Don’t miss the companion perspective to this piece, Point of View: Choosing to Have Breast Augmentation Surgery.
I remember the first time I had a proper bra fitting at JCPenney, somewhere around 14-15 years old, and was told that I was “36 double D, verging on triple.” I’d gotten my first B-cup beginner bras just a few years earlier, and the escalation was rapid – I even had stretch marks from the growth spurts.
Juniors-sized clothing isn’t meant to accommodate so much volume up top. I got used to rifling through the XLs if I had any hope of finding anything cute and trendy. In fitting rooms, I learned to do the bounce test – jumping, wiggling, bending over, and lifting my arms overhead to see if a garment would lend the support and coverage that I needed if I was doing anything other than standing stick-straight.
Forget spaghetti straps on my prom dress. Forget those adorable printed bikinis in the Target catalogs. Forget buying anything off the rack without trying it on first. Forget finding a bra in any other colors but black, white, and nude, let alone a sports bra that actually does what it’s supposed to.
I felt distinctly othered. Cute clothes are for normal-sized girls, the clothes brands seemed to say, and you’re not normal. You’re “curvaceous,” if that makes you feel any better. You’re like Queen Latifah!
Except, I wasn’t. My breasts were the only part of my body that stuck out so much. I actually wished I was more curvy elsewhere, if only because that would balance out the top half. But it’s like the clothing industry shrugged and said Look, we can’t make you any more attractive. Deal.
By the time I was getting ready to go to college, the subject of reduction surgery had been brought up with me. I’m short in the torso anyway and stood only 5’3”ish at the time, so my boobs made up most of my upper body. My mom, among others, was concerned about potential problems down the line with my back and posture.
Still, I saw it as a “maybe someday, after I have kids” solution. It was just so much money. Getting this kind of surgery covered by medical insurance is tricky at best and requires a lot of hoop-jumping, and even then, they’re not going to cover all of it. Dropping several thousand dollars at once on something like this was something I couldn’t really wrap my mind around.
Part of me also believed I didn’t really deserve it. I’m only DD,I would think to myself. I’m far from the largest out there. Who am I to complain?
By then, I’d stopped expecting much out of the fashion world and learned to dress for my body, what worked and what didn’t, where to shop. I still hated how I looked in photos, especially in profile. My weight fluctuated from 150lbs to 180lbs and back down again in the years since college, but my boobs stayed the same. My clothes were often baggy everywhere but the chest, and made me look about 10 pounds heavier than I actually was. I had to wear two sports bras to do Zumba. Lingerie? Ha. Not gonna happen. Sometimes in the mirror, I would press and mold and shape them to try to see what they’d look like smaller. (That…doesn’t work. Just FYI.)
Still, these seemed like small quibbles in the grand scheme of things, so I endured. Maybe someday.
When I was about 23, I decided for myself that kids were not part of my plan after all. And not long after that decision sunk in, it hit me that without that roadblock, surgery was a possibility I could actually consider, for real. That was really the only encouragement I needed. It took me a few years, but by the end of 2013, I finally had enough saved up and got the ball rolling.
I had my surgery in the spring of 2014, at the age of 26. I was wearing a 38DD or DDD (depending on the bra) before I went under. I couldn’t just “order” a certain size that I wanted to be. My surgeon told me he would make them proportional to the rest of my body, whatever that ended up being; he wouldn’t guarantee a specific size, but estimated I’d end up somewhere around “a nice, perky C.”
When I first woke up from the anesthesia and looked down at my bust, I panicked. Oh no. They took too much. Undo! Ctrl-Z! Of course, I was still way too swollen to have any idea of what my final size would be, but the major change still took some getting used to even as I healed. (I still haven’t quite figured out my new bra size but I’m somewhere around a 36-38C.) There’s a chance I could regain some size as I age, but it’s unlikely they’ll ever get back to where they were.
At this writing, it’s been a year since the surgery. I was a little self-conscious about my scars in the beginning, but now they are almost gone (my surgeon said they were vanishing surprisingly quickly for a redhead– hey, I’ve always been an overachiever). I hardly notice them anymore. What I do notice is how free I feel.
Clothing shopping is no longer a safari hunt for something that will do the job – it’s actually fun! I spent all of last summer wearing spaghetti-strap dresses and going braless as often as possible, just because I can. Exercise is physically easier. I don’t have to double-bag ‘em or avoid activities that are too “bouncy.” My work as a writer has me sitting at a desk most of my days, and my back is much happier without all the slouching.
The biggest change, I think, is that I’m just so happy with what I see in the mirror. I never realized how much they affected my body image before the surgery. My reaction to my reflection back then was a big Sigh. I’d accepted the reality of my body, and I didn’t actively hate it (most days, anyway), but I also couldn’t bring myself to love it, no matter how many times I tried to talk myself up.
My new breasts feel natural, they feel right, like this is the size they were meant to be. Without so much boobage dominating my torso area, I have discovered that I actually do have an hourglass waist. I’m still pleasantly soft in the belly, but without the additional weight pushing things down and creating extra rolls, I look more like a Renaissance painting and less like the Michelin Man. I went from dressing to hide to dressing with pride.
2014 was a year of enormous change for me. I basically reinvented myself, leaving a dysfunctioning marriage behind, striking out on my own for the first time as an adult, and jumping head-first into self-employment. The new breasts are just an outward manifestation of all the transformation I was putting myself through. Not for a moment do I ever regret going ahead with the surgery. It was a worthwhile investment in myself, physically and especially emotionally.
I am not my body, but it is one of the things that makes me shine. I’m glad I gave it some relief and can now stand taller – literally.
Marisa is a professional writer/editor and creative writing teacher living in southwest Ohio with her mutt. She believes the sexiest thing you can do is love yourself first, and is a champion of clear communication and listening to your gut as well as your heart. Got a question for Marisa? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org