I Am Worthy: Bikini Body Vow

After having three kids in under four years, after turning 35, after having four abdominal surgeries, I thought bikinis were off limits. Then I realized I was being an idiot.


When I see women and girls of all ages and sizes, shapes and forms baring it in a bikini, I appreciate them and their individual beauty. Scars, cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, rolls, rib bones, freckles, skin variations… it doesn’t matter what the wearer looks like, I think she’s fabulous. I have yet to see a bikini wearer and think she is unworthy of the ensemble. So why did I deem myself unworthy?

I told myself I was too scarred, too imperfect, too “Mom” for a bikini. I knew how physically comfortable bikinis were but how mentally challenging they could be (especially now that I didn’t constantly have a crying/sleeping/cuddling/nursing baby blocking my midsection from view.) Yet one-pieces didn’t feel right either, and were way too uncomfortable. I’d look at matronly maillots and moan, but see a two-piece and think: “I can’t wear that.” Until I asked myself: “Why not?”

Why was everyone else a reasonable bikini body candidate except for me? Why did I berate myself whenever I donned a two-piece? Why was I unworthy?


Because I had scars? Because I was insecure? Because I was imperfect? Because I was a mom? But aren’t those the exact reasons I SHOULD wear a bikini?

Being scarred meant I’d survived. I’d lived. That my body had surpassed hurdles and won. Did I really want to hide that? Did I want my children to think that their own scars were ugly? That these signs of life should be hidden? Did I want my children to view themselves or others as lesser because of their external marks?


Being imperfect was being human. Being imperfect was being unique. Individual. I told my children to take pride in their individuality. Should I not value my own? Could my children  truly honor their own uniqueness if their mother lamented and hid her own?


Being insecure meant I should counter my desire to hide my perceived imperfections and, instead, love them if not simply accept them. Society tells us that surgical scars are grotesque, that stretch marks are unattractive, that an imperfect midsection is unworthy of exposure. Did I want to impart those demeaning messages onto my children?


Being a mom meant I needed the utilitarianism of a two-piece bathing suit (Hello, peeing in a public pool restroom with a toddler resting his fingers on the door lock!) It meant I likely required a different size top and bottom. It meant I’d earned every damn stretch mark and scar I had. It meant this body didn’t just do… it MADE. This body grew and birthed three lives, sustained those lives through breastmilk for a minimum of a year and a half each, and nourished 30 other babies through peer-to-peer milk donation. Was that achievement not to be celebrated? Did I want to show my children that the remnants of their creation, the souvenirs of their births, the signs of their nourishment were shameful? Should I indicate that the raw strength and soft beauty of a postpartum body are to be concealed? To be hidden in disgust?


Realizing the idiocy of it all, I said: SCREW SOCIETY! Heck, screw myself for believing that slop and imposing it on myself! I made a vow to myself — for my children — that I would wear only bikini bathing suits (no one-pieces) all summer in order to show to them and myself that all bodies are beautiful, that scars are a sign of survival — of life lived –, that moms are beautiful too.


At first I felt jittery with my midriff bared at the pool and then at the beach. I had to silence that internal voice telling me others were judging. I reminded myself: so what if they were! That’s their problem, not mine. Others’ thoughts — perceived or real — were none of my business and shouldn’t confine me.

Day after summery day, I became more comfortable. More confident. I was content in my own skin. I rocked my scars. I shrugged off any jiggle. I smiled at the stretch marks. I owned my physique. I was standing as an example for my children to accept themselves and others as beautiful individuals. I was happy.


I don’t want my children feeling lesser because of their scars; I want them to rock them as badges of honor! I don’t want my children feeling ashamed of their bodies; I want them to cherish them as gorgeously unique vessels! I want my children to appreciate others’ uniqueness as well. Because we’re all different. And different is beautiful. Scars, sags, stretch marks, and all.


I’m a 35-year-old mom with scars and, yes, I wear a bikini. Because I’m scarred. Because I’m imperfect. Because I’m a mom. Because I’m worthy.

Ode to my Bellybutton


Outtie, innie, in-between,

Pierced, tattooed, scarred, and clean.

Lint-catcher, clone-teller,

Peek-a-boo shirt hider,

Even an exit for an evicted gallbladder.

Once just a scar from infancy,

Then a natural bikini accessory.

After three pregnancies, back-to-back,

My dear bellybutton is a sorry old sack.

Three times my innie sprung out: “Chicken’s done!”

