Bikini Body Revisited

I’m doing it again! Bikinis.

Yep, those scars are mine. My proof of life, of survival, of being beautifully human. And I refuse to hide them.

That’s right, no one-pieces for me. Not even when Endometriosis bloats my belly or when decades-old internal monologues pelt me with insults. But why?

Am I doing to to get attention? Am I doing it to show off my physique? Am I doing it to keep my diet in check? Nope. I’m doing it for my children.

I had four abdominal surgeries, three close-in-age children, breastfed my three offspring well beyond their first year, pumped breastmilk for donation that fed 30 other babies… this body has WORKED. This body has lived and struggled. This body has scars and strength, imperfections and curves, wrinkles and stories. This body deserves not to be hidden under sweaty layers of sandy lycra or regarded as “unworthy.” If it is a divine creation, it should be treated as such, with joyful celebration.

My children — my sons and my daughter — deserve to know that this is the body of a 36-year-old mom of three. That scars are not to be hidden but to be worn as badges of honor, because they mean I survived. That stretch marks are indicators of growth and life. That what makes us different makes us beautiful. That we shouldn’t hide ourselves out of fear of judgment and certainly never out of shame.

My children deserve to know that they should be proud of their own bodies and their own uniqueness. That they should accept others’ individual forms with loving appreciation. Because one day my children will have scars and stretch marks and individualities on their bodies. Because my children will encounter others with their own visible stories. Because one day they may love others whose bodies are different from their own, in one way or another. And I never want my children to regard those sacred memorials of life with anything other than love.

And as much as I’d love to communicate this message to my children from the flaw-hiding comfort of a perfectly ruched one-piece, how can I possibly effectively communicate this message of body acceptance if I am hiding my own frame? If I don’t demonstrate this, live this, and embody this, I cannot expect my children to love themselves and others without aesthetic prejudice. And, so, I must live it unabashedly myself. I must be an example. In a bikini.

When Memorial Day rolled around and Endometriosis had bloated my belly and winter stolen my tan, I truly wanted to reneg on my own self-imposed rule. Just for this summer. But I couldn’t. My children deserved better. I could do better. I had to be better.

So I put on my bikini and my smile. I ran and played and dug in the sun-warmed sand. And it was wonderful.

I wear a bikini because I want my children to see that THIS is a human body, a mother’s body, a real body. That THIS body, too, is beautiful. That THIS body is worthy of being shown and honored not in spite of, but because of, its imperfections.

Thank You, Tattooed Motorcycle Mama!

Once upon a time I was a soon-to-be first-time-mom, ginormously expectant, swollen to the brim, wearing a bikini on a crowded beach. I had never been so confident in my belly, as it had never been so taut. Still, I felt imposing.

I lumbered my sweaty, rotund self to the waves so I could bathe my swollen ankles and feet in the cool water. I was round and puffy and o’so pregnant.

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34-weeks pregnant with my first

I stood there, acutely aware of the eyes upon me. Knowing that my pre-pregnancy bikini was ill-fitted now that I was 34-weeks round. I suspected — but couldn’t see for myself — that the suit now cut off my back tattoo at an odd angle. That fitted parts were now loose and forgiving parts were now one with my flesh.

I began to feel self-conscious. Just as I was about to retreat to my lounge chair, a fit bottle-blonde in a brightly hued bikini sidled next to me. Tattooed to the nines and pierced with abandon, her 5’2″ stature could not contain her overt badassery. She smiled and complimented me on wearing a bikini while pregnant. “I love that you’re rocking your bump.” She said, lowering her sunglasses to get a clearer look at the linea-negra-defined belly. There, by the ocean, we chatted about kids (she had two, I was unmistakably expectant with my hard-won first), work (she inspected Harley Davidson motorcycles, I worked in cubicle farm), breastfeeding (she pumped despite working long hours in a male-dominated environment, I was yet to embark upon my journey), and vacations (she traveled to various locales, I predominantly visited the same family beach.)

Despite our differences, we conversed easily. I admired her. She was tough but kind. She had goals and a self-paved path. She emboldened me with her mere presence. With her beside me, I gave no mind to real or perceived eyes upon me. I was simply a woman chatting by the water on a hot day.

Now, any time I hear an expectant mom lament the dilemma of wearing a two-piece or a nursing mom worry about nursing in public, I wish for them a kind but tough inked soul like my Motorcycle Mama. I wish them the self-confidence and bravery to cast off outside glances, to be able to simply be, to do as they see fit without extraneous pressures weakening their resolve.

You have a swimsuit. You have a body. You have a swimsuit body.

Thank you, Tattooed Motorcycle Mama, for showing me the beauty of literally and figuratively standing beside a fellow mom, bolstering her, showing her that she IS that strong. That she is that brave. That she has nothing to fear. That she can.