I woke up from surgery late in the afternoon. I pulled the gown open, looked down and there was a new mound on the left. It looked good. Though, as the surgeon promised, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.
When she came by later, the surgeon pointed to an extra scar on my newborn boob. “That’s your belly button,” she said. Great, I thought, I am officially Ms. Potato Head. The skin she had taken included my belly button, so she cut me a new one. They had to jackknife me in the OR to sew me up because she had taken every scrap of belly fat she could find.
So I am now not only Ms. Potato Head, but Ms. Potato Head with abs of steel.
It may take two hours and one night in hospital to take breasts off, but it takes eight hours and three days in hospital to backfill. And a morphine pump. And hospital food. My pain level was low (unless I sneezed) and I came home a couple of days later, bent over but walking. Three drainage tubes came out a few days after that. And now I’m walking upright and my life is back.
I feel like I’ve resigned from a club I never wanted to join. I threw out my prosthetic and the grandma–like mastectomy bras. I’ve pulled out clothes that I had thrust to the back of the closet. I used to put on a special nightie once in a while and rip it off as soon as I saw my image in the mirror. A few weeks ago I pulled it on, and a stupid, happy grin covered my face. I felt ignited – more beautiful than I’d felt in years. I walked out and showed my husband. He looked at my face (well, I hope he looked at more than that), and he teared up.
It was my birthday the week after I got home. For the first time in our relationship, my husband bought me a gift certificate. Unbelievably, from Victoria’s Secret. In the card he wrote, “For when you rediscover what I’ve known about you all along.” I’m standing a little taller now, drawing in my breath. And living for beauty. Mine.