When I was 20, almost 21, I made a big decision to have a breast reduction. It was not a decision I made lightly, or quickly, but my body loathing just got to the point where I had to do something about it. But first, let me go back for you.
I won’t say my story started when I read the book Sweet Memories by LaVyrle Spencer, because it had really started years ago. What is funny is when I was growing up, I was so oblivious to my size. I knew I was skinny, but I’d never really thought about anything else when it came to my size. Looking back at photos of myself now, though, I can see that I was what I would consider a “normal” breast size up through my sophomore year of high school. Somewhere between then and my senior year of high school, they just grew.
Reading that book, though, opened my eyes to the possibility that I could change myself. It was about a young woman who decided to get a reduction herself.
I can’t even tell you what size I was when I got my reduction. Knowing what I know now about bras and sizing, I can tell you that I was so skinny that there would not have been any bra size in existence that would have comfortably fit me. The best fitting bra was this ugly granny bra that I got from Nordstroms in a 32E. Bra shopping was a horrible, humiliating experience, that I never really cared to have again. I spent HOURS trying on bras that didn’t fit me. I was a freak, and left with ill fitting bras and a tear stained face. My confidence and self worth was devastated. I probably should have been wearing a 26HH or something, instead of that 32E. There really is no way to tell now, though, but I know about four years post reduction (with a bit of weight gain), I’d measured my ribcage at a 26. So it’s quite possible that at the time, I would have been a 26 band size- or smaller- which they don’t really make now (although some brands are beginning to cater to sub-28 bands)- and most certainly didn’t make back then.
Up until college, I wasn’t really aware that I even had much of a chest. I shudder now, looking at photos and how unsupportive my bras were. And I wonder, “How could I NOT have noticed?” But then, I started college, and I guess I started seeing myself through other people’s eyes- or perhaps I started paying more attention to how I was perceived by other people. I slowly became more aware of male attention being specifically focused on my chest.
I began to really become aware and uncomfortable with my body. I started wearing hooded sweatshirts, the large breasted girl’s favorite hiding place. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a hoodie on, at least in the winter. The summers were harder, because it was so hot, I couldn’t hide my freakish body. In college, there was a guy who was a ‘friend’ of mine who started having ENTIRE conversations with my chest (see above comment on that). I began to avoid him. It just made me SO uncomfortable. I’m not even sure he realized he was doing it. At the end of school, he’d asked me on a date, but I said no. There is no way I’d be able to be alone with him and with that.
**Note to men reading this, while most of us women pretend to NOT notice you staring at our boobs, we do. And most of us don’t like it. It’s extremely rude, and makes you look like a total ass. Please stop having conversations with our breasts. That is not what they are there for. If we wanted to be ogled, we’d walk around topless.**
After my freshman year of college, I got really sick. I won’t go into details, but I had really bad headaches and if I wasn’t laying flat on my back, I would experience such intense pain that I would vomit. I am about 5’6, and at the time of getting sick I was probably 115lbs. After a week in the hospital, I was down to 93lbs. As awful as being that sick was, it had a benefit. My boobs were smaller! But, I knew I needed to gain weight, and as I slowly recovered, so did my weight AND my boobs.
I’d only told my cousin and her boyfriend (who was my friend) how I was feeling. I really was hating myself and had such anxiety about speaking to people. And then I read that book, Sweet Memories, and realized that I could maybe change. I was obsessed about it. What size would I want to be, if I could choose any size. I’d decided I’d want to be a B cup (again, now that I KNOW how bras fit, I would have wanted to be a 26DD). And wonders of wonders, junior year of college, a girl (we will call her Carol) moved in across the hall from me who actually had a reduction the previous year. I peppered her with questions. Carol explained to me why she had gotten it done and told me what they had done to her. She looked great, by the way, and we bonded over the issue and became fast friends.
She came with me to see my primary care about getting a reduction. I was under my parents’ insurance and would need the surgery to be approved by insurance in order to have it done. I got the name of the only plastic surgeon on the insurance plan and made an appt. Then I did the really hard thing- I had to tell my parents.
My parents and I have always had a great relationship. They have always been supportive of me, and I really didn’t expect anything different from them. Boy, was I wrong! That first sit down with them was rough. I don’t even recall all the conversation that we’d had. Carol had come with me, to answer any questions about the procedure itself that my parents might have. She explained to them that in her case, she had been overweight and her doctor told her to lose weight first- and I didn’t have any weight to lose.
