It was just about six weeks past my fourth c-section. All that vile, nasty postpartum bleeding had finally come to a halt. I was about to jump into the pool with my sons.
With a tinge of excitement, I looked at the glistening water before me. The all too familiar smell of chlorine tickled my nose as I twisted my hair into a messy bun. I looked at the bright paisley printed poolside dress that I was wearing over the neon pink Victoria’s Secret bikini I had on. It was my favourite swimsuit that I had bought while on vacation in Florida two years ago.
I was starting to take off my dress when suddenly I froze. Maybe it was just for a split second; an infinitesimal pause not just in time but also in my confidence when I had a gripping realisation that my body didn’t look anything like it did when I bought that swimsuit.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel confident in my swimsuit.
My sons’ raucous laughter broke my thoughts. They were already at the entrance of the pool, splashing their feet in the water. At that very instant, I dismissed my thoughts and ran towards them.
And nothing felt as empowering as that moment when I took control of my insecurities and refused to let them get in the way of me living every moment to the fullest. The moment when I fought against the limitations of my mind coming in the way of me enjoying every bit of what life has to offer.
Because ten years from now I will not remember that I felt insecure about my body right after giving birth. I will not remember how terrible I thought I looked in my swimsuit. Instead, I will remember the beautiful memories I made in that pool, with my children. I will remember the smile on their faces and their squeals of excitement when I splashed water on them. I will remember them throwing their arms around my neck and smothering me with chlorinated kisses.
Years from now I will look back at these precious moments, not how I looked in a swimsuit.
And that compelled me to write this to every mother who is hesitating to walk out of the shower room in her swimsuit.
Some women bounce back into shape shortly after having a baby. Most women don’t. Some women feel confident and beautiful in spite of the tremendous change their body has gone through. Many women don’t. Some women don’t quite care about those extra rolls or bulges. Most women do.
The first time you put on a swimsuit after having a baby, you will inevitably feel plagued with insecurities. Your once smooth, firm and taut skin feels loose. Your once toned arms and legs feel wobbly. Your once perky breasts now feel as if they are succumbing to the pull of gravity.
You look at yourself in the mirror and cringe at what you see. You don’t recognize yourself.
You feel like a shadow of your former glory. You feel like you are stuck in someone else’s body.
It doesn’t help that the beautiful eighteen-year-old at the other end of the pool is turning heads in her bikini. You look at her and feel nostalgic. You think to yourself:
That was once me, full of exuberance, undulating to the rhythm of life. Where did that part of me go?
You cling on to your beach towel and to the memories of the time you once loved and felt confident about your body. You’ve heard all those stories of moms who embrace their postpartum bodies and find themselves beautiful just the way they are.
Not all moms embrace their postpartum bodies. Some struggle to accept it.
You look at yourself wide-eyed and cannot for the life of you fathom how you can possibly feel beautiful about the way your body looks right now.
You know what? That’s perfectly ok. In spite of what everyone tells you about loving your post baby body and embracing your imperfections, it’s fine if you don’t. Maybe the stark contrast between your body now and then is like day and night and there is no way you can embrace or love this difference.
You don’t have to, you really don’t.
It can take you anywhere between a month, a year or even a decade to regain your confidence, to accept and to love your body again. Or you may never feel the same confidence about your body ever again. It doesn’t matter. I assure you that you will work around it and figure it out as you go along.
But I urge you not to stop living your life to the fullest. I urge you not to avoid swimming because you don’t feel good in a swimsuit. I urge you not to avoid that ball because you can’t find a dress that fits. I urge you not to take a rain check on that photoshoot your girlfriends want to do, because you feel like you look terrible.
While you look at yourself through the lens of insecurity, here is what everyone around you sees.
When you jump into that pool, they do not see an abomination in a swimsuit. Instead, they see the unadulterated beauty of a mother-and child relationship. They see the child in your arms, looking deep into your eyes with love and adoration. That is beautiful.
