’t matter that I loved to swim and that it was good for my health. I couldn’t get over the fear of looking ugly in a swimsuit and it sadly held me back from doing what I love.
My second pregnancy at 26 years old was the same story. I wasn’t worthy enough to swim. I let it be my truth again and did not touch the water.
OVERCOMING FEARS WITH SELF LOVE
I finally jumped in the water when my husband encouraged me to try out the Masters Swim Team with the Saskatoon Goldfins. By this time in my life at 29 years old my self love and positive self talk had become a daily practice. This practice took a lot of work and eventually it started to show up everywhere in my life, especially in the pool. I was able to look at my reflection while wearing a cheeky suit with nothing but gratitude and appreciation for my body.
“As swimmers, were nearly naked making waves and diving off blocks. For many women in a bathing suit, positive self talk can be difficult – but it is possible! I found the joy in swimming again because I kept showing up to practice and was body positive.”
I am so grateful I did, because a year later at 30 years old I was pregnant with my third. This pregnancy I refused to let social standards and that fear I knew so well hold me back. I embraced my own journey and created my new story. I didn’t let the fear of anybody’s negative opinion or my insecurities consume me. My goal was simple – get to practice and jump in the water!
I continued swimming with my Masters Group until the season ended in June of 2018 and I did not stop there! During the summer, I was swimming 1 kilometer 4 times a week. Eventually, my one piece no longer fit my belly, so I continued on in my bikini with confidence right up until birth! I had my daughter in early August of 2018.
“And when I think of my last couple weeks pregnant, I smile and think how beautiful swimming can be when you just focus and feel the water.”
At 5 weeks postpartum I got back into the water with patience, kindness and a lot of positive body talk. I was able to swim a slow kilometer and conquer feeling comfortable in a bathing suit with a different body shape… again. In those early weeks of postpartum, getting to the pool took a lot of planning and asking for help. What I learned was that people wanted to help and I wasn’t a bother. I shared with my family and friends how important swimming was to my mental, physical and spiritual health, therefore it made asking easy. After a swim I felt stronger throughout my daily activities while postpartum. Although the swims took a lot of planning, I felt like a happier me, which was always worth it!
Related: My Letter to Swim Mamas
Slowly, I built up my endurance and was able to rejoin the Saskatoon Goldfins. I was nursing exclusively and half way through every practice I’d have to check my phone to make sure baby wasn’t hungry. My focus wasn’t always 100% in the pool (baby brain) but I knew showing up and trying was important for my health.
This season so far, I’ve competed twice and finished a Swim 5000m Challenge! I have more confidence than ever before and am able to challenge myself postpartum because of it. The power of positive self talk is real and I am so proud of myself. I am setting an incredible example for postpartum swimmers everywhere.
SELF LOVE SWIMMING TIPS WHILE PREGNANT AND POSTPARTUM
- Practice speaking kind words to yourself. I mean it, get in your suit – look in the mirror and compliment yourself!
- Remember that body size during any season of life does not define you. Hold on for dear life!
- See the beauty in your so-called flaws and know that they are your story & your truth. Run your fingers over your scars, stretch marks, dimples because they make you, you!
- Create simple goals. My pregnancy Swim Goal was “Just get in the water!”
- Share how important swimming is to your friends and family. Share your passion. You deserve to take up space!
- Ask for help so you can get to the pool. Moms, we cant do it all by ourselves, so ask for help! There’s no shame in it!
- Fill your heart full of inspiration daily. It will feed your soul and get you excited! You can still have a role model or hero at age 30, 45 or 70! @myswimpro is a great start!
MY MISSION AS A SWIMQUEEN
I started my Instagram account @swimqueenyxe documenting my postpartum journey while swimming. I talk openly and authentically about the struggles of positive body image and self acceptance as a postpartum breastfeeding swimmer. It’s tough enough for women to embrace their body during the postpartum season of their life, let alone to put on a swimsuit and conquer their goals.
“I want women to know that no matter what size they are at any time in their life, that they can do anything! I hope to inspire more women to JUMP in the water, make memories with their family, swim some laps, dive off the blocks, enter a race and to just be body positive and authentically themselves.”
Wishing all the Swim Queens out there a very Happy Mother’s Day from Saskatoon Saskatchewan.
Thank you so much for your amazing article and advice, Jackie! Your story is so relatable, and we love watching you inspire others with your positive outlook on life. Keep up the amazing work in and out of the pool!