The night before my surgery, I literally kissed my breasts good bye and tried to get to sleep. I’m anxious by nature, and knowing that I was having surgery the next day was something that I couldn’t get out of my head. Bright and early the next morning, my mom drove me to the plastic surgeon’s downtown office. The plan was for an outpatient surgery: I would have the surgery, go to recovery, and then be discharged when my doctor thought I was ready.
At the hospital
I checked in at the reception area, and filled out some paperwork. I then went to a back room and got undressed and my surgeon came in soon afterwards. My surgeon measured my nipple to neck distance. He then took out a pen and marked my new measurements--where the new placement of my areola would be and how he would make the incisions. At the time, I didn't think that my new nipple measurement was extraordinarily high. I was then given an IV in my hand with a mixture of fluids, antibiotics and a sedative; and not long after that I was wheeled into surgery. The last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist asking me to count backwards from 100.
I remember waking up in pain; it's really hard to describe the feeling of having your body cut open and put back together. My chest and upper body were both very stiff and sore, but I did not have any bruising. My throat was sore because I had a tube down my throat for a few hours, and I really wanted to talk (typical) but couldn’t. I finally got the nurse to give me ice chips and then I fell back asleep for a short while. I woke up to my doctor and my mom standing over me. After I was fully awake, my surgeon said that everything went as planned. He said that he removed a little over 4 lbs of tissue from both of my breasts; a bit more than 2 lbs from the left breast and close to 2 lbs from the right breast. He said that the size was what we had previously talked about, around a 34D, which I think was accurate after swelling went down. I was given a prescription for an antibiotic and a narcotic pain reliever and I was then cleared to go home.
When I left the hospital, I was wearing something similar to a compression style sports bra with hooks in the front. I don’t remember much of the car ride as I just passed out. I was to wear sports bras and/or soft cup bras for 4-6 weeks until my incisions were healed. I was told not to spend too much money on bras in my new size because in the next few months, the swelling would go down and my breasts would drop into a more natural position. I was instructed to return in the next 2 days so that my drainage tubes could be removed; I was to empty them at home when they reached a certain level. As I have now learned, drainage tubes are usually only used on larger breast reductions, and are intended to prevent hematomas. I wasn’t allowed to take a shower until after my drainage tubes were removed. I was also told to make sure my steri-strips were clean and dry. My post-op instructions also mentioned to look for any signs of infection such as: nausea, fever, dizziness, and discharge at the incision sites. My mom also made sure that I took my antibiotics and pain reliever at regular intervals.
After the surgery, you don’t have a full range of motion and so my upper body movements were very limited. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to lift anything heavy (nothing over 5 lbs), but I didn’t expect how hard it would be for me to do daily activities for the first few days. My mom had to help me shower and do my hair; it was a ponytail kind of week. The bra that I wore home from the hospital and continued to wear was a front closure bra. Fortunately (or not), I had my surgery over spring break and so I had a week to adapt to my new range of motion before returning back to class. I was a senior in high school, and luckily many of my classes didn’t require me to carry around books so I didn’t have to worry about carrying them around. I am a side sleeper, but I had to sleep on my back for the first few months after having the surgery. I slept with a pillow that I “borrowed” from the hospital to my side just in case I would roll to the side in my sleep.
I will admit that I was quite worried about the scars. I was 17 years old and I didn’t want for potential partners to not want to be with me because of how my breasts looked. Since I am African American, I was concerned about developing keloids. Keloids are growths of extra scar tissue after skin trauma such as piercings, surgery cuts and burns. I do not have a family history of keloids, but I was still concerned about developing them. My surgeon suggested that I use Mederma or Bio Oil to help reduce the appearance of scarring. I did buy a tube of Mederma, but I was not consistent at all with its application and eventually just stopped pretending to use it.
It is now 10 years later and my scars are barely visible. You cannot see the ones underneath my breasts unless they are lifted. If you are considering a breast reduction, and scarring is a potential worry spot for you, I would not stress about it too much unless you have a personal history of keloids or hypertrophic scars. Scars will fade; and anyone that really cares about the scars on your body isn’t anyone that is worth seeing them.
Back on routine
Despite all of my initial fears, I was excited to go back to class and get back to a normal routine. In high school, I was involved with the media journalism program which meant that I regularly appeared live on air in the mornings, and was a part of produced news packages. The first day of school after Spring Break, one of my produced packages aired. I remember slinking down in my seat and silently praying that no one would play a game of “spot the difference.” In that moment, I was embarrassed that I had to have a breast reduction.
