Last weekend, at 35 weeks pregnant I pranced around a public pool in a bikini and it was grand. But sharing bare skin with the sun hasn’t always been top on my list of things I love. This has been a journey 25 years in the making.
When I was in middle school my family got a pool. I’m sure my parents imagined that my sister and I would splash around from sunrise to sunset, that our summers would be filled with pool parties and sun-kissed adventures. My sister’s childhood movie may be filled with such wonderful water memories. But not mine.
What came between me and the kind of carefree summer fun every kid dreams of?
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve felt self-conscious in a bathing suit. Even when the pool I was visiting was in my own back yard, I scrutinized my figure and worried what the neighbors would think of me in my bathing suit if they happened to peer over the fence. I didn’t have nosey neighbors. They weren’t peepers or creepers and I’m quite certain now that they could care less about me in my bathing suit.
When friends had pool parties, I pretended to have plans so I didn’t have to go. The few times I sucked it up and went, I’d size up their flaws against mine, walk up to the pool wrapped in a towel, and then quickly toss the towel aside to jump in while no one was looking. I never once threw a pool party. Invite people over to come look at me in a bathing suit? Um, no thank you.
The battle of the bathing suit continued on into high school, college, and beyond. I’ve gone back and forth between one-pieces and bikinis, never really sure what on earth looks good on me. What could actually look good when my entire body is exposed? On the other hand, as a friend of mine put it, “In a one-piece I feel like a fat 12-year-old.”
But last weekend I went to Palm Desert and had a very different experience. In the week preceding, I realized that I didn’t have a proper bathing suit to fit my pretty large belly. I went online but couldn’t find anything modest that would arrive on time. I didn’t want to throw down a wad of cash on a maternity suit anyway, knowing that I’d only wear it this one weekend and then pack it away for some other adventure during pregnancy #2.
What’s a girl to do when she needs a bathing suit, like right now? Go to Target, of course. I was resigned to wearing a bikini. Nothing else would fit, that’s for certain. So, I found a cute top and bottoms that looked okay, and off to the desert I went.
Something strange happened while I was at the pool in my bikini. I felt great. I knew people were staring but I didn’t care. There I was, big, shiny belly exposed while I enjoyed a virgin Pina Colada. When I took a walk to the restroom, I didn’t feel compelled to cover up. I just slipped my flip-flops on and walked over. It was such a different feeling. Liberating! Like, coming clean to the world after hiding for so long–saying, Yeah, this is me. So what of it?
I’m not going to put an Earth Mama spin on it and say that it was because my body is creaaaaaating life and it’s so beauuuuuutiful, yada yada, yada. Or that I feel so fulfilled that I’m beyond caring what other people think about my body, blah, blah, blah.
No, I don’t think it was anything like that. I think that being pregnant has made me realize that my body is pretty remarkable. It can swim, hike, dance like a maniac, and turn upside down in yoga. It can convert all the good food I eat into energy so I can write, sing my heart out in the car, and have deep conversations with my friends. It can move heavy things around the house (when my husband isn’t taking them from me and scolding me for even trying). And my body can make a baby.
Of course, all these things were true before I got pregnant. But it wasn’t until now that I get it. I wonder, what if I keep on believing that my body is remarkable after the baby is born? That my hips are awesome because I can use them to rest a child, a pile of books, or a bag of groceries? That my feet are super fantastic because they can run for miles and miles? That my belly is pretty great because it is round and a little bit squishy–perfect for cats to nap on? What if I take my non-pregnant bikini body out in public after the baby is born to prance around a pool without insecurities? And what if I stop measuring my flaws against those of others and start seeing how pretty freaking great their bodies are too?
I’m not saying I’ll never have a body conscious moment again. It’s bound to happen. I’m human, after all. But what if having a baby was just the thing I needed so I could stop letting my insecurities prevent me from having fun? When it comes down to it, life is like a pool party. I can stand in the background, wrapped in a towel, worrying about what other people think, or I can just drop the towel, walk boldly up to the pool and dive in, flaws and all.
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