When you attend that ball, they do not see the Spanx beneath your dress or the fact that your size zero is now a six. Instead, they see an undeniable womanly charm emanating from you. That is beautiful.
When you pose for that photoshoot, they do not see your eye bags, grey hair and crowfeet at the sides of your eyes. Instead, they see the years of friendship and camaraderie that you and your friends have built. They see a bunch of girls who have traversed the obstacles and grown into fine women. They see the wealth of experience and memories that you share. That is beautiful.
Go ahead and put on nice clothes, take those pictures and have a good time. Don’t let your insecurities make you shy away from the best parts of life.
I cannot convince you that your body is beautiful right now. But I can convince you that you are beautiful. I can convince you that what life has to offer you is beautiful. And when your beautiful self seizes all the beauty that life has to offer, the result is nothing short of beauty at its finest.
As for your body, if you grow to love it as it is that’s fine. Otherwise, think of it as a work in progress and eventually you will shed those extra pounds. Everyone has different priorities at different points in their lives.
After my second child, when I was just 28, all I wanted was to get back in shape and feel confident. Breastfeeding was not at the top of my priority list. I worked out diligently, watched every single thing that went into my mouth, and often skipped nights out because I would much rather go for a run.
Within six months I had lost all my baby weight, had rock hard abs and felt mighty good about myself. I didn’t regain lost confidence. I redefined confidence and felt it like I never had before.
I was proud of my these abs after 2 c-sects, but they definitely came with a price to pay. It took a lot of sacrifice.
After my third child, maybe it had to do with turning 30, I don’t know, but I had a completely different outlook towards life. Breastfeeding was my utmost priority. When I found that working out too much affected my milk supply, I stopped working out so much. I indulged in that occasional slice of cake, and had my nights out whenever I wanted. I chose to spend my time in more ways than working out every single day.
I breastfed my son until he turned two, which is also when I delivered my fourth child. He continues to nurse until today. My abs are no longer rock hard, in fact, I wonder if I’ll ever see them again.
I have gladly embarked on a new phase in life – tandem nursing my two year old son and my newborn daughter. I am constantly hungry and snacking. I feel like I have a few extra pounds that look like they are there to stay for some time.
But I feel happy and complete in an unprecedented manner so I’m fine with that. For now. I want to enjoy this phase with my little troop. I want to cherish every eyelash kiss and tickle. I want to hug a little longer and love a little harder. And when this phase passes, and my children need me a little less, then I’ll revisit my abs.
In many ways, the changes that our bodies undergo mirror the changes that we go through in the different phases of life.
It’s hard to accept how profoundly things can change. It’s tough to accept how dramatically different we look. But I assure you that with time it gets easier. Of course getting easier doesn’t mean it gets easy, but you just learn to deal with it.
Having said that, you don’t have to let go of yourself completely. Do what you can to always be the best version of yourself. When you feel low, stare at your reflection defiantly and chant this mantra:
I’m not perfect, I have dark circles under my eyes and my hair is all over the place. My waistline has expanded from a 25 to 27 and my arms need some serious toning. But I’m real. I’m not a product of filters, photoshop and crash dieting. I’m no longer a girl, I’m a woman. I’m a mom. I nourish a child. I feed, clothe, bathe and educate one or a few little people. I run my home. I put food on the table. And in spite of all this, I do what I can to always present the best version of myself. And I think I look pretty damn good.
Now that’s the confidence a mom needs.
So the next time you feel lousy about wearing a swimsuit or the next time you feel like obliterating the word swimming from your vocabulary, I urge you to jump back into the driver’s seat of your life and happiness. Do not let your insecurities steer you off the road to a happy and meaningful life.
Remember. Life is beautiful. You are beautiful. What you make out of your beautiful life is beyond beautiful.
This article was originally published on theAsianparent Singapore.
READ: “I am finally learning to be proud of my body and my stretch marks…”
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