Having a Baby Ruined My Bikini Body

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Erin Zammett Ruddy has sworn off wearing a bikini after having three children. (Photo: Erin Zammett Ruddy)

I just returned from a vacation in Florida with my husband and three children, ages 7, 5, and 18 months. While getting ready for the beach each day, I couldn’t help thinking about all the moms I see (on the beach and more recently, in my newsfeed) who feel confident wearing bikinis despite whatever pregnancy did to their bodies. You see, I don’t wear bikinis. In fact, I will never wear a bikini again.

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I have an abundance of stretch marks and I don’t want to flaunt a single one of them - despite the encouragement from moms who have gone viral proclaiming that we should love our "flaws" because they're a sign that we were lucky enough to have kids. I’m not knocking those women who feel comfortable strutting their post-baby stuff on the beach. More power to them. But I’d like to give voice to those who will be wearing one-pieces — preferably with that suck-in material around the mid-section—from here on out. That’s OK, too! You’re allowed! You can still look great in a one piece! You’re also allowed to be a little peeved by the irreversible damage (yes, I called it damage) caused by pregnancy. It does not mean you love your children—or yourself—any less, I promise.

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Ruddy in a bikini 10 years ago on her honeymoon – before having children. (Photo: Erin Zammett Ruddy)

Maybe I’m not that evolved but I don’t regard my stretch marks as motherhood “stripes" I’ve earned as one woman said or “beauty marks” as Alyssa Milano generously calls them. Good for them but I think of my stretch marks as U.G.L.Y., and (sorry mom) proof that my genes failed me. I have friends with multiple children who gained 80 pounds per pregnancy — even those who carried twins — and they don’t have one squiggly line on their bellies. I have about 100. And although I’m back to my fighting weight, my belly remains a little bulgy. I realize sit-ups will help and they’re on my to-do list but in the meantime, when I stand naked in the mirror, I don’t think, ‘Wow, what an amazing body, you produced three wonderful children.’ I think, ‘$&*!, I wish I didn’t have THIS (grabs gut) going on.“ Then I quickly move on to: ‘Hey, you have great arms and nice legs,’ because I believe in giving credit where it’s due.

Don’t get me wrong — I am proud of my body. I pushed three kids out of it (the last two without epidurals) and I recently completed a half-marathon, something I never thought would happen. And I’m a 13-year cancer survivor. But, I’m sorry, I’m not particularly proud of my stretch marks as some moms seem to want me to be. I promise I don’t sit around feeling depressed about my belly but I’m not gonna write it a love song, either. Does that make me a traitor to moms? I sure hope not. I’ve worked for women’s magazines and I have two sisters and two daughters so I am all for promoting positive body image. But sometimes it goes overboard and becomes body-love bullying.

You can still have a healthy body image without embracing every single inch.

Am I losing sleep over never being able to wear a bikini again? No. Do I complain in front of my children or hide my belly from my husband? Definitely not. Do I like the way I look in my one-piece photo? Yes. Probably more than I like that bikini shot. I’m on my way to being in the best shape of my life—wobbly, corduroyed abdomen aside. I run, I spin, I eat well, and I feel strong and healthy. But you’re never gonna catch me flaunting my “flaws.” I’d rather tuck them into a pair of Spanx, thank you very much.

If you have post-pregnancy stretch marks, loose skin, or a belly bulge and you still rock a bikini, go you. But if you choose not to, that’s OK, too. I feel you. I recently signed up for my second half-marathon and when I told my 7-year-old son, he offered this gem: "Maybe the running will turn all those lines on your stomach into just six lines like a six-pack, mom!” Fat chance.

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