Removing My (Breast) Armor

Today.

Me and my daughter today.

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?

 

Today

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?

 

28 Comments on “Removing My (Breast) Armor

  1. Pingback: Removing My (Breast) Armor — Mended Musings – Take Me Home Country Roads Forever

  2. I almost missed this post!! It wasn’t in my inbox – I’m panicky to know that I almost missed it. I NEEDED to read this. You are so brave and genuine and amazing.
    I could fill this box with my own story, but I’ll send you the abridged version.
    I have implants because my husband begged me for almost 10 years to get them. I’ll tell you the whole story some day, but not in this space – this is your space and my story sounds kinda pathetic when I see it in print (yes, I just deleted an entire paragraph).
    All that said, I’m at peace with my boobies – they aren’t that big, and now feel like a part of me. Do I regret my decision? Some days yes, and some days no. Thankfully, most days are no. I truly appreciate this little comment box to share my ‘secret’ – if you can’t be real with your friends, then who can you be real with, right?
    Now….I gotta figure out why I didn’t get your post….
    Xoxxoxox

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    • Thank you for sharing that! I was at peace with my boobies for a long time too. I mean seriously, they looked awesome. I have friends that I cheered for when they got theirs because it was so life changing for them in a good way. We definitely have struggles as women, but it’s pretty amazing that we live in a country where we have the freedom to make these kinds of choices. That’s NOT a political comment but one of gratitude. And I’m so glad you didn’t miss this post! I was going to text you today if I didn’t hear from you so don’t worry. I’m not afraid to track you down. 😉 xxxooo ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes PLEASE do track me down if it happens again. I only saw it because you had it on Facebook and I’ve not been on FB as much either.
        I love your reply back regarding gratitude – you are so right. My poor little boobies were machines when it came to nursing my kids, but completely (literally) deflated afterwards. Seriously – you have helped me more than you could ever realize. Thank you xoxoxo

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        • I just figured you were travelling and didn’t want to rush you! I can relate to your hubbie. Mine has had to beg me to do things that I really wanted to do but couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger (like having the explant surgery). Maybe it’s the recovering perfectionist in me but sometimes I need a good shove to follow my heart. We are lucky ladies. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally understand. I got rid of my breast armor when I was 18 and I never looked back. Maybe it wasn’t armor – it was more like getting rid of negative preconceptions about breasts.
    People can judge me all they want – but until they walk a mile in my bra, they will never know. You’re still the same wonderful person you were -pre, during & post breast changes. it’s how you feel about yourself that makes you. Love you!

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    • Walk a mile in your bra! I love it. Cadence asked me the other day why boys can go without their shirts and girls can’t and I simply didn’t have a good answer for her. How do you explain to a 6 year old that women are viewed as objects and that our breasts are considered provocative and too titillating to be exposed? There’s so much I’m not ready to tell her yet. Thank you for your love and support! I love you too