I had been preparing for this vacation for weeks. My family and I were taking an all-inclusive, out-of-the-country, luxury beach vacation.  I longed for a trip like this since my honeymoon.  Sure, I have enjoyed every water park, amusement park, Disney-filled vacation that we have taken, but the thought of relaxing on the soft sand of a beautiful beach in my bathing suit just sounded heavenly.

… and a little bit terrifying.

You see, my body is no longer the same as it once was. My once tight, tiny body now has stretch marks and loose skin that covers my stomach and hangs where the umbilical hernia once poked through.  And, since I am not only a mother— I am also a wife and a woman—naturally, I wanted to look attractive and sexy on this vacation.

“So,” I thought, “you will need to find a bathing suit that accentuates your positives and hides those things.”

But, when I went shopping for bathing suits, I just could not find anything that seemed to adequately hide my stomach. I became convinced that one could see the looseness of my stomach even in a one-piece bathing suit, and what if I raised my arms in a tankini?  Someone might catch a glimpse of my stomach, and surely they would be disgusted.  And the funny thing about being self-conscious about something is that the more you try to hide it, the more you see it.  In fact, it quickly became all that I could see.  I couldn’t find a bathing suit that accentuated my positives, because I could no longer see my positives.

“What if I tan my loose skin?” I wondered. Surely, everything looks better when it is not pasty-white, so tanning was definitely going to help!  The skin will still be loose, but perhaps less-noticeably so.  So, I grabbed the smallest, two-piece bathing suit that I own (from my pre-pregnancy days), threw it on without so much as glancing in the mirror, and marched my butt outside to lay in a lounge chair—on the side of my house where no one else could see, of course.

And as I lay there, self-conscious but with purpose, my three year old wandered over and began poking at my stomach.

“Mommy, why does your belly have wrinkles?”

And although a part of me was horrified that he had noticed and pointed out my greatest flaw, without skipping a beat, another part of me answered, “Those aren’t wrinkles, baby. Those are stretch marks from when my belly had to get big to keep you inside.”

Silence for a second as he examined my stomach further. Then, he said, “Oh … I like that.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“Me, too,” I thought.

Yes, me, too!

I love that my stomach grew large enough to carry my two greatest blessings to full-term. I would not trade that stomach for all the tight-skinned, six-pack stomachs in the world.

So, why then had I been stressing about the way my stomach looks?

Why had I exerted so much energy thinking about how to hide it or correct it as if it is something to be ashamed of?

Why had I desperately longed for the body of the 22 year old girl that I once was? It may have been thinner, tighter, and tanner, but even then, when I looked “my personal best,” I didn’t feel good about my body.  And I certainly didn’t take care of it.  That body was built on fast food, too much booze, not enough sleep, and a whole lot of youth.

Do you know what this body was built on? Eating the healthy food that I have prepared for my family, carrying my children on my hip when they are scared or tired, cuddling in bed on Sunday mornings, and growing babies. Yup.  Growing freaking babies.

And then it hit me. Do you know what I could wear to look the most attractive and sexiest I have ever looked on this vacation? It is something that I certainly did not have when I was younger. I have seen it on a few people, and it always looks amazing.

Confidence. Self-love.  Acceptance.  Gratitude.

This body is more loved than my 22 year-old body could have ever imagined. And I am more comfortable with myself and in my own skin as a wife and a mother than I have ever been in my entire life.

So, if anyone was looking for me last week, I was flaunting my amazing, baby-making body in my bathing suit on the soft sand of a beautiful beach.

…And it, my friends, was heavenly.

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