My Breast Reduction Experience Was Nothing Like I Expected, But I'd Still Do It All Over Again
Three days before my surgery, my anxiety levels reached an all-time high. I was so nervous I didn’t actually even know what I was nervous about anymore.
Unclear about where the panic was coming from, I decided to go ahead and freak out about EVERYTHING.
For example! My wonderful mother volunteered to leave the mild comforts of Northern California in winter (oh no, it might rain!) to venture into the unforgiving tundra that is New York City in February. Feburary always the worst month here, but I dunno if y’all have heard, we were in the midst of some nonsense called a Polar Vortex that was turning New York into basically North of the Wall. Minus Jon Snow (if only).
My mom is… particular when it comes to housekeeping. She’s totally right, a clean house is so much better than a messy one (and no one’s house has ever been cleaner than hers) but sometimes I find the pressure of living up to her particular standards a bit daunting.
Cut to me cleaning every single thing I own. I washed every sheet, towel, rug, shirt, pant, WHATEVER that I own. I put all the dishes through the dishwasher. The clean ones. I took the perfectly clean dishes out of the cabinets and wasted water putting them through the dishwasher. I was a woman possessed.
I had dinner plans with my friends which I tried to cancel because I had to keep cleaning. They didn’t let me because they are good friends and they could tell I needed some fun, but I certainly tried.
My mom has been to my house before. She loves it. She’s here to take care of me while I recover from surgery. She doesn’t CARE if my spices are alphabetized.
I also became distracted by the fact that I’d put all of my old bras in a bag of clothes to donate. I don’t need them, they’re just taking up space that I don’t have. But I couldn’t get rid of them. They’re not even bras I like a lot, but I felt some kind of sentimental attachment to them that wouldn’t let me let them go.
I’m pretty sure whatever’s at the root of the bra issue was the same thing that was stressing me out about everything else as well.
You see, while I may not particularly care for my boobs, they’re still a part of me, and I am choosing to get rid of them. I think this whole experience is kind of a microcosm for how I feel about my body in general. I have never liked it all that much, but it’s mine, and I am trying to love it.
In the past couple years I’ve developed this pretty serious feeling that by continuing to attempt to change my body (i.e.: lose weight), I’m giving up on it. I’m admitting that there’s something wrong with it and I’m saying that I’d be better off with a different one. I so strongly want to believe it when I say that all bodies have equal value regardless of shape or size, and the idea that one person’s body is better than another’s is total bullshit. But there is also still a HUGE part of me that can’t latch onto that ideal and thinks I’d be better off just getting skinny.
And I can’t help but think (ugh, minus 2 points for the Bradshaw) that I’m doing the exact same thing with my boobs. These are my boobs! They grew out of my chest all by themselves because they were supposed to, because that’s what my body was wired to do. Who am I to say that I know what I need better than my body does? Shouldn’t I just learn to embrace what my body has decided to be? J cups and all?
But you know what? Eff that noise. My boobs sucked. They hurt my back, they made clothes that I’d like to wear impossible and they made the rest of me invisible. I was tired of them and shouldn’t have to put up with them anymore if I don’t want to.
I think what it really comes down to though is that I wasn't getting a breast reduction for anyone but myself. When I can quiet the noise in my mind and remember that my body is not a weapon for social change, this procedure is something I should feel genuinely good about.
Before my surgery, if you’d asked me to make a list of my top post-surgery worries it’d probably go something like this: pain, infection, bad reactions to pain meds, and weird psychological reactions to my new body.
After surgery, here are the things that are actually causing me displeasure: sleeping on my back (it’s impossible), pus (it’s disgusting), itchy stitches (which I cannot scratch), boredom (have you guys watched Justified? I have, 5 seasons, it’s great), and constipation (more on that later).
The thing that surprises me the most though, is how normal I feel about my body. I have looked at my body everyday for a long time and thought a lot of different things about it, most of the time those things have not been good. As a result of this somewhat… complicated relationship with my body I was 100% prepared to look at my new boobs for the first time and fully freak out. Much to my delight there was no such event.
I looked at my new tiny boobs and instantly accepted them. I don’t know if everybody’s brain works this way, but I just don’t think my brain is complex enough to reject what it was seeing. It looked at me, saw what was there, and moved on.
