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Don’t Buy the One-Piece Swimsuit (Kyla)

December 27, 2011

I am 23 years old, my daughters are 18 months and 3 1/2 months. I was very lucky to have two, as my midwife said, ‘boring’ pregnancies without any complications or issues. I gained just under 20 lbs in each pregnancy, and it was all baby-weight and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight very quickly. I had my first daughter six weeks after I wrote my last exam in my undergrad and my second 15 months later, neither of them were planned. these girls are the center of my world – in both good and bad ways!

I always had body image issues since I hit puberty and I had just reached a point where I was beginning to feel comfortable with myself when I got pregnant. I felt better than ever in both my pregnancies, I was so proud of my belly. Baby bellies are viewed differently in this society than they used to be even one generation ago, when women felt they had to cover up their bellies and wear long circus-tent type clothing, but now the thinking is to flaunt and show off your belly, and big bellies are revered and praised. But the post-partum belly is not socially acceptable in our culture, we are taught to hide our bodies now. Going from the one extreme to the other is a big gap for any woman to jump.

After my first daughter was born I ‘bounced back’ pretty quickly and everybody was praising me on how great I looked. I didn’t feel great and I didn’t want them to praise me. When somebody said to me “oh you look great! Look how fast you bounced back to normal!” it made me fear for the other women who don’t go back to their pre-pregnancy size or shape, because the people who praised me are helping to set that unwritten standard of whats okay to look like and whats not okay to look like. I don’t want to be praised because this only helps cement this divide and illuminate the repression of other body shapes. I don’t think women need any more reason to compare themselves to one another or feel like they aren’t good enough. I feel like, in this culture, once you have stretch marks and a post-baby belly, you have suddenly become a lower class of person because you don’t have a body that looks like a La Senza ad.

Even though people praised me, I hated my stomach. I had some stretch marks on my stomach and breasts and the elasticity of my skin and muscle is gone, and I blamed my daughter for ‘ruining’ me. Before pregnancy I used to model but I couldn’t go back to this because I had become ‘undesirable’ now. I stopped swimming, I awoided mirrors, I even had a period of time, after both pregnancies, where I wouldn’t let my partner see or touch me. I tried not to see my own body. I tried not to let anybody else see my body. I felt like (and still do feel this way) nobody could find me attractive again. I don’t beleive my partner when he tells me that not only am I still attractive, but I am now more attractive than ever because my belly brought him his daughters.

We went to Florida when my first daughter was 8 months old and this was the first time that i was going to be in a swimsuit in public. I couldn’t do it – I had a bikini and I wore it under my clothes but I couldn’t bring myself to take off my shirt and expose my skin. I felt like I shouldnt put other people – strangers – through seeing my stomach, like I should follow this unwritten rule that now I had a baby, I should buy that one-piece swimsuit and never subject my ugly, ruined ‘not a La Senza ad’ body to anybody. I had never felt so ashamed of my body before as I did on that day I sat on the beach and watched everybody else swim. Later I cried about how ugly I was.

I feel like there is this game that women are taught to play which is based on ever-changing rules of opression. I am calling this the ‘one-piece swimsuit game’ because as soon as you have a baby, you are supposed to go buy that one-piece swimsuit because you are taught that you are suddenly too ugly, having lost the shape, look and elasticity of your pre-baby body. I dont know who taught us that was something we had to do, that now we needed to hide, but whoever it was needs a good kicking. I feel like every woman has followed this stupid rule so dutifully and unquestioningly that nobody has ever raised enough fuss to make us wake up and realize that we don’t need to do it at all. It shouldn’t be painful like this. I shouldn’t have been taught this hurtful game, and neither should any of you. I don’t want to watch my daughters and your daughters fall into this game either.

And in the same way that people praising me for ‘bouncing back’ is hurtful for other women who don’t ‘bounce back,’ I don’t want to contribute to teaching other women either that they need to play the one-piece swimsuit game by starting to wear the one-piece swimsuit myself. I don’t want that one-piece swimsuit, I don’t want to show other woman that I too, felt the need to hide myself cause it will teach other women and young girls how to play this game of oppression as well. I don’t want my daughters to feel like when they grow up and have their own children, they need to suddenly switch to a one-piece swimsuit, too.

