When I was a new amputee, I remember telling Elliot (my prosthetist) that I wanted my new leg to look just like a real leg. I didn't want the prosthesis to be obvious. I wanted to walk again, and I didn't want anybody to know I was an amputee.
Elliot made me a beautiful cover for the prosthetic, and I was thrilled. I got married in that leg. Looking through my wedding album, you can't tell which leg is real and which is a prosthetic.
As time went on, I became more comfortable with the reality of being an amputee. I thought that the reason for my cosmetic cover was vanity. For me, I realized the cosmetic cover was a manifestation of the shame I felt for being an amputee. I didn't want anybody to know that I was different, because I wasn't ready to admit to myself that I was different.
I became more comfortable in my new life as an amputee, and the need for a cover diminished. I no longer wear a cosmetic cover on my leg. My leg is now naked. Yes, stares from the public increase. Yes, rude comments increase. I once had an older gentleman tell me I reminded him of his three legged dog. Try coming up with a retort to that first thing in the morning! I am now proud of my prosthetic. It isn't a leg of flesh and bone, so I am not going to pretend that it is. It's a prosthetic, it is functional, and it doesn't need to be hidden.
I am going to be in a wedding soon, which presents me with a dilemma. Do I cover the leg for the ceremony or do I go "naked?" The bride, my dear cousin, swears that she doesn't care if I cover the leg. I believe her when she says this. However, I know that going without a cover does naturally draw more attention. I don't want to be the focus on her special day. So yes, I will cover the leg. Not out of shame or vanity, but because I want to minimize the gawking and "shock value" that accompanies all amputees when they are in a public forum.
Luckily, footless tights are now in style and easy to find. For me, these are the perfect solution when I need a quick cover. I respect that the decision to wear a cosmetic cover is very personal. People chose to wear a cover for a variety of reasons, and thankfully there are talented artists who are able to make beautiful covers. I wonder if my son will one day ask me to cover my leg, and how I will react. I don't want him to be ashamed of his Mommy. At the same time, I am well aware of the reality of increased public attention when the prosthetic is naked. I guess this is a question that will be answered in time. And if I chose to wear a cover, I will wear it with as much pride and dignity as I wear my naked prosthetic.