Three weeks ago I had a modified abdominoplasty -- a mini tummy tuck for those unacquainted with plastic surgery lingo.
During the year since my son died, I've taken care of myself in ways I had never done before. Putting a period on his life reminded me that there will someday be an end to mine, and I don't want to have regrets for the things I could have done. Even if I don't have time for regrets, I want time to enjoy the things I want in life, whether it's weeks months or years.
I know we all handle grief and depression differently, and I've tried to think each decision through and separate a temporary feel better from something I really wanted.
There have been times when I've rushed into things myself, although I've since learned that big decisions shouldn't be made while dealing with grief or depression. Years ago I fell and broke my right wrist badly and wound up depressed, especially after the convertible I had at the time came back from the mechanic with cosmetic damage. Oh, and I couldn't drive it because it was a five-speed. Rather than waiting until I was well and taking the issue up with the mechanic and tow company that had caused the problem, I traded it for a loss for a car I drove only a few months and hated virtually the entire time. Don't, I've learned. Don't rush into something to make you feel better.
So I haven't.
But at the same time, if there's something I know I've wanted for a long time, I've decided to make it happen if possible. I've scrimped and saved and planned and things have fallen into place.
I knew from the time I sold my previous convertible that I would want another one when it became feasible. When I first read that it was possible to have permanent makeup tattooed on, I wanted eyeliner because I can make it and feel good if I'm wearing eyeliner. The Outer Banks has been my favorite vacation getaway since the first time I went, even though I had not made it back in a decade. The hot tub was the closest to a spur of the moment purchase I've made, having not had the opportunity to enjoy one very often, but I've used it enough to prove it was a good luxury choice.
The abdominoplasty was probably the hardest to embrace and thankfully most people, including my husband, would not have said I needed one.
After birthing two 9-pound babies, two abdominal surgeries with resulting scars and tucks, and losing 20-plus pounds in the last decade, I wasn't happy with the way my skin fit. It bothered me in yoga poses, in a bathing suit or jeans, or even when I simply encountered the unwelcome bulge. The more I exercised, the fitter I became, the more I hated it. It seemed, however, that I would carry my little roll to the grave because I couldn't entertain the idea of plastic surgery long enough to find a doctor or make an appointment.
As it turned out I didn't need to. A small skin cancer on my leg sent me to a plastic surgeon to arrange removal and while there I asked about the loose skin on my stomach. I quickly learned it wasn't as expensive as I thought for a mini procedure and that it could be performed without general anesthesia (a deal breaker). Before I left I had a quote for the costs and something to ponder. When things are meant to happen, I firmly believe they will.
I spent the next week doing research and considering the cost. I watched YouTube videos and read reviews. I talked to my husband. Then I called and scheduled the surgery and the presurgical visit and began making payments. I had my visit with a nurse who took measurements and talked with my about what to expect from surgery and recovery.
Then one Friday morning my husband took a vacation day and drove me to Winston where he waited while surgery was performed. It was as bad as YouTube made it look, although not so much painful as much as I knew what they were doing and liposuction (a small amount was included) is brutal at best.
The first two weeks of healing seemed to take forever. The last week has been wonderful. At no point have I regretted it and my only debate was whether to share it.
I decided this changing of my skin, so to speak, was part of the journey of losing Ethan. Had I not lost him, I would have continued to deny that I deserved it. I would have continued to be uncomfortable in my own skin, simply because there were other needs and wants.
Because I lost Ethan and made the decision to live, I want to live fully. I want to do so in a body that is aging, but aging well because I take care of it inside and out, and one that I feel fits me, however long I inhabit it. I want to exercise and dance and run and enjoy the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I want to eat things I shouldn't, and things I should. I want to hand money to homeless people and shelter stray dogs. I want to listen to baby talk and feel the wonderful sensation of my grandchildren's arms embracing me. I want to watch them grow and try to be a person they can emulate. I want to say the right things, and sometimes the things no one wants to hear because they need to be said.
I want to reach out to other mothers, or fathers, who wake up to the same unimaginable loss I've endured and help them realize that they are not alone. I want them to understand it's OK to grieve and be sad and feel that life isn't what you expected it to be, but at the same time realize that living is a choice to make every day and that the rest of our lives doesn't have to be about grieving.
It can also be about moving forward and doing the things you've denied yourself. Because in my loss I've realized not to take tomorrow for granted, to seize the opportunities and take care of things today instead of tomorrow, and that the things that need taking care of aren't always someone or something else -- sometimes what needs care the most is me.