When Life Gives You Lemons…Stick ‘Em In Your Bra!


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.

There's something fishy about this... Photo credit: UCHC NICU
Her actual X-ray.  There’s something fishy about this…
Photo credit: UCHC NICU

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.

"I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." Source
“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.”

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.

10 comments on “When Life Gives You Lemons…Stick ‘Em In Your Bra!”

  1. P.S. I’m really glad that you got answers on what it is that she has – because this will allow you to be able to make the choices that are right for you and your girl.

  2. The more I learn about you, the more I just love you. You are an amazingly strong Mom with an absolutely beautiful daughter. This particular post brought me back to your true confessions post which I just read (and LOVED!) and point to the fact that you seem to be able to catch every curveball that is thrown your way.

    You undoubtedly will have some challenges as she gets older and your ability to face it with realistic expectations and humor, as you already have, will be what gets you (and her) through all of this.

    Play ball, Mama! ❤

  3. I love the comments here and all I can add is…Dear Sister, I think you TOTALLY rock and I KNOW you’ll always be the Mother that Z needs!!! (and damn, I just LOVE your humor no matter the topic!) ♥

    1. Thanks Kate! I have to laugh! We dodged so many bullets with her so far and they keep coming at us. I’ll go crazy if I don’t find boobies funny! LOL

  4. I got chills reading your last paragraph because I couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling that while Z will likely face difficult realizations and choices in regards to her condition, she has been blessed with all the tools and supports to face it head on and come out the other end unscathed. Her zest for life, her smarts and thoughtfulness, her super close and intuitive relationship with her mother, and the humor and laughter that surrounds her…yeah, she’s going to be just fine.

    1. Aw thanks Elise! She definitely has spunk and if nothing else, I hope that I can teach her to laugh at herself and roll with the punches. She’s a tough cookie and I have to remember that!

  5. This affected me deeply. First of all, your positive attitude is terrific, and it’s clear you understand and appreciate that her basic health is good. But I really feel for you, in having to deal with the social implications of your daughter’s condition. Kids can be so mean to someone they perceive as “different.” Plus, we live in a world where standards of beauty are determined by the media, fashion designers, etc. It will be challenging for both of you, but with your help and wisdom, I know Zoey will do just fine. Thank God she is otherwise okay.

    1. Thanks Randi! I know, I feel like there’s nothing worth worrying about now that we’ve made it through so many hurdles and have come out on the other side ok. She also has a huge scar on her right side from a surgery she had as a baby. We will just have to be creative during swim suit seaosn! I’m ok with full coverage 1920’s style suits! lol

  6. Wow, what a tough situation for your daughter. Whatever decision you both come to will be the right one and she will be beautiful regardless of her breast size.

    1. Thanks Ann! I have to slow down and not worry about it until it’s “time”. I tell her she’s perfect all the time, so let’s hope it sticks!

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