Don’t get wrong, I’m not saying my recovery process thus far has been entirely a series of happy discoveries, but my psychological reaction was a huge part of what I was worried about and I’m glad to know that it’s not actually a problem.
Lest we kid ourselves into thinking that major surgery is a bed of roses on a sea of clouds, allow me to tell you about some of the decidedly less pleasant events of my life since surgery.
Before I went in, everybody kept telling me to make sure I got some stool softener (yes, we’re gonna talk about poop for a while), I listened to them because I’m not a fool, but I couldn’t stop wondering why everyone was so obsessed with warning me about my bowels.
Turns out everyone was right! I’m well aware that painkillers tend to, um, slow things down in the number-2 department, but I didn’t expect everything to come to a full stop, which is exactly what happened for five whole days.
When you don’t poop for five days, your stomach and intestines are so full of food that everything hurts. So then you get desperate and start thinking about all the things that have ever made you poop. You remember that juice cleanse you did and what the pear juice did to you. So you make some pear sludge in your juicer and chug it down even though pears are basically your least favorite fruit. Nothing happens.
Next you buy some Metamucil. Then you misread the label on the bottle and take 2 TABLEspoons 3 times a day instead of 2 TEAspoons 3 times a day and you basically OD. You have crazy stomach and butt cramps for a full 24 hours and basically wish that sweet death would come and relieve you from the hell that is your current digestive situation.
Then you totally lose it and decide that your grandmother was right and the best remedy for an upset stomach is baking soda so you start eating spoonfuls of it like it’s cool. None of it works. You just have to let your intestinal nightmare run its course, which it does, but not nearly fast enough.
Once you’ve recovered control of your bowels, you decide to get crazy and walk down to the corner café for breakfast. Except because you live in Williamsburg this means seeing 10 of the most attractive people you’ve ever seen, and at least one of your favorite actors. Also because you live in Williamsburg, the corner café only has like, steamer trunks and slabs of concrete for tables & chairs which you can’t really move under normal circumstances and you CERTAINLY can’t move now that your torso is held together with surgical tape and a slapdash surgical bra.
Speaking of your surgical bra! Even though you’re not that fat and your surgeon assured you that she’s performed breast reductions on people with far larger breasts than yours, they didn’t have a surgical bra that fit you, so they have sent you home in a too-small bra with a blue towel safety pinned to it to sort of cover the rest of your hacked up boobs. Seriously.
Nothing makes you feel better than spending several thousand dollars on a procedure only to be sent home in some bullshit contraption that looks like something somebody made during the grocery store challenge on Project Runway.
As eager as everyone was to tell me about the number 2 situation, here’s another disgusting thing everyone failed to mentioned about surgery. You will stink. I don’t know why (Claire, you wanna help me out here?) but healing wounds have a tendency to stink. Especially when they are swathed in gross pus covered tape for several days at a time. Y’all still with me?
Since I’m deep into public-humiliation territory already, here’s another embarrassing thing about me: I love reading historical fiction about Henry VIII. Go ahead and soak that one up for a second.
Anyway, in all these stories people are always talking about how he stunk all the time because of this leg wound he got jousting. I always figured this was just some old-timey shit and modern science would have figured out a way to take care of stinky wounds, but not so! Before my incisions closed up -- well, I don’t wanna get into Mandy territory here, but it wasn’t good.
Here’s something that is good: my mother. I have to tell you that I would have been lost without her. I had no idea just how useless I was going to be after the surgery, and even simple stuff like remembering to take my antibiotic every 6 hours was apparently beyond me. She made sure all of it happened and never complained once.
If only she’d stayed long enough to deal with buying my first post-surgery bra, which shockingly turned out to be a hellish experience. Apparently, when your boobs are two weeks out of surgery they don’t really like getting stuffed in and out of every bralette/wireless bra that The Gap & Macy’s have to offer. Go figure. (Also, good luck trying to find a bralette/wireless bra that is not the absolute absence of fashion and fits what are still somewhat sizeable boobs.)
At the end of the day though, for all of the intestinal-drama and worrying and whatever else the last month of my life has served up, I would gladly take it all again. Because every time I put a jacket on and the zipper doesn’t even flinch when it gets to my boobs, or every time I drop a piece of something I’m eating and it falls onto the napkin in my lap instead of on the shelf of my enormous chest, I am reminded just how worth it all of this was.