That awkward moment when you tell someone you’ve had a breast reduction and they suddenly have no idea what to do with their eyes. I can almost hear their thoughts “Don’t look…don’t look…just look at her face!!” I just want to say, it’s okay, you can take a look.
As I write this, it’s four weeks, to the day, since I had mammoplasty surgery (which is a fancy word for breast surgery…in my case, a reduction.) Most people have no clue that I had surgery. I didn’t mention a word of it on Facebook. I didn’t tweet it. (That would just be weird.) I didn’t Instagram a Before & After and I didn’t even remember to tell some family members that I was having it done.
I’m not embarrassed about it and I don’t care if people know. I just didn’t really think it was social media fodder. But, it’s been a month and I’ve decided to write about it for pretty much the same reason I write about most things…I’m sure if I’ve struggled with something, someone else is probably struggling, too.
Someone mentioned to me the other day, that she was considering doing the same thing, but she was surprised that several people had been negative about it. “Are you sure you want to do that?” “That’s not very considerate for your husband.” (Seriously, with that one? Glad I wasn’t present for that comment or some dude might have a black eye.)
So, why did I have surgery? How did I decide to take the plunge? I’m going to tell you my story. If talking about breasts is an uncomfortable subject for you, though, you may be excused. I promise I won’t be offended. And you won’t be the only one. My poor boys all had “amnesia” in the two weeks following my surgery. Each one was asked, at one point, “What kind of surgery did your mom have?” And each one responded with something along the lines of, “Ummm, I don’t…remember.” (Sometimes a lie is just fine with me. Poor things. Like they really want to talk about their mom’s boobs?) So, feel free to click onto another website. Seriously, go on back to Candy Crush…I’ll wait.
Okay…still here? Let’s go.
Growing up, I was one of the shorter kids in my class (honest, I was). Until I turned 15. That year I grew several inches in height and went from basically flat to a solid D cup, all in a very short time.
So, I’ve always had a fairly big chest. I have no recollection of ever buying an A or B cup. But each time I nursed one of my babies, I got bigger. That’s four babies in the span of nine years. In that time I went from a D cup to a range between a DDD and a G cup. I’ve been on the upper end of that scale for the past nine years. And basically, it sucked. There’s no other way for me to describe it. I tried to look at the positive side. I tried to laugh it off. But the truth is, the size of my chest affected most areas of my life.
The following list is not to complain, but simply to help you understand, if you don’t have this struggle, and to get an “amen” if you do. Here’s how I was affected:
- Daily back and neck pain
- Chronic headaches, due to said back and neck pain
- Chronic “out of joint” ribs, causing difficulty breathing
- Perma-grooves in my shoulders from the strain on my bra straps
- Poor posture from always trying to minimize the look of my chest
- Going down the stairs…hurt
- Pretty much anything aerobic…hurt
- Irritated skin/rashes beneath my chest
- Button down shirts? Forget it
- Dresses? No way. I looked like a circus tent
- Modest cleavage? Yeah, if I wore a potato sack. Otherwise, always on alert.
- All tops, coats, sweaters, etc. had to be bought two sizes up to accommodate chest
- And bra and bathing suit shopping? THE WORST (Few places even carry items big enough.)
Those were the physical/practical difficulties. But there was an emotional toll, too. Pretty much, every time I saw my reflection, I felt defeated. No matter what I did or how many pounds I lost, I never liked how I looked. I dealt with that every day, but I can remember a specific time when I really hit me hard. A couple of years ago, I looked at a picture of me with my mom and three sisters and I thought, “I don’t even look like I belong in my family!”
As you can see, my mom and sisters are all shorter and thinner than me and not one of them has a large chest. I could hear the Sesame Street song “one of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong” when I looked at that picture. It was just sad. (I know my mom and sisters don’t feel like I don’t belong…and it’s not like I always feel that way. But seeing it so vividly in a picture just really hit me.) I imagine some people would say to me, “Just love yourself for who you are,
blah blah etc. etc.” but that doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes, doing something drastic is exactly what’s needed.
