A Weight Lifted
A Weight Lifted…
By Megan Stamey McAlvain
At 11 my mom took me to buy my first bra. I had hit puberty the year before, and as with most young women I began to develop in all those womanly ways. I went from wearing nothing under my clothing, from this sense of young girl freedom, to immediately wearing a B cup bra. I had bypassed that stage of the “trainer” and went straight to an ideal breast size for a 20 year old before I’d even made it to middle school. Over the next couple years my B turned to a C, my C changed to a D, and you see where this is going… At 13 I entered high school wearing a 32DD bra. That may not seem too bad at first read, but I was a 126 pound 13 year old with breasts that better suited a Victoria’s Secret model and were wider than my back. I started high school very aware that I was carrying a weight that was not just physical. I had already experienced being an object of much gawking by both men and women, jokes from my classmates, and many other unfortunate attentions. However, entering high school I thought “this was my time” as many of the other young women were finally starting to catch up. Unfortunately, high school did not normalize my breast size, in fact that physical characteristic created a social identity that would take years to remove. What I didn’t know then, but I do know now, is that I had already begun to shape my self-identity based on my breasts.
Some jokes for your reading pleasure - “you’d have cleavage in a turtle neck” – “put those melons back, that’s shoplifting” – and the very classy 9/11 reference “those twin towers won’t come down from a terrorist attack” – All things I have heard. (I know you think I’m joking, but sadly I’m not)
At 16 I began to talk about breast reduction. About that time I started hiding my chest in baggy hoodies, and sports bras, and simply refused to buy a bra my actual size after breaking down in the middle of Macy’s. I was having migraines regularly and back pain was pretty common. My breasts were dense, heavy, and NOT perky. I had also stopped playing any sport that required me to run, and took Fs in PE on running days just to avoid the pain and wide eyed stares. I began to dream about having smaller breasts, envied those with cute bras or who could go braless, and simply cried in dressing rooms when having to buy a swimsuit. Breast reduction wouldn’t actually become a reality until nearly 10 years later. 10 years in which my self-worth, identity, and physical state of being were often, if not always, centered on my breasts.
Let’s fast forward a little bit… at 19 I was in a serious relationship, and worried constantly that what was attracting him were my breasts. I hid them in many ways until one day I found our conversation had turned serious and to concern for the way I felt about my boobs. To this day I still remember him saying that was not what he cared about, and ending the conversation with an apt, albeit jokingly, “I’m more of an ass man anyways” (I am thankful every day for this man). For the next 5 years I continued to talk about a breast reduction. I become more and more adamant that was what I wanted, that was what would heal my back and clear my migraines, and that was what would be best for me. I received support from my family and from boyfriend, and began to seriously pursue it. But not everyone was as supportive.
When talking to people about breast reduction I received very mixed reactions- Question: Why would you do that, your breasts are beautiful? Answer: You’ve never seen them uncovered, not so pretty when they reach your belly button. Question: What if you don’t like having small breasts? Answer: I assure you I will, and if not that’s what augmentation is for. Question: What about the scars? Aren’t you worried about the ugly scars? Answer: Absolutely not, only I and one other person see them uncovered, and what do I care about scars anyways. AND my absolute favorite- Question: What will your boyfriend think? Answer: If he cares that I will have smaller breasts and scars where once giant heavy bags were then he is not the man for me (he didn’t care and still doesn’t by the way). All these questions told me was that my self-identification was correct, my identity was tied to my breasts, and something had to be done.
The proverbial final straw that broke the camel’s back… or in this case my spirit. At 24 I went hiking with my mom, boyfriend, and a friend. I often went through spurts of exercising and then would quit, but this time I was making a strong effort to hike. I would wear three sports bras during every hike just to be relatively comfortable, but that day something felt different. It was hot, the hike was hard, and mostly uphill, and my trusty bras were cutting into my ribs. I made it about a third of the way up before quitting. I sat down on the trail barely able to breath, and sweating. I had to rest 30 minutes before making it back down the trail. On the way down I felt humiliated. I had to remove my shirt and two of my outer bras in order to breath. Every person and family I passed would stare or awkwardly avert their eyes (I had nothing but shorts and a sports bra on, one that I later realized was see-thru). As I sat on the picnic table waiting for the others to finish the hike I finally made my decision… I called the insurance company the next day, and scheduled an appointment with my doctor.
Did you know that large, dense, heavy breasts can cause serious health issues and that many insurance companies will cover a surgery for reduction?
At 25, seven months after that last hike, I woke up around 3am and dressed in my cute pajamas with the button up fronts. They were like a cute pajama pant suit and would be my outfit for the next two days. I was the first surgery of the day, and I thought I would be more nervous. I was, after all, about to drastically modify my body with no real understanding of what would be the end result. However, instead of being nervous I was ready. The nurse came to administer drugs, and insert my IV and I did fine (I typically pass out in extreme situations of adrenalin and often get woozy with needles). The surgeon came in to draw cut lines on my breasts and I wasn’t nervous at all. Up until then I had rarely shown them to anyone, but at that moment I didn’t care that my mom was in the room, the physician was talking about cuts and folds, and the nurse was checking my beeping machines and IV line. I had a weird sort of freeing feeling instead. I remember being wheeled in to the room and told to put my arms out and then nothing. I woke up from surgery several hours later happy… it could have been the drugs, but I woke up thanking every person that came in the room.
At 27 I can honestly say that surgery was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I came away with a new identity. I had lost 3 pounds of flesh, but felt 1000 pounds lighter. That surgery profoundly changed my life. What do I mean by that? Although I am 15 pounds heavier I am healthier and stronger than I have ever been. Although I have scars I am more confident and happy than ever before. There have been so many positives that have come out of this: I have not had a true tension migraine in two years. I work out regularly. I can wear a bikini. I have perky breasts, and don’t always need a bra (I affectionately refer to my breasts as my porn star boobs). But all joking aside, what has really changed? I no longer feel objectified, I no longer get awkward stares, and I have not heard a single boob joke in the last two years. That weight I had felt for years has literally and figuratively been lifted. What has really changed is that my breasts are no longer part of my identity. Instead I am a strong woman… with boobs.
(These are just my facts and feelings. I totally get that for some women their breasts are not their arch nemesis, and I completely respect that. However, if you are like me and feel burden by your tatas, please feel free to email me to chat more about my surgery and journey firstname.lastname@example.org)