This Thursday I am thankful for many things - but I have decided to highlight just one. This Thursday I am thankful for this body of mine.
I have spent much of my life hating my body. Growing up I hated how short I was and that I wasn't covered in freckles like my friend Marie. I hated my Johnson feet and the fact that my fingernails were never as perfectly oval as my mother's. My hair has always been my nemesis - the wrong color, wrong length and full of cowlicks. I hated my body for betraying me in adolescence - all my girlfriends were getting real boobs and I was being teased about my anthills. I was covered in zits, had braces on my teeth and braces on my knees. I wore glasses, and for a short while, hearing aids. My body was my sworn enemy.
This body of mine has put up with a lot though. I managed to miss out on the coordination gene and have made my body work over time healing broken bones, dislocated elbows and endless stitches. I have made it grow a new ACL and I have completely removed the menisci in one knee. I have had countless xrays and MRIs and should have had a frequent flyer card for the emergency room.
In it's younger years my body bent and stretched its way through gymnastics and acrobatics. It sashayed, did the jazz square and tapped its way through dance class after dance class. It chased soccer balls and climbed high up into pine trees. My body has probably run hundreds of 5Ks, has hurled down ski slopes and has cross country skied up mountain trails. It's gone parasailing and white water rafting.
This body, that I complain about, has been subjected to ear piercing, tattooing, hot wax treatments, thousands of pounds of deep fried food, cigarette smoke and alcohol. It rarely is rewarded with enough water, enough sleep or enough fresh vegetables.
It's held its own when dealing with changes. It survived puberty, car accidents, bike accidents and surgeries. It's dealt with my weight fluctuations, from the 30 extra pounds of college to the emaciation of depression. It slimmed down for my wedding and added muscle as I trained to run the marathon.
It got me to the end 26.2 miles unscathed and unknowingly three weeks pregnant.
This body has done its job - it has maintained two healthy pregnancies with almost no complaint. And I've realized, this week, that this tough old body of mine ain't so bad.
Sure there are things that sag and jiggle in ways that are upsetting. I still wish I was taller, more slender, more graceful.
Sure, in its current manifestation I have very little control. My belly is enormous, my feet are a mystery. My back and legs ache and my hands swell. Those boobs I wished for in adolescence? Yeah, in pregnancy those have shown up to work overtime.
My legs are covered in spider veins - but they still allow me to chase after a four year old and squat down to get a great picture. My back is sore and uncomfortable, but it can still carry load of laundry and a sobbing child. Sure, my eyes are permanently bloodshot and tired, but they can still convey a smile.
And this belly? This enormous, shape shifting belly?
It is cocooning a baby.
Another little lady.
It has kept her safe and warm. It has provided a nest for the last leaf on our family tree - where she has heard my heart beat, her sister's silly stories and her father's deep laughter. This belly has been a safe haven for two babies - it has done it's job and done it well. And in a few months, when it is wiggly and flaccid with extra, worn out skin, I will remember to be thankful, because this belly sheltered my girls, let my husband feel tiny kicks and hiccups, provided a pillow for a tired four year old. This pregnancy has reminded me that my body is so much more impressive than I ever give it credit for....and for this imperfect, aching, aging body, I am eternally thankful.