Thursday, July 31, 2014

Challenges in Dressing

It became obvious to me the day I left the hospital that the clothes I normally wear were not going to work with my new belly bag.  In all of the literature that I was given, I am led to believe that an ostomy bag is not going to change my life.  It assures me that I can still do the same things, wear the same clothes.  They make it sound like it will be easy, but in reality, like so many things it is not.

One can not wear tight clothing that will restrict the functioning of the stoma. Clothing must be flexible, and elastic.  It needs to come up over the bag, or under where it is attached.  Neither of these waistbands describes what I would normally wear.  In all of my wardrobe, I have one pair of jeans that is low enough for me to wear.  These are my Lucky Brand low rise jeans which I only wear on dressy occasions. They were on a super sale at the Wrentham Outlet and they are my favorite jeans.  I would never have thought I would wear them for everyday, but they are now the only practical for getting down and dirty pants I own.  There is little in my wardrobe that covers, let alone hides an ostomy bag. 

Shortly after I came home from the hospital, Kaileigh realized I would need different pants.  She suggested yoga pants, and helpfully went out in search of some at Target.  She also found me a loose, high waisted dress from the maternity department.  These clothes are comfortable, and do what I need them to do, which is hide the odd shaped protrusion on my belly without restricting my stoma function.

A few days later, my friend Julie surprised me with a few dresses.  She had been at the mall and picked a few up for me.  They were a little wild for my taste, if I had been in the store, I don't think I would have given any of them a second glance.   The day after she delivered them, I slipped on the sleeveless scoop neck that has brightly colored ovals with a mosaic look to them.  I have to say, this is an amazing dress.  It fits in all the right places and the wild design hides my lumpiness.  It is so comfortable and stylish, I get compliments on it all the time.  I wear black leggings under it to keep my legs warm, and a red bolero to keep my shoulders warm. It has become my favorite piece of clothing.

There is another dress with bright red and blue flowers and a handkerchief style hem. I never worry about people noticing my strange shape when I am wearing this dress.  The design is so bright and wild, you wouldn't even notice.  One day a woman told me I was very glamorous when I was wearing this dress.  This word would not have come up with my old wardrobe.

The final dress was in colors I rarely wear, black and white.  I think black is too serious a color, especially for people working around children. White is too hard to keep white.  The kids love this dress though.  The pattern of the black markings is so interesting, we have frequent discussions about what they look like.  As hard as I have been trying, I have to admit the dress is looking a little pink, but it still looks great.

Julie has since added a few more stunning additions to my dress collection.

After receiving all these great fitting pieces of clothing that Kaileigh and Julie have swept into stores and chosen for me, you would think finding clothes like this would be easy.  One trip to Target and I realized how lucky I am to have people in my life with this particular talent.

I went into the clothing department trying to have a critical eye, and keeping the details in mind that worked so well on clothing I already had.  It was like my own personal episode of What Not to Wear.  Unfortunately, I totally bombed on everything I chose.  I went into the dressing room with a pile of clothing and came out with nothing. 

This foray into the dressing room was also my first real look at how my body has changed in the last month.  The dressing room mirror is friend to no one, but it seemed particularly harsh today.  My legs are thin, which most women would not complain about, except that the butt they are attached to is also now thin and pretty much flat.  I suddenly realized why I need to sit on a pillow when I work at my computer.  No padding left there.

My belly is pulled out by the bag that is hanging from it, which looks so weird. My arms are thin and weak. And the fact that my bra can stand on its own is all that gives my upper half shape. There is very little boob left to fill that bra.

I know that these things are  silly to worry about, that people deal with body changes that are worse than mine every day.  There are people in more difficult situations than I am, for far more serious reasons.  There are people who regularly don't get enough to eat, never mind have friends who will find them clothing or a Target store they can drive to.  Somehow, I can't help getting hung up on this though.  Is it because it is something so easy to focus on and complain about?  I can't see what is happening inside of me, I can only hope that it is going to get better.  I can see what is outside, and I can choose to make it stronger, and I can cover it in clothing that makes it look vibrant and alive, even if I can't pick those clothes out myself.


  1. Hi Katherine--Our mutual friend Roberta G. recommended your blog to me. I have been blogging about body image issues and I really appreciated your reflections. Body image concerns go way beyond fretting about Photoshopped images in magazines. I would love to share your thoughts on my blog if that would be ok with you. Roberta has my contact info. (I'm one of her Chicago friends--back from 7th grade!) If you'd rather not, I totally understand. In the meantime, I look forward to reading about your experiences. Thanks! Nancy Hall

  2. Your shopping experience mirrors practically all of my own efforts to get new clothes. I head into the dressing room, my arm heavy with all the things I'm going to try on, and I, too, walk out with nothing that worked at all. It is amazing that some people can just do that and do it well for themselves… let alone for others!