Boobs seem to be a theme around here lately, whether it is Cora’s post on boobs and bras or just us girls making a statement about breastfeeding our tots or not. I thought it was a good time for me to weigh in on the boobs in my life. I love breasts and always wanted big ones. Not huge, but shapely, big, round melons. I was so glad when I had a little girl of my own to dress up and share girly secrets with. I imagined buying her first training bra light years before she would need it. But things don’t always turn out the way we plan, do they?
Let me back up a little bit. When Buttercup was born, the right side of her chest looked sort of dented in and hitched in dramatically when she had trouble breathing. At the time, we were told that her 7th and 8th rib on that side were fused together, which shortened her rib cage on that side. The prognosis depended on her growth, but could include implanting titanium ribs to protect her organs and prevent scoliosis. We learned this while she was a preemie in the NICU with a host of other issues. This tidbit wasn’t life threatening and quickly fell to the bottom of the list of concerns. And thinking about titanium ribs was a little too Superman/Man of Steel for me to process.
Fast forward 4 years. It’s winter and Buttercup’s battling some chest ailments including pneumonia. She gets some more chest x-rays. Doctors who have never seen her weird rib before are now concerned and send us to a pulmonologist. A week later I get a call from that doctor. She has passed Buttercup’s x-rays along to a surgeon who she knows “loves” to investigate chest abnormalities and he wants us to come in and see him. (Aren’t doctors strange?)
Within minutes of examining Buttercup’s chest, the surgeon has a diagnosis. She has Polands Syndrome. The first thing that went through my mind was, “Wait? This is a thing? It has a diagnosis?” The second thing was “What the hell is Polands Syndrome?” You can learn more about Polands syndrome here, but the basic idea is that people with Polands Syndrome are born with a defect to their chest muscle. In Buttercup’s case, she was born without her large chest muscle (pectorals major, for those at home keeping score) on her right side. It’s a genetic disorder that wasn’t inherited; it just happened. It’s so rare that our surgeon told us it only occurs in about 1 in 30,000 births and happens three times more often in boys than in girls. The disorder can also come with webbed fingers on and a shortened arm on the same side. Thankfully Buttercup doesn’t present these symptoms.
I was relieved to hear that Polands Syndrome wasn’t life threatening or even going to affect her health in any serious way. But here’s the kicker. Because she doesn’t have a chest muscle she will never develop…wait for it…a right breast. I already freaked out when she didn’t have nipples when she was born (thankfully that fixed itself) and now finding out she wasn’t going to have a full rack threw me for a loop.
The tatas I so coveted for myself are never going to develop on my beautiful daughter. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I wanted boobies. I remember watching my mom getting ready in the morning, noticing how she filled out her blouses and how I…didn’t. I waited and waited, looking at my female relatives and their ample bosoms, filled with high hopes that I had heredity on my side. Alas, just as I was never destined to be tall like some in my family, it seemed that my dreams of looking Jessica Rabbit were never going to come true either.
So I made do with what I had. The Wonderbra came out when I was in college and was a game changer for my vain sense of self-esteem. My roommates and I would stuff ourselves in what we called “boob shirts” (tight scoop neck tees) and too-small bras as we headed out for nights of dancing and assorted debauchery. Ah those were the days. Nowadays, I finally have the fun bags of my dreams. Good things come to those who wait. And eat too much.
Now, as a mom, a more important concern is on my mind. How do I help my girl develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and a love for her body just the way it is? Now that summer’s almost here I think about prom season (hello, strappy dresses!), dance recital season (hey there, barely-there dance costumes) and bathing suit season (I don’t even have to say it, do I?) Teenaged girls with two normal breasts are all around me. (Is it weird that I notice this kind of thing?)
When the time comes, Buttercup can decide if she wants to get cosmetic surgery (a fancy way of saying “boob job”) on the right side to balance her out, because all signs point to a normal left side. But if I encourage her to do this aren’t I telling her that she’s not good enough the way she is? That she needs improvement? I want her to know that she can choose to do it or not, that either way, I think she’s perfect. Thankfully, she’s only five, but she’s already asking questions about why her right side looks the way it does. The real drama about this will happen right in the middle of the puberty years. I only hope I can be the mother she needs when all she really wants is to be normal.