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.

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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?

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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?

No.

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?

No!

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?

NO!

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?

NO!!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mama Nook: A Space for Me

Man cave, nursery, playroom, home gym, craft space, reading nook, media room, mudroom… there’s a spot in homes for just about anything. But what about a place for me?

As Mom — the driver of carpool, the wiper of noses (and butts), the planner and purchaser and cooker of meals, the calendar wrangler, the referee, the boo-boo kisser, the nightmare banisher — do I not deserve a place for myself? I share my bed, my bathroom (and Lord knows the kids’ bath toys take up more realestate in the “master” bathroom than any pampering products), and every surface with everyone. It’d be nice to have a little cranny that was just mine.

This past August, as I lamented the nearing return of school days and extracurriculars, trading the beach cooler for backpacks and sand for pavement, I knew I had to do something. I had to find a way to bring the sea home with me. But how?

Easy: daily yoga! Each beach morning I sandied my yoga mat and did seaside asanas and meditation. But at home, my yoga endeavors took place in my husband’s home office in the family room. I had already learned that seagulls are better suited to being a yoga audience than a toiling spouse. So, how to resolve this?

Move The Hubs! I talked with my less-than-enthusiastic partner about relocating his home office from the darkest end of the family room to the window-side, well-separated alcove in our oversized bedroom. He could be an entire floor away from kid chaos and natural light would do wonders for workday malaise, I mused. Ever-supportive, he agreed.

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I rearranged the family room, removed all of the clutter, and, in the sliver of space between the sofa back and the large window, I laid a yoga mat. With that swath of purple foam, I had staked my claim.

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First, just family photos and a tall houseplant populated the deep windowsill. Next, a salt lamp then a bundle of sage joined the display. Soon, I replaced old room decor that had long ago lost its luster with photos and art that spoke to my personal aspirations and our family life.

The Hubs made me a small shell-strewn tabletop waterfall to provide the water element I so missed from my beach yoga practice. I added a few more plants and a couple more tchotchkes that spoke to me, framed the heart-shaped dried leaf my middle son had proudly given me, and my space felt more complete.

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It’s my sanctuary. My sacred space. My (mostly) quiet spot. My yoga nook.

I found a place for me. Where can you make your own Mama Nook?

Where can you carve out a space — no matter how little — that is just for you? You deserve a room, a closet, corner, or even just a shelf where you can retreat in order to center yourself, fuel yourself, feel peace, be inspired, remind yourself that you matter too. Because, mama, we may make miracles happen every day, but we cannot pour from an empty cup.

Is there space for you in your life? In your home? Sure there is! Go find it. Claim it. Make it yours.

You deserve it.

 

 

Scars of Victory

Scars. Everyone has them. Whether from tragedy, clumsiness, or medical procedure, we all have some line, dent, or mark that tells part of our story. Still, people lament the marks, cover them, tattoo over them, regard them as embarassing imperfections. They wish them away and fret their revelation. But scars are not just pieces of our anatomy, dog-earred notations of our life chapters, and signs of our struggles. They are proof of our victories.

I have numerous scars. Some from good times and others from bad times, some tie to strong recollections and others mental blurs. However, one of my most obvious scars has been with me since almost the beginning.

You see this scar here? Some might hide it. I own it. Sure, I’ll never have a “perfect stomach.” Instead, I’ll have MY stomach. I still rock a two-piece swimsuit when I feel so inclined. I’m not hiding it.

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That scar came from a life-saving surgery I endured as an infant. I survived corrective surgery for plyoric stenosis (a genetic malformation of part of the digestive tract that causes all food to be forcefully regurgitated instead of digested.) That scar is proof that I am a survivor. It is just as much a part of me as my nose and my laugh.

I don’t hide it. I don’t lament it. It is simply a part of me. It may not be pretty, but not everything in life is.

What I hope for you is acceptance of your scars. You needn’t “rock” your scars, if that’s not within your comfort zone, but I hope you at least won’t be embarrassed by them. I hope you own them. I hope you realize you are braver, stronger, wiser, and emotionally richer because of them. They are signs that you have survived, grown, overcome, lived.

Instead of framing hard-won or regrettable scars as reminders of challenging times, regard them as badges of badassery. Trophies of success, determination, fortitude. They’re nature’s tattoos, showing the world — and you — that you are more than just a delicate flower. You are force, a beautifully unique collection of experiences and growth. Whatever lead to that scar shaped you. Love yourself. Love your scars.

Scars are not blemishes. They’re proof of victory.

You won.