Coping with changes in my aging mothering body

Guest post by Aitch
Photo by Flickr user gingerpig2000, used with Creative Commons license.

I noticed my first varicose vein when my second son was about six months old. I looked at it with a mixture of curiosity and confusion, but not distaste. It was new and noticeably so. And so obviously there. It’s a raised bump on the inside of my left thigh about four inches above my knee, the size and shape of a dime. Black and blue like a bruise. If you pushed it in… it would pop right back out. It didn’t hurt though, and I had heard something about varicose veins being painful. My toddlers discovered it, too, and would poke at it, the way they would with the moles on my neck.

A few years later I discovered a long protruding vein below the original bump. It begins above the knee and snakes down the rest of my thigh into calf territory. I was not quite as blasé as I was with that first bump. For one thing it looked much worse — much more prominent. And for another, I was beginning to slip out of the haze I had been in for ten years with my pregnancies, babies, toddlers and house-wifery. During the years I was in a nearly constant state of pregnancy and breastfeeding, the perception of my body had changed. It became something merely functional, not aesthetic or sexually attractive.

As my body carried around a fetus, or pushed out my babies and then provided nourishment to said infants, it began to feel purely utilitarian. My legs were included in this feeling, which is why the varicose veins initially didn’t bother me. My legs existed only to carry me and my babies around, both in and outside the womb. At that time, showing them off was the last thing on my mind. My legs served me better than my back did. My legs and back carried around a hell of a lot of weight, and while my back loudly complained, my legs seemed to get stronger.

But now, it was all too obvious that my silent legs has suffered too. When I searched on the internet, my suspicion was confirmed — age and childbirth are the leading causes of varicose veins in women. I didn’t know that varicose veins quite simply are enlarged pools of blood in places where the veins fail to circulate properly. They don’t affect your health, are painful for some, and of course, don’t look very pretty.

A couple years and a couple of new varicose vein appearances later, I snapped out of my pregnancy, breastfeeding, sleep and intellectually-deprived stupor. Again, I looked at my legs aesthetically. The image was marred by the long ropey blue lines meandering down the inside of my leg, looking like the raised rivers on a topographic map. By now I had developed the ropey meandering lines on the backside of my other calf.

And it felt really lousy.

I couldn’t help but reminisce that 20 and 30 years ago, my legs were one of my strong points — at least according to what features our current culture deems sexually attractive in a woman. My legs looked long, slender, and shapely enough for many people, both guys and girls, to compliment me on them So, I made sure that when I wore shorts or skirts, that they were long enough for only the “best” part of my legs to be exposed. I’m a long way from that now, it feels like.

I have found myself lately exposing my legs in yoga class though because it just gets too hot to cover them up all the way. When I do that, I notice the absence of people checking out my legs anyway. I get the vibe that people really don’t care much about a 50-year-old woman’s legs anyway.

Mostly though I am starting to think philosophically about my legs. I have come to realize that when I did have good-looking, shapely and eye catching legs, they never brought me fulfillment on any level; be that financially, emotionally, creatively, or sexually. It will probably be more productive for me to fret about other things besides my very functional, strong and still working-well legs.

Comments on Coping with changes in my aging mothering body

  1. Beautiful post. It’s hard to remember what amazing things our bodies have done for us and continue to do for us and really APPRECIATE them for what they do rather than how they look.

    (I should note that my mom figured out it was cheaper to have this big beautiful mandala tattooed over the varicose veins on her calf than to pay to have them removed… and it’s a GORGEOUS tattoo!)

  2. Genetics plays a large role. I’m in my early thirties and haven’t had a baby, but my legs are now covered in spider veins. I look like I’ve been beaten up.

    It’s not so much that it’s a blow to my vanity (although I don’t like wearing short skirts now) but an indication that I’m getting old. I still think of myself as an 18 year old girl (with the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy) and it startles me to look in the mirror and see a thirty something woman looking back.

  3. I try to remind myself often that *loving and taking care of my body is a way of honoring all of nature and creation*

    Definitely makes me appreciate that the body is a part of something really awesome and surely deserving of love and appreciation!

  4. I was getting purple spider veins (not the big protruding blue ones) on my legs before I had my son 3 months ago, but because of an inherited thrombophilia I was put on injections of low molecular weight heparin (a blood thinner) at the start and the end of my pregnancy. And the spider veins went away, pretty much completely. I wonder if doctors would prescribe LMWH for varicose veins?

  5. these can happen to everyone. i’m 28, no kids. i’ve had spider veins on my legs for years. i’m also a hairstylist. so, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (on average, two of those days are 11 hours!!) i’m on my feet. they say that helps. (hinders?)

    i’ve got a co worker that had laser treatments for them, and had great results.

  6. The hardest part about having children for me, are the changes to my body, and learning to love those changes. I’ve got a ways to go, but right now I’ve reached the point that my body will never be the same. And I am grateful for that because many women don’t get to experience that change.

    PS> YA LITTLETON 😀 😀 😀

  7. As a nurse, I would say definitely not to using LMWH for varicose/spider veins: the risks of bleeding would greatly outweigh the benefits. There are actually relatively simple procedures now to comsmetically take care of varicose and spider veins (spider veins, esp.) Of course, wearing compression stockings as much as possible during pregnancy helps. And, generally, veins that cause pain should be referred to your physician.

  8. Loved when I just saw this article. I have had VV since I was in my early 20s and now they are way worse in my early 30s. We are planning on starting a family soon and I plan on investing in some compresson socks to hopefully slow down the growth of more veins. I have looked into getting them removed but it will cost me thousands of dollars and I rather travel with the money now. I figure once we are done having kids I am sure I will get my first of many VV removal procedures. Thankfully my husband looks past these blue bumps and I am still beautiful to him anyway.

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