With a linea negra just for fun.

Two times it deflated to its original state,

Then I got greedy with the third inflate.

Baby weight gone, I reached my weight goal,

But my bellybutton resembled a saggy butthole.

“What the hell?” I thought, “do you get wrinkle cream,”

“For a snarled bellybutton? Is that even a thing?”

Like a the neck of a t-shirt,

Old, stretched, and worn,

If I slouch so does my button, wrinkled, forlorn.

Vagina, hips, breasts, and sleep,

All anticipated losses of pregnancy.

Hair, feet, and sciatic nerves,

Reasonable offerings for babies birthed.

But a bellybutton? This I didn’t see,

Going the way of the piddle-free sneeze.

Multiple babies grown and birthed,

But, what the fuck, bellybutton? This is absurd.

Whatever. I’m a mom rocking snot-covered T’s,

Non-workout yoga pants and snack-smeared hoodies.

I have stretch marks and stray hairs and c-section scars.

Perineal war wounds and a mom glare that can mar.

My windows are covered in finger and nose prints.

I can breastfeed a baby while matching toddler sprints,

My arms are tired at the end of each day.

My heart is filled beyond words can say.

My life is beautiful and disgusting and blessed.

Oh, what the hell, bellybutton, you tried your best.




16 Tips and Life Hacks for New Parents

Being a new parent is tough. How do you survive? What should you buy? What should you do? Here are 15 tried-and-true tips to new parents from this mom of three close-in-age kids.

1. Expect the first month to be sleepless. Don’t fight it. Don’t lament it. Just push through it and own it. It gets easier. Those frequent feedings and nighttime interactions are needed, not just for milk supply building and bonding (if you’re breastfeeding), but for stability. You are all your baby has ever known and now he’s in a big new world without any way of comforting himself besides you. (Plus, frequent waking helps prevent SIDS.) This hardship will end, and will soon exist simply as a hazy memory in your distant past.


2. White baby socks only. A former coworker once advised me to only buy white baby socks because babies always lose one sock and matching tiny foot mits is mind-numbing. Being a know-nothing-know-it-all, I shunned the advice and opted for cute printed toe coverings. I paid the price. There were numerous half-loads of laundry entirely comprised of widowed baby socks. Do you know how many baby socks can fit in a standard clothes washer? A metric f’ing shit-ton, that’s how many. Just get a heap of white baby socks and simplify your life.


3. Pop a pee pad under Peewee. In the early little-sleep, countless-diapers days, save yourself some nighttime trouble and pop an adhesive-backed absorbent incontinence pad under your infant insomniac. The pad lays flush against the fitted sheet but saves you from stripping Baby’s bed in the middle of the night due to spit-up, blow-out, or soak-through messes. Just peel off the soiled absorbent applique, toss it, and stick on a fresh sheet protector. If your breasts are leaky, consider puting one under you as well.

4. Go old school on burp cloths. Don’t waste money on pricey pretty burp cloths. Go bleachable and absorbant. Grab a few packs of flat-fold cloth diapers. Your wallet and shirts will thank me.

5. Divide to survive. Division of  labor in the home is paramount when children are involved but nighttime is the real battleground. It’s easy for one parent to be saddled with all of the duties if the other has responsibilities outside of the home. This, though, is a marriage killer. Divide duties, share in the suffering, stay together. One parent diapers, one parent feeds. No one escapes infancy unscathed. If there are older children still waking at night, one parent is charged with the elders and one with the baby. The division of labor will strengthen your partnership. Giving all responsibilities to one parent weakens the bond, and you have enough riding against you with your massive life change. You need all the unified strength you can muster.


6. One carseat per car. If you have two cars, each child should have two car seats (an infant can use one car seat with one car seat base per vehicle.) Playing car seat hokey-pokey is an unnecessary pain in the ass that can easily be avoided. Plus, emergency situations do happen… no one needs to be installing a car seat then.

7. Babywear. Bonding, easy feeding, two free hands, protection from germs and grabby strangers, enhanced core strength, no-bra camouflage… the list of reasons why to babywear is lengthy. Go try out a few carriers via a babywearing group or borrowing from friends, and make the leap.


8. Shit happens; size up. Size up diapers sooner rather than later. Frequent blowouts often indicate too small diapers. There’s no reason to keep using too small diapers. Many stores offer store credit, if not cash back, for unopened packs of diapers.

