“After I put on my bathing suit, you must not look at me until I get into the water.”
“Why not?” asked Frog.
“Because I look funny in my bathing suit. That is why,” said Toad.
(Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel)
Last year, I successfully avoided wearing a swimsuit. With a clever bit of deception, I convinced my husband and daughter that swimming was a special father/daughter activity and they went to the pool without me once or twice a week, coming home chemical-scented and hungry. Then, my son was born at the beginning of July and swimming was forbidden for six weeks because of my cervix or something. I rode that excuse all the way to fall.
This year, with a one-year-old and a three-year-old, pool time has to be a family outing. So I pulled out my swim suits and tried them on.
- First was the tankini I bought before I knew I was pregnant with my daughter. It still fit, though my nursing boobs were kinda smushed in like giant marshmallows in a losing game of chubby bunny. My stretch marks showed too. I decided it wouldn’t work and moved on to option number two.
- Maternity swimsuit. This was worn only during my first pregnancy to water aerobics. It still fit, but it looked like a maternity suit. It has that ruching on the side , giving my torso an armadillo texture. I decided it was not going to work and moved on to option number three.
- Post-partum suit. I purchased this one the summer after my daughter was born. It has that “vintage-inspired” one-piece look. A piece of fabric over the whole thing that can be bunched up to hide fat rolls and/or pulled down to turn the one-piece into a tube-dress suit. Once on, it was clear that my boobs were seconds away from popping out.
I called my husband in for a consult and he declared it “not the worst thing” if my boobs popped out at the community pool.
I decided the post-partum suit was the worst of the three and took to the internet to find something new. When my purchase arrived, I was initially happy with the fit. It was a high-waisted, pin-up style, with significant coverage but purposefully stylish. I stashed it in my swimsuit drawer.
Cut to today. It’s a hot day and we decide to head to the pool.
I plop the baby in the pack-n-play in our room and don the new suit. It’s terrible. Maybe my boobs shrank. The suit’s cups sit perched atop my wobbly there-used-to-be-a-person-in-there abdomen and there’s a sizable gap on all sides. The halter pulls at the back of my neck and the back strap keeps rolling around. The swim bottom is fine but it is perhaps TOO high-waisted, making me look short and stubby…TOADLIKE even.
Husband is pulled in for another consult. He declares it “Fine. Sexy. Good.” And he’s gone, his two cargo-short suits folded neatly next to his actual cargo-shorts. Life is easy for him. I decide the new suit is the worst yet and go back through each of the above. I finish where I started: tankini. It’s fine, I tell myself.
By this time, the baby is getting bored of this activity. I pick him up and glance at the mirror. Now that I’m holding a baby, the suit takes on a ghoulish fun-house mirror shape. I can chase a toddler through a pubic park while nursing and not fall on my face, but, somehow, I cannot manage to multi-task holding the 20-lb. baby while standing upright and pushing out my chest, sucking in my gut. My “there used to be person in there” abdomen is jutting out for all to see. My boobs are in great danger of exposing themselves and my posture is not runway-appropriate.
And he’s laughing at me.
The baby. Like in the story—all of Toad’s friends laugh at him because he DOES look funny in his bathing suit. To which Toad says, “Of course I do” and picks up his clothes and goes home! The baby is laughing at me and so will everyone else. Or worse, they’ll look at me with pity and disgust.
Wait. No, he’s not. The baby is laughing at himself in the mirror. I smile at him and he goos enthusiastically, wrapping his chubby little arms around my neck and giving me a slobbery, open-mouthed kiss. He does not care about me in my bathing suit. He merely wants to be near me. Duh.
At the pool, I notice the other mom-bods.
Don’t try to tell me you don’t scope them out, too. There are mom-bods like mine—pale, un-toned, and doing their best in tankinis, one-pieces, skirt-bottoms, t-shirts, some full-blown bikinis, and all other variations of swimwear. I see them pulling up their tops to avoid a nip slip, pulling their suit bottoms around their bottoms, trying to help their toddlers escape from their swimsuit straps without anyone asphyxiating.
I see them trying to adjust their posture while holding a baby and realizing that position will result in back injury. I see them too focused on the safety of their kids to worry that their love-handles have made an appearance.
I see the dads, carefree and unaware in their man-uniforms.
I see the inexplicably fit moms and the naturally petite moms, the nannies who don’t have kids, the friends who still have tone, the teenagers who look perfect, and all the cute kids in their colorful swimwear, hats, and floaties, not caring at all about stomach flab, mine or anyone else’s.
Everyone is fine. They see me and I see them and, sure, I’m probably gonna go buy another swimsuit so I have something that fits a little better, but then I’m going to wear it. Because, this is not about me. Or my stomach. It’s about family time.
In the end, my boob does come out. The baby’s hydrophobia is so great I decide to nurse him to ease his panic. I sit on a bench, giant baby on my lap and pop my boob out of my tankini. No one cares. Except the baby…he is pacified.