An Ode To My Girls
And by my girls, I mean my breasts. Ahead of this next biopsy where even more of you will be taken away, I thought we should have this chat.
It occurred to me that I have treated you the way I have treated myself—with not enough love. I say this with as much self-compassion as I can muster because it’s not like I meant to. Just conditioning, I suppose. What’s done is done and I vow to do better.
When you didn’t look good enough for the world’s gaze, I squished you with some figure-enhancing silicone cutlets. I push-upped, padded and waterbraed you, trying everything short of cutting into you. It’s only now that part of you is already gone—and more still to go—that I realize you were perfect exactly as you were.
Back in college, I bragged about not even needing a sports bra to go running and sometimes even did that. You needed support and I denied you. I forced you to toughen up. It makes sense that the doctors describe you as fibrous and dense. There was no other way to survive me.
At the beach, I covered you up in 1920s style bathing costumes with the false belief that you weren’t pretty enough for a bikini. Sorry about that. My Brazilian friends tried to talk to me, but I didn’t listen. When all this is over, I promise to get you a cute swimsuit. You’ve waited long enough.
At our first meeting with the lactation consultant, she told me an improper latch had turned you into hamburger meat. Honestly, it barely registered. I believed everything, absolutely everything, should hurt and I should shut up and learn to bear it better. When she suggested ways in which the baby’s dad, who slept soundly mere inches away, might be of help, it surprised us. We’d been so well trained to have me on duty 24/7 literally destroying myself.
Especially you, Lefty. No one notices I don’t think, but you were always the smaller one. The yoga instructor said ‘we mother from our left side.’ There was less of you to meet the demands. You needed even more care to do a hard job for which you didn’t feel adequately prepared. Despite that, you mothered with everything you had and still do. You are now the one the doctors are worried about.
I didn’t know that 1.7 centimeters of tissue would be removed from you, Lefty. For a small breast, I note the difference and of course, you feel it too. I’m sorry no one prepared us for that. So much for informed consent. I wrote to the female physician who performed that last biopsy. Perhaps she will take it to heart and other women won’t have to make this discovery on their own once the swelling goes down.*
After that procedure, I was told by the techs to expect 3-5 days of mild discomfort and then nothing. But you continued to hurt. Sharp, shooting pains. I didn’t want to upset anyone or acknowledge it myself, so I didn’t say a word. Again, well-practiced.
Instead, I feared the worst about you and kept it to myself. Only when the kind surgeon mentioned that I should expect exactly these symptoms did I release one muffled sob. I didn’t want her to think I was one of “those patents” who had no ability to control her emotions.
Ahead of this next biopsy where now three bilateral masses will be sampled, I want to say thank you. I’m sorry for how I treated you. And Godspeed to you in this second, high stakes test, girls. You were always enough and after this is all over, you will still be enough, no matter what. I appreciate you hanging in there, literally. I love you and I will miss you.
And finally, I offer us all a bit of grace from Divinity Professor Kate Bowler who begins by saying, “if you are like me you feel guilty and weird when you have needs, so here is a little blessing to take what you need.”
The feeder is empty again, and no one is claiming that the birds are greedy for taking what they pleased.
Look at how the fat pink flowers are weighing the end of each branch, sucking nutrients into each velvet petal. How selfish.
Nature hungers, takes and needs, God, why can’t I?
Blessed are we learning to take what we need. Sleeping past our alarms, reaching for another helping. Staying a little longer, when the evening is unwinding.
Blessed are we, ignoring the rising anxiety that our needs are somehow silly because we have survived this long without the pleasures of this wanting.
God let these needs be the good sign of the greening of my life.
If we ever want to love and be loved well by others, it is up to us to love ourselves well enough first.
WRITING PROMPT: How can you take better care or yourself emotionally? Physically? Spiritually? We deserve better. All of us are hard on ourselves.
*Let me just take a hot second to address you, Diagnostic Center For Women, with your nearly all-women staff and doctors. Your front desk needs a pep talk. None of you looked me in the eye, either time I visited your offices. You claimed not to have received my prescription and said you’d refuse service even though it was my doctor’s office who sent in the script and scheduled the appointment. You sent the lady ahead of me away because her doctor allegedly didn’t send her biopsy script in either. Make a phone call, it wouldn’t kill you. But it might kill her. Also, DCFW, may I call you that since we are so close now? The biopsy physician did not inform me that I would definitely miss the breast tissue she would be taking. Like literally. 1.7 centimeters is a lot to remove from a small breast. That’s .669 inches. Imparting such information is legally required informed consent, if you want to get technical about it. Women are not cattle. Also, you mentioned, super casual like, that you would insert a titanium marker inside my body, mere seconds before you did so. You are leaving something inside me forever. SAY SO. In sum, do better. Acknowledge us. As women, many if not most of us already discount and deny ourselves as it is. Stop being part of the problem.
**Thanks for the sketch, Erica.
Your are an awesome breast friend.
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