9. Press pause on gripe water. Food journal if your breastfed baby seems colicky. Don’t immediately jump to gripe water. There’s often a reason behind fussiness that can be addressed, a shoddy latch or mama’s food intake are two likely suspects. Anything from beans to dairy can be a possible belly bugger for baby. So opt to food journal before you dose your little one.

10. Just buy a Nose Frida. Sucking your baby’s boogers out through a tube…sounds gross. Get over it. It’s not. (You never come into contact with the suctioned snot. I promise.) It’ll actually be the one opportunity your boogery offspring won’t share mucus with you. This is a must-buy.


11. Medicine cabinet at the ready. Besides the Nose Frida, saline drops or spray, a humidifier, and age-appropriate infant pain reliever should be on hand. Even more importantly, know your pediatrician’s recommended medication dosage for your child because kids are more likely to get sick at 2AM on a holiday weekend than at 11AM on a Tuesday.

12. No formula samples. While pregnant, you’re often sent sample cans of formula. It’s easy to think having them on hand just in case breastfeeding goes awry would be smart. It’s not. Don’t have formula on hand if you plan to breastfeed. If you were going on a life change dietary shift, would you keep your forbidden foods in the house? No because that’s self-sabotage. Breastfeeding may be “natural” but it is hard. With the first baby you’re both wholly new to the endeavor, and even with subsequent children you’re both new that that unique nursing relationship. There’s no shame in formula usage — it’s there for a reason — but if your goal is to breastfeed, don’t enter into the undertaking with your bailout shoot at the ready. If you wind up truly needing formula despite your best efforts, pharmacies exist. Don’t give yourself an out before you even started.


13. Breastfeed without fear. While baby is in-utero, use that time to amp yourself up, prepare family and friends, do what you need to do to make sure you enter breastfeeding with a “no shame” attitude. Use a cover if you wish… or don’t. But don’t build yourself unnecessary hurdles by pumping to bottle feed in public simply because you’re skittish. Forget being a warrior goddess, be a tough mother. Breastfeed proudly and don’t get in your own way.

14. Get the help you need. PPD/PPA and postpartum PTSD are real. I can personally attest to their existence. I can also proclaim how horrid it is not getting the help you need because you’re so focused on having your shit together. You just created and birthed a human, you’re not sleeping, you create more milk and hormones than cohesive trains of thought, you upended your life and toppled your worldview… your shit is NOT together. It’s not supposed to be together. Maternity leave is not just for physical recovery and bonding but psychological healing. Get counseling if you need it. Get lactation support if you need it. Get a housekeeper if you need it. Take care of you so you can take care of everyone else.

15. Be a partner to your partner. In the chaos of new-parenthood, your romantic relationship is more likely than not to get thoroughly trampled. Make sure that’s temporary by making efforts to repair the damage. Your sex drive may be nonexistent. You may suffer some degree of sexual dysfunction. You will be tired and hormonal and tapped out and touched-out and edgy and covered in bodily fluids that are both yours and not. You may feel unattractive. You may feel sore. Whatever your state, make time for the two of you. Whether it’s crumbling onto the sofa to watch a show at the end of the day, or waking up early to have coffee together. Whatever it is, do it. Make. It. Happen. You will not regret it.


16. Try to enjoy it. This will be a blur of spit-up, diaper blowouts, sleepy cuddles, precious coos, and endless loads of laundry, but it goes fast. So fast. And your baby is only a baby once. Some moments you appreciate that this is a one-time fleeting arrangement but, in too-short time, you will look back wistfully grappling for puzzle piece memories. Take a breath. Reframe for the positive. And breathe in the baby scent. This will all be over soon.



Survival Tips for First-Time-Dads

First-time-dads, I have some survival tips for you. You may be aware that a new baby means changes in your life but, as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”


Help. Your partner just birthed a human. If she’s nursing, she is simultaneously trying to physically, emotionally, and mentally heal all while sustaining another human life with that same fatigued body. You need to step up your game and pitch in. Take on at least two daily chores and don’t expect praise for doing so. Wash breast pump parts or bottle parts, cover bathtime duty, do laundry all the way from washer to folding, do the dishes, cook meals… just do it.

Competence. Do not play the incompetent man card. Just don’t. It demeans everyone. You helped create the child, you help parent the child. You’re scared and self-doubting? Practice makes perfect. If you need a break, make sure your partner gets one too. This is a team effort.

