Sunday, January 7, 2018

To Thine Own Breast Be True

At Spring House Country Day Camp, I was cast as Danny Zuko in the Summer production of Grease. I was never going to be Sandy, and I was thrilled to land the role of one of the leads, even if it was the male lead. We put lots of pomade in my hair, had a knock-off T Birds jacket on standby and on opening day, my mom and step-dad were there with the camcorder ready to record my theatrical debut.  I think I was 11 or 12.

"Danny Zuko's got tits!" was the first thing I heard as I stepped out for my first line. It was preserved forever on the recording my parents made.

That may not be the first time I was embarrassed about my chest size, but it was the first time I remember being so self-conscious about a part of myself that I could not control. And it was surely not the last time. Not even close.

Clothes never fit me right. I was buying adult sizes when I was just a kid. I often looked like I was wearing a curtain or a drape when my contemporaries were wearing The Limited or Guess. My poor mother took me specialty bra shopping when I was a new teenager and almost fell over at the sticker shock of what a minimizer bra would cost and at how much material was needed to hold my ladies in place.

Sports were hard, so I stuck to drama (which was more than ok with me as I started to fine-tune my craft and get cast in female roles!). There were always certain things I could do not or wear, but I got by. The Fields women were known for their ample bosoms, and that was just the way it was.

Over the years, I lose and gained various amounts of weight. At my very lightest, I still need 2-3 sports bras to run or exercise and I never got below an XL top. It was what it was.

I met someone in college who had a breast reduction, and she was reborn! Victoria's Secret was not just a shop for perfume! She could fit into the bras, too! WHAT?

I thought seriously about the procedure after college, but I knew I would need help. I would need my mom to live with me or vice versa for a good week and tend to my dressings and take care of me. We were both working full time then, and it seemed not so much a "waste of time," but not the best use of our time. So I put it to the back of my mind.

About five years after that, I thought about it again. I was in my early 30's and single, but in the back of my mind, I thought that there might be a distant and remote chance that I would want to be a mother someday. And if I were, I would want to nurse my child. Nursing can happen after breast reductions, but often times it is complicated and sometimes even impossible. So back to the back burner it went.

Then I met Gary. Love changes your perception of things. I no longer cared as much about the size of my chest or the back pain or the shoulder grooves I now had from wearing such heavy bras so much of the time. It was just a part of my story, and I liked that this guy was really into my whole story.

When I got pregnant with Allie, I felt like my breasts were like, "FINALLY! SOMETHING FOR US TO DO!" I registered for a breast pump, and I bought nipple pads and salve for cracked nipples and a whole bunch of things I knew nothing about. But I was excited to have a use for these things and ready to put them to work.

When my baby died, a part of me died as well. No question about that. I stuffed my maternity bras with cabbage and wrapped them in ace bandages and prayed that my milk would not come in. I do not think I could bear it if it did. They somehow heard my prayers, and I was spared that added pain.

This past summer, I reconnected with an old family friend. She had a reduction a few months prior and was thrilled with the results. So much so that she wanted to take me into the Ladies Room to show off her new appendages. That lunch got me thinking. If not now, when?

I talked to Gary. I talked to my primary doctor. I got a referral. Quickly, I got my insurance company to approve the procedure. We were all systems go.

My reduction mammoplasty was scheduled for December 9th. We were all ready to go. I went to the surgical center, got ready to go, went under anesthesia...and then promptly got pulled out because I had bronchitis and it was too bad to continue.

I was in tears. I was SO close, and then I was denied yet again. The doctor and the nurses hated to see me in so much pain. They all agreed they would come in over their Christmas break and do the procedure for me then. New year, new you - I heard that more than once. December 29th was my new date.

I did not tell many people. That shame I had since I walked out on that stage at camp had followed me through my life. I could not quite figure out why I was embarrassed, but I was. In a way, my surgery became my little (big) secret.

That was 12 days ago. What I have learned in my recovery is that there is nothing I should be ashamed about! I had plastic surgery to correct an issue that has plagued me my whole life. The path to healing has been rocky for me - first I had a reaction to the anesthesia and puked the better part of my first night home and then I learned I had to sleep on my back which has been problematic for me, so sleep has been elusive for me. The pain was more than I expected and I still have not driven yet. Plans have been canceled; apologies have been made.

But get this - I NO LONGER HAVE THESE MAMMOTH FUN BAGS HANGING OFF MY BODY! I have these perky little things that I have no idea what to do with. I saw my doctor on Wednesday, and I am healing beautifully. I go back in a week and a half.

My back and neck pain were erased immediately. The shoulder grooves will go away in time. I feel freer and lighter and almost euphoric! I am tired and sore and in many ways, happier with my body than I have ever been.

