It all started with a fun, careless flip on a bike rack. A childhood game to pass the time in the summer outside of the apartment complex I lived in with my parents and one sister Ashley (at the time). The result? A chipped adult tooth at age 8. A tiny corner of my right front tooth I frantically searched for on the ground so my parents would not be angry with me. (Spoiler alert: I never found it.) A tiny insecurity that would manifest itself into a screaming insecurity in later years.
I did not get braces as a teen. I did not get the chip fixed, either. Both were tiny issues that everyone had convinced me weren’t that prominent. I remember looking at my friends with braces and thinking that I did not need braces, that my teeth were not all that bad. I resorted to thinking that certain pictures of me were simply taken from bad angles, like a certain senior picture of mine up on the staircase in my parents’ house.
But here I am. I’m 32 years old and in braces for the first time. And I thought I’d blog about it. This is post one in a series I am fondly calling Rocking My Braces. It’s my journey out of the darkness of a crooked/jacked-up smile to who knows where? Hopefully a better smile, right? Let’s just say these posts are/will be a little deeper than telling you how to wear your leather leggings or your jean jacket!
My decision to get braces has really been about 10 years in the making. I remember starting my first teaching job and being cognizant of my teeth not being perfect. Getting up in front of teenagers every day will sure make you recognize some of your worst insecurities. Braces were on the brain then, but being right out of college and a soon-to-be newlywed, I did not want to take on another financial burden.
I would say I have three big fat insecurities, and my smile is #1. We may get to #2 and #3 on the blog, and we may not.
After I had Jackson and Johanna, my teeth shifted even more. It sounds crazy, but your body undergoes some pretty wacky changes in pregnancy. About six months or so ago, though, I said enough is enough, and when my dentist suggested Invisalign, I was sold. But my dental insurance wasn’t. More on that in a minute, but let me show you one of the pictures that pushed me over the edge, the picture that told me it was time to put this insecurity to rest.
I want to remember this day as a beautiful one, with a beautiful bride sharing her beautiful love story with her family and friends. I remember my sister Mallory calling me so excited about her wedding pictures finally being sent to her. She sent me a link, and I looked through all of the pictures. My first thought went to Mallory. What a gorgeous bride she made! My second thought went to my kids, how cute they looked walking down the aisle together. My third thought went to me, how awful my smile looked stacked up against my three sisters’ perfect smiles. To make matters worse, my mom and dad sent out Christmas cards with our family picture from the wedding, and I was genuinely embarrassed to think so many people would see me on the card. I know my mom would have chosen another picture had I told her how I felt about it, but I didn’t. I didn’t express this thought to anyone but Jordan (my husband) until now. I tried to tell myself that no one was looking at me…it was all about Mallory.
At about the time Mallory got married, Jordan and I began planning our 10-year wedding anniversary trip. What would we do? Beach? Vegas? Well, I was thisclose to seeing J. Lo in Vegas before Jordan had the idea to forgo the trip to speed up the teeth straightening process for me. We had planned for it to happen in 2016 (my teeth straightening), but summer was our goal. We also thought it may be better if I fumbled through the initial awkwardness of talking with my Invisalign trays at home versus in front of high school students. By not planning a trip, though, I could get my Invisalign six months earlier. I don’t talk about my husband too much on my blog (In his words: I don’t need to be on your blog. I’m not “Rock, Style, Teach.”), but how selfless of an act to say, Hey…I know this means a lot to you…let’s not do something I really want to do (we have never vacationed by ourselves since our honeymoon) so you can do something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself? And let the record show that he has NEVER once made me feel insecure about my teeth. As you know, ladies, we usually don’t need too much help in letting our insecurities fester. He is simply so selfless, and I am happy that he married me every day.
Well, fast forward to November of 2015…I was set to do Invisalign, but my insurance was taking forever to process my claim. To get a second opinion (since insurance was taking so dang long anyway), I saw a well-recommended orthodontist in my area (who also does Invisalign) who said Invisalign would not correct my overbite and that I could potentially be looking at jaw surgery in the future if my bite was not fixed. So I choose to believe that God intervened and directed my ways. I now know had I paid for Invisalign and finished treatment, I would not have been happy with an “OK” smile. And I’m also choosing to fumble through the initial awkwardness of wearing braces in front of my students. I am wearing clear/ceramic braces on my top teeth (what adults usually do) and “normal” metal braces on the bottom.
Here I am…a style blogger, a wife, a mom, a high school teacher…in braces. But let me tell you…these braces are a blessing to me. Some have asked, Are you afraid of how your students will react? No. I think it will be fun swapping braces stories!
No, I’m worried about not being fully comfortable having one-on-one conversations for years and years because of my imperfect smile. That’s what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of constantly complaining about my smile and not doing anything to combat the problem. And I know this sounds totally vain and perhaps a bit nerdy…I want to be able to take candid selfies with my kids or my sisters or my husband (yeah right…he hates pictures) or my friends and not worry about what angle the photo is being taken from. There have been some selfies that have been shared on my social media pages over the years that make me CRINGE (and make me want to delete them), but I try to consider the overall bigger picture: That person wanted to show a memory he/she had with me. It’s not a big deal. But I can’t say these undesirable pictures didn’t affect me.
I felt like I had to write this blog post, not to justify my decision. I am actually totally convinced I made the right choice and am pumped about the next 2-2.5 years of my journey toward a better smile. And braces aren’t something you don’t notice. So there is your why. I want to be authentic with my readers and share just enough with you so you can see my struggles, my insecurities, my failure to be perfect. When you see an outfit picture you like, just know there are about nine hundred others on my phone waiting to be deleted because of my smile. Just like you, I have insecurities. Just like you, I’m not perfect. I’m not striving for perfection. I am in competition with myself to be the best version of Heather I can be. And rocking braces until I’m 34 or 35 is one (awkward) journey I’m willing to take to see that better version.