Suffice to say that by the end of my childbearing years, my breasts were very different from the pair I started with. And while some women lose breast mass with baby weight, I most assuredly did not. Instead, the more weight I lost, the more amplified my outsized boobs became. Any vanity I might ever have had was left at the threshold of motherhood. Here's what I longed to be able to do:
- Shop off the rack. Nothing would zip past the boobs except dresses that were shapeless and made me look pregnant. Button-down shirts were out, too. The final straw came when someone described me as matronly.
- Exercise without injuring myself. I had constant, worsening neck and shoulder pain. My chiropractor found bruising in my mid-back.
I scheduled a consultation with a reputable plastic surgeon. Because large breasts are a common reason for chronic back pain, a surgery for reduction is very often covered by insurance, with a referral from one's primary care doctor. At the consultation, the surgeon took pictures of my breasts to send to the insurance company.
Once I was approved, I was scheduled for surgery. I needed a baseline mammogram and a few other specific lab tests. The night prior to surgery, I had to stop drinking, even water, at midnight.
That meant that when I woke up I could not pee, and they wouldn't prep me for surgery until I had provided a sample. I was checked in and taken to the presurgical floor, where nurses and anesthesiologists soon came in to speak to me and hook me up to various intravenous lines.
Then the surgeon came in to draw on my breasts with a pen to map the cuts that needed to be made. Eventually I was rolled onto a gurney and into an operating room and given anesthesia. I was out cold so fast, there was no real time to be afraid.
I awoke hours later in recovery. I struggled, initially, to come back to the surface – as if fighting my way out of the deepest sleep. My mouth was dry. My eyeballs were parched. I felt like I was floating.
When I put my hands on my chest, my breath caught. My boobs! They were so much smaller! I had lost 5 pounds of breast tissue. The difference was shocking. The nurses had bound my chest in gauze and put me in a surgical bra—a heavy-duty bra designed to support, minimize swelling, and protect the breast or breasts during healing. These special bras are also meant to be comfortable, but alas, mine definitely wasn't. I was lucky enough not to need drains, but some women do need them to in order to prevent the accumulation of fluid.
A few days after the surgery, I had the opportunity to look more carefully at my new boobs. I ever so gently tugged the gauze away from my body, pulling even more gently around the nipples, and beheld my new breasts. The main incision had been made underneath the bosom, and thus was hard to see. The nipples had been removed, then repositioned and reattached. There were a lot of dissolvable stitches and a lot of surgical glue involved. I didn't look too closely because, frankly, it was a bit shocking. I looked enough for a cursory wound check and to be sure that the gauze wasn't sticking to my gluey nipples and that no infection (yellow pus is a bad sign) was happening.
After recovery, I stayed overnight in the hospital, and I strongly recommend that if you are having a procedure like this, depending on how it goes. You are likely to be able to choose between either being discharged the same day of your procedure or spending a night in the hospital, depending on your insurance plan, your preferences, when you checked in, your comfort level, etc. For me, the initial pain was not too terrible and easily controlled by medication. The next day I was allowed to leave with prescriptions for a few days of pain management and antibiotics.
In the hospital and once I got home, the feminist in me was surprised at how nervous I got when visiting with my husband. Would he still find me attractive? Two weeks out and my boobs were still very sore. The pain was reminiscent of the intense chafing and rawness of the end of the first week of breastfeeding – when the very idea of putting a bra on makes you wince. Or when your baby is handed to you and the latch is like being electrocuted. But I figured this would subside in time.
I stayed tired for weeks. But less and less each day.
And my back pain is gone. Overnight. At the risk of jinxing myself, I won't go on and on about that. But it just might work. I have not yet planned to shop for any new clothes, but last night I did actually dream I was zipping a dress all the way up. It was such a nice dream.
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