I have lots more work to do. Work I can do myself once I can exercise again. Work on my mind and my soul, as well as my body. I am not worried. I know I can do it.

Gary deserves a plaque and an award and every Captain America statue that exists. He has taken on me as a patient (not an easy task) while comforting and tending to Miranda's every need. I am never ever letting him go.

A special shout-out, too, to Dr. George Zavitsanos and his incredible staff for all the care and support they gave me and will continue to give me, of this I am sure. I cannot imagine using anyone else.

So that's my story. I will not spend time wishing I had done it sooner or that my belly was flatter (now that there are no boobs to obstruct it!) or that this happened or that happened. I got the surgery when it was right for me. And I am so very glad that I did.

Lunch at the food court yesterday, My first time out of the house in a week!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

When a Hanukkah Lesson Doubles as a Diversity Lesson

Early in the season, I received an email from my daughter’s preschool inviting parents to join her class and share what holiday we celebrate and why it is meaningful to us. By the end of that same day, I had already talked to her teacher and planned my visit.

I did not grow up in a very Jewish area, and I have clear memories of my mom bringing in dreidels and other Jewish trinkets to my schools throughout the years. The chance to repeat history in such a positive way was too good for me to pass up.

The night before, I prepped and planned and packed a huge bag to bring in with me. Even though my daughter is only four and a half, I wanted to make her proud.

I think I did.

There were nine children in her Pre K class that day. I brought in a toy menorah, dreidels for each kid and gelt for all. I read a few books, did a brief question and answer session and had as much fun (if not more) than the kids! My husband said when he went to school to pick our daughter up later that day, half of the kids ran up to him to show off their dreidels and exclaim how much fun they had that morning. One girl even commented that she wished I could come in every day!

I always knew I was different because I was Jewish, but it was a good different. I hope I am instilling that same sense of pride in my daughter.

My daughter is the only Jewish kid in her class. However, because of her, eight other children now know the story of Hanukkah and that not everyone celebrates what they might celebrate. Without even trying, I taught a lesson about diversity that day, too. 

My husband is not Jewish. When things started to get serious for us, I informed him that Judaism was more than a religion to me. It was a part of the fabric of who I am. He was accepting of that fact and agreed that we could have a Jewish home, and if we were ever lucky enough to have a family, we could raise our family in my faith.

So while we are Jewish in every sense of the word, on Christmas Day, we will make the short trip up the turnpike and celebrate with my husband’s side of the family. There will be a beautiful tree and decorative lights and more food and frolic than you can imagine. We will honor their holiday and enjoy the day. It’s the best of both worlds, in my opinion. My daughter is raised in a Jewish house but gets to experience life and religion outside of these walls.

Religion to me is tradition and spirituality as much as prayer. I want my daughter to be proud of who she is and those that came before her. I also want her to know there is more than just what she sees day to day.

By going to her school that day, I was trying to share that lesson with her classmates. I think I did. Next year, she will be in elementary school. I am already working on my lesson plan for that class!

Happy Hanukkah!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Learning to Love Yourself No Matter What

One of the problems with being a writer is that I use words as therapy. By writing my thoughts and feelings, I can often make sense of the world around me. I can deal with my stress or grief or anxiety by blogging. But what happens when something is too personal to share?

Earlier this week, I was scheduled to have a minor outpatient procedure. It was something I decided was private and was happy to keep it that way. (No, it was not a nose job. I happen to have the best nose of all the Fields children.)

Gary took the day off to drive me to the surgical center. Miranda spent the night with her cousins and her aunt took her to school that morning. My mom was scheduled to pick her up that afternoon. Logistically, everything was worked out to the smallest detail. I was ready to go.

The only problem was that I had been battling a cold since Thanksgiving. Mostly just a cough, but there was some wheezing, too. Enough to keep me up at night and cause a lot of discomfort.  I told the surgical staff and they were not too worried. In my mind, the antibiotics that I was going to get post-op would also work on my cold and by today or tomorrow, I would be healing and the cold would be just a memory.

So I talked to the nurse. I talked to the doctor. I had on my hospital gown. I removed all my jewelry. My hair was in a less-than-fashionable hair net. I was good to go.

They wheeled me back to the procedure room. The anesthesiologist explained that he was going to use a slight muscle relaxant on me and then he would put me under. I would not wake during the procedure and there was no reason to be scared. The next time I saw his face, it would be all over.

Except that was not the case. I am not sure how long I was out before they realized that my cough was too extreme. Even sedated, I was coughing and bucking. (I swear they said, "bucking"...I could not have come up with that word if I tried.)

The team went to get Gary from the waiting room. They consulted with him. He agreed that if there was ANY chance that my life was in danger or that I could be harmed in any way, it was time to wake me up and we would do the procedure another time. So that is what they did.