Encouragement. Your partner needs you to be her biggest cheerleader. Your baby needs you to lift up that mama in spirit. Remind her that she’s doing great, that she’s loved and smart and beautiful. She needs to hear that you’re right there with her loving her through all of the painful, embarrassing, and unglamorous postpartum woes. Tell her that she’s strong and competent. She may not accept your compliments but keep at it. She needs to hear it. Be that non-judgmental, safe place for her. Be her partner.

Support. If your baby is experiencing feeding issues this will affect your partner more deeply than you may comprehend. She just grew and nourished that child for the better part of a year, not being able to easily feed that same baby now that he/she is in her arms is dumbfounding. The guilt, anger, shame, and sadness that come with feeding issues (not to mention physical pain) are burdensome. If nursing issues are at play, encourage the expert support of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant  (these medical professionals are trained beyond your standard Lactation Consultant. You can find one local to you here.) If your partner is exclusively pumping, wash the breast pump parts, buy extra sets of pump parts to lessen the need for quick wash-and-dry turnaround, make her a snack when she’s pumping, make sure her water bottle is never empty, encourage her, praise her. If she is formula feeding, you feed as often as she does and take over washing duty. She needs you. The baby needs you.

Jealousy. In all likelihood at some point within the first month postpartum you will become jealous of the baby. I know that sounds ridiculous now — almost as utterly ludicrous as those sentiments will sound to your partner when you experience them — but it’s bound to happen. Right now you are the center of your partner’s affections. You are her best friend, confidant, and Netflix buddy. When baby comes, you will be bumped back a post. That nudge to end of the line may feel harsh and unfair, but it is necessary. The baby is helpless and requires parental attention and affection to survive. This is precisely why nature has employed hefty doses of mind- and body-altering hormones to change your once sultry and affable partner into a leaky, exhausted, overtly maternal she-beast… baby needs her in order to survive. As abandoned as you may feel, you are an adult and will survive. Keep being there for her and she’ll return to you again once the baby haze dissipates.

Exhaustion. When I say “exhaustion” you’re likely thinking “really tired.” Like that night-turned-day back in your youth when you were out until 6am then chugged a Red Bull, hit up McDonald’s breakfast, and powered through your daily grind. But you know what was different back then? 1) Youth… being younger makes you more resilient, 2) choice… you personally chose to stay up all night, 3) infrequency… you stayed up like that on occasion, not 3 weeks in a row, 4) rest… pre-baby, you could take it easy and rest after a long night but not now. The tired you are about to feel will undermine every good quality, every value, every shred of intellect and self-control you possess. When you hit a certain level of stress and sleep deprivation you land at a rock bottom zombie mode of existence. But you, my friend, are not healing from birthing a human you grew in your body, bleeding profusely from your nether regions, leaking from your nipples, or presently existing with breast milk and hormones being your predominant body composition. Think twice before taking that nap ahead of your healing partner. You may be tired but she is positioned at a whole new level of fatigue. (Plus, she’s hormonal… don’t mess with that.)

Hormones. The word likely makes you think of body builders and PMS. Your partner’s body is in a state of flux. The amount of hormones coursing through her system paired with the stress and sleeplessness of new-motherhood has her living life as an alien being. She will get angry quickly and cry suddenly. She will feel anxious and agitated then flip back to calm and loving. It is best to keep a closed mouth and an open heart. Remember, this is not her acting like a maniac over improperly scrubbed breast pump parts, it’s the hormones. Leave your ego at the door and pull on some extra layers of patience. Empathy would do you well now.

PPD/PPA. “Baby blues” are to be expected. Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety are another level of sadness and agitation. They are more common than we often think. Many women go undiagnosed and only realized years later that their suffering could have been helped. Know the signs of PPD and PPA.

Doubt. Every single parent has a moment or week when he or she thinks, “Did we make a huge mistake?” Don’t feel guilty or lesser for that. It is an entirely normal and natural thought. The feeling will pass. You will adjust. Life will even out. Remember, your entire life just changed over night. You, your partner, your perspectives, your goals, your aspirations, and your worldviews will be affected by this shift. It is the most beautiful and wonderful adjustment that will ever touch your life. Know it will get easier… this is good change.

Patience. Parenthood requires a level of patience you never thought you had. Patience through the good stages and bad stages, the disgusting phases and tiring phases. Patience with yourself and your partner  Patience with physical recovery and return to flexibility. Patience with a return to intimacy and mastering the learning curve. You’ll get there. It’ll get easier. You can truly enjoy it, if you actively choose to do so. Just be patient.

