Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Humpty Dumpty

My daughter loves boobies. She adores the fun-bags. She is obsessed with the breasts. I gave her a Hershey's kiss today and she said, "That looks like a booby." The light fixture in my mom's kitchen? Yeah, according to Liv, that looks like a booby too. Here is an example of her recent artwork. Notice the titties.
Whenever she does anything boob-centric, Todd laughs heartily and says,"She gets that from me". I want to say, "Men" and roll my eyes but he might be right. The only other thing I could possibly blame it on is the fact that I breastfed her for 18 months. I loved breastfeeding. There is just nothing like the feel of a hungry mouth on your nipple, the soft rush and tingle of milk dropping, a tiny hand scratching at the breast mound. I adored the feel of her warm body close to mine, the mother-daughter intimacy of those moments. Some people are so grossed out by the act of breast-feeding. I can respect that, even if I can't understand it. I just think it is a beautiful thing to see a hungry baby suckling from her mama.

Liv had a hard time giving up her breast milk addiction. I thought she was a little young for a 12 step program. And they don't have rehab centers for babies. Can you believe that shit? So I was forced to break her of her addiction the old fashioned way: Cold Turkey. Thus commenced two weeks of living hell. My breast (I only nursed her from one) was so swollen and painful. Liv would scream bloody murder demanding "nu nu" in the middle of the night. After I finally cut my breast-milk addict off the breast for good, I really thought that after a reasonable period of time passed she would forget all about the sweet milk of my body, that she wouldn't long for it anymore. I was wrong.

The other day I was sitting in bed and I suddenly got hot. I took my shirt off so I was sitting shirtless reading a book. Liv was sitting next to me watching a movie. Suddenly I feel her little mouth sucking on my breast. She is 3 1/2. Yes, it's been 2 YEARS since she last had tittie nectar and she's still trying to get it. Once an addict, always an addict. This incident is made all the more bizarre by the fact that I have no breasts. Well, let me clarify. I have breasts, but they are of the artificial variety. I had a mastectomy with reconstruction last year. And at the risk of grossing you out, I still haven't gotten my nipples. I just haven't gotten around to getting them done. I know that might be hard for you to understand. I've just been through so much in the past two years, medically. I had a kidney surgery, two major biopsies, a mastectomy, reconstruction, and implant surgery. So maybe you can understand a little why I'm on a fucking break from procedures for a while. I call a moratorium on all medical procedures. Staying alive is fucking exhausting.

Anyway, after Liv's futile attempt to extract a beverage from my fake titty, I ask her, "Honey, what the hell are you doing here?"

"Nothing mommy. I'm just giving you a kiss."

"Sweetie, we don't kiss people on their boobies. And we don't suck on them either." Well, I know some of us do, but that's not something I feel the need to explain to a 3 year old.

"Oh. You got a boo-boo on your nu-nu, mommy?" (nu nu is her "pet" name for boobies, derived from "nursing". I rather like it. Don't you?)

"Yep. Mommy has a boo boo on there. There's no milk. It's all gone. You can't drink from there anymore, okay? Do you understand?"

She nods her head, uninterested. She's back to watching her movie. I'm watching my own movie, replaying in the background of my brain. I'm sitting in a waiting room attempting to read a magazine. I don't know what we expect from days that will change our lives forever. They are usually filled with the most mundane things. So I'm sitting in this uncomfortable chair reading an US Weekly magazine. I'm having my breasts cut off today. I go up to the registration desk. "Hi, Mrs. Jackson. How are you?" "I'm...I'm having my breasts cut off today." I'm walking with my husband to yet another waiting room, all the while squeezing his hand tighter than I ever have. I'm having my breasts cut off today. I'm watching a woman discreetly nursing her baby across the room. How it feels to know I'll never have that again is empty. I'm having my breasts cut off today.

Awaiting my doom in the little OR ante-room, fiddling with my IV, watching my husband read a magazine. Will he ever want to fuck me again? Can he ever fuck me again? I wonder if I'll ever hear that growl, "Take off your shirt, baby, I want to see your tits." I stand up. He looks up from his magazine.

"I want you to kiss them."

"What?" He looks worried, afraid.

"I want you to kiss them...goodbye."

So he comes over to me and helps me lift my gown, my IV gets tangled, nothing is easy. I feel his hands, hesitant and warm, cupping my doomed breasts. This is it. This is all I'll ever feel.

He leans down and kisses them. One by one. Sweet, little kisses. "Goodbye little ones. I've loved you. But I love Gwen more." We smile at each other. Our love is strong enough.

We all do what we need to do to survive and we pray that it's enough. We hope that staying alive is worth the price of admission. My price has been so high so far. Some days I feel emotionally bankrupt. Some days I feel like Humpty Dumpty. And all the pyschiatrists and the plastic surgeons couldn't put me back together again. (They need to get a new ending to that nursery rhyme, it's profoundly depressing.) I pass a mirror and I want to spit. It's hard to love a broken thing. It takes work to remember there are beautiful parts in me, too. It takes unimaginable effort to remind myself that I am more than a mutilated mass of flesh; To remind myself that there is value in what I have suffered, in what I will suffer.

