Since I became a mother nearly six years ago, I’ve read and heard all sorts of horrid stories about women — not all, but many, mothers — who have been publicly shamed for their choice to continue to wear a bikini to the beach or pool, and it really pisses me off. Until last summer, I hadn’t worn a one-piece swimsuit since I was 11 years old. One-pieces are not particularly flattering on me— I’m short and curvy with thick thighs, and most one-piece suits make me look like an overstuffed sausage. I’m not insulting myself— facts are facts. Bikinis suit my body shape and make me feel free.
So a month after I had my first child, when my belly was still soft and paunchy from having carried a human in my body for nine-and-a-half months and there were a few stretch marks and cellulite that hadn’t previously existed on my lower belly, hips and thighs, I put on my favorite bikini and hit the beach. And you know what? I didn’t even feel self-conscious. I was so proud of what my body had done that no one could tell me anything. Plus, it was easier to nurse in a bikini.
Over the course of the next few years I dropped down to my lowest adult weight and continued to wear my bikinis with no shame. I even wore them to the sprayground and ignored the sometimes-sideways glances of the other moms. Then when I became pregnant with my second child, I relished in the fact that I would be able to show off my bump in a two-piece all summer. I would sit in my backyard in my bikini with my belly out in all its glory and my feet in the kiddie pool while my toddler played. When I was hugely pregnant and it was ninety degrees, it felt amazing!
Then I delivered an almost 10-pound baby, gaining over 40 pounds and the weight didn’t just drop off like it did the first time. It was winter and I was eating a ton to keep up with my newborn’s breastfeeding demands, and life was just hard. The last 20 pounds stuck around for almost two years, and I had more stretch marks and cellulite and developed some wicked loose skin from having such a big baby.
For the first time in my life, I was kind of embarrassed to wear a bikini. Not so much to the beach, but to the sprayground or waterpark or pool. So I bought a tankini. Ugh. That even sounds depressing. But during that first summer, that’s what I felt most confident in so I went with it. I still hated one-pieces, so it was the best compromise I could come up with. Still, I found myself switching back to my beloved bikini when I knew there wouldn’t be many people around or when there would be so many people, no one would notice me.
Then the summer before my baby turned two, we went to Puerto Rico on vacation and while I had actually found a one-piece that I liked, I wore a bikini at some point every single day, and I felt awesome! That was the summer I beat the weight loss plateau, and I knew in my heart that no matter how different my body looked, I was working hard and putting in my best effort to get back to my pre-baby weight.
I also knew that no matter how my body looked, it would never be the same again and that I would have to not just accept it, but actually love it no matter where it landed. I knew that my body had grown and stretched and physically labored to bring two precious lives into this world. Then nourished each of them for a full year after birth, and then fought and struggled and trained to get healthy again. It deserved to be clothed in whatever was most comfortable. For me, that’s a bikini, and I think it always will be— whether I’m 22, 32 or 52. And no one has the right to tell me or any other woman whether that’s appropriate or not.