When I awoke, I was being wheeled back into recovery. The nurse looked at me with such compassion and said they were unable to do the procedure. There was too much risk that my cough might have been bronchitis that would turn into pneumonia if I was under for too long. Everyone agreed it was safest to stop.

I started to cry. Big, fat, wet tears. I felt like my body failed me. The last time I had anesthesia, it was to deliver my daughter still. This little surgery that I elected to have, brought it all back. Yet another outcome that was not how it was supposed to be.

I  was angry and sad and still sedated so I am sure I was not making any sense. And I did not care. 

Gary held my hand and patiently explained it all to me. The doctor and nurse and everyone else on staff also went over everything again and again. We called my primary and got me in later that day. Turned out I did have bronchitis and even with a nebulizer treatment, antibiotics and an inhaler, I am still sick today. Although I am planning to leave the house for a little pre-Hanukkah party at the local mall, so things are looking up.

My surgery is rescheduled for the end of the month. The doctor is coming in on a day off to be there for me. My family and friends will surely rally around me once more - this time when I am healthy and mentally and physically ready to undergo a procedure.

My body did not fail me - I did not fail me - things just happen. I should know that by now.

We really can't control what happens to us in this life. But we can control how we deal with the highs and the lows.

This was not my best week. But I am here. Alive. Relatively healthy and insanely loved. I am not sure I can ask for more than that. And I know that next week will be better. Thank goodness for that.

Always look for the silver lining

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Why I Am Thankful Every Day

Tis the season for giving thanks. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and even the leftovers are just a (delicious) memory. The holiday season is upon us, and I have less than two weeks till we light the first candle on the menorah. 

So before the first snowflake begins to fall and before the wrapping paper gets dug out of the closet, here is what I am most thankful for this year:
  1. Miranda. I know, you all saw this one coming a mile away. The thing is, though, she is a living, breathing gift. She brings out the best parts of me and makes me slow down, take it all in, appreciate the moments that I would have previously rushed by, and makes my heart so so full.
  2. Allie. This will be our sixth holiday season without her physically here. The lessons she taught us, though, about love and survival and hope are with us each and every day.
  3. My husband. Man, I hit the mother lode with him. He is a true partner and the lid to my pot, and I still can't believe that he's mine.
  4. My family. My mom who is by my side through thick and thin. My brothers who have shown me what unconditional love really is. My sisters-in-law who are really like my sisters. And to the family that I married into, my cup runneth over with the love you have for all of us. Not to mention that I have the best, cutest, spunkiest, most hilarious nieces and nephews in the multiverse. (We watch a lot of CW superhero shows here.)
  5. My friends. From high school, youth group, college, first job, second job, third job (Ok, fine. I have had a bunch of jobs!), support groups, fellow loss moms, fellow adoptive moms and dads and now preschool mom friends and more. I am blessed to always have a sounding board, a drinking partner, a listening ear, and more than one friend to lend me a book, suggest a good movie, meet me to shop or just have me over to let me chat for hours on end.
  6. My health. It's no secret that this body of mine drives me nuts. From thin to not-so-thin and every weight in between, I struggle daily with how I look and how I feel. But I am fortunate to be able to exercise a few days a week and eat healthy when I can and know that this body that I do not always treat like a temple has gotten me through some tough times. I can no longer blame the skin I am in for the way that I am, but I can accept that this is the body that I have and try to respect it. I am lucky to be alive and not a day goes by that I do not know that.
  7. Our home. I love our little house. I love that every night before I go to bed, I sneak into Miranda's room to check on her and she is safely ensconced in a beautiful room with toys and books and clothes galore. She wants for nothing (although she will adamantly disagree) and I love that we provide for her in the best way that we can.
  8.  All the material goods that are out there. Hey, I like nice stuff. I am admitting it. And I am thankful that I can still purchase some of it. Wait till you see my new Coach sneakers!
  9. Words. Writing has become therapy to me. I am grateful for the words that let me express myself and for the audience of you all that take the time to read them.
I could go on and on and on. My heart is overflowing with gratitude and appreciation. I have been dealt a lot in my 43 years, and I have not always known how to best handle it. Yet here I am, living my life the best way I know how. Sleep comes easily for me at night and not just because I spend many of my days chasing my daughter. I got to bed each night knowing that I am trying my best to be a good mom, wife, friend, daughter, and more and I feel good about most of the choices I make.

So that's my list. Not bad if you ask me. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What National Adoption Month Means to Me

For over two decades, National Adoption Month has been celebrated every November in communities across the country. Many national, state and local agencies will help spread the word through programs, events, and activities that help raise awareness for thousands of children and youth in foster care who are waiting for permanent, loving families.

For us, it’s just another month in which we are so grateful that adoption exists because it was the perfect way for us to grow our family.