Bond. Skin-to-skin isn’t just for mom and baby. It has remarkable calming and bonding effects on fathers and offspring too. After baby is fed and changed, shoo mom off to take a nice, warm shower while you and baby rest shirtless, tummy-to-tummy on the sofa. You’ll soon find out why moms love sleeping baby cuddles… the hormones’ blood pressure lowering, calming effect is euphoric. Enjoy!

Savor. Some stages seem to last eons. Some phases seem like they’ll never end, but they do. They all do. Take the good with the not-so-good, and cherish it. This is a fleeting time. Take pictures, take time, take a break from the grind and experience this new life of yours. Children are only small but for a moment. Don’t let their babyhood flit by without notice.

Laugh. If you want to retain some semblance of sanity and composure, learn to laugh at yourself. There’s no need to take it all so seriously. Your kid will neither be the first nor last (that day) to meltdown in Target. Your inside-out shirt with a spit-up streak down the back, which you wore half of the day without noticing, deserves nothing short of a belly laugh. You can choose how you respond to life’s blips — yell, scream, stomp, cry, blame, or laugh — laughing is the funnest. Don’t be that guy who flips out because there’s a shin-level snot streak on his jeans. Just laugh.

Love. You are going to experience a level of love you never knew possible. A deep, unconditional, fear-inducing, beautiful adoration that will carve its way through you and your life and reshape everything perfectly. The adjustment may be scary and challenging at first but it will be more worthwhile than anything else in your life.

Parenthood is brutal and exhausting, enlightening and unpredictable, stressful and blissful. It is a partnership between parent and child as well as between significant others. It requires internal and external support, great personal fortitude, vast patience, and an open mind.

You are about to see the world in a whole new light. Fresh breath will be infused into the everyday. The mundane will become miraculous and the unusual simply extraordinary. Survive it and savor it for it goes all too quickly.

You can do this. Congratulations!

Personal Style Crisis

It happens every time. Some time around when Baby starts walking, I have a personal style crisis.

2016-09-05 08.49.47

The problem is I have certain wardrobe demands: function (nursing-friendly and washable), flatter (highlights the right parts and downplays the other parts), and fit (not too short, too tight, too baggy, too restrictive… basically not “too” anything.) Boob access is still a requirement, as my 1-year-old still nurses on demand, so that rules out most dresses and many tops. I’ve lost the baby weight, so my postpartum wardrobe of roomy tunics and tummy-smoothing leggings are unappealing. However, I have a new body shape after having grown, carried, delivered, and nourished another human. It’s like being a teenager learning to dress all over again, but this time with a c-section scar and leaky breasts. I’m lost.

I hit up online stores — because shopping for clothes with my troublesome trio is more chaotic than constructive — and peruse Pinterest. I pin with abandon. Striped t-shirt dresses topped with jean jackets, skater dresses and motorcycle jackets, jeans and Ts with military jackets… cute and comfy but not exactly nursing-friendly (lest I stretch out every hem and neckline.)

Every morning, I reluctantly enter my closet. I feel utterly underwhelmed by my heaping mishmash of clothing sizes from 4 to 12. The clothes archive where I’ve been in size and life season — newlywed young adult, corporate cubicle-dweller, working mom, pregnant mom, newly postpartum mom, breastfeeding mom, exercising mom, socializing mom — but it doesn’t quite define me now.

Those dark wash flare jeans three sizes too big, those business-casual trousers, those tummy-flattening leggings… not me. The corporate blouses, the exercise tanks, the billowy cotton tunics… nope. The suede flats, the towering wedge knee-high boots, the platform heels… ha!

So, I consider hauling up my bin of old stand-bys. The plastic box labeled “Caitlin’s Non-Nursing Clothes” full of Gap v-neck Ts, Target tank tops, neutral sweaters, and striped boatneck tops. The style equivalent of a sigh.

“What in my closet makes me happy?” I ask myself. My vibrant Flying Tomato maxi skirts. Without a doubt, they are my favorites. Still, one can only wear them so often.

Part of me wants to overhaul my closet. Raze the mass of unflattering, unfitting, unsuitable fabric and start fresh. But what would I wear in place of it all? How would I possibly afford to replace it? Three printed skirts and a handful of nursing camis cannot a wardrobe make.

Back to Pinterest I go. Maybe I’ll find myself on another’s Pintrest board. Until then, I’ll feign an intense daily exercise regiment by donning active wear.