So I’ll make a promise if you will too – I want out of this female oppression game so I will not play the ‘one piece swimsuit game’ anymore if you wont either. you hear that? I’m opting out, I can only loose at this stupid game and its never been fun anyway, so I’m not playing anymore.

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17 Responses to “Don’t Buy the One-Piece Swimsuit (Kyla)”

  1. amber H Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 11:38 am

    you look great! no saggy skin like ive got :) thats a plus! your daughters a gorgeous…

    blessed and tortured

  2. claudia Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Kayla i love your post and agree 100%. When i was reading i thought your pictures would show a very saggy stomach but let me tell you, I’m only 20 and my Son is 16 months old, i got diagnosed with gallstones after the baby so not only did i loose all my baby weight, i lost 40 lbs of pre pregnancy weight and look better than high school-with clothes on. My stomach is a FLAP that hangs over my pelvis and actually yesterday someone took a picture of me and said i had a manhood bulge! I have dark stretchmarks in places inever dreamed i would, like my crotch, and My boobs look saggier than my mother in law’s . I flap the skin on my arms. And my butt is starting to fold over my legs. I’m in a sexless relationship because i cant look af my body either..my bf says he doesn’t care and that he loves me more than ever for giving him our son..i don’t remember how long its been since he saw me completely naked. He doesn’t even try to initiate sex anymore. I hate sex and I’m only 20. So don’t feel too bad because you look beautiful! Don’t get me wrong, i love my body for what its capable of, for giving me my precious son, i just hate the way it looks and for making such an emotional wreck of me. I will totally strive for the two piece swimsuit and i know one day ill own one for the first time in my life. Your kids are beautiful! What’s sad tho is that i shared this website on fb months ago and it had no effect on the mommies there..

  3. Karla Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    you look great! and I love your attitude! :) . Interestingly enough I do the contrary…I really never liked the two piece…I like having a one piece…and it has nothing to do with how my belly looks…I just dont want to follow society’s rule that I have to wear a bikini…and I dont want my daughter feeling that she has to it in the future. So, in both cases we are personally fighting some rule that we believe is important. So I guess the asnwer would be that women should go and buy the swim suit that THEY want to wear, not the one they think they should. If I want to wear a one piece even though I have a six pack that’s fine cause I dont have to show that six pack to know that I am beautiful…on the other hand if I want to wear a bikini even though I have stretch marks…that is fine too! cause they are part of me and I am beautiful. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and swim suits :)

  4. Amy Says:
    December 28th, 2011 at 9:28 am

    You look terrific! I had three very large babies in four years and I’m 5’2″, so my stomach stretched out very far. I don’t expect to ever look the same as I did pre-pregnancy but I definitely have my fingers crossed. Your babies are gorgeous!!

  5. Bella Says:
    December 28th, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Loved your post also! Stop the oppression, we, women need to stop it. Big hug, thank you for sharing

  6. mrspetunia Says:
    December 28th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Preach it sister! This is one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read. THANK YOU! I also want to add that it isn’t really flattering to compliment girls/women on their slender figures, whether they have had a baby or not. When I was in the middle of a raging eating disorder people were always commenting on my weight. I worried that if I started eating again I wouldn’t get all that positive attention and people would think I was gross. Now I try to avoid commenting on others weight because it’s not my business to judge, good or bad.

  7. kyla Says:
    December 29th, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Hi Karla, thanks for bringing this up – of course i wholeheartedly believe that any woman should wear whatever bathing suit they want, and it shouldn’t be connected to body image at all. i also have some issues with a two-piece as being overly sexualized and one of those perverse societal rules, it definitely has its own issues. (i have trouble finding a swimsuit that i am comfortable in for those reasons alone. also i went bra shopping for the first time in a long time recently and that was an adventure in societal expectations as well…)

    i was using my story as an example, and the swimsuit rule more as a metaphor, but in reality, you can wear a snowsuit to the beach if it makes you happy and i’ll definitely be on your side! i’m not trying to say ‘you need to wear a bikini now, everybody,’ i’m saying ‘don’t let your new appearance change what you feel you should now be allowed to wear or do’.

    and thanks everybody else who has commented as well.

