13. It looks like a smile
Already wrapped in my towel, I called Juanpe so that he could help me get out of the bath. – I undressed the wound. – I told him. – Oh really? How do you feel? – He said to me. – Are you okay? – I felt a bit emotional, and it took a while for me to answer him with a yes. – Well? Do you want me to look at it first? – He asked me. I told him yes and that we would go to the room where it was lighter.
When Juanpe saw the scar, he told me that it looked really good. He had much more experience than me with scars, wounds, gashes and stitches, and knowing that he thought it was fine calmed me down. I looked at myself in front of the mirror and there it was at last, the definitive mark that would forever remind me that I must look after myself. Juanpe asked me again if I was okay, my face was probably expressing lots of things. I sighed. – It’s huge. – I told him. – It looks like a smile. – And I smiled. – I’m fine, but I need to sit down again. –
I think about what it means to have a scar. A scar is a mark. A physical mark from an act performed on the body, an act of change, that transforms and creates a division between the before and the after. The scar is the evolution of a wound that closes, in this case a conscious wound, a voluntary wound. I like to think that my scar will also be the evolution of another deeper, intangible wound, an emotional wound that spent a long time open without me realising and I think, once again, that it started with rejection.
While I write more on this blog and I reach different stages of this process of reconnection, the more I realise the seriousness of what rejection means, what it produces, and how little we know in regard to transforming it. I feel that rejection is the origin of many things that damage us as individuals and as a society, that polarise us and stop us talking to each other. Behind the rejection comes fear. And within the fear and rejection, you feel surrounded by misunderstanding and violence.
For me, seeing the scar represented the hope of closing that emotional wound, of moving away from the fear and coming closer to self-understanding and self-love. Seeing my scar also made me imagine the operation. It was so strange thinking that I had been opened up, that my organs had been exposed, to the air, visible, like those of an animal in the butcher’s. It’s strange not having any other visual reference that comes to mind.
Removing the surgical tape, I could see that there was also a bruise on each side of the scar, above and below. I imagined the surgical instrument that separated my skin and kept the wound open so that the doctors could handle the tissues easily. It was so strange. It was even stranger to think that they had removed the fibroid, even that I had a fibroid. Everything felt a bit surreal, like I wasn’t sure that it was happening, like I was observing myself from a parallel world.
The scar was thin, a delicate work of sewing between both hips. I felt that the surgeon had puts lots of love into her work. How lucky I was… to find myself with her. I feel a strange connection with the surgeon, as if I identify with her way of working, with her empathy and her professionalism in relation to the thoroughness and the desire to do things well. And seeing the result of her work made me feel a deep gratitude. The nurses told me that I wouldn’t have to go to the hospital again to remove the stitches, the thread would be absorbed by the tissues and end up disappearing over time.
My skin was very irritated from the surgical dressing and, where the stitches were, the curve of my belly sank like the line of upholstery on the back of a sofa. My belly was swollen and inflamed. But everything seemed to be going well at a good pace, noticeably improving from morning to night, from night to morning.
After getting dressed, I took a photo that I shared with my family and some friends. Everyone agreed with Juanpe in that the scar looked good. It was apparent that they were trying to calm me down by saying that I surely wouldn’t notice it with time, and it would look like a natural fold in my belly. They also were telling me how good it was that it reached the same height as underwear, and it wouldn’t be seen at the beach. Somehow, I didn’t want it to go unnoticed. I didn’t want to cover it up and remain unseen. I feel like a little girl that has a battle wound and is proud of showing it off and telling the story because it means she has been brave.
I like my smile. Thin, between my hips. I want to see it everyday and remember that I am taking the opportunity to recover a balance that I lost one day, or that I never had, that I have been brave, like that little girl, and that I am healing physically and emotionally.
I felt supported during the whole recovery, receiving calls and messages, and even some visits from friends and work colleagues. We met in the park at the bottom of the flats, and for the first few weeks going down the stairs and walking was a very slow process. The days passed quickly. Surely due to my lack of speed when doing things. I spent lots of time on the sofa, reading and crocheting. Then, gradually, feeling stronger when standing, I started to do more things. Above all, I really wanted to cook. I love cooking. I love eating and during those weeks my appetite was very good. Cooking again was an important, joyful moment.
Despite generally being very positive, there were times when doubts crept up on me, about the future of my body, on the inside and the outside. I wonder if I am going to achieve a new hormonal balance, if I’ll have the willpower to look after myself, if my belly will stop swelling and I’ll have a relatively flat belly again.
I know that some of the answers depend on me and others not. Looking after myself, I like to think that depends on me. Finding a balance, I think that I can contribute, but I don’t think that it all lies in my hands. The same with my belly becoming less swollen. And feeling comfortable whether I have a flat belly again or not, I like to think this is a question of self-perception and accepting my new physical reality. And I like to think this is in my hands. I find it hard to talk about body-image, because I think it is vain and it makes me feel embarrassed. But I understand that it forms part of the process, and I hope talking about it helps me to reconnect from this point of view too, breaking prejudice and barriers about my own appearance and the image I have of my body.
This pause has been an important moment of reflection, a new turning point in this journey, to give order to and prioritise my values and duties, to realise that I am changing because I am deciding to change. To realise that if I want to change, I will do it.