There are days when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I find myself thinking, “Who is that person”? Then I suck in the areas I can, hold up the parts that need to be lifted and suddenly for a quick second I catch a glimpse of the old me.
It is not lost on me for one minute that I am blessed beyond words that I have a body that shows the marks and signs of being able to carry a child within me, not just once but six times. Having friends who have struggled with infertility, how could I ever complain about the marks and changes from being given the gift of being able to have a baby?
While stretch marks are never promoted as beautiful, I embrace the fact that I have some to remind me of those babies that I carried. As a mom raising four daughters, I am well aware of how they perceive their bodies and we have very open discussions about body image. I have never hidden from them the fact that there are things I would like to change about my body, for that matter I’ve been pretty open with everyone and written in the past about some of the changes I wish I could make to certain parts of my body. The reality is that we all have things about us physically that we wish we could change.
To be very honest, my breasts scare me. Sure I would love to look like a swimsuit model, but I’m not. I am a woman who has nursed six kids, seen her weight fluctuate more than the price of gas, and has gravity working against me. With the wear and tear my breasts have been through in the past 17 years I can understand why they aren’t perky anymore. Add to that the fact that I have watched someone I loved so dearly die from breast cancer and all in all I can honestly say that I am not a fan of my breasts.
On Thanksgiving Day I found a small lump and my gut sank. I cried for a minute in the shower, trying to wash all of the fear out of me before I went downstairs to start cooking for all the guests we were expecting. The good news is that after having it checked out, everything was fine. The technician that did the ultrasound talked to me about how it can be difficult to always feel a lump when you have dense breast.
The whole experience left me seriously thinking about things. My breasts served a purpose to feed my babies, but now they scare me. So when the opportunity arose for me to get them fixed, I thought long and hard about it. I talked openly with my girls about it to get their thoughts and opinions about plastic surgery. Finally, I decided to do it. To have a procedure called a mastopexy. Not for any other reason than to do it for me.
When I first decided to find out more about the procedure, I went in terrified. I have seen that reality show about the plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills. The show where all the doctors seem to make their patients well-endowed and look like Barbie. I wanted someone who would hear me and what I wanted, which was a far cry from what the media shows us. The first day I met with Dr. Harper I was so nervous. I walked in like a deer in the headlights and from the moment that his nurse Nancy started to talking to me, I knew I would be okay. Than Dr. Harper came in and I actually started crying. This was a huge step for me to even give myself permission to do something for me and from the moment he and Nancy walked in to the room, I felt like they cared and they listened. Looking back on our first meeting, I still smile. I don’t think that either one of them will ever know what a huge role they played in calming my fears and making me feel beautiful for wanting to have less. There was no push to be Barbie like I had seen on TV, if anything it was supported that all I wanted was all the excess breast tissue removed and to just be left with the basics.
I had the surgery last week and I can honestly say that I am so happy I did it. The day of surgery I was pretty adamant that I wanted to go alone. I was doing this for me and I really just wanted to sit in pre-op and reflect on things. As silly as it sounds, it was probably one of the most special moments in my life.
The day after surgery I went in for Dr. Harper to change the bandages. He said everything looked perfect but that I might want to wait a month or so before I look in the mirror at them because of all the bruising and swelling. I would have laughed out loud if the pain from the incisions hadn’t stopped me. You can’t tell a woman to not look in a mirror! I went straight home and the first thing I did was look at them. I almost (big surprise) cried because even through all the bruising and swelling, it was me. The me that I could be comfortable with, the me that I remember and the me that would never again not do a breast exam because of the fear.
I thought I was having this done just for me. But here is the curve ball that life always has for us. During all of this I learned that my blood pressure is too high. Here I was so worried about the things I could see that I never thought about the silent things going on in my body that could cause me harm. In just a week, as a family we are learning about sodium and drastically changing our diet. We have become vigilant about our nightly walks, even if it means bedtime gets pushed back 30 minutes just so we can do it. I had no idea how unhealthy we were eating even though we thought we were being good. Ironically, in just a week I feel better than I have in years and have even lost 2 pounds just cutting out sodium.
There will always be parts of my body that I like, parts of my body that I want to change and parts that will always be changing even without my consent. The reality is that we all do. I was uncomfortable and scared of the things I could see on the outside of my body. Having this surgery changed my life. It made me more comfortable with myself. It has made me feel good about myself in a way that I haven’t in a long time. But the real gift in all of this is that I learned that by giving myself permission to do something for myself it actually might have saved my life so I can be here longer for my children.