Revisiting: Breast Intentions

My own life hasn’t been incredibly interesting lately – a little laundry here, a little errands there.  So while I try and make myself more interesting for your sake, I’m going to put up an old post from my now-defunct old blog.  This was written a couple of years ago and while I *SO* no longer relate to what I wrote here, I still enjoyed the trip down memory lane.  Insecurities exposed and all, I’m still pretty proud of this post.  A few words here and there changed for context.

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The 4th of July marked two weeks away from a very important date for me. On July 18th, I will be undergoing a hysterectomy. I’d mused about it earlier…in rereading it I remember how I felt somewhat unsure for so long about doing the surgery, and this post was my way of explaining why I had decided to finally do what I am now about to do. Today, though, I am 100% sure about my decision. However, I didn’t expect to have some additional feelings about losing the central core of my being as a woman and how that would affect me.

The surrogacy thing (I seem to have an unnatural urge to offer to have a baby for anyone I know dealing with fertility issues) is definitely a symptom of my about to lose my ability to have children. A woman recently surprised me. Through a girlfriend, she let me know that if I were still interested, she would actually like to have me be her surrogate. As much as I love the idea of helping someone in such a wonderfully giving way, I’ve decided that my reasons for doing so are probably not the right ones. The reality of such an undertaking is much more complicated than it is on paper. And my husband doesn’t think it is a great idea – I think he worries that I would become too emotionally involved in the little child growing inside me that would never be my own. He knows me well – I worry about that too.

Another symptom I seem to be having is my perceived loss of womanhood with the upcoming loss of my uterus. Of course this is ridiculous. I know that although I will no longer have a womb, I am a woman, and always will be. My emotions are not dealing with this on a conscious level – rather they are revealing themselves in ways I never imagined. Like my recent trip to the plastic surgeon.

I’ve carried and breastfed two children, and with that came the inevitable ups and downs in cup sizes in my breasts. I went from a C pre-pregnancy to a DD+ while breastfeeding. Now I am a small C, but the skin that developed to hold my huge knockers while I was pregnant is still all there. The result? Sagging and wrinkling – they call it atrophy in the business – that leaves me feeling less of a woman when standing in front of a mirror.

When I was preparing for post-op (picking out what movies to watch, what books to read, and how else to pamper myself while I pretty much lie around for 5 days without kids while I recover) I had an epiphany: what if I did something just for myself? I could add a little something to my breasts to fill them back up again – perhaps to a large C or possibly even a D – leaving me with firmer and perkier breasts similar to what I had before I had kids.

So, without really putting much thought into it, a girlfriend of mine (who had implants in already) and I went up to spend the day in the “big city” several hours from home to visit a well-respected doctor there. I checked out his website. The results looked impressive. I did a little research. It would be a pretty intensive procedure, and would require me to have childcare for my kids for a couple of weeks. As with any surgery there were risks and possible side effects. I felt unsure, but thought it would be interesting to get a professional opinion.

The office looked like any other doctor’s office. Older people, younger people, and families waited for their turn with the surgeon. I wondered what these people were going to have done, or what they had already had done. Do 80 year-olds really have body image issues? Perhaps she was there for breast reconstruction following a mastectomy. What about the dowdy woman with the three teenage boys tagging with her, complete with mullets? Wouldn’t a simple makeover suit her better than surgery might?

And why am I here in the first place? I thought. What would people assume about me?

I weigh what I should according to those awful doctor’s charts. I eat well and exercise often (when I am on an exercise kick that is). I feel pretty comfortable with my general appearance – I’m certainly not the most attractive thing out there, but I’m comfortable with who I am. I have a pretty crooked nose that I’m not terribly fond of, and I’ve got some love handles and a poochy stomach that hang over tight-fitting pants sometimes – but I think I’m friendly enough that when I meet someone my personality makes up for it. And if it doesn’t? I’m probably not talking to someone with whom I want for a friend, anyway.

