At the surface, boobs are boobs. You put them in a bra each morning and usually forget about them by the time you've had your morning coffee. But they're like a lot of things you take for granted in life: you don't think about how important they are until they're gone. Think about the first time you get a really awful haircut: never again do you take a good stylist for granted. I never thought that losing my breasts would be such an emotional experience. Logically, they're not a vital organ and I made the rational decision by having them removed. But as I learned the hard way, an emotion can impact you even if you consciously try to reason your way out of it. You can't talk yourself out of feeling something. It's going to be there, waiting, until you deal with it.
With a week to go, I admitted: I was nervous. This emotion was still rational. I could keep this under control.
With two days to go, rationality flew the coop. I walked around feeling like I could cry if I just allowed myself to. That night, I did. Couldn't even explain why. I was just felt like crying.
The night before the surgery, I cried again. This time in front of my boyfriend who, god bless his heart, probably had no idea what to say or do. He said, "Anyone would be nervous before this kind of surgery." He'd guessed a very small part of the problem - I was nervous. I dreaded the pain. I dreaded the waiting to be whole again. I dreaded even temporarily giving up my independence. But that was such a small part of it. And I couldn't put the rest into words until recently.
A part of my body I'd had for half of my life was going to be taken away. Yes, I would be "reconstructed" so that the rest of the world would consider me whole. But I'd know. I would know that part of my body was no longer me. As illogical as it sounds, even to me, losing my breasts felt like losing my adolescence and my womanhood all at once. They reminded me of the first time I put on a dress and felt like a woman and not a girl. They represented my first love. They represented my youth, when I was perfect, healthy, care-free. It felt like after tomorrow, the world would get a different version of 'me'. My breasts were a small part of my natural, undamaged self that would be gone.
My boyfriend said it was okay to be nervous. But I was sad. Sad that after tomorrow, whenever he or anyone else held me I wouldn't be able to feel their touch. Sad that one day when the nurse puts my newborn baby in my arms, I won't feel her warmth against my chest. Sad that when I have children, I won't have the option of breast feeding them. Sure, doctors would replace my breasts so that to the rest of the world I'd be considered whole. And of course, this was the lesser of two evils. But on the eve of surgery, that rationalization didn't hold. The breasts I'd be surgically given wouldn't be part of me anymore.
The morning of surgery, I turned it all off. I didn't talk. I didn't smile. I didn't laugh. I went into robot mode. Until that morning I hadn't shown any emotion to my family regarding the surgery. This cold, angry girl was a shock to my mom and dad, who were there trying to console not only me but themselves. My mom put on a smile and said, "Today's a good day. This is a blessing." Any other morning, I felt blessed. But that morning, I felt angry. I felt violated. I didn't want to put on a happy face because I was not happy about this. I had chosen this, but it was hard. Very hard.
The nurse administered the medication and I fell asleep, already exhausted from the previous few days. I don't remember counting back from 100 or breathing through an oxygen mask... it all just went black. And then I woke up. Without breasts. Fortunately, this meant I'd reached what I think of as the critical point.
I feel that with any major life decision, there's this critical point. Before this point in time, things still matter. Decisions can still be made. Choices are left on the table. The 'future' is still uncertain. After this point, whatever decision you debated has been enacted. Any choice you had is gone. The future is now the present. Any worry you had is irrelevant, and whatever is, is.
I was relieved to have reached the critical point in this ordeal. I might still be sad, I might still be frustrated, but now it no longer mattered. What was done was done. I'd made my choice, it was the right one, and I'd move on.
All of the emotional energy I'd pent up was refocused on physical recovery. Breathe in, breathe out, sleep, feel pain, receive medicine, breathe in, breathe out, repeat. I'm good at physical pain. I could do this.
Following surgery, there were moments of insecurity, hating that my chest felt more like a man's pec muscles than a woman's breasts, worrying what people would think if they saw or felt me. But again, there was nothing I could do but move forward with these things attached to my chest.
I'd hope that anyone considering having this surgery wouldn't be deterred by my description of the emotions I felt throughout all of this. I do hope that it will prepare you, and help you feel justified in whatever emotion you have. Your feelings don't need a rationale or approval from the rest of the world. The moral of this story is it all gets easier every day.
I'm a lucky girl. At the end of the day, as momma Shaw said, I'm blessed.