Removing My (Breast) Armor
I purposely keep walking by mirrors so that I can see myself. When I’m sure no one is looking, I lift my shirt to make sure they’re real. I feel like a teenage girl whose boobies sprouted overnight; amazed, grateful, relieved. And to think that all it took was a little surgery to make me recognize myself again.
19 years earlier
I am 27 years old and have been married 2 years. We have a house, a menagerie of dogs and cats, good paying jobs and nice vehicles. We are the American Dream minus the kids (thank God). I don’t remember the impetus, what motivated me at this exact moment to say, “I’m going to do it.” I just remember telling my husband that I’m going to make an appointment to get breast implants.
He looks at me like I’m insane. He tries to talk me out of it. My husband, a man who works to sculpt his body everyday, who manages a health club for a living, is perplexed that I want to surgically change my body to boost my confidence. “You need to work out more. Do push-ups.” He shows me pictures of fitness models with small breasts, points out attractive small breasted women in public – anything to talk sense into me.
I could totally blame society for bombarding me with images my entire life of what a beautiful woman should look like. But that would be untrue. I want bigger breasts. I’ve spent my whole life hiding from the looks of men and courting them at the same time. I don’t completely understand my reasons and I honestly don’t care.
This has nothing to do with those men who abused me, the bullies and the mean kids, my dad’s ex-girlfriend who wanted to me to disappear, the drug and alcohol abusers. I don’t ever think about them. They don’t exist. They’re not why I dropped out of college the last semester of my senior year because I was crippled by panic attacks and couldn’t go to class. They’re not why I chose to be promiscuous and numb. I walked away from all that and now I have this amazing life with my husband and dogs and kitties.
People can stare at these beautiful, new breasts all they want. They make me gorgeous and alluring but they’re not really me. People see them, and I am safely tucked inside. This is me asserting my choice, my power, my control.
And look at them. They’re so pretty and perfect…
10 years later
I can’t believe we did it. The couple who said they would never have kids are now parents. I stare at my little boy in wonder, so grateful, so scared. I want to do everything the right way. I want to give him everything I never had.
He’s one month old and his tiny mouth is on my breast, sucking, sucking. Trying to get nourishment that barely trickles out. I don’t know if it’s enough. Is it ever enough? He’s hungry all the time and he cries and cries and cries. The lactation specialist tells me that many women with breast implants successfully nurse their babies. Relax, she says. The milk will come. Relax…
I can barely see him below my giant monstrosity of a breast. I can’t see his face, I can’t connect to him this way. I’m enraged and I blame the “nipple Nazis” for forcing me to feed him this way. I decide I’ll pump and feed him from a bottle so that’s what I do. I can finally hold him close, see his face and look him in the eyes but the milk I pump is so little.
The first night I give him formula he sleeps for hours and I sleep for hours. The horrific pain in my breasts from my milk drying up is nothing compared to the horrible sense of failure I feel. I wonder if I failed because of my implants or if I’m just incapable of letting someone, even my own child, stake claim to my body.
3 years ago
It hits me like a truck. I always called it my first kiss, when that 28 year old man stuck his tongue into my 11 year old mouth. There was never a shortage of grown men who wanted to f*ck me and I just thought it was part of life. Everything I did to survive…everything I did to bury the shame…everything I did to put it in the past, to build a wall around myself, to not let it show…
Those things aren’t working anymore.
I seek help from a therapist to make sense of it all. She’s walking me through visualizations and she asks me to visualize where I keep my memories. They’re in a box. It used to be pale pink but now it’s red. It’s looks like a gift box with a lid and an embossed bow. It’s actually quite lovely on the outside. But when I open the lid, green fumes are released. They’re organic, like something emanating from a plant. They’re natural and feel part of the circle of life. When I visualize where the box is kept, it’s on our coffee table, right in the middle of the living room for all to see. I realize now that the box has to go and the memories need to be released and assimilated into my life.
“What are you entitled to as a child of God?” she asks. I’m entitled to be whole.
1 year ago
My husband and I are enjoying a rare moment of alone time, his hands revering my body. There used to be places on my body that I couldn’t stand to be touched. It felt like my skin was being lit on fire but so much of that has faded and now I can feel respect and love and pleasure. He touches my breasts and I wince from anxiety that these old implants are going to burst on me someday. “Why don’t you get these things taken out already?” he whispers against my neck. His words give nourishment to a seed that’s been growing in me for awhile now. Why not indeed?
I try on several shirts each morning and look at myself from all angles. Then, I take off my shirt and give my breasts a loving squeeze, still a little tender from the explant surgery. I stand in front of the mirror and completely recognize myself. There she is, I think. Here I am. I feel so beautiful, free and yes, whole again.
I worry that my 6 year old daughter will notice something different about me (I have no such worries about my 8 year old son). But my daughter is freakishly observant. Two days after my surgery I ask her what she thinks of the shirt I’m wearing. She looks me up and down, makes me do a spin and declares, “It’s the same old shirt you always wear.”
There may come a time in the future when I will be able to tell my son and daughter about the years I had breast implants and why I chose to remove them. Maybe it will be when my son gets confused by what his friends tell him a man should be compared to what his parents tell him and mirror to him. Maybe it will be when my daughter complains that her breasts are too small or too big and wants a surgical solution. I will love it if they are both so whole-hearted and confident that I never need to pull this learning experience out of my bag but I’m pragmatic.
I feel so different walking around now. No one looking at me would know that I took off my breast armor but I know and it makes me feel a little vulnerable and exposed. If you see me at the store, you won’t know that I’m giving you more of myself, that I’m trusting you with more of myself. It makes me look at you with more compassion and I wonder what parts of yourself you’re trusting me with too?
I’m not against plastic surgery and I judge no one for the choices they make. My close friends with implants know that I love and support them in their choice, just as I know that they love and support me in mine. This is my story and journey. What’s yours?