The four of us scrunched into the pizza parlor booth. Our new babies sat sleeping in their infant carriers around us. We were sipping sodas and eating pizza when one of the moms asked innocently, “So when is my body going to be back to normal again?” We all nodded in unison, eager because we, too, wanted to know. An experienced mom with a child years older chimed in, “Don’t expect your body to be back to normal again for at least a year.”
A collective sigh of relief was released. Oh good, we had a year. “A year I can do, no pressure to lose the weight, just take my time,” I remember telling myself. A laughable timeline to me now, because almost six years and another baby later, my body isn’t back to being “normal” again.
Yesterday I sat in the zero depth area of the pool having a pretend tea party with my son. The pool and beach are easy places to get distracted by other bodies and start the self-deprecating thoughts. “How’d she lose her belly weight so fast?” My mind started to wander as I admired the woman with the bouncing breasts half-tucked into her black bikini as she chased her toddling child along the water’s edge. My son broke into my thoughts when he handed me a teacup filled with pool water.
I stepped on the scale the next day, and the number reflected a lifestyle that is perfectly replicated in my Instagram feed: rainbow pancakes dripping with syrup, huge donuts, picnics of sandwiches and craft beer. But it doesn’t show that I started running in April. In fact, I’m up to over three miles several times a week. The other day my family took a 12-mile bike ride. Weeks ago, grandma took the kids, and my husband and I walked for two hours, just holding hands and talking.
I need to hold tight to these athletic triumphs because it is so tempting to let the scale and the tags in my clothing bring me down this time of year.
Bathing suit season can be a time when we start thinking about our body outlines, skin stretches and the size tags in shorts. It can remind us about the deadlines we put on our bodies after babies. It doesn’t have to be that way. Summer can be a time when we celebrate our bodies and the strength we have to run with other moms, bike a new path, walk hand in hand with our partners, play tag with our kids or swim underwater.
We are missing precious moments with our families when we stare enviously at other women’s bodies in the summer.
We miss the perfectly built sandcastle with just the right amount of wet sand.
We miss the teacups filled with pool water and the special pretend sandwich.
We miss the feeling of having our children ride on our backs as we sink underwater.
We miss playing chase as we run through the sprayers together.
Our children will remember the games we played and how we soaked up every moment of the pool until closing. They won’t remember if our hips were tucked into a size 6 or 16 swimsuit, but they will remember how fast we ran when we chased them along the sandy beach. They won’t remember our stretch marks, but they will remember the silly faces we made underwater. And if our breasts are flat and no longer fill our swimsuit, it doesn’t matter to our kids because they just want to feel what it’s like when we hold them close as we spin whirlpools into the water.
That’s what they’ll remember—not how long it takes us to get back to “normal.” Their “normal” is much more forgiving.
My new “normal” is that my body is both strong and soft.
I haven’t lost the baby weight, but this is me now—softer, wiser and happier.
What I haven’t lost in baby weight, I’ve gained in confidence, happiness and perspective. My kids will remember the fun we had together this summer, not the baby weight I haven’t lost.