After Allie died, we were searching for answers and clinging to hope that we would be able to honor her and have another child. Nothing worked, and for a time, it seemed like nothing would. When we were ready, adoption was there for us. We turned to it not as a final straw, but as another avenue.

Our second daughter is now four and a half years old. She is a happy, carefree spirit that has dramatically changed the course of our lives. I barely remember a time without her, and I know my life is better having her in it.

This past Halloween, after we went trick or treating and the rest of my family was sound asleep in a sweets induced coma, I settled in to watch “This Is Us.” I enjoy the show very much and often find parallels to my life in it. 

One of the main characters in the show was adopted. His adoptive parents had triplets, and one of the babies was born still. So they adopted a third baby who happened to be born on the same day and needed a home. They brought them all home from the hospital together. When the child (Randall) grew old enough to ask, he wondered to his mother what happened to the third baby. Did that baby get lost and then Randall somehow got found?  

His mother replied, "We didn’t lose him. Not like that. He didn’t live. Sometimes that can happen. Sometimes a baby dies right at the beginning. But your dad and I had all this love in our hearts…and we saw you and met you. So yeah, you are a miracle. But you’re not instead of anything.  You are the way it was always supposed to be.”
My daughter knows the word adoption, and we have visits with her birth mother twice a year. She knows she has a sister who lives in heaven, too. She has not yet put together that her sister’s death is what lead us to know without a doubt that we wanted to be parents and ultimately led us to adoption and to her. She will learn it all soon enough. The few times we have tried to explain it to her so far, it’s just been too overwhelming.

In this same television show, same episode, in fact, they talk about the child that died, and that his name was Kyle. That is virtually unheard of, even now. To name a baby that has died makes that child live on and I think you can ask any loss parent and they will agree. It's so beautiful to see these nuances played out on the screen. 

I was meant to be a mom to my two girls. To the one who shares my DNA and only lives in my heart as well as to the one who looks nothing like me but shares my love of life.

I am glad months like this one exist to spread awareness, and I am glad that TV shows like this one also exist to share their messages. Most of all, I am glad adoption exists because I love my family so very much and can’t imagine us any other way.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Learning How to Share At Any Age

I understand how important it is to share. "Sharing is caring!" I often remind my daughter when she has cousins or friends over and "forgets" to let them play with her toys. 

Before I was a mom, sharing was not very easy for me. I was never one to want to order two dishes at a restaurant and share my plate with someone else - not even my husband or my best friend. I was always worried there would not be enough for me.  

Now when I have something particularly yummy on my plate, and my daughter inevitably wants it, I share it with her without even thinking about it. Often, I anticipate her wanting what I have and automatically slice her off a piece or set aside something of mine for her.

I grew up in a relatively big family. We all had to share. There was no way around it. And yet, if I am honest, sharing sometimes makes me want to pout.

Let me give you a recent example. This past weekend, we had a visit with Miranda's birth mother. It was a nice visit overall, and Miranda soaked in all the extra attention that she was given. I, meanwhile, was a giant bundle of nerves, hovering in the corner, feeling inadequate and out of place.

I know this is ridiculous. I know it makes no sense. I know I drive Gary nuts during these visits. I can't help it, though. I hate sharing the single best thing in my life. My daugther.

I can share her with Gary. No problem. I can share her with our friends and family. Duh. I struggle, though, with sharing her with the woman who gave her something I could never have given her - the gift of life.

Instead of being grateful and feeling blessed that this woman chose Gary and me to raise our daughter, I feel insignificant and alone and afraid. 

I think we have maybe one more visit before Miranda asks who M is to us. There are no other kids at our visits, and she is always the center of attention. When we see M in October, she showers her with holiday gifts. When we see M in March, she showers her with birthday presents. Sooner or later, Miranda is going to want to know why we see this woman at all. 

We talk about adoption a fair amount. We have yet to connect the dots, though, and explain that Miranda is in fact adopted. It's hard to understand at any age, let alone four. We are on borrowed time, though. Miranda is becoming more and more inquisitive and we owe it to her to share her truth with her.

Upon leaving our visit, I remarked to Gary that I dreaded having 14 more years of these visits. To which Gary replied, "It's 56 hours. Total. Our visits are 2-3 hours each, twice a year. That means it's about 56 hours that M gets with Miranda. We will have that by Tuesday."

Then I felt foolish. He was right, of course. We get EVERYTHING. She gets a few hours a year. 

It's not a competition. I am her mother. M is the woman who gave her life. Miranda will be able to have room for us both one day. Of this I am sure.

I wish I was better at sharing. In time, perhaps I will be...

At our visit this past weekend

To Thine Own Breast Be True

At Spring House Country Day Camp, I was cast as Danny Zuko in the Summer production of Grea se . I was never going to be Sandy, and I was th...