Five years ago, I was tempted to get plastic surgery. At the time, I had recently given birth to my third child, had reached the ripe age of thirty, and had relocated from Grand Rapids, MI to Scottsdale, AZ.
I always assumed I’d get some type of “work” done and I like to think I’ve never been opinionated or judgmental towards plastic surgery or physical enhancements. I generally support the mentalities of to each their own and you do you (that is, unless someone is harming themselves or the wellbeing of others). In fact, I probably have just as many friends who have had some type of “work” done as I do friends who haven’t.
Nevertheless, my thoughts on plastic surgery and physical enhancements changed during the 2+ years I lived in Scottsdale. Initially, I felt a need to give into the culture as a way to “fit in” physically and socially. I remember feeling like I looked frumpy, “soft,” and basic when everyone around me always appeared put together and perfectly groomed, even while sporting Lululemon or weathering the climate’s extreme heat. In reality, my feelings of insecurity were normal and natural, especially for a mom of three young kids who was living in (arguably) America’s hub for plastic surgery. Still, I couldn’t help comparing [the physical body of] my Midwestern self to the Valley of the Sun’s golden beauties.
After having my third child it became apparent that my stretch marks and saggy, excess lower abdomen skin were never going to disappear, despite how much I exercised and ate healthfully. I was on-board to have some procedures done, specifically, a tummy tuck and breast lift. But then something unexpected happened – I got pregnant with my fourth child, my third daughter.
In this editorial, I will detail my experience, opinions, and reasoning for repositioning my thoughts on plastic surgery. Likewise, I will explain my current decision to forego any procedures at this time.
This article is not intended to instill judgement, criticism or any other negative feelings about physical enhancements but rather to critically evaluate the root of the reasoning for getting “work” done.
I got it from my momma!
As I previously stated in my article, The Shape of Me, I am a health-conscious woman. (If you haven’t read my body testimony, you can reference it here.)
For most of my life, I have been physically active and have maintained a balanced diet as well as a healthy weight for my height and build. Even so, I have never had a “six pack” nor a bootylicious posterior. As much as I work to tone my abs and lift and shape my tush, my body will never have abs like Jillian Michaels or a bum like Jennifer Lopez. (I totally blame genetics!)
Before having children, my breasts were disproportionately large for my frame. I could disclose countless stories about my experience as a big chested teen and young adult, but the fact of the matter was I loathed my boobs and the attention they unintentionally brought. Needless to say, I was thrilled when my boobs shrunk after breastfeeding my first child. Though I have enjoyed being small chested over the last decade+, I have not reveled in the droopiness of my post-nursing breasts.
This led me to contemplate a breast lift and even a momentary lapse of interest in pursuing breast implants.
Here’s what changed my mind…
- In October 2014, I was diagnosed with melanoma* on my chest (in the area directly below my collarbone and above my right breast)
- From March 2015 – June 2016, I was told repeatedly by at least 5 doctors that I may have breast cancer*
Those two health scares were pivotal moments in my life that not only strengthened my faith but also reshaped my perspective on life:
- Tanned skin doesn’t matter when the risks of unprotected sun exposure threaten your life.
- A breast lift and breast implants are superficial considerations when all you truly desire is to witness your children growing up.
I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind during those years and many of them were deep reflections regarding legacy and mortality. I distinctly recall sitting in my sunroom reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book, The Best Yes, and crying out to the Lord to let me live long enough to see my children grow up and get married. I was 28 years old and had two kids (my oldest daughters) at the time.
Less than six months later and an abnormal lump in my left breast was detected. Many consultations and procedures were done. Doctors were stumped. The “C” word was thrown out more than once by more than one “professional.” The lump ended up being benign (the journey to that determinant is a whole other story) but like my experience with melanoma, this process changed me once again.
I remember thinking, Cut off my breasts, I don’t care! I just want to live!
I was seriously considering a double mastectomy regardless of the diagnosis because life mattered more to me than the physical attributes of female anatomy.
I have a permanent “pin” in my left breast to mark the “problem area” that masqueraded mysteriously as potential cancerous cells.** I also have had preventive mammograms and ultrasounds throughout my thirties to monitor any change in breast tissue and the experience has documented me as “high risk” for breast cancer.*** I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get anxious in the days leading up to and during my mammogram appointments. Each visit brings me back to those 15 months of uncertainty when it was believed I may have breast cancer.