Liv is pinching me now. Her little fingers like lobster claws on the too much flesh of my arm. She pinches as a substitute for breastfeeding. This I know because her little fingers used to pinch the nipple of the other breast while she was nursing. It's funny how hard it is for her to let go. I think of me, and my inability to let go of the old Gwen and accept the new imperfect, frankenstein version. I wonder if I'll ever be comfortable in my own skin.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
It took all of his courage and determination
to make Humpty Dumpty feel whole once again.


  1. You've been through so much. It makes me sad to think of it.

    But, you're also one of the most honest, raw, and gifted writers I've ever come across.

    I'm privileged to know you.

  2. Holy shit...
    I know your sister died of breast cancer, so I'm wondering if you have the BRACA gene? My college roommate went through the same thing you hysterectomy at the same time. She woke up with no boobs AND hot flashes. From one cancer survivor to's to our health.

  3. This is making me weepy.

    My daughter nursed for a long time ('til I cut her off the night before she turned three) and she still likes to fondle them from time to time. But, but, but - it's so not the same and there's none of that dark medical history there...

  4. Here in Franklin - Thanks for your comment. I want to clarify: I don't have nor have I ever had cancer. I had a prophylactic mastectomy because, as you suspect, I have a BRCA2 gene mutation, like my sister. One of my sister's dying wishes was that I undergo the procedure. It was an agonizing decision to cut off healthy breasts, and they were as the pathology report post-surgery came back completely clean. I still think I made the right choice. When I am done having kids, I will also have to undergo an oopherectomy as my ovarian cancer risk is much higher than the normal population (25% lifetime risk). Those of us with the BRCA2 mutation refer to ourselves as pre-vivors. I will certainly drink to health - yours and mine :)

  5. musings - Wow. I am so touched by your comment. I feel privileged to know you, as well. Thanks for being such a supporter of my writing. I appreciate it so much.

    Magpie - Liv went from nursing to fondling to pinching. The fondling got a little embarrassing in public places :) If I could have, I would probably have breastfed until Liv was 3 also. I had to stop when I found out about my BRCA2 gene mutation in order to get MRIs done.

  6. Why Gwen Jackson! You are amazing. I've been giggling at your comments over on Ask, appreciate your comment on my blog, and have just now read one of your posts for the first time.
    It took my breath away.

  7. Gwen--My husband died of pancreatic cancer. Ironically it runs in my family so after he died I joined a study and a screening program. They found a cyst on my pancreas. In June I had 35% of my pancreas removed and my spleen. It was pre-cancerous, so I guess I am a pre-vivor, too.

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  9. I really enjoyed reading the exchange that you and Todd had before your surgery. Even though you are my sister and I thought I knew everything about you, I'm learning so much more from these blogs and I'm loving every minute of it. Seriously, I check here like 12 times a day.

  10. Man, this was so good it made me uncomfortable. Look at you with the depth and everything.

  11. Sharon - thanks for your comment, and for loving me more than my ill fated boobies :). I'm certain your niece doesn't remember you trying to nurse. That's a funny story. I love your quirky self.

    Mongolian Girl - I think you're amazing too. Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog!

    Jodi - I think there is always something to learn about people, even those we think we know through and through. That's why I bug you to write a blog: the most interesting things come out of your soul when your fingers hit the keyboard. Trust me.

    Rassles - So sorry to have made you uncomfortable. I was worried about my post having that effect on people. It's not my intent at all. I just want to write what's real, and sometimes I veer into uncomfortable, TMI territory. Thanks for reading despite that :)

  12. I'm pretty speechless and puddled up after reading. I didn't read anybody else's comments, but it they wanna be your new BFF because they think your funny and talented and dare I say warped (btw,warped is good in my book), they'll have to get in line behind me. ... babspeapod

  13. No, wasn't a bad kind of uncomfortable. I don't want to give that impression. It's just such a crisp, purposeful reality. I like it.

  14. Christ. I wrote about getting new tits today, and I want to go back and scratch all my self-indulgent and flippant little scribblings out after reading this, something so moving and good.

  15. Lisa - Warped? Me? You betcha. Thanks for thinking I'm funny and talented, also. It's the opposite of what I think of myself, but it's obviously nice to hear, especially from a fellow writer.

    Rassles - Yay! I was worried that I had scared you away with my TMI content. I appreciate your feedback on my writing.

    Gypsy - Did you get new tits or are they pre-ordered? Don't you dare scratch out what you wrote based on my silly little blog! Getting a new pair of boobies is a celebrated event, and such an event deserves a blog of its own. I clicked on your profile and found your blog -your last past was in April. Where are you posting your new stuff? I'd love to read it.