The first time I took Bug to a pacemaker check up, he made me laugh out loud. It was one of those moments where you really are reminded just how true the saying out of the mouths of babes really is.
He wasn’t sure about all of the wires hooked up to my arms, chest, and legs and I really thought he was going to equate me to The Iron Giant because I looked very futuristic and robotic (at least I thought so). When the computer started printing out all the data that was collected during the pacemaker check up, I was pretty sure Bug would think I was some space aged creature from one of his cartoons.
The technician asked if Bug wanted to hear my heart beat and of course he said yes! He was so young, probably around three and stethoscopes are cool when you’re three years old. He climbed into my lap, let the technician put the earpieces in to his ears and listened… and listened. His eyes got wide, he looked up at me and said “Mom! There are lions in you!” Now I don’t know why he thought there were lions in there, I always thought it sounded like a drum but to him? Lions. Here me ROAR people.
Then there are the bathing suits, the dreaded, dreaded bathing suits. I think I can count on one hand how many times I put one on every summer. I hate them. Loathe. them. I hate that people look at my scars instead of my face. Even in tank tops and V-neck shirts and sweaters the eyes all clamor down to my chest; which wouldbe fine if they were looking at my cleavage (which took me 20 years and 4 kids to get thankyouverymuch) but they aren’t. They are always looking and wondering what is wrong with me or what I have had done. Until recently though, I got to be pretty quiet about how I feel about being in a bathing suit but then I was asked to provide a quick video blurb about how confident or how I feel in a bathing suit. I tried to get out of it because I really am that uncomfortable letting the words fall out of my mouth and in front of a camera makes it all the more uncomfortable. So I asked to talk about something else and that was all well and good until it came time to confirm that it was all well and good. I guess it wasn’t. LIONS. I did the video, I held back tears and the 45 seconds it took felt like my past moving in slow motion with me standing at the edge of the public pool; 16 years old and wishing I’d put on the one piece suit or better yet, a neck to knee wet suit.
At the end of the Type-A Parent Conference I was getting patted down at the Asheville airport. The dreaded pat down. I’ve always been panicked that one day people wouldn’t believe that a 30 something pretty healthy looking woman would have a pacemaker and I came about as close to that fear as I ever want to get. The TSA agent kept running her hand down the middle of my stomach and saying, “you have a pacemaker?” I replied that yes I did. She asked what that hard thing that she was feeling down the center of my stomach. “A scar from my open heart surgery. I had it when I was a baby.” She looked at me and ran her hand down my stomach again, “I’ve never felt a scar that was hard like that. It is a scar?” She pushed on my scar. I was starting to get worried and thinking that I’d have to go have one of those kinds of searches. “I’m sure. It’s just the way my skin healed. I have keloids.” (Honestly I’m not even sure what keloids are but it’s what my mom always said my skin did after a scar healed. I probably should look that word up soon.) At that point I was willing to lift up the bottom of my shirt to show her. She let me through but didn’t seem to sure about her decision. Thankfully I had a friend with me.
Last week at our local Dollar Store, I watched the cashier’s eyes. She checked me out. Not like I was helping myself to some free gum or greeting cards and got caught looking, but looking. Looking as if to decide if she should say anything. I can tell ya know. When people are curious about my scars and they don’t know if they should say anything or just keep on looking; making both of us very uncomfortable. “Is that a tattoo?” She finally said, motioning to my left arm where my pacemaker scar is. God don’t I wish! “No. It’s a scar,” I replied. “Oh. Okay because it looked like maybe it was an old tattoo or something.” ”Nope,” I replied. “Just a scar.”
It’s easy for me to sit behind the computer screen and talk about these things because behind my screen you don’t see how hard it is to fight back tears. You don’t see how self conscious I am when I do a video blog and how often I check to see how much of my scars show. I think to myself that I am perfectly fine with the shape of my body, it has curves and stretchy saggy skin from babies that I’ve made (something I thought I’d never be able to do). I’ve earned those curves and stretchy saggy skin and just about every woman who has birthed a baby has them (curse you all whose bodies bounce back after the birth of a child!), but not everyone has scars. Not everyone has enough scars to play connect the dots with or draw a perfect “Z”. Not everyone has been laughed out of the girl’s locker room or stared at and whispered about and said “what happened to you? Are you sick or something?” to when it came time to change for gym. I think the reason I blog is because by and large, I feel like the scars are invisible. Unless I’m telling you, you know like now for instance and even then it’s on my terms. It’s because I want to talk about it and not because I’ve got a TSA agents hands heading up my shirt, a curious child, adult or other people who haven’t considered what they’re asking, how they’re reacting or looking at me could actually hurt.
I’ve been blessed with people who try hard as they might to understand they just don’t and have made me feel like it’s not really a big deal and then I’ve had people who have held my hair when I vomit after surgery and beg them not to make me laugh because it physically hurts. The latter group makes me cry fat tears of happiness because I know that even though they don’t get it; they don’t ask me to change how I feel inside.
Scars are sensitive and I wish I could be more indifferent about them but I never learned how to do that growing up. Some of my scars are thick like leather, they feel hard to the touch, but the rest of me isn’t. My emotions and psyche never learned to heal quite like the body has; it never learned how to turn hard and thick like the scars. I’ve never learned how to let out the lions that Bug thought were inside of me all those years ago.