These experiences are why I can’t bring myself to put something foreign into my body (besides the mandatory breast pin, of course). How could I possibly put something that is unnecessary and unnatural into my body when in some of my darkest moments all I wanted was to rid my body of unnecessary, unnatural and unwanted health “trespassers”?
After all that I’ve been through (from big breasts to shriveled up post-breastfeeding breasts to potential breast cancer and consideration of removing my breasts via a mastectomy…), I have come to place of true body appreciation. I may still consider getting a breast lift in the future, but have nothing planned in the present.
Breasts do not define womanhood and therefore do not define me. If anything, I believe the glorification of breasts, as seen through the lens of culture’s influence (see my Body Image Through the Decades article for reference), is degrading, distracting and an artificial determinate of what is beautiful.
My body is a temple as well as a powerhouse of strength and possibilities (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). My body is the vessel my Creator designed to uniquely fulfill good His plans and purposes (Ephesians 2:10). I honor and respect the body God has gifted me with and am grateful to be fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
I may have never had a six-pack, but I regularly exercise to maintain a relatively flat stomach. Even so, no matter how meticulous I eat or how dedicated I am to fitness, I cannot change my genetics. Mine predestined me to stretch marks, cellulite, excess skin in my lower abdomen and the appearance of a belly pooch (it’s small, but it’s still present). Naturally, I desire the “battle wounds” of pregnancy to not exist but in doing so I am not valuing the beautiful blessing and miracle of birthing life.
There is a decent population of women who want nothing more than to get pregnant, experience the highs and lows that come with nine months of growing a human, and then give birth to said human. Wanting to hide the gift of pregnancy and the impact it can have on a woman’s body demonstrates a lack of appreciation or respect for God’s design for the female body and the awe-mazing things it is physically capable of.
Physically altering my body to “hide” my life’s experiences felt like I’d be removing a piece of myself. Especially when it comes to the enhancing the belly area, I could not get over the fact that my original belly button could be reshaped or re-made entirely. No matter how jacked-up my belly button is (and trust me, it’s hideous and I’ll tell you why later in this article), my belly button connected me to my mom while I was in utero. One could argue that the belly button is just a physical representation of the mother-child relationship, but I’m a sentimental person and I can’t bring myself to change, alter or improve a part of my body that was once physically connected to a part of my mother’s body.
This is why I have chosen to forgo any type of procedure to flatten, tuck, or smooth my stomach or remove any scars or stretch marks that have resulted from pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, I am still tempted to pursue “work” done on this area of my body, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I look at my children and I want them to appreciate the blessing of being able to get pregnant as well as the natural beauty of the female body. As a mother of four daughters, I also want to set a positive example of true body appreciation, no matter how stretched, soft, or scarred my body may physically be.
And on the days I’m feeling negative about my body (hey, I’m human!), current fashion lifts my insecurity – I’m forever grateful for the trend of high-waisted bottoms! I will never wear low-rise anything ever again!
The gift of aging…
Similar to the gift of pregnancy is the gift of aging. Not everyone has the opportunity to experience pregnancy and not everyone gets the chance to grow old.
Lives lost young is a tragedy that I will never understand. I think of this when I consider plastic surgery procedures that seek to remove the appearance of wrinkles while tightening the skin.
According to Statista, “the global anti-aging market was estimated to be worth about 58.5 billion U.S. dollars” in the year 2020. As society continues to prioritize and emphasize physical appearance while sharpening the lens on what is viewed as beautiful, the anti-aging industry is predicted to continue increasing its revenue (and I suggest, its influence) as well.
Well before I started to show signs of aging, I was totally open to procedures like Botox and truthfully, I still am. (In particular because I suffer my migraines and Botox has been shown to temporarily relieve migraine pain). I have many friends who regularly receive fillers and injections and have absolutely no judgment towards their individual decisions to do so.
However, I will not pursue those procedures at this time because:
- I consistently use the preventative anti-aging regimens offered by the company Rodan + Fields as part of my daily self-care routine. I am confident with the results from the products I use.
- There’s a big part of me that is curious to see how I will “naturally” age****
I’m not going to say I will never go down that road, but I will say that I will not venture there now or in the near future. In the meantime, I am thankful for the contribution both my genetics and Rodan + Fields have had in slowing my signs of age progression.
So the next generation will know…
Alright, we’ve hit the meat of my message…
My five children are my main reason for rethinking plastic surgery and physical enhancements.