We were called into a room where we watched a video about breast augmentation. The woman actor on the video was complaining about her breasts after pregnancy and childbirth – my same complaint – and was referring to her small children at home. She was at least 50 years old and looked a bit like Elizabeth Taylor a few years ago. The doctor was a young man who listened coolly and professionally to her issues and offered cookie cutter advice. “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV,” I whispered over to my friend, and we got the giggles. However I must admit that the video, as cheesy and unbelievable as it was, did open up a few questions for me, and my friend handed me a piece of paper and a pen so I could jot them down.

It was our turn into the exam room. I was asked to strip down to my panties and put on a robe. My friend pretended to read a magazine in the corner although in my head I was sure she was checking out my figure. Almost immediately after I donned the robe, the surgeon came in. He was not what I expected – probably well into his 70s and bald – and had a very nice calm demeanor. “Well, show me what you got,” he said in his soft southern drawl. I dropped my robe. It had only been on for 5 seconds while he was in the room. Why did they bother with it in the first place?

After discussing that I was more interested in getting rid of sagging and wrinkling than going up in size, the doctor examined my breasts. He asked me to stand in several positions: with my hands above my head, leaning forward (NOT the most flattering position), and arms out. “Your right breast is bigger than your left,” he informed me as he measured me with calipers. I had never noticed. While he was studying me, I was busy looking at him. His bald head was almost devoid of wrinkles, in sharp contrast to his age. Botox? Probably so. He didn’t seem the type, but I supposed that when you had easy access to these sorts of things it is easier to take advantage of them.

After the exam I put on the robe again and we sat down for a little chat. He told me that a breast augmentation, where implants are placed in, would be much less scarring than a breast lift, and possibly could fill me back up without having to have the heavy scarring of the lift. Then I got a chance to ask my questions. How long would I need child care? About 3 weeks – picking them up would jeopardize the healing process and make a noticeable difference in the outcome. What are the chances of some of the risks? Higher than I expected. What size would I be afterwards? That is really impossible to determine until you go bra shopping after surgery, but we could fake the effect right here in the office.

The nurse handed me a surgical unibra, the same flimsy cotton garment that I would have to wear day in and day out for about a month while I recovered. They handed me a couple of implants – one bigger and one smaller, of course, because of my lopsided figure. “Slip these into the bra then put your shirt back on. It won’t be perfect, but it will give you a general idea.”

I did as I was told, then stood in front of the mirror. A very well endowed woman stared back at me. Would I look like THAT? I looked more like a porn star than my regular self. “What about something smaller?” I asked.

“We can put you in a size smaller, but it may not take care of all the sagging and wrinkling. Then we might need to go back later to do a lift.” We tried them anyway. It was closer to the effect I was going for.

Since the appointment, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. I’m not normally a person who would have breast implants or any kind of surgery solely for cosmetic purposes, for that matter. What makes me want to do it now? Is it because of the hysterectomy? Am I afraid of losing my womanhood? I am still not sure.

I also don’t know if I will have the surgery. I flip-flop a couple of times a day.

On one hand, there are no promises that the surgery will fix my sagging. And it is up in the air how big I would actually get. I’m not really a flashy person in real life – I wouldn’t want to be obvious to friends and family that I had any work done. I just wouldn’t mind looking better naked. My ego is also getting in the way. I take great pride in the fact – rightly or wrongly – that everything about me is real. This is my real hair color, real eye color, and real fingernails. I am who I am. I love being able to claim that, and if I got implants in, there would be no going back from that.

Bigger than that, though, I feel a social responsibility not to do the surgery. Why is it that when men get crows feet and graying hair it is sexy, but when women show signs of aging it lessens their desirability? I’ve always said that I would age gracefully and be proud of it. I love an older woman with long, flowing gray hair. Her wrinkles in her face shows the years of smiles and battles that she has fought and that is womanhood at its finest to me. Why should I join the ranks of the pressures that make woman feel the need to look like society’s version of perfection?

Then there are the times I stand naked in front of a mirror and think, “Holy s—, Kristina, get over yourself. If you don’t like something about your body, why don’t you just change it already?”

Will I do the surgery at this time? No. But must admit I’m not taking it off the table completely. I’ll keep the paperwork in a file. Maybe someday I’ll get it out to use it. Maybe I’ll find it one day while cleaning out my files and have a good laugh, my long gray hair bouncing and wrinkles showing with my smile.

I hope for the latter.

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