I've been heavy for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember, I've been sensitive about my size. I've spent my life avoiding wearing swimsuits or shorts in public, hiding in the back of group photos, and generally sidestepping situations that call attention to my body. The prospect of public embarrassment has been enough to push me onto the sidelines, finding comfort in the thought that I might have evaded some type of judgment or scrutiny.
But five years ago, an amazing thing happened: my daughter was born. With this gorgeous little girl in my arms, I couldn't continue to avoid having pictures taken of me, and realistically I didn't want to hide from the camera any longer. How else was I supposed to have photos of the two of us together to put into her baby album? So I pushed to the front of group photos with a mile-wide smile and my adorable daughter in my arms, knowing that when she looked back at those pictures she wouldn't focus on how fat my arms are, but instead on how gently they were cradling her tiny body.
As she grew older, it became apparent that trips to the beach or to the swimming pool were going to become a part of our lives. She needed to get comfortable being in the water. She needed to learn to swim. She needed to find out what sand feels like under her toes and discover tide pools with fascinating little creatures in them. I couldn't deny her these opportunities, so I suited up right along with her, and we walked hand in hand out into the surf. I take her to the local pool at least once a week every summer, and I'm slowly teaching her to swim. When we're at the pool, I don't think about my size, only about the fact that my daughter knows her mother is there to keep her safe in the water.
Learning to overcome our fears and face our flaws is all part of the courage of motherhood.
Her needs are continually pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I've put on a swimsuit to take her swimming and to the beach. I've strapped on ice skates and held her hand as we made our way around the rink, despite my fear of looking awkward on the ice. I've ridden amusement-park rides with her even though I would normally be too embarrassed to do anything that might require a safety bar. I've gone sledding despite the self-consciousness of fitting on, or worse, falling off a sled. We've danced in public and climbed on jungle gyms together. We've played in fountains and squeezed into tiny play-size tents. Over the past few years, my life has become a never-ending parade of things that used to trigger my fear of public humiliation, and I'm thrilled that that I'm not bothered by it anymore.
Everyone has fears. Some of us are terrified of insects, only to give birth to a child who loves nothing more than bringing home every creepy-crawly they can fit in their pockets. Some parents are afraid of the dentist until they realize they have to show their children how important it is to get their teeth cleaned. Parenting often forces us to come face to face with the parts of ourselves we would rather not see, but learning to overcome our fears and face our flaws is all part of the courage of motherhood.