Last year I spent June at the beach with my family, eight months pregnant, contracting regularly and unable to keep anything down except ice chips and protein shakes. The beach is both the greatest place and the worst place to be in this situation. I watched my two boys dig sandcastles, jump waves, float in the pool, run along the sand and I waved them goodbye as they headed off to a giant water slide park knowing that I couldn’t even walk from the car to the park much less go down a slide in my condition. I layed on the couch and thought “next summer I am going to do all those things”.
If I am being honest though, before I was the pregnant, contracting, sick mom who doesn’t get in the water, I was just the mom who doesn’t get in the water. Before that I was the wife who doesn’t get in the water. And before that I was the girlfriend who doesn’t get in the water. I can’t remember the last time I was the girl who gets in the water and has fun but it was surely 7th or 8th grade at least. That’s not to say I hadn’t ever been in the water since then, but I wasn’t enjoying it. It was too cold, I was too insecure in a swimsuit. Too insecure to be seen without make up. Just too…self conscious.
I would say to my sons “That’s what Daddy is for!” and they would slink over to him and he would take them in the pool.
When the pools opened a few weeks ago I almost forgot about my pledge. My oldest is so close to swimming and he was working hard on it. The water was frigid but none of the kids cared. My girlfriends got in the water with the kids and I stayed on the pool deck observing. I walked over to where he was and just did it. I canonballed practically right on top of him. Once he recovered from the shock of it his eyes lit up with joy and disbelief “mommy, you’re in the water!”
This week at the beach he asked me to jump waves with him and I automatically said no. His shoulders dropped and he headed out on his own. What was I doing? I quickly snuck up behind him and swung his feet out into the water. “I knew you’d come!” he said smiling over his shoulder at me. Later I took his little brother in the waves and we screamed when we got splashed and laughed as the waves pulled the sand back from under our toes as they receded into the ocean.
Today, we left the baby with her grandparents and they waved us goodbye as we headed out to the big waterslide park. I told myself I was going to say yes to everything. Slides, wave pools, whatever. I was going to do it all. And I did. Max wanted to conquer the Toucan Twist water slide, a medium sized one, perfect for an almost 7 year old. I told him I would go first and catch him. We did this over and over before we headed over to the pirate ship and the kids played while my husband and our friends lounged on chairs watching them and chatting.
It wasn’t long before Max wanted to do that slide again and I said yes, he ran alongside me saying this time he would catch me. His confidence having been built from repeated successful trips. I smiled and laughing played my part “Will you? Meet me at the bottom!” Suddenly I realized the whole day had gone by and what was this I was having? Is this, fun? Real, genuine fun?! Yes. That’s what I was having. I hadn’t thought about how I looked in my swimsuit all day. I wasn’t spending energy trying to hide that lovely varicose vein, I hadn’t even sucked in my stomach all day!
No sooner than I thought it I became overwhelmingly away of my thighs wobbling as I climbed the wooden steps, and I heard my doctors voice in my head saying “You’re skinny fat, do you know what that is? You’re not big, but you have a high level of fat. There’s not a lot of muscle. It’s not healthy.” Though I conquered my eating disorder ages ago that comment hurt, all I heard was “You are fat.” Now every step I took I felt heavier, the curve of my belly, rounded from three babies grew outward with every moment. I felt big, I felt out of place, I felt like I couldn’t have any fun.
Just then my son grabbed my hand and with a big smile said “I love love you!” He was so happy we were doing this together. With a quick wave from the lifeguard he headed down the fast moving slide with a quick smile back.”Ill catch you mommy!” he wailed, his voice washing away with the water as he slipped down the water tube. I decided to take Taylor Swift’s advice and shake it off. I perched at the top of the Toucan Twist and when I got the nod, I layed back, crossed my arms and my ankles just like instructed and swooshed my way around and around until I splashed into the pool where my son caught me.
I’ve never felt more beautiful.