I will never forget the first time I heard about breast reduction surgery. I ran into an old acquaintance at the grocery store and I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Wow, you look amazing!” Even though I couldn’t remember her being overweight, I thought she must have lost a lot of weight because the transformation was incredible. She got a shy look on her face and said softly, “Thanks. I had a breast reduction.” Immediately, I knew that if I ever had the opportunity, I would do the same thing.
But I struggled with the idea for many years. People warned me that I might be unhappy with the results. Many people said, “Why would you do that? I would love to have a big chest!” Or, “Do you really want to have all those scars?” I worried for years: Am I saying God didn’t know what he was doing when he made me? Am I not being grateful for my health, etc.? Fear and guilt kept me from making a move.
Then, three years ago, I met another friend who’d had it done and I used a brave moment to schedule a consultation. The surgeon told me I was a good candidate but my insurance denied me. I guess I took that as a sign (which I realize now was silly) and I let it go.
But it stayed in the back of my mind. So, last fall, after I had lost 35 lbs in six months, I went for a consultation, again. I had a different insurance, so maybe…?
As soon as the surgeon walked into the exam room she said, and I quote, “Oh honey, your insurance just goes from bad to worse!” I swallowed a lump in my throat. I had kind of gotten my hopes up and had even started to imagine what it would be like to wear a dress or a button up shirt. So, when she was pretty confident my new insurance would deny the procedure…well…I determined that this time I would fight it. The doctor’s billing person told me that she’d rarely ever seen my insurance authorize a breast reduction. I asked if she’d ever seen anyone win an appeal, though, and she said she had. Not a lot, but she had seen it happen.
Within a couple weeks, I received a letter from my insurance company, stating that they were denying my claim because my coverage did not include cosmetic procedures and that I had to show that there were things I was unable to do because of my “large breasts.”
Well, if they wanted a list of things I could not do, I was prepared. I attacked the idea of this being a cosmetic procedure, first. I told them that if I were just dissatisfied with the look of my chest, and wanted to enhance it, I could see that being called cosmetic. But that was not the case. Next, I listed all the things that I was unable to do, including many exercises that would help me stay healthy. I also enclosed letters from two of my doctors, who said that it was a medical need, not a cosmetic one.
I sealed it all up in an envelope, sent it off and waited
patiently. When the letter arrived, I tore it open and lo and behold, I’d won my appeal!! And I now had 90 days to get the procedure done or start all over again. Start over? No thank you!
So, I had the surgery the first week of January (four days after my husband had an emergency appendectomy! No joke!!) and it’s truly one of the best decisions I ever made. (Although, both of us having surgery in the same week was certainly not something I expected!)
After a week, my doctor removed the bandages and when I got home, I went to my closet and tried on every top I own. Every one. It was my first day out of bed and I ran up and down the stairs at least twenty times to show my husband that everything now fit me! I thought I was going to pass out. But it was probably one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time. I’ve gone from self-conscious to confident. If you have a big chest, I think you totally get what I’m saying.
I no longer feel awkward when I walk into a room. I can walk with good posture and feel like a normal person. I thought for years that I would like to learn guitar and go play at coffee houses, for fun. But I was too self-conscious about my size. Now, I feel free and motivated. I’m motivated to work out, to chase some of my dreams and to be a support for others who are feeling stuck, like I was.
So, this is a shout out to all my big-chested friends (and those I haven’t even met). Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for wanting to change something that they don’t have to deal with. Make the decision that is best for you and your family. And if you have questions, feel free to email me (click the contact button above ^^ to get my email address).
And in case you’re wondering, recovery was harder than I expected (only because I didn’t put much thought into it…I’m kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl…as I’ve said many times before on this blog). But it was easier than it could have been. At a month out, I’m feeling like myself again. Only…smaller. So, to avoid any uncomfortable moments, if we run into each other around town, I’ll post a before and after pic below and then you’ll have no problem just looking me in the eyes, next time we meet. 😉