I constantly consider how my life’s decisions directly impact my children. Children are perceptive as well as impressionable. They are always watching what I say, how I respond, and what my priorities are (as seen in how I spend my time). This includes how my children witness me treating my body through the words I say, foods I eat and things I do. I often ask myself –
One of the few blessings that came from the Covid-19 pandemic was the cancellation of my gym membership. I absolutely loved having a gym membership and never thought not having a membership would affect me positively, but it has for many reasons. In particular, it has given me an opportunity to model the importance of physical fitness as part of maintaining good health and total body wellness.
Throughout the pandemic and continued to this day, my children regularly witness me working out. At times, they have even chosen to exercise with me when pre-pandemic they would have been checked into my gym’s childcare. My children have always been my driving motivator to be healthy but now they are physically present while I’m exercising and often push me to work-out harder. I love it when they verbally encourage me by saying things like, “Way to go, mom!” “You’re so strong!” and “Run faster!” I have even used my baby as “weights” while I’m doing lunges and squats or have had one of my children sit on my lap while I’ll do leg lifts or hip raises. Moreover, I have seen both my 3-year-old and my 1-year-old mimic my exercises. Needless to say, not having a gym membership has made my workouts more fun and more challenging!
I already addressed my reasoning for why I will not be getting “work” done on my chest, tummy or face, but I did not disclose an unfortunate mishap from my youth – my poor decision of piercing my belly button. Yup. I was one of those girls…
I’m not going to get into why I chose to pierce my navel, but I will say I wish I never had done it.
I wore a belly button piercing in my navel until I became pregnant with my first child. Let’s just say that nine months of growing a human combined with a prior piercing did a job on my belly button and is the reason why I was seriously contemplating a tummy tuck.
My navel is jacked-up in a way that I am choosing to see as a perfect opportunity to warn my children (and their peers!) of the hidden damage caused by belly button piercing. Kinda like the aftermath of a tattoo and aging, I hope to use my lapse in judgment as a 19-year-old to physically show my children the long-term effects of a body piercing decision.
I wear make-up (not every day, but several times a week), I cut and color my hair (once every quarter, thanks to the witchy-white hairs that starkly appear in my dark brown hair), I get pedicures (once a month, my post-dancer feet are desperately in need of regular upkeep), I occasionally get certain areas of my body waxed and am currently undergoing orthodontics to realign my lower teeth.
I don’t want to give the impression that I am against grooming, beautification, or other forms of self-care. Rather, I want to express the intent behind why I choose to get certain things done.
I know what I do and say about my body will directly contribute to how my daughters view their own bodies. I want them to understand the ramifications of specific treatments, procedures or enhancements, whether that be the physical maintenance (i.e. hair coloring or eyelash extensions), the long-term effects (i.e. body piercings or implants) or the cost (financially or lasting impact) of their individual decisions.
I hope you consider the impact your decisions have your body, your personal wellness and your sphere of influence. You never know who may see you as their role model or elevate you on their “pedestal of perfection.”
Underneath it all
I was inspired to write this article three years after giving birth to my 4th child. At that time, I had relocated back home to Grand Rapids, MI from Scottsdale, AZ. Those years I lived in the desert opened my eyes to what is real, what is fake, what is seen and what is unseen.
Being surrounded in a culture where image is overly emphasized can and most likely will have a negative impact on the individuals within a society.
What is your “why” for seeking physical enhancements or permanent procedures?
In reflecting on my own experience, I have discovered the existence of some type of insecurity or dissatisfaction lingering or hiding within myself. Whatever it is, it has led me to undergo certain “beautifications” and forego others.
“…because I want to” or “…because I feel like it” are not reasons to pursue physical procedures or enhancements. The real answer can be found underneath the surface of filtered perfection.
I truly believe there is a root for every reason. Find yours before it rears its ugly head and grows into a bed of weeds. You may discover the root needs to be dug out completely or perhaps it needs to be watered with the Truth of God’s Word and viewed under the lens of His perfect design.
*There is a lot that occurred in my life during this time that is pivotal to my faith journey. I already have some writing publicly documented from this period of my life, but plan to discuss it in further detail in the future.
**This is to mark where the original abnormal tissue had clumped together in the unlikely possibility, Lord willing, that any lump or negative mammogram results should occur in the future.
***Familial history with breast and ovarian cancer is the main reason why my abnormal lump was treated with so much caution and attention.
****I use air quotes because I know my Rodan + Fields products are technically classified as anti-aging preventative products or enhancements.