Girl Talk: I Had A Breast Reduction
I was never one of those little girls who begged God to give her boobs. If anything, I desperately wanted them to stop growing. By the time I hit middle school, I was strapping them down into a sports bra that made it look I had a uni-boob around my chest like a tire. I was never psyched that I had big breasts. I liked wearing little boys’ T-shirts with overalls in high school and I remember looking down one day and thinking that I just wanted to be a little girl again—I didn’t want the body of a woman. I couldn’t get dressed without looking either matronly or slutty. There wasn’t really an in-between for me and my boobs. By the time I was 25, they were a 34G.
I guess I did a good job hiding them in minimizing bras and flattering cuts, but I was self-conscious of them even when I was alone. I didn’t want to walk around my own apartment without a bra on. They were soft and floppy and hung too low. I was only really comfortable with them when I was on my back, which may or may not have led to me spending more time in that position, if you know what I mean. I attracted a particular kind of male, often the kind who look at “natural boob” porn and this only made me all the more self-conscious. I got catcalled by homeless dudes. My best guy friend called me “Lil’ Juggy.” I felt like I was defined by the size of my chest.
I first seriously considered getting a breast reduction when I was a junior in college, but I was wary of going through with it because I’ve always wanted to breastfeed my future babies. I saw one doctor who was terse and condescending, and he told me that my nipples were different sizes and prodded at my breasts. He told me that the scars would be permanent and that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. He said that insurance usually requires women to go down to a B-cup. When he stepped out of the room, I cried. I vowed that I would find another doctor after I had children.
But I still got frustrated every time I went to try on bathing suits or bras and I still hated my body. I also had daily headaches, grooves in my shoulder from the strain of my bra straps, and constant pain in my neck and back. I thought about getting a reduction all the time and one day at brunch, years later, I told my best friend that I needed to do it. The following day, my mom called and said she had talked to the plastic surgeon who had done her reconstruction after a double mastectomy. This magic doctor said that he could do the reduction while promising to keep my nipple system intact. And he added that I would be 50 percent less likely to get breast cancer because of all the tissue he would be removing. Since I’d just been through two years of chemo, radiation and reconstruction with my mother after she survived breast cancer, any chance of lowering my risk was welcome. Dr. Magic took one look at my breasts and told me it was the right thing to do and that I would want to do it eventually, regardless of my decision right now.
I visited him in September for the consultation and by November, my insurance had approved the coverage, dictating how much had to be removed for it to effectively relieve my symptoms. I was nervous as hell. I spent hours looking up before-and-after pictures.
My female friends were supportive, but a few of the men in my life were pretty rude, telling me that I would regret it and that my breasts were fine. I told them that they were super helpful but to shut up. To prepare for the surgery, I had to get healthy. I stopped smoking anything ever, quit drinking for a month, gave up aspirin and worked out more since I wouldn’t be able to during the healing process.
My mother came with me to the surgery, which was conducted several states away from where either of us lived. We went to see Dr. Magic the day before the surgery to discuss what would happen the next day. This is when he dropped a bombshell on me. Back in September, the doctor had said that my final results would probably be a large C or a small D. It had taken two months to get used to the idea of a C-cup, having been about six cup sizes larger than that my whole adult life. But I spent months looking at breasts and through Vogue magazine at all the beautiful clothes smaller-busted women can wear and I sucked it up. But the day before the surgery, the doctor said “B-cup” and I started hyperventilating. Even though I didn’t want my giant breasts, I still had an attachment to them and couldn’t imagine going from where I was to a B-cup. Not to mention how it would throw off my proportions. He left the room before I could argue, but I voiced my concerns to his (very patient) nurse.
The next morning, I arrived at the hospital at 9 a.m. ready for surgery. I was still unsure about whether this was the right decision, but knew that my fear was natural. I was surrounded by sick people in one of the best hospitals in the country, removing perfectly healthy tissue. I felt guilty and knew that in every surgery, there’s a risk of death. But I put my faith in my doctor and put on a brave face. It was another five hours before I actually saw the doctor and he used a marker to draw on my breasts. He drew circles and lines and a tape measure was required. My mother was standing behind him, looking relatively horrified. Dr. Magic said he understood my concerns and would make my breasts proportional. I decided I could live with that and went to my zen place. Then I was put on a gurney and rolled to the surgery room. I was telling the nurses about how I was watching “House” in my waiting room to prepare when one of them said, “I’m just going to put something into your IV.”
I woke up several hours later, feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. I was groggy and wrapped up in gauze. There were drainage bags coming out of my chest to suck out the gross stuff. I spent the rest of the night being woken up every two hours to check my vital signs and to be asked about my pain level. The pain was strange—there was a soreness all over which eventually changed to pricking and twisting once the numbness subsided. The next week, I took care of my drainage tubes and followed doctors’ orders. I also spent a lot of time looking at my new breasts, usually smiling. There were scars around the nipples, down to the crease and under each breast, but they looked pretty good! My back pain was almost immediately gone and for the first time since elementary school, I didn’t have to wear a bra! Not one of those giant taupe bra for girls with giant boobs—but any bra! The drains were out a week later. I was told that for the first six weeks, I must refrain from vigorous activity (which I assured the doctor wouldn’t be a problem), including lift anything heavier than 15 pounds. Ha!
It’s been nearly a month since the surgery now and my new boobs are healing well. It was a life-changing decision and, honestly, I’m just so excited to have a new start! I can’t wait to be able to run (without getting slapped in the face or wearing two sports bras). And I’m magically two dress sizes smaller and 11 pounds lighter! I only wish that I had done the surgery sooner because I’ve spent over a decade of my life hating my body and being so self-conscious that I had to be intoxicated to get naked. I couldn’t do or wear things I wanted and I was in pain almost all the time. I’ve run into people from my past and they don’t even notice; they all just say “you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight” to which I reply in my head, “Yeah, in my boobs.”
The only thing I’m remotely sad about is the fact that many of my old clothes don’t fit me, and that my friends still won’t let me into the itty-bitty titty committee because, apparently, I still don’t qualify. At this point, I guess those are pretty OK problems to have.