Since having a child, I have come to terms with the fact that there will always be a spiderweb of stretch marks on my stomach, and after breastfeeding for over a year, a “perky” is no longer an adjective that can be used to describe my chest. During the winter months, I could hide my newly acquired matronly figure under high-rise jeans and heavy sweaters, but the arm summer sun has melted my wardrobe like the snow and left me exposed. A “muffin top” can be camouflaged by a forgiving top; in a bathing suit, however, there is nowhere to hide the ample padding. So, like many new mothers, I have mixed feelings about my first beach day of the season.
On one hand, my skin is starved for the caress of the warm summer sunlight and salty ocean spray; but on the other hand, the idea of parading around in attire that is usually reserved for my significant other with all my perceived imperfections on display fills me with dread.
Despite this fact, I donned a slimming retro, high-waisted bikini and headed to the beach this past weekend, and under the blazing summer rays, I acquired my first summer sunburn along with some insights about being beach bound with a mombod.
- My stretch marks and scars speak of my story. When I review many of my body’s marks, acts of foolishness or ill-luck come to mind: I have a small tooth mark on my nose from an incident with a husky as a child, a half an inch scar on my calf from a mountain biking accident as a teen, and a lump on my clavicle from a moment when a ski pole met my collarbone during a mini vacation to Sunday River shortly after I graduated from college. The marks left on my human-canvas during pregnancy and birth are different; they will forever remind me of the sweetest moment of my life: the moment I met my child. While they may seem unattractive to the untrained eye, they will be a physical reminder of something beautiful to me.
- My body confidence will affect my child. When I consider the root of my discomfort, an image springs to mind – my own mother standing in front of the mirror, eying herself with discontentment. Even though she doesn’t say it, I can tell she is displeased with what she sees by the way that she narrows her almond shaped eyes and adjust her multicolored wrap skirt over her high-necked purple one-piece several times. Before heading to the beach, I found myself staring into the mirror with that same gaze of disapproval on my face as I tried to find a flattering angle. When I glanced down at my fourteen-month-old daughter, I found her patting her own stomach as she mimicked my motions. I don’t want my child to grow up thinking that her worth is somehow measured by her size and how well she did her hair and makeup that morning. So, next week, when I head back to the coast, the only expression on my face when I catch sight of my bikini clad reflection will be a smile.
- My own glaring “imperfections” are hardly noticeable to the passing eye. To me, the remaining indent from my c-section seems as cavernous as the Grand Canyon; but to the passing onlooker, the slight indentation hardly looks like a divot. I’ve had thirty-odd years to categorize and analyze my perceived imperfections, but the stranger I walked by had less than thirty seconds. Even if they did notice, they likely wouldn’t care because they’re probably spending their time enjoying this long awaited sun-filled outing to worry about the physique or attire of another fellow beach goer.
- Remember the true purpose of the outing: Fun. Like every other beach attendee, I dashed to the sandy shores to have fun, not participate in a fashion show. Instead of obsessing about my appearance, I built sandcastles, dug epic moats, and splashed in the water. The beach will always be the perfect place to rediscover my inner child with my child. I even took a few photographs to capture all of the fun as I imagine that in ten years ago, I will likely be wishing I had this body and this moment back.