This part is hard for me to write about, because of how hurt I was about the reaction my parents had. I know that they think I am perfect just the way I am, but some of the things they had said really hurt me. My mom said, “What if you are dating a guy who prefers bigger breasts?” All my life, she had raised me to be independent and not need a guy for self worth, so this comment was rather jaw-dropping. She also said that I would be scarred for life, and she didn’t want me to have ugly scarring. My dad had made a comment about how large my mom had gotten when she was pregnant. I told them that since I wasn’t comfortable with myself, I certainly wasn’t comfortable with a guy, so pregnancy wouldn’t be a possibility- EVER. In the end, I tearfully told them, that although it was their insurance, I was over 18 and it was my decision to make. And I had made it, and would go through with it- with or without their support.
My mom insisted on coming with me to my appointment with the plastic surgeon. She also insisted on being in the room while he examined me. I was an adult, and I was mad at her. I didn’t want her in the room. But I let her, and I’m glad I did. While I was standing there, being poked and prodded by the doctor while my mom watched, I just tried in my mind to be anywhere but there. After the appointment, my mom told me that she didn’t realize how droopy I was without a bra. Yup. It was confirmed- I not only had a granny bra, but I had granny boobs!
Weeks went by, while I waited for the insurance company to either approve or deny my surgery. My hopes and dreams rested in the hands of an HMO…. But then, I got the call. THEY’D APPROVED! Surgery was scheduled for right after school was out. I couldn’t wait! When the day came, I was giddy and excited. Here was the start of my new life. The surgeon’s assistant came in to prep me (wow, was he cute. how embarrassing!! he was going to be assisting?! no, no….). I went in, went to sleep, and woke up a new me. I went home elated- my boobs FINALLY fit the rest of me- inside and out. Then, I passed out.
I thought I’d fallen asleep briefly. But then, it happened again. And mere hours after leaving the hospital, I was on my way back. The ER nurse didn’t take us seriously…. that is, until I passed out in front of her. I woke up on a table in the ER. I was there for five hours until they had a room for me. I had an internal bleed from the surgery. I was to be taken back to surgery the next day. I was not to eat (all day?! ugh), or even stand up. It was a long day. At some point (before or after surgery?), I had a blood transfusion. My poor parents were terrified. But the repair surgery went well, and I was back home in no time.
A week or two after my reduction
I had a newfound confidence. It was fabulous! I finally felt normal. But it wasn’t to last. Shortly after my surgery, I’d started on birth control to regulate my periods. They put me on “the patch,” which sent way too much hormone directly into my blood stream. Within a few months of surgery, my boobs had come back… My doctor insisted it wasn’t from the birth control, but there were other side effects that I didn’t like, so I stopped taking it after six months. My boobs shrunk again, but not back to the size they had been. Regardless, they WERE still smaller than they had been- and more perky. I had no other choice but to live with it. I still had more confidence, and when I went back to school in the fall, people noticed that something was different, but they couldn’t figure out what it was.
One month after my reduction
One month after my reduction
Six months after my reduction
My journey with my boobs and with bras didn’t stop there. With a desk job, and trying other BC pills, I started gaining weight, and with that, my boobs grew and grew. I found www.llswim.com for awesome Freya swimsuits- even though my ribcage at this point was a 26, they fit me into a 30G. It was more comfortable than the 32 F I was in. And then, while desperately searching for tops that might fit me (yes, I was starting to spiral down the self hate spiral again), I stumbled upon Bravissimo. And my life was forever changed. On their Facebook page, I “met” fabulous women, like Georgina, who helped educate me on how bras should fit. I realized that I needed to go down again in the band to a 28 (which is the current size of my ribcage). I now wear 28H/HH, and although I sometimes get annoyed with the size that they are and wish they were smaller, I generally am okay with them.
I live in the states, and here it is really hard to find stores that carry bands under 32. Almost no stores here carry 28. I discovered that most stores don’t think there is a demand for smaller bands (mostly because everyone adds inches to the ribcage to get the band). So, last year, I began a women’s only Facebook group called BRAvolution. http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/BRAvolution/ It is my mission, and passion, to refit any woman willing to try it. The BRAvolution is also about education. Surprisingly, most women I speak to really have no clue how their bra is supposed to fit. It is painful for me to hear a woman say that her bra is uncomfortable. Because I know it doesn’t have to be. And I know how to fix it.
Two years after my reduction
A recent photo
The states, often times, lacks the sizes needed, though. One day soon, I’d like to open my own lingerie shop to carry a wider range of sizes than is currently available!! I’ll be sure to let Georgina know when I do so she can help me spread the word!
My wedding day