I am currently pregnant with our 4th child, and this pregnancy has been tough. With it comes not only new thoughts and emotions surrounding what it will mean to raise four kids, but also new physical symptoms from another pregnancy on this (not so young anymore) body.
This pregnancy has brought with it the unfortunate varicose veins and leg problems. There have been times when just walking has been difficult and painful for me. It’s such a bummer. I look down at these legs of mine and see the purple, blue, and green veins, some of them spider-ing out and others puffing up like jagged mountain ranges. I wonder what my body will look like when this is all over. Which ones will improve and which are permanent?
One recent morning I was feeling particularly down about it all and I didn’t even want to go on my morning walk – usually one of my favorite times of the day. I had new pregnancy symptoms that day and was nervous to go too far from home, fearing I wouldn’t be able to make it back on my own. I thought it might be better just to lay on the couch. My husband suggested I give the walk a try, even if I only went around the block. He encouraged me to do it for the emotional benefit rather than the physical benefit.
My morning walks are my thinking time – those rare minutes when I can let my mind wander uninterrupted by children or to-dos. As my mind worked that particular morning, I started thinking about the purpose of our bodies. It’s not to keep them perfect and pristine, but our bodies are here for us to use. Throughout this pregnancy, I had been operating with the mindset of preservation. What could I do to keep my body just the same as it was before I got pregnant? How could I avoid damaging it in any way? Getting sucked up into this mindset sucked all the joy out of my days. Each new symptom was discouraging and worrisome, and wrecked me with anxiety. There was no joy in trying to preserve my body. The joy comes from using my body.
When those words came to me, I was immediately transported back to my childhood. I was that kid who was reluctant to use her new crayons because if I did, the tips wouldn’t be pointy anymore. But the joy comes in using the crayons, not from keeping them looking brand new.
My walk was brief, but it gave me so much. I was beautifully overwhelmed with this realization, and motivated to live my life boldly, unconcerned about whatever would and wouldn’t stick after this pregnancy. I wanted to live.
When I got back inside our house, my four-year old son was in his bedroom playing with my husband. They were sitting on the floor next to an open canister of 100 glow sticks my son had just purchased with chore money he saved up. My son was liberally activating the glow sticks and sharing them with my husband (and also his sisters!). I wanted to caution him, “Save some for later!” or “Have you thought about how many you want to use right now?” but his joy was in using them. Witnessing this reinforced the message even more for me.
I’m still working on this mindset, and it won’t be easy, but I want my joy to come from using my body. After all, at the end of my life my body won’t be pristine, no matter how hard I try, but what will matter to me the most is how I used this body while I had it.