Last week we took our toddler away on our first proper family holiday. Although the whole thing was a completely new and exciting experience for us, one reoccurring holiday theme continued for me; the ‘fat-fear’.
In typical style, I had joined Slimming World a couple of months before our break, lost a few pounds but departed for our vacation secretly annoyed that eating spinach and quinoa on three occasions had not turned me into Giselle.
That familiar feeling of dread came flooding back to me on our first day when I put on my swimming costume. But this time, the dread felt so much worse.
Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding has irreversibly altered my body, and although I couldn’t be prouder of what it has achieved, I can’t say that I love or even like the way my body looks now. It appears worn and lived-in. If my body was a vintage cabinet, it would be described as having been ‘distressed’.
But what I lack in body positivity I more than make up for in lack of time to dwell on said insecurities. As soon as I’d hoisted the boobs into the costume, my toddler was dragging me out of the door and in the direction of the pool.
Matters were made infinitely worse later that day when we passed the most perfect-looking Spanish 20-something in her Louis Vuitton bikini; her taught, mocha skin glistening in the sunlight, her long hair gently blowing in the wind. (I’ll stop now before this turns into soft porn).
Meanwhile, looking pasty and white in my Bravissimo costume, my thighs rubbing together so magnificently that it was almost audible, I was sweaty and waddling, carrying a pissing-wet and dripping swim nappy (the toddler’s, not mine, I hasten to add) to the nearest bin.
Sexy Senorita and I couldn’t have been at more opposite ends of the female spectrum. If she was the pot of gold, I was absolutely the leprechaun.
But weirdly, that passing interaction gave me a lot of clarity. It was probably about time to admit to myself that I will never be a 20-year-old Spanish model. And that’s OK. It’s an impossible ideal to live up to. But what I can do is use what I’ve got and get on with it. So much stress over how I looked in a two-piece, or a one-piece, or a no-piece for that matter, wasn’t doing me any good. I am a mum. I have cultivated life inside of me and cannon-balled that creature out into the world. She loves my Pillsbury Doughboy tummy and my soft, pillowy boobs. They are perfect for cuddles. And really, in the grand scheme of things, her opinion should matter more than anyone else’s at this point.
Yes, strangers may glance at my bum and think, ‘you can tell she ain’t missing no meals…and you can also tell she snacks in between meal times too.’ But so what? It’s exhausting spending so much brain power stressing about what other people think of you when there are so many more important things that you can focus your attentions on.
I didn’t immediately rip off my costume and spend the rest of the holiday as a nudist, and I did still feel niggling bouts of self-consciousness. But I’m so glad I didn’t let it interfere with me getting on with my life and enjoying the first holiday with my little family. Building your first sand castle with your child matters so much more than thigh circumference. And when my husband took some photos of me playing with our toddler in the pool, although I’m not in love with what I see when I look at my body in these photos, I’m also not going to stress out about it either. It is my body. It is the only one I have. And it is capable of greatness.
So here it is…my summer body in all its wobbly glory.
I’m not posting this picture because I secretly feel good about the way I look and I want to show-off, and I’m not looking for attention or praise. In reality, it’s downright bloody embarrassing! But if sharing a picture of me squeezing my size 16 bum into a swimming costume can make just one new mum feel more confident about putting her cossie on and getting out there, then it will be worth it.