At the age of 16 I underwent breast reduction surgery. It was one of the best things that I have ever done. At that age the larger than average size of my breasts was causing a lot more than physical pain although there was quite a bit of that.
At that age, the larger than average size of my beasts, combined with the very early appearance of them, was causing my usually outgoing and bubbly teenaged self to shy away from pretty much any situation where I thought they may be noticed.
In grade 9, after 3 years on the elementary basketball and volleyball teams, it was assumed if not expected that I would try out for the high school teams. But after 2 minutes in the changing rooms outside of the gym I quickly got myself out of there. Hardly any of the other girls trying out had breasts, let alone ones with stretch marks that hung lower that a teenaged girl’s ought to, and adding the bulk of my chest to the good foot of height that I had over each one of them made me feel like a bumbling giant.
I struggled almost daily in front of the mirror of my bedroom making sure that the tags of my shirts, the ones that were clearly marked ‘plus size’, would not be spotted, and that the giant straps of my specialty bras, the ones that looked like a 60 year old woman should be wearing them, would not slip out into the open. I wonder to this day if my ending up befriending the punks of my high school didn’t have to do with the bulky black sweaters I wore as often as the weather would allow, to try and hide my chest.
It was all of this and more that got my 16 year old mind set on breast reduction surgery. I knew that it wouldn’t be covered, nor would I get my doctors approval just because I wanted to shop at a store for 16 year olds and not at a store for middle aged women. So I played up the pain, let them put me on pain killers before booking another appointment to tell them that I didn’t want to be on pain killers the rest of my life, and that I wouldn’t if they just removed the problem. I was quickly added to the waiting list, and received a surgery date a few months later.
At about this time in August of that year, I went under the knife. My mother looked terrified while they were preparing me. But I don’t remember feeling much of anything as the doctor marked his incisions and the nurses put me in a gown and walked me down the hallway. I walked right into the room, laid down on the bed, and took the deep breaths the anesthesiologist asked me to all without blinking an eye.
At 16 years old I wasn’t thinking about the future. I wasn’t thinking about having children and whether or not I was going to breast feed them. I don’t even remember if I asked about it, or if the doctor told me on his own that I would have a 50-50 chance at successful breast feeding in the future. It didn’t matter, and to tell the truth, even if it did my decision would have been the same. I do not, in any way, regret having the surgery.
Now though, I am 23, and not only am I thinking about having children, I am 40 days away from having one. The question of whether or not I will be able to physically provide for my baby has haunted me from day one, and I’ve spent countless hours reading about breast feeding after reduction surgery.
At first I was put off by what I was reading. You wont know until you try is the consensus with most of the material, and the Le Lache League’s literature offers eight billion different ways to supplement while still maintaining a breast feeding relationship most of which sounds just as, if not more frustrating and tedious than bottle feeding, and offers little in way of hope that I will be able to breast feed exclusively.
My doctor seamed optimistic when I first asked about it, my young age at the time of my surgery, the fact that I continued to grow a bit puberty wise after it, and from what he can tell on physical examination all is well. My breasts are acting exactly how breasts should act when preparing for breast feeding. ‘Just make sure to let me know about anything you may notice about your breasts’.
About a week ago I noticed that my nipples were dry. . . Really dry, almost as if they had dandruff. Not wanting to sound stupid I neglected to call my doctor to report dandruff nipples. Over the course of the next couple days it was less like dandruff and more just crusty nipples. Two days ago I went to wipe away my embarrassing nipple crust and found that it was wet.
At yesterday’s doctor’s appointment my doctor smiled. ‘That is exactly normal, your breasts are preparing to produce milk, and it looks like both of yours are working.’ I managed to avoid hysterical pregnancy crying with joy about that until just this moment as I am writing this.
I feel like I’ve finally been given permission to say ‘yes’ when people ask if I plan to breastfeed without following it up with an ‘if I can’. I finally feel like I can BE a mother. I feel less trapped, even if I didn’t want to, even if it wasn’t so important to me to feed my child this way, it would be MY decision; my 23 year old decision, not my 16 year old decision. Instead of grasping at the straws of pigment changes and occasional swelling or soreness, I can confidently say that this is going to work; I can go buy a nursing pillow.
Even though there is still the question of how much I will produce, I am overcome with relief about the fact that I can produce milk for my child. Should it turn out that I need to supplement, it will simply give Das Piper the opportunity to take part in such a large part of caring for our baby, and I refuse to see that as a bad thing.