I sat on the beach this morning, an icy breeze flowing over me as I breastfeed my 3 month old daughter. My 4yo girl jumps waves with her daddy. A gaggle of teenagers stroll by, dump their stuff and dive into the glistening waves, holding each other as they playfully leap waves like puppies. A wild haired teen pecks her boyfriend on the lips as he plonks back on the sand (drinking his redbull) and she returns to the water.
An elderly woman, maybe late 80’s, comes sauntering down the beach in her black one piece, more confident in her skin than I have ever been on a beach (or anywhere for that matter! ) She dumps her stuff also (I have a fleeting thought about how strange it is that everyone is dumping their stuff right near me… maybe breastfeeding mummas look like good people to watch your stuff without having to ask) Anyway black swimmers walks on down and just dives straight into the crisp blue water on this freezing autumn day. The waves toss her like a stray piece of seaweed. She stands and dives again, its drags her a few meters sideways. She stands and dives again.
The teen, and her boy who has rejoined her, are pummelled by a wave. Thrown to the shore like debris they pick themselves up, laughing, while retrieving sand from hidden orifices. It dawns on me this is the lifecycle of a woman, right here on this beach.
Here are my daughters…their mumma is their world, they need you – they are you… you are your mumma … until you’re not. Until you grow into this teen who is pushing back. Who is doing all she can to prove she is NOT you, not her mother – ugghh – she is her own woman and is screaming to find who that is.
Then there’s me, now, finally, a mumma. You’re no longer your mumma, you’re their mumma. And you being their mumma becomes everything. They are everyone and nothing else matters.
Then you are you. Black swimmers and all. You may have been a mumma, or not. You definitely had a mumma, but don’t anymore. You recognise the parts of you that were your mumma… and you hold them tight. Whether you’ve had children, raised children or lost children you’ve certainly touched the lives of many. With a kind smile as they cry at the shops or a knowing wink to a young mother struggling with a baby. She may or may not realise you are looking at your past reflected back at you, wondering where the time went and what you were so worried about all those years ago.
When you’re Black Swimmers, you know who you are. You see the younger women before you on the beach and show them what we’re capable of. Freedom. True freedom that only comes with confidence. To stand your ground, speak your mind put a stop to things that are not ok. For you and for women around you. Mansplaining and gaslighting are no longer in your lexicon, because they can no longer make you doubt your own mind. You have the same strength and conviction as that 4 yo who watches in amazement as you dive and dive again… not flinching as the torrents rage toward you. The same carefree joy of the teen completely alive in that moment. The same knowing look as me. You know that I am you and you were me. And I know that it’s all ok.
As I return home from a beautiful moment on the beach I think about the women I know who are going through infertility, who’ve lost babes, lost mothers. Whose mothers aren’t the types you can find written about in cards… and I feel bad. I feel bad that I’m lucky and I feel bad that I’m tired.
Stay strong Mummas x