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Two days later, groggy and irritable, I stood on the top rung of the ladder at the local public pool. I hadn't swum laps in years, but once I began swimming, arms windmilling, legs fluttering, the freestyle stroke came back. My grogginess was gone. The cool water felt like a salve against my skin.
I started swimming laps regularly. While I swam, I thought about my childhood. Among the few happy times were the swim meets at the neighborhood country club. My mother volunteered as a timer, huddled by the starting blocks. During the meets, I had a sense of her as her own person, someone who was part of my world without intruding into it.
As time went on and my pregnancy progressed, other recollections of my mother's generosity surfaced while I swam. I remembered her teaching me to read, waiting patiently while I sounded out a word. I vowed to claim the good memories and leave the bad ones behind.
I went to the pool for the last swim of the season on Labor Day. When I reached the end of the first lap, I bowed my head and launched into a flip turn. Legs tucked, I hung suspended in the water, conscious of my baby curled inside. Then with a quick twist, I pushed my feet hard against the side of the pool, propelling my body forward. At that moment I felt ready, finally, to begin my journey as a mother.