My back gave up on me this week. It’s been threatening to for a while.
I think six years of constantly carrying one small child or another on my left hip finally caught up on me.
The straw that broke this camel’s back was a ‘fun walk in the sun over the hill’ with the girls to collect Eldest from school.
The warm sun.
These things were all calling to me. To get away from the usual hectic car ride and desperate search for a non-existent parking space. To get away from strapping three fighting children into three monstrous car seats, whilst trying to avoid being kicked in the face.
The beauty called to me and I gratefully set off to ‘climb every mountain’, field and hill in pursuit of freedom and the school gate. In my head I was walking the path of the wild, free life that I want my children to live. In reality, though, I was walking the path of mutineering children, dragging feet, and self-loathing.
I love walking.
It clears my head.
Connects my soul.
Resets my mind.
Stretches out my body.
Midllest and Littlest however, despite being renowned for their ability to walk miles, on this occasion, did not love walking.
So, a donkey I became – carrying and dragging two small children, in the heat, across a bumpy field, whilst yelling expletives and receiving odd looks from carefree passers by. We were also late, which did not help the pressure of the situation. I stomped past the banks of cow parsley and the meadow of buttercups and daisies. My vases at home would remain empty – my hands were full of sweaty, cross children, rather than wildflowers.
When we arrived home I knew something wasn’t right.
By the time evening came I could no longer walk straight, without pain, or on my right leg.
The sodding cow parsley could wait. All stops when your body breaks down.
I did not appreciate the physicality of motherhood before I had children. It was one of the biggest surprises to me. Not just the psychological and emotional strength that it requires, but the physical strength. I am a very determined person, but I am petite, and the physicality of raising three little children has at times nearly floored me.
My left arm now bears permanent stretch marks from carrying small children there for much of the last six years. They twist around the inside of my wrist and forearm.
Entwining my skin like a vine.
Somedays I view them like a chinese burn – an exhibit of my six year struggle.
Other days I view them like the war wounds of a hero.
They, like other marks on my body, are my medals of pride; of achievement – that my body has been used to its full capacity for something beautifully productive. I will go to the grave knowing that I have used every inch of my body – not just in the folly’s pursuit of eternal youth and beauty – but for the beautiful process of bearing and raising another little person. Other little people. There is something so creative about that to me. That the work of my body has produced something that will far outlast it.
But it has its cost.
I remember the midwife saying to me when I was leaving the hospital after giving birth to my third child, that I needed to “ease up on the gym”.
The children are my gym. In some ways I have never been fitter or more active. But in other ways – three c-sections and six years in – my body is weary.
The physio came over and worked absolute miracles on my back. I was released from my cage of pain and tension, and able to walk again. However, he said, “my diagnosis is that you are an overworked, overtired mother of three, and you must look after yourself better”. And he prescribed:
More time to exercise
More time for myself
This is a list of dreams to me. A list made of the wind that I can but chase. For now.
Perhaps one day I will catch it.
I will try to.
But motherhood, family, life… this all puts the world and more on your shoulders. It’s hard to chase the wind when you’re carrying that around.
I know many of us who should be trying to more though.