I’ve had more downs than ups recently. I’ve had tonsillitis, an upset stomach and an ear infection in two weeks; my immune system hasn’t recovered, it seems. I’m not sleeping well. Sometimes it’s the kids, sometimes it’s not. I lie awake for long stretches in the night, thinking about what I need to do the following day and how tough it will be on so little sleep.
A couple of weeks ago, dosed up on antibiotics, I went to London for a friend’s baby shower. It was an afternoon tea, and I sat next to my friend Sarah, who’s recently had her second son. We talked about our children, and then about breasts. Pregnancy ones, breastfeeding ones, post-surgery ones. How you can feel a little bit less than yourself when you don’t recognise your own body. How that can wear you down.
The following day, I received an email with a £200 gift voucher for Bravissimo, a bra shop I’d never stepped inside. I’d told Sarah that I have a drawer full of bras that don’t fit me, but that I’m putting off buying new ones in case I end up having further surgery. In the message that accompanied the voucher, she informed me that this was ‘fun money’ and that I must spend it without thinking about what might happen further down the line. I thanked her. I booked an appointment for a fitting.
I was a little nervous about the experience. I hate the way my implants look and feel, and I’m still unsure about whether I’ll go under the knife again because of that. It’s hard to take your clothes off in front of a stranger when you don’t have any confidence. It’s hard to say you’ve had a double mastectomy, by way of a warning. People don’t expect it, when you’re still relatively young. But the woman who measured me was totally unfazed by it. She just brought in bras, and helped me fasten them, and talked to me about different styles and colours and fits. I chose four bras and left feeling a little more upbeat, a little more normal.
It’s been a few days now, and the bag is still sitting on my bedroom floor with my new bras carefully wrapped inside. Out of habit, I’m still reaching for the bras that don’t fit (today, I’m wearing a 40A, and I was measured as a 36D). I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been ill and have spent quite a bit of time in bed. Perhaps it’s because I’m a creature of habit. It takes me a while to make a change. But I will. I will go through my drawer and pull out the bras from before I had my children, when I was pregnant, when I was breastfeeding, when I was swollen from surgery, because they’re not doing me any favours as I try to adjust to my new self. I’ve found a charity that sends bras to women in developing countries. I like the idea of them being of use to someone else, now they’re no use to me.
I’m so grateful to my friend for knowing just what I needed before I did. Once again, generosity and kindness have made everything I’m facing that bit easier. Joseph is forever telling me what is kind and what isn’t, and I love the fact that kindness is important to him. When I was three, it was probably important to me, too. I think I lost sight of its value for a while, as an adult, but I know what it’s worth now. And I don’t intend to forget again.