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Diving with a new baby

Diving
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Not literally, of course, but regular Scottish-diving correspondent ROSS MCLAREN knew that a few adjustments would be required to enable him to maintain his scuba lifestyle

Having a baby is life-changing, they say. That’s the understatement of the century – your whole world is spun on its head. You walk out of hospital with this small human for whom you’re now responsible, and suddenly it is the centre of your universe! But does that mean your life in scuba has to stop? 

When Rachel and I broke the news to family and friends that we were having a baby, we received the expected responses from people keen to congratulate us and share in our joy. But what we also received from the majority of them were the “bolt-on” comments: “Well, that’s your [insert activity] going to have to stop”… “When are you selling your dive gear?” and so on. 

I realise that these remarks were meant as a joke, and that people weren’t necessarily trying to annoy us, but when the 100th person (it felt like that, anyway) feels moved to express them it does start to get a bit… let’s say, tired. 

I’m not naive. I knew that I couldn’t expect to be out diving every weekend, but why should the activity have to come to a complete stop?  

17th crab photo

I did stop diving for four or five weeks before Hannah arrived. I felt it might not be a great idea to be 15m under water taking my 17th photo of the same crab while Rach went into labour.

Once the little one was with us, we took a month or so to get into some kind of routine and become accustomed to being a family of three. For those first weeks, going out to the shops was about as much adventure as we could manage.  

Diving
Surface cover: Rachel and Hannah Mclaren

When things had settled down a bit, we decided to start thinking about getting out for some walks… and eventually our first dive trip as a family. 

Rachel wouldn’t be diving, which would make things easier. She is a scuba diver but had decided to take a step back while we were trying to start a family. Though in no rush for now, she plans to return to the sport eventually, and when that day comes our plan is to take it in turns to dive during that day – or else to rope our poor unsuspecting buddies into some impromptu child-minding. 

In the meantime, having discussed the matter, we had agreed that we would simply have more “family-friendly” dive days, so that as long as the weather was nice Rachel and Hannah could enjoy pottering about on the beach or shore.  

I always remember someone saying to me: “If you love something enough you’ll find a way to keep doing it”, and that is true. However, there are adaptations to make, so here is what I have learnt:

Diving

Timings

For the most part, dive days for me (and my long-suffering dive-buddy) always meant an early start. Meeting at about 7am, in the water by 9.30 (10 at the latest) and home again no later than 3.30 to 4pm meant that at least the nights were still free. With Hannah, well, that wasn’t happening. 

It’s easy for us to eat on the go, but with a wee one we had to try to time the day around her feeds. Instead of meeting at 7am we met at 10, and aimed for some afternoon dives. I think my dive-buddy was actually happy to be able to have a long lie-in!  

Diving

Kit

Cards on the table, I really over-pack on a dive day. I think I have a spare of everything. I have had that experience of turning up to a dive-site without a vital piece of kit and wasting the day, and I vowed that it would never happen again. 

Hannah’s kit isn’t quite so tiny (how does such a small person require so much stuff?) so I had to cut my own gear down a bit. Extra drysuit? That was probably a bit of an overkill in the first place, and so on.

Diving

Transport

Just before lockdown, when the world went a bit crazy, we had bought an AA Transit van to convert into a camper. So instead of taking the car we decided that this might be more comfortable for the girls to sit in, especially if the weather wasn’t great.

I know that not everyone has access to a van, but to be fair we could have taken the car. It might have been a bit more of a squeeze, but we would have managed. 

Diving

Weather

I would dive in any weather (within reason) but with Hannah and Rachel on “shore cover”, going out in torrential rain and freezing winds might not be too pleasant, even with the van. So going diving as a family meant that we needed to pick our days a wee bit more carefully. 

You can never quite predict the weather in Scotland, and despite our best efforts our last dive day went from a forecast of “dry” to pouring rain. But we try.

Diving

Dive sites

Suddenly the dive-sites became a little more difficult to select. When it was just me and my buddy we would normally decide on the location based on the type of dive we wanted to do: wall, reef, wreck etc. Now we also need to throw in the considerations of parking the van with space for Rach and Hannah to go off for walks. 

As much as I want to enjoy the dive, I do want them to have a good day as well. It wouldn’t be much fun for them to be stuck in the car/van parked up next to a busy road all day. So somewhere with a bit of shelter, space and perhaps even a wee beach is perfect.

Does this mean that we might not be able to visit some dive-sites? Yes, but I can go to those another time.  

Am I diving and will I dive as much as I did before my daughter arrived? No, definitely not, and I suppose I don’t want to either. But will I still get out semi-regularly? Absolutely. Now, how old do children have to be to get certified?

Ross Mclaren dives mainly at the many sites within easy reach of Glasgow. He produces and presents videos about aspects of Scottish scuba diving on BBC Scotland’s online platform BBC the Social. Also by Ross on Divernet: The Long Game and Scottish Star Turns.

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