While other girls were still hoping that their breasts would grow larger, I was cursing mine for growing too much. To be quite honest; no one said anything about my obvious new figure. Not to my face, at least. While I was at home recuperating, a few of my friends came to keep me company. I think that they were surprised by how different I looked. It sounds obvious, but no one told me how different my body would look when my breasts were smaller; my proportions changed dramatically, my narrow hips were more apparent.
My large breasts were no longer the focal point of my body, and to the bane of my existence it was now my midsection that was the focal point. Living in a world of low rise jeans, this created another type of insecurity for me. It was so wistful of me to think that having the breast reduction would aid in helping me to be less self conscious; little did I know that I was just trading one perceived flaw for another.
Another change that occurred after the surgery was a change to the shape of my breasts. I had no concept of breast shapes when I was younger. Prior to having had the surgery, my breasts were more of an oval shape with very little fullness on top. Now, I consider my breasts to be full on bottom (FOB), or evenly full. To be completely upfront, I prefer the shape that my breasts have now. However, when I first had the surgery my breasts were very high on my chest and firm from swelling. I remember feeling my breasts and irrationally thinking that they gave me breast implants also because they felt so firm and well, perky.
The one lasting effect that I have from surgery is something that they call a dog ear (lovely, right?). Simply, a dog ear is when puckering occurs at the site of where skin has been tightened. Mine is very small and doesn’t bother me and it can only be seen when I am wearing a true plunge bra, like the Elomi Betty; it’s the little bit of extra tissue near the incision on my left breast. I am happy to report that I had no loss in nipple sensitivity. In fact, they were very sensitive the first few months post-op. A light breeze could make my nipples become erect. Another thing that I noticed was that my breasts no longer were tender leading up to and during to the week that I would have my period. In the last 10 years, this has remained constant. I do not have children, so I am unsure if I will be able to breastfeed, but I am still hoping that I have the ability to do so.
Clothes, self esteem and emotions
I could actually buy dresses that didn’t need to be heavily altered and buy and comfortably wear tank tops and halter tops because I would be able to find a bra to wear underneath. Right before the surgery, I ordered my prom dress. It was actually in a size proportional to my body, with spaghetti straps that formed an X in the back; oh, and it had a plunging neckline too. No heavy duty undergarments would be needed; just a simple strapless bra. The only alteration that it needed was a strap shortening, since I am fairly petite. So you could say that I was very excited for clothing that was easy to find and fit. I obviously had a lot more options for bras after the reduction. If you recall, I grew up in a small city with not a lot of options. The main places that people shopped at for bras were stores like Victoria’s Secret and department stores like Macy’s. I loved that I didn’t want or need to wear a minimizer bra. I also could go to into the holy grail of bra stores, Victoria’s Secret, and shop freely. I still wasn’t one for a lot of padding but I liked the molded cup bras and all the colors and patterns they came in.
I am typically someone that wears my heart on my sleeve. However, I do remember feeling somewhat detached about the overall process. That’s not to say that I was not excited or even relieved that I was able to have the surgery, just that in the moment I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed with specific emotions. When I first had a chance to look at my new breasts after the surgery, I do remember thinking that they were ugly. And of course they were! They had just been cut open and sewn back together. Even though they didn’t look physically perfect, they were perfect to me because they were smaller and “normal” sized. I just knew that me and my new small boobs would be happy at college in FL. Looking back, I think that I ultimately decided to have the surgery because I had let my large breasts hold me back in some ways. Taking this step, along with the fact that I was moving out of the state to go to college, allowed me to have some independence in my life.
As previously mentioned, re-growth can occur after having a breast reduction. Currently, I wear a size 34G, compared to my approximate pre-op size of a 34HH/J. The regrowth that I have had is likely due to the weight that I have gained in the last 10 years. Re-growth doesn’t occur for everyone; anecdotally, my cousin, who also had a reduction, breastfed her twin girls and her breasts remained the same size afterwards. Even after gaining weight, the shape of my breasts is still similar to the post-op shape. I have noticed that when I gain weight, it goes to the upper part of my breasts. Whenever I lose that weight, the upper fullness goes away.
If you are thinking of getting a breast reduction please do your research and find a board certified plastic surgeon for the best possible results. Just like women feel that a good bra fitting can be life changing, having a reduction can be life changing for many women. Whether it is to alleviate health problems or to just finally to feel good about your physical self, I think that having a reduction is a valid choice for many women. I often feel like in the various bra communities that exist online, there is this perception that a well fitted bra can change your life. The reality is that for many women a bra fitting will not and cannot solve all of your problems. There is nothing wrong with feeling like a breast reduction is your only option or that it is a last resort. It truly can change your lifestyle, and wanting something better for yourself is never something to be ashamed of.