’My Purple Feet’

This post is something I have been thinking about for some time.  The busy season has kept me from expressing it in written word.  It is born out of the frustration with my own body of late.  A month or so back, I was tearily overwhelmed with the fact that my body was, seemingly, betraying me and letting me down. Besides the daily discomfort, I have just been so disappointed with a ‘capital D’.

For those who know me well, know I have suffered with severe varicous vein damage for years.  They first appeared in pregnancy number 2.  They progressively got worse with each pregnancy, particularly in the fourth pregnancy when the featured picture was taken.  I still remember the discomfort I felt when the photos were being taken, hoping it wouldn’t show on my face. To any passerby, it would seem I was swanning my way through my pregnancies.  No I didn’t put on a lot of weight or deal with fluid build up.  But beneath my strategically chosen clothes, I was armoured up with every support garment I could get my hands on.  I had small and large veins running down my legs, vulval veins, and ankles and feet that were a permanent shade of blotchy purple from the blood pooling there.  I would often shower in the dark so I didn’t have to see my damaged body. To get out of bed to wee in the night was excruciating, without the help of my supports. At its worst, in pregnancy number 6, I had vulval veins that were 5-10cm in diametre.  The medical team had never seen anything like it.

Yes some might say, I asked for it, having so many children…… but I am a determined little minx.  And I regret none of the pain and discomfort, as would be the same with most mothers who have endured difficult pregnancies.

I finally reached the top of the waiting list to receive surgery to restore the valves in the feeding veins that were causing the damage.  I was full of hope, thinking that I may be able to enjoy a relatively comfortable pregnancy for Benji, who we thought would be our last.  However the suckers came back, although thankfully not quite as bad. Since Mr Benji arrived, I have had four procedures.  Two stripping of the leg and groin (ouch!!) and two rounds of injections.  So you would think, when we contemplated going back for, one last little package, I would have to be assured of a pregnancy without excessive discomfort!!?? But guess what? Purple ankles it is, supports and heaviness.  Not quite as bad, but there nonetheless.

So I had a lovely little pity party for myself.  I processed some envy of lucky women who can flaunt their bare legs in pregnancy, when mine haven’t seen the light of day (literally) in 12 years.  As they never quite cleared between pregnancies.  Then I got over it, pulled up my big girl socks (or compression tights) and got on with it.

I also prompted myself to meditate on the fact that how ridiculously blessed I am to have had 8 healthy pregnancies, when I know know so many precious women who have battled with infertility and empty arms.  Physical pain can never compare to emotional pain.  I also started down the path of blessing my body with my thoughts and words.  I look at our 7 beautiful babes, and marvel at the fact that each came through my body into the world.  My attitude started to shift.

In this shift, I also got to thinking how many women are discontent with their bodies. It seems to be a common thread with all/most of us, particularly after the demands and damage caused by pregnancy and post-natal demands.  We put so much more pressure on ourselves with our expectations of our bodies after birth (thank you media) that we rarely stop and marvel at how utterly miraculous a woman’s body is.  Even after birthing nearly 8 babies, I still can’t quite comprehend that a little life, so unique and intricate, can be created within us, in only 9 months.  Watching my body spider with veins again, focusing on its seeming ugliness, made me lose sight of just how wonderful my body is.

So it’s from this space, I wrote this little declaration, that I feel every mother could benefit from hearing from their spouse.  It may be a bit flowery for some, but you’ll get the gist. Sime is actually super encouraging.  He affirms me in every way.  I actually squirm under his direct attention and affirmation.  I often feel more comfortable if he is teasing me…… but I do believe every woman who has given her body over to creating a human life could do with hearing this.  Not just hearing it from the father of their child, but also thinking it of themselves.  Honouring their body…… reflecting on just how wonderful it is.

One of the most beautiful moments for me, as I birthed our fifth boy, Jasper, which was a particularly arduous birth.  In that moment when I was questioning my own strength, Sime whispered to me “you are my hero” and it gave me resolve to continue.  I think we should all be whispering this to our bodies.  Even with its stretch marks and  flabby bits, or even purple ankles….. it has been a hero in bringing life into the world.

So here it is.  What every mother deserves to hear from their spouse…… and from themselves.

“You are altogether beautiful to me.  The lines you complain of on your face, are just a sign of all the laughs, worries and moments we have shared together.  The straying greys? They are a reminder that I get the privilege of aging with you.  The stretch marks you bear, are a badge of how your body miraculously stretched to accommodate the life that we created.  The veins that you hate? They remind me of the how your blood system worked so hard to nourish the extension of us…… blood of my blood.  Your curves are attractive to me, growing softer with the years, testifying to all the sacrifices and time you have dedicated to our family.  So many times, putting yourself last.  

Yes you are altogether beautiful, my darling, my love.  Your body is not only something I cherish and enjoy, but also the greatest example of love, of sacrifice and perseverance.  You perservered though months on uncomfortable nights, then excruciating pain to birth our babies…..then followed by years of interrupted nights and tending to others.  Yes your body is a temple of pure love, which is why I love to honour, protect and admire it. 

No image of beauty in this world can even come close to you.  You are my beauty, you are my love”.

Love and honour your bodies, mothers! And partners, honour those who brought an extension of you into the world.  What greater privilege is there than to give life?

Love, Greta….. The Butcher’s Wife (and her purple feet!)