My ample bosom was one of the great mysteries in my family, along with who my great-grandfather was before he settled down in the south, and why my grandmother leaves every possible light on in her house at all times. No one really knows where I got big breasts from genetically speaking, as none of the women in my immediate family are built this way. As best as I can tell I wished them big one Summer after being made fun of for being flat chested at camp, and I shit you not they grew, and just never stopped. I was a full C cup by 8th grade, and at age 31, standing 5’2, wearing a 36H, I finally decided to get a breast reduction.
I knew pretty early on that I was larger than most other girls my age, and I tried desperately to hide the very things I wished for so vehemently. I just wanted them for myself, because I always found hourglass figures to be beautiful, and I wanted one. But at such a young age, I wasn’t prepared for the attention of teenage boys, the jealousy of teenage girls, or the hypersexualization of my young body by my elders. We don’t really talk enough about how young black girls are punished and deemed to be “fast” by older black women for developing early. We are taught at such a young age that our bodies are a source of shame, and I bought into that. If I wasn’t being gawked at by some boy, I was being told to cover up more by some teacher with unaddressed trauma of her own. Fortunately, I came of age in the nineties and two thousand, and it was the style to wear big clothes. I wore my older brother’s FUBU jerseys, Tommy Hilfiger shirts, and Nautica jackets, but nothing could really hide my blooming body. Finally, I said screw it, and just wore what I wanted to. Shouts out to Limited Too!
As I got older, I grew more comfortable with becoming that which I’d hoped for, and then there was college. I went into my freshman year weighing 109, wearing a 34D, and graduated weighing 135, wearing a 34DD. Truthfully, I was happy with the weight gain. I developed the hips and butt that the women in my family actually have and that I longed for. I didn’t realize at the time that that weight gain was the result of undiagnosed, crippling depression, and self-medicating with party drinking and emotional eating, so the weight gain continued well after graduation.
When I was no longer able to wear things I wanted to wear, and bras got more and more expensive, I knew I would eventually want a breast reduction, but decided I would wait until after I had children. Your breasts change so much after children, especially with breastfeeding, which I’ve always known I wanted to do if I became a mother, so this seemed logical. It’s funny the things we just assume will happen for us in life when we think we want them. I also didn’t feel right about elective surgery. I thought about the women who lose their breasts to cancer, my grandmother being one of them, and it just didn’t seem right to me to choose to remove anything from them for vanity’s sake. When I would complain about managing my breasts, my friends and family would say things like, “Do you know how much money people are paying to have what you have?” Breast reduction surgery just didn’t seem like something that was “right.” Then the back pain started. Once it moved to my neck and shoulders, I ran out of fucks to give about anyone else’s desires. I also had to have an honest conversation with myself about how long I was willing to be in pain, waiting to have children that I may not have, with a man that I have yet to meet. I talked to a coworker who’d had reconstructive surgery on her breasts, and she sang the praises of her surgeon and admonished me to at least set up a consultation.
I was still really apprehensive upon entering the doctor’s office. I mean how does one prepare oneself to whip out their breasts for a stranger? However, after doing so, the doctor assured me of what I’d known for years. “So, honestly, your breasts are just way too big for your body, and that’s why you’re in pain,” he explained. I felt seen in a way that I hadn’t before because an actual medical professional agreed with me. Everyone else made me feel like I should be thankful to be so full breasted, but I don’t think people actually understand what life is when you have naturally big breasts that don’t sit up perfectly without really good bras that cost a fortune. You think you want big breasts until you have to wear three bras to workout (one full coverage bra with straps thick as Kardashian brows, one compression sports bra, plus the shelf that comes in workout tops). Or when you pick up a great top, or dress, only to realize that it’s backless, and therefore not for you. You can’t confidently wear anything that won’t allow you to wear a full bra to hoist your breasts up off your stomach. Honestly, fashion designers if you really want to champion women, stop making everything backless, but I digress. Then there’s the unwanted sexual attention from both men and women. People just assume that if you have big breasts that you want them to be touched. Unless you’re an Instagram model, this body is really tough to dress every day. I either looked pregnant when attempting slouchy, loose-fitting looks or “too sexy” trying to show that I did, in fact, have a waistline.
My doctor walked me through the steps of the procedure for my particular desires, along with projected recovery time, and possible scarring. He also told me that while I can give him an idea of the size I want, bra sizes are not standardized, so there’s no way to guarantee a specific bra size with regard to breast reduction. However, he assured me that his goal would be to remove enough tissue to reduce the strain on my back, but also make them proportionate to my body. After taking very extensive body measurements, and discovering that my hips are about 40 inches around, I felt pretty comfortable that I would be happy with the results. The added bonus is that because they would need to remove so much tissue, my insurance would fully cover the procedure, which let’s be honest here, was the deciding factor.
I’m not going to lie to you here, the first week of recovery was a real razor scooter to the ankle. It felt like I was wearing a bra three sizes too small that was lined with tiny needles. The pain meds worked, but not without the consequence of being really doped up all day, and dozing off mid-conversation. I also didn’t have a single night of comfortable rest from having to sleep like a corpse. Week two of recovery was much better. I was able to move around a bit more, ease off of the painkillers, and sleep on alternating sides. At that point, I was also able to really see the results, and assess if I was happy with my decision, and I truly am!
This breast reduction was one of a few major life decisions I’ve made without taking into account anyone else’s voice, except my own. Without being beholden to my past, other people’s opinions or judgments, or fear of the unknown, I actually did something solely for myself. Besides the freedom from back pain and more fashion choices, that is the most liberating aspect of this process. I have been really fortunate to live a life full of choices, but anxiety and depression prevented me from trusting myself to make them without fear of failure or doing the wrong thing. This was a choice I made for myself, and I hope it is the start of a new chapter of life for me. One in which I look to myself first, and most of all to do what makes me happy.