Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Art of the body

How does one prepare for the day when a surgeon will cut off a piece of what makes one a woman?

I've been thinking a lot about bodies lately. Christine intrigued me with her choice of "embody" as her word for the year. And then Leah invited us to focus on the body as our creative muse this month. So since the beginning of the month I've been contemplating how I wanted to incorporate "body" into my creativity. I was full of ideas and just needed the time to play with them.

Then the envelope came in the mail. The envelope that held the letter that says in simple Times New Roman font, as though it were no more important than my daughter's next soccer practice, that my breast reduction surgery has been booked for March. Gulp. Suddenly all creative ideas were blocked and all I could think of was "I'm going to lose a piece of what makes me a woman."

Don't get me wrong - I really want this surgery. I chose it. I'm so tired of the aching back, the carvings in my shoulders, the sore ribs from impossible under-wires, the impossibility of finding double H bras for less than my mortgage payment, the shirts that never fit, the near earthquake that's caused when I try to jog - all of it. I want it to be over.

But that doesn't mean it's not complicated. It took me a long, long time to come to this decision, and I won't back down now, but there are so many mixed emotions that play tricks with one's mind. All of those memories of the babies I've nursed, the pleasure I've shared with my husband, the aching fullness of unused milk when the baby who was meant to nurse has left this earth - they're all wrapped up in my identity, my shape as a woman.

And then there is the message I'm sending to my daughters. Is it okay for me to have plastic surgery, when I want to encourage them to value their bodies and not let media images dictate how they view what they see in the mirror? I would be lying if I didn't admit to myself that at least part of the reason for this decision is about my own complicated body image.

Tonight I finally had time to disappear into my studio for awhile to play with paint, ideas, memories, heartache... and breasts.

I started with a few of those images that surround us - the perfect bodies with the perfect breasts. No, those aren't the only reasons for this choice, but I have to at least acknowledge them and let them be a part of the picture. And the truth is, not even those women in the magazine ads are completely content when they look in the mirror.

As I prepare for this journey, I will try to acknowledge the hope and the hurt, the beauty and the ugly, the truth and the lies I tell myself. I know that I will be changed in more ways than one.

P.S. I had thought I'd be a little more private about this journey, but for some reason, I feel compelled to share it here. I know that you, my kind readers, will hold these words gently in your hearts as you have so often done when I've been vulnerable. If you're interested, I first wrote about it here, when I went for my original consultation with the surgeon.


Valerie Kamikubo said...

Certainly, it takes courage to share and I thank you for your vulnerability... all the best!

Leah said...

Heather, this is such a beautiful, powerful, heart-felt post. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, your art, and your words.

(((love and hugs to you)))

melanie said...

i am glad you decided to share. i feel really blessed to get a glimpse into how you feel about such a vulnerable experience like having a surgery which will change your body.

you are very brave, heather & i hope that you are gentle as you go through that journey. no squashing what you feel! :)

lots & lots of love.

mmichele said...

share it here, my darling.

or where ever you want to.

Olivia said...

I too am glad that you decided to share this, Heather. You know what is right for you. We are each so different and unique, and there is no blame or shame if we decide that there is something we need to change. Peace, blessings, and a successful surgery, O xo

Kelly said...

I think the struggle that you're are having with this decision (though you are clear on what that decision is) shows that you are giving it the thorough thought that such a big decision demands and that you are allowing yourself to go through the emotions it's raising - sounds pretty healthy to me. I admire that you are acknowledging the body image part and the perception of your daughters but it's far, far more than that, it's your overall health and well being - and comfort! Good for you!

Angela Raincatcher said...

I hold you and your decisions to have the surgery and to post about it within my heart tenderly.

Dovelily said...

I truly admire your courage in having this surgery, and also your decision to be vulnerable and share your thoughts, feelings and experience with your readers. Much love and many prayers for you during your journey.

Stephanie said...

Powerful words. Thank you so much for sharing them.

angela said...

Powerful, insightful post. Thank you for articulating the emotions surrounding this decision. I have two (admittedly opposing) regrets about my own reduction surgery 10 years ago: not doing it sooner and not emotionally processing more in advance. Best wishes to you.

Kirsten Alicia said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Heather, I hope there are others to whom you are able to talk about this. I'm the opposite to you, I'm waiting for a reconstruction, following radical surgery for breast cancer. I want the surgery, but I keep wondering if I should learn to accept my body as it is now. I have major body image issues & I don't think the surgery is going to help me, on the other hand I'm not sure I can spend the rest of my life like this. It's difficult. However, I wish you well & send you my very best wishes. Love & light.

Anonymous said...

March feels really SOON.

squarepegperson said...

Such vulnerability and honest heart sharing - oh, it blesses my heart - thank you for, Heather - for sharing (of course) - but for BEing the kind of person who reflects and who is deep and multi-layered - and (well - here we are back at sharing again) courageous enough to SHARE your ponderings with us. thank you thank you!

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Linda said...

Courage my friend. Thanks for sharing.

Karla said...

Heather - I'm glad the process is transparent here - makes me think.

I've never looked at breast reduction surgery as "plastic surgery" similar to Heidi Montag's debacle in the U.S. That's why I find your query about what message you're sending to your daughters so thought provoking.

You are creating a body that is healthy, comfortable, and makes if possible to be active.

I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Linda said...

Almost 20 years ago, I spent an evening flat on my stomach, sobbing into the carpet as I anticipated the surgery that was coming in a few days, a bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction. I was 40 and had been diagnosed with the familial form of breast cancer that had killed my mother on her 45th birthday. Yet, I had some of the same doubts you and one of your readers expressed. Should I have reconstructive surgery? Were breasts really that important? At the height of some feminist literature, I was reading in some places that reconstruction was a giving in to others' ideas of feminity, a surrendering to conventional norms. That night, I dreamed my legs rather than my breasts were being amputated. I realized that the dream was my way of trying to show people, but more importantly, myself, how important my feelings were about my breasts, as unbeautiful as they were at the time after having nursed two daughters. So I grieved. I had the reconstruction. And for almost 20 years, I've been glad. The surgery, that plastic surgery, that reconstructive surgery, gave me some control over my life. I don't think "breast cancer victim" when I look in the mirror. Give yourself leaway to grieve over the necessity for your decision--if not for the cancer, I would eventually have considered reduction surgery, too--and stop questioning whether it's okay to do. Whatever you need to do is okay to do. Then, when you've grieved enough, be glad and content.

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