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.

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