A writer over at The Hairpin wrote a great piece on her breast reduction. As a chesty teenager, I knew by age 16 that I wanted to have the surgery and finally had it at 22, with the full support of my family. Luckily, my $10,000 bill was fully covered by insurance after I provided Aetna will evidence from a primary care physician and my chosen surgeon that the procedure was medically necessary to reduce back and shoulder pain. This is easier said than done, however, and the specifics might vary by state so if you’re interested, definitely research beforehand.
Best of all, since I had recently graduated from college, I didn’t have to worry about rushing back to … anything. My surgeon reduced me four sizes and, like Virgina, sometimes I look in the mirror and see my old breasts that are no longer there and wonder why other people can’t see them too. At first it does feel as if you are trapped in someone else’s body. However, five years later I am so glad I did it.
Here are my favorite parts of Virginia’s piece:
Even though I was a healthy kind of skinny, my bulging breasts threw off my proportions and made me look deceptively heavy. Being so buxom also made it difficult to find clothes that fit properly. Things that fit my torso and arms would be too tight in the chest. (Button-down shirts were the worst; thoughts of seeing my bra exposed through the gaping holes between those damn buttons still haunt me.) And I was constantly aware of how much trouble they caused me. When I got dressed in the morning, when I ate and tiny crumbs collected on my cleavage, when I was running to catch up to someone — there were dozens of tiny moments throughout the day when I noticed them and thought to myself, “too big, too big, too big.”
I still avoid button-down shirts. They are my worst nightmare. Also:
He then explained to me how the procedure would work. He would cut a ring around the nipple, leaving it attached to the blood vessels that fed it. Then he’d cut a line straight down from the nipple and also a curved line along the underside of the breast. The excess breast tissue and fat would be cut out and the nipple moved up into what would be the center of the new breast. The skin would then be trimmed and brought back together around the remaining breast tissue, leaving me with a scar that looks like an anchor.
This was my situation as well. My surgeon explained that sometimes he could do liposuction if he was only reducing two sizes or so, but I had a little too much boob for that. Also:
As psyched as I was, I didn’t tell very many people I was having the surgery. It’s pretty weird to talk to people about your boobs under any circumstances, much less to be like, “They’re too big, so I am having them cut down!” It’s still not something I tell most people I’ve had done. I’m not embarrassed by it, but I just figure it’s not anyone’s business. If it comes up naturally, I’m happy to talk about it — but it hardly ever does in the course of normal conversation.
It never comes up in conversation, but on the rare occasion I do talk about it, I am always surprised to learn that many other people have had the surgery or know someone (mom, daughter, sister) who has. Also:
By the third week, I was recovered enough to resume a somewhat normal life. I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavy or do anything that would jiggle my chest (like exercising), but I went back to work, wearing my surgical bra under a baggy shirt. A few people, mostly other women, commented that it looked like I’d lost weight, but a lot of people didn’t notice anything at all — or if they did they didn’t say anything.
No one will notice. A friend told me that before my surgery. Everyone will think you lost weight. Everyone. No one will know unless you tell them. Also:
The surgery hasn’t just changed the way I think about myself; it has changed the way I interact with other people. I’ve grown a lot more confident in my appearance, and now I’m much more willing to be seen than I was before. I feel more attractive, and that in turn makes people think I am more attractive. Of course there’s still a difference between how self-assured I feel with and without clothes on.
Prior to surgery, I hadn’t considered that someday I would have to explain my scars to men who were going to see me naked. But obviously I did, and in the early days I struggled with how to bring it up. On the one hand you don’t want to just throw it out there because it’s a little mood-ruining, but you don’t want someone to happen upon the scars by accident either. At this point, I’ve been in a relationship for a long time, so it’s not an issue. But I used to worry what guys thought of them. They’re not your stereotypically lovely young breasts; I felt like they must be a disappointment. And maybe they are, but no guy has ever seemed to mind.
I used to worry about this all the time, but in my limited experience, men won’t notice and won’t say anything. But, if you have other experiences, feel free to share. Also:
To me, the most fascinating product of the surgery is that it’s changed the way men react to me when I have my clothes on. Before, it was not uncommon for a man to stare blatantly at my large chest. When guys would approach me, in bars or at parties, most of them seemed to be operating on the assumption that I was a little bit of a slut. This was not, in fact, the case. I was a shy, fairly serious person who did not sleep with people lightly. And yet men I didn’t know regularly talked to me like I was eager to be their sexual plaything.
Then suddenly I had smaller breasts! When I’d walk around, men would still look at me, but they were no longer looking right at my breasts. I could feel them taking in the whole picture of me — my face, my body, my legs, and sometimes my breasts too. Almost overnight guys began treating me like a pretty girl instead of an easy girl. When they would talk to me, they would approach me like I was a normal person. They took me seriously. They would ask me questions about who I was, what I was interested in — a rare occurrence pre-surgery. I was shocked the first few times, but it kept happening. Friends of mine confirmed the difference so I knew I hadn’t imagined it, and I’ve since talked to other people who’ve had breast reductions and experienced the very same shift. Something to think about.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I agree it’s not for everyone (my cousin debated it for 20 years and decided not to bother), but it was the right decision for me. If you are considering a reduction, definitely read the full piece as well as information from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Keep in mind that side affects (loss of nipple sensation, not being able to breastfeed, etc…) are not universal, but can happen occasionally. However, a doctor will be able to tell you more than I can. Have you had a reduction? How was your experience?