We had a great day at the beach. My daughter loves playing, making castles in the sand. My husband and I both relaxing, barefooted, and walking along the water’s edge with our frolicking three-year-old. I put on my favorite bikini bottoms, super cool, edgy bikini bottoms I always feel proud wearing. They felt a bit different, but perhaps it was just because I hadn’t worn them since last summer. We enjoyed the day, snapped photos, and most importantly, made great memories. When we got home, I looked at the photos and did more than a double take when I came across ones of me standing in the water. That had to be a bad angle. But the images made a little piece of me cringe, thinking, “Oh, so this is what’s changed”.

My buns didn’t fit in my sexy bikini bottoms like they once did. In my head, I recalled the bikini brand was Sinful, and couldn’t help but half-joke to myself that it was now almost sinful I’d worn them. On my trip to Mexico I walked around Xcaret Park for nearly three hours in those bikini bottoms, without anything falling over or out. Looking at the photos of my butt cheeks sagging out the sides of the tight bottoms, I realized this was no longer the case. My butt no longer fit in my bikini bottoms, and while I knew things could be worse, it bummed me out. I’d promised myself I’d maintain the same size I was before becoming pregnant. For two years after giving birth I’d done a darn good job staying fit. Somehow, this year I’d slipped. I’d paid less attention, indulged a bit more, and the bikini bottoms don’t fit right anymore. That sucks.

Then I wondered why I’d never thought twice about how I looked while at the beach. A couple years ago I would have wrapped my waist in a cover-up if I even felt slightly bloated out of fear of looking like I’d gained weight. I had a cover-up with me today. I’d just never thought to wear it. Though I’m sure the beach hosted young adults with bodies I’d normally envy, this time I hadn’t paid attention. What I’d noticed today was the families, women with their kids, probably wearing swimsuits that didn’t fit. I didn’t look at these women thinking they were out of shape, or that they should cover up, and they likely didn’t look at me in that way either. I observed them with their children, and noted the same happiness in their faces I knew I was wearing. What I saw was the joy they were experiencing in spending a beautiful, fun-filled day with their families, just as I was.

I know what some of you are thinking. Your butt cheeks were hanging out a bit. So what? Admittedly, it’s a difficult thing giving up the body I once had. I believe this is the case for many new mothers. Finally not obsessing over how I must appear, and allowing it to darken my day. For once, not worrying about my husband, who always tells me I’m beautiful, feeling embarrassed at his wife’s body. My daughter just wants mommy to smile, and play. She could care less if my thighs have cellulite. Yes, I was irritated after looking at some of the photos, but I felt a sense of relief when I realized that this is an instance I didn’t let self-consciousness get in the way of having a fantastic time.

I’m not saying I won’t work to try and fit my buns back into those bottoms at some point. I’m not claiming to be entirely over the dream of my pre-baby bod. These are things that are OK to wish for, work for, but not to obsess over. My buns don’t fit nicely into my sleek little bikini bottoms anymore, and that sucks. But I know something that sucks more. Not allowing myself to enjoy the moment because I’m too busy crying inside over the body I don’t have. Today was a small victory in the body image battle. I didn’t cover-up, because while I was spending my time at the beach, enjoying the laughter and smiles of my husband and child, I didn’t think of my body at all. I guess being a parent teaches one to let go of such vanities and enjoy the experience. I may still huff and puff sometimes at the mirror at home, but living in the moment, and loving every second with my wonderful family is worth more than my sagging buns.

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Marisa Svalstedt

Marisa Svalstedt is a stay-at-home mom living in her hometown of Bethel, CT, with her husband, and their daughter. She received her MA from Western Connecticut State University where she taught as an adjunct professor. She's recently been featured on The Mighty and Babble.com. In addition to writing, she enjoys crochet and photography.

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