Bathing suits. The worst, right? I loved them as a teenager – I had a borderline obsessive collection of bikinis all meant to show off my adolescent figure untouched by pregnancy, breastfeeding, age or the unexpected. But three children – three c-sections – a few too many extra pounds and a whole lot of negative self-talk later, bathing suits became the enemy.
I was no longer choosing swimwear based on cute patterns or trendy styles but by what camouflaged my rounder tummy and what held the position of my deflated boobs. Even then, I covered up whenever I could. Standing in front of a mirror in a bathing suit was the hardest time I had seeing myself – worse than being naked because I wasn’t putting my naked body out into the world for other people to silently pass judgment on.
Fast forward to my injury and bathing suits got harder for me. I would love to say that once the wheelchair came into play I just said “to hell with it, I’ll wear what I want” but it was more difficult than ever for me to feign confidence and put myself out there – especially in a bathing suit.
It’s taken me a long time to find confidence in my body and it’s definitely still a work in progress. I find that I still compare myself to other moms or other women in chairs who are all rocking their bikinis and flat stomachs, but I know that’s not me. And that will have to be ok. I’ve accepted that I wont be winning any sort of bikini contests – partly because I don’t plan on entering – and I may only turn heads because I’m rolling down the beach in a wheelchair. But I’m swimming with my kids, I’m getting some sunshine on my pale, Canadian skin and I’m having fun! Most importantly I’m surrounded by people who love me and don’t care what I look like in a bathing suit. And this particular one is pretty cute! The best part is that it keeps my boobs under control so they don’t fall out and scare any young children – an important feature I look for in a bathing suit after one (or two) unfortunate flashing scenarios. But I digress.
Yes, my body has been changed by pregnancies and injury and other realities of life that take a physical toll. Yet I know my circumstances are not all to blame for how I look. There is work I could do – work I continue to do – to change my body, but it’s a slow and difficult process and I need to show myself grace. Sure there are weight goals and fitness goals but, the ultimate goal? To have confidence in who I am, as I am. Right now. Bathing suit and all.