Before becoming a mother, I couldn’t quite understand why most women struggled with accepting their postpartum bodies. It baffled me the amounts of pressure placed on women to “snap back” after giving birth. My thoughts were, “You just carried around a watermelon for nine months. Who cares?” But now that I am a mother, I shake my head at my pre-pregnancy self only to say, “If only you knew it’s not that simple.”
My postpartum body is something I am still adjusting to after eleven months. I look in the mirror, and I see a total difference from the slim frame I once had. My once flat belly is now squishy with stretch marks. My breasts are no longer perky. I have clothing that doesn’t fit the same, and this postpartum hair loss just won’t stop.
I try to avoid looking at old pictures of myself because I know that I am no longer that woman. However, Facebook memories will remind me that five years ago today, I was running the beach wearing a cute polka dot bikini. I still have that bikini and it hasn’t been worn since. Which brings me to that time I cried in Target. Yes. That actually happened. My eyes filled with tears while in the bathing suit section of the store.
My husband and I finally found the perfect time to take our family out to the beach. It’s the end of summer. Kids are back in school and the beaches aren’t too crowded. And because it’s Charleston, we still get an amazing summer breeze, despite it being fall. It would be our son’s first time going, and we were beyond excited to share this experience with him. But just as we’re thinking of items we’d need to get our son beach ready, I realized I wouldn’t have anything to wear. I surely didn’t want to wear that old bikini. I settled on just buying an inexpensive bathing suit from the clearance section.
Immediately walking into Target, the first thing I see are the cute bikini tops and their bottoms to match. Everything was marked 30% off. I had it programmed in my mind that bikinis were no longer for me. I just wanted a cute one-piece that had a splash of color. Bypassing the numerous options to mix and match, I found myself in the back of the bathing suit section, hoping to find that colorful one-piece I pictured. With no luck, there were very few in stock and nothing in my size.
I partially blamed myself. It’s out of season. All of the good bathing suits are gone, and now I’m stuck with this. I was trying to convince myself that I was perfectly fine with the striped blue and white halter bikini top. I was able to find the bottom to match, and both were perfectly in my size. My husband crept behind to say, “Well that one is cute. What’s wrong with it?”
I hesitated before answering. I simply inhaled and responded, “I wanted a one-piece, but I’m not finding my size.” His eyes widened, a bit surprised. But I can tell he understood what I was feeling. Cautious of how to proceed, he simply hugged me and gave me a kiss on the forehead.
Cue the waterworks
You know that feeling you get when you’re trying your hardest to fight back tears? Well, that’s what happened. My heart pounded. My mouth became dry. My eyes began to fill, and regardless of how much I tried to fan those tears away, they came rushing down.
For the first time in my life I didn’t feel like me. Before my son, I would joyfully go into the store, pick out a bathing suit, and leave content with my purchase. Most times I didn’t even bother trying anything on, but this time was different. I wasn’t confident. I was uncomfortable, and it really began to take away the excitement I had about our family going to the beach. I was so frustrated with myself that I told my husband I was done shopping. I stormed away from the bathing suit section and straight for the checkout line.
But what did that solve? As we were waiting in line, my mind still reminded me that I didn’t have anything to wear. Am I really going to let my insecurities stop me from having fun with my family on the beach? I glanced back over to the bathing suits, trying to skim through what I would feel slightly comfortable with. The tunics caught my eye. Maybe I can wear that over my polka dot bikini? It may still fit. I got home, tried it on, and it fit. And…I actually looked OK in it.
I admit. It was a challenge to push through my insecurities putting that bikini on, but I had to remind myself that I will never be that same person that I was five years ago. I’m a mom now. I would be so disappointed in myself if I allowed that very moment to steal the joy in seeing my son on the beach. I wore that tunic over my bathing suit and it didn’t even’t matter anymore. It’s one step closer to becoming comfortable with my body. Maybe next year I’ll say screw the tunic and just wear the bikini alone.