My self-imposed, 60-day Get Fit Challenge officially ended this week. Are you dying, or at least curious, to know how it went? Sure, I could toss out a simple answer, but what fun would that be? Instead, allow me to share a quick story about Memorial Day weekend with my little one. I promise that in it you’ll discover, as I did, how I answered the question posed with trepidation two months ago: Can Mama Get Her Groove Back?
It’s Saturday, 2:00 pm, and the temperature is a blazing 97 degrees. After getting the kid a big piece of pizza for lunch at the Water Tower, we don our suits and head down to the pool on the second floor of our apartment building for a dip.
Unbeknownst to me, our pool was informally chosen as Chicago’s Memorial Day hot spot for the post-collegiate crowd. Scores of twenty-somethings are lounging on pool chairs, sipping alcoholic beverages in beer mugs adorned with college logos. The gals are sitting along the pool’s edge, laughing and splashing water at buff dudes flexing their muscles. I felt like an uninvited yet politely tolerated guest at the cool fraternity's yearly house party.
Hubby, the little one, and I throw our stuff in a corner and head straight for the water. We frolic, the kid and I do our Little Mermaid synchronized swimming ballet routine smack in the middle of the pool, and then hubby and I decide it would be fun to toss her back and forth between the two of us. She starts coughing a bit but I figured, like most good parents do, that if I ignore the hacking long enough it’ll go away.
This turns out to be a very bad decision. While my back is turned, I hear hubby emit a dread-filled UH OH. I turn around to find brown chunks of my daughter’s lunch floating across the water. She has thrown up, a lot. I watch with fascination and horror as the vomit instantly congeals to form two islands of goop floating in opposite directions across the shallow end of the pool.
“She threw up,” hubby whispers the obvious in a panic. I see one of the globs rapidly heading towards a group of four very large guys who look like they play rugby and beat up idiotic parents (those who let their five-year-olds swim 20 minutes after eating) in their spare time. I realize that I have no choice but to warn them, and everyone else, about the floating puke before it’s lapping up against their bodies.
With no time to spare, I run to every cluster of loungers and declare, “Um, my daughter just threw up in the pool. I’m sorry but you probably don’t want to swim right now.” In most cases, I have to say it twice since most of the revelers can’t believe that their happy day is being marred by a little girl’s regurgitated pizza. In an instant, I’ve become a walking commercial for contraception, reminding them that they better use protection once the pool party’s over or the party will indeed be over – permanently.
I make my way back to the shallow end, where a kind man has taken the pool skimmer I managed to rip off the wall before my sprint around the pool. While he tries his best to scoop up some of the mess, I hear his wife hiss, “Give it to the father to do. Give it to the father to do.” Since “the father,” a.k.a. hubby, is tending to our traumatized child, I grab the skimmer and start attacking Vomit Island Number One, which has divided, with one half at the top of the water and the other half resting gently on the bottom. While hubby convinces my daughter she’s still a good person, I scoop away.
Then it hits me: I just ran around a pool, leaned over to talk to a few dozen people, and am now fishing vomit out of the water in nothing more than a bikini. A teeny tiny sailor blue Banana Republic bikini whose bottom is held together by a flimsy gold ring on each side. The top of the suit is essentially two large triangles of nylon connected by a ribbon tied so tightly around the midsection of my back that it’s practically cutting off all the circulation to the lower half of my body.
Like most mamas out there, I don’t view bathing suits as anything other than a vehicle to get me from the side of the pool – where I’m ensconced in a towel – to the water without being arrested for public nudity. Once you enter a certain phase of life, bathing suits are not fashion statements, they are torture devices. The fact that I’m able to fish throw up out of a pool, in my bathing suit, in front of 40 watchful strangers is nothing short of a miracle.
Two months ago, in the shower, I discovered that my ass had turned into mashed potatoes. Surprised and more than a little upset, I found that the rest of my body wasn’t doing much better. I knew I needed to make a lifestyle change, and I knew it had to be drastic and immediate. So for two months, I pushed myself to workout, eat better, and pay attention to the one and only body I have.
Was it a perfect experience? Did I jump back into a fitness routine with vim and vigor and experience nothing other than a 6o day endorphin-induced high? Nope. I agonized, I complained, I ate a whole bag of Honey Wheat Braided Twists Pretzels, and I even dropped out of the Waterobics class at my in-laws Florida retirement community before the song “It’s Raining Men” had ended. I acknowledged that for decades I’ve hated my body (and, in turn, myself). And I mourned for all the time I’ve wasted by berating myself for not being thinner, prettier, better.
But on Saturday, as I scooped my kid's vomit out of the water in my little blue suit, I felt fit, strong, and healthy. In 60 days, I‘d clocked endless hours on the elliptical and treadmill, lifted weights, circuit trained with hubby, taken a yoga and a dance class, and had gone on a few long and glorious bike rides. I’d eaten lots of yummy salads and fresh fruit that made my taste buds sing. Best of all, I’d experienced moments when I saw and accepted my body for what it truly was and not what I wished it would be. And for me, that’s enough.
Back at the pool, I was aware of the fat on the back of my thighs and the little roll of a tummy hanging over my bikini bottom. For the first time in what seemed like forever, though, I just didn’t care. And that’s when I knew: Over the last two months, I hadn’t gotten my groove back. It had been there all along.
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop
The pic comes from Too Much on Her Plate.