  8. MALLORY Says:
    December 29th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    i was just looking for a new swim suit today because i didn’t think i could ware my two pc any more. I was 23 when I had my now 9 month old and I am not ready to get rid of that two pc I worked so hard to get into the first time. I was also told I bounced back quickly but strech marks really get me down sometimes. ready this couldn’t have come at a better time!

  9. L Says:
    December 30th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing this is I may not be in a two piece anytime soon. I lost the weight but the texture of my stretch marks is really bad. It is encouraging to see others wearing a two piece swimsuit but if I wore one Im afraid someone might ask me to put a one piece on. I know I shouldn’t bad about my body and going to continue to lose weight. I think I look ok and my husband loves me more now after having his kids. I do wish the stretch marks were gone but they will always be. I do want my daughter and the other young girls in my life to love themselves regardless of what their bodies look like. Im getting there day by day, year by year. Thanks again it was very refreshing to read your post.

  10. Candice Says:
    December 30th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you. I was just about to buy a one-piece.

  11. Adrian Says:
    January 1st, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I take your point, but speaking from a male perspective, I have to say that although I certainly don’t dislike bikinis, I do like one-piece swimsuits and if I see a woman in one, I’m far more likely to be admiring her style than thinking she’s trying to hide something!

  12. kyla Says:
    January 1st, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    i’ve stopped thinking of them as ‘stretch marks’ and have tried calling them ‘special marks’ in my head instead. its where my babies left an ‘i was here’ graffiti tag on my skin. and NOBODY else has an ‘i was here’ from my girls, they left a special memento just for me.

  13. mar Says:
    January 4th, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Your body is very much like mine – and I wore a bikini this summer, and plan to NEXT summer too. :)

    I love this post. Thank you for posting this, and thank you so much for having something postive to say to others about a beautiful body!

  14. Rosie Says:
    January 6th, 2012 at 4:58 am

    I have also been determined not to hide in shame and perpetuate the cycle that makes normal, healthy, sexy women believe there is something wrong with them. But I also like to go with how I feel. Sometimes I’m feeling super confident and want to be a role model, other times times I’m feeling introverted or vulnerable and I wear my very stylish ’50s style one piece. I think the best of all though is when I can swim in the creek near where I live with NOTHING on! The feeling of freedom and the water caressing my skin is so delicious. And that is the most important thing of all to me – feeling the pleasure of being in my body. The saddest part of my journey with my body was when I stopped doing things I enjoyed (like swimming and dancing) because I felt too ugly and self conscious. Now I try to focus on how it feels to be in my body, however it looks on the outside, whatever I am wearing.

  15. kyla Says:
    January 16th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    i’ll second that – i fully encourage skinny dipping. its surprising liberating, and healing.

  16. Helena Says:
    February 18th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing! It sounds like you’re describing me there on your holiday with your 8 month old, refusing to take your shirt off… I can’t even go swimming with my daughter because I don’t want to shower in front of other women! I know this is stupid really, they all have kids too and most have much bigger and flabbier tummies than me, but still I can’t get over this hurdle. I don’t know how to boost my confidence and just do it. I was thinking of going even one step further than the one-piece swimsuit, which is the swimsuit dress. Like a pin-up mini dress. Really cute, but I would only get it to hide myself. And should I do that? Like you said, play the game us mothers are supposed to play? Actually, I’d rather stay out of the pool for now and work on my confidence slowly. Hopefully I’ll get there one day while my kids are still young, so we can enjoy the beach together.

  17. CP Says:
    April 23rd, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    You wear yours and I’ll wear mine. I ‘m 37 and have 3 kids now ages 4,6 and 8. I weigh the same as I did before having kids but it doesn’t look the same at all. My belly just isn’t flat and I really don’t think it ever will be. I bought myself a bikini to celebrate turning 35. I wear it from time to time. I’ve noticed if just one not-perfect figure wears a bikini at the pool that others follow suit. So put your own on and help give confidence to the other moms around you.

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