They say that having a baby changes everything. And it’s not just from a social, emotional, psychological and personal perspective, but also from a physical one. Your body is stretched, pulled, swollen, sagging and tight, all at the same time. Post-baby, your body tries hard to resume its normal track, but the memory of it all continues to work against you.
I would vouch to say that most women who have birthed a child have a different mental design of the way her body looks post-baby. I am not sure if it has something to do with growing that large that makes you believe that you might not go back or the mere changes you incur during your pregnancy and the first months thereafter, but for me, I have never seen my body the same.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never the girl playing volleyball or Frisbee in a thong at the beach. Truth be told, I avoid any type of fast-paced activity while wearing a bikini. I walk slow, suck in and shuttle into the water using the most direct and less-populated path possible. I’m not sure if I have always been like this, but I certainly know that post-three-kids, every summer, I shudder at the unveiling of my pale body in a bikini. For the first time in over a decade, this year I even purchased a one-piece suit to postpone the dreaded bikini reveal for a few weeks while the rest of me gets at least a healthy shade darker.
But it’s really not something that plagues me. I truly only consider this issue around mid-June each year (or if I hit any tropical zone during the school year). I work out regularly to feel healthy and I eat even more regularly because I love food. Overall, I am satisfied with the shape of my body – there are no real issues – but like many women, there are things I would tighten, nip, tuck or enlarge.
But at the beginning of the summer, knowing with three kids and three free hot summer months, the occurrences of me wearing a bathing suit will be more prevalent than not, so I take an appropriate amount of time to complain about it to my friends.
While doing this the other day, in between a few laughs, my girlfriend stopped me. She noticed something I did not. My 5-year-old daughter was in earshot, coloring nearby. My friend, who happens to be a schoolteacher and a mother of boys, highlighted something I had not thought about -- the passing off of body issues to my young daughter.
I had never thought of this. I am a snarky one, constantly making fun of myself, laughing at my own inadequacies. I am OK doing this. I actually find it quite humorous. But I never thought about the way that those comments might indirectly impact the way my daughter might someday look at herself. Will she be shy in a bikini? Will she slow to a walk along the beach instead of run proudly with her cute little figure? Will the things I say in earshot of my daughter become words she takes to heart and believes as her own?
Every mother can remember her own complicated path to unrestricted self-confidence. It’s another reason why I believe we want our daughters to have boundless opportunities and an overflow of self-esteem to take advantage of them. We want our daughters to speak their mind when it’s not popular, trust their instincts and love the beautiful person looking back at her in the mirror.
If there’s one place where my daughter can get reassurances about her body, her mind and her overall self-esteem, it will be at home, from her dad and me. All too soon, she’ll be bombarded by images in the media, mean girls, bad boys and hormones. And she won’t need to overhear pre-summer quips from her mother of how to not jiggle in a bikini.
I am grateful to my forthcoming friend who highlighted this parenting potential for me. I will be much quicker to keep my body-bashing jokes to an appropriate audience and look out for other ways that I might be passing off one of my hang-ups to a little person, who I believe, possesses none.
But I will also continue to walk in my bikini, as I have done with my post-three-baby figure. And I maintain that this time I might have dodged a bullet when it comes to my June 2012 bikini bashing. As my daughter justified it while on vacation last week, “Mom, I know why you always walk in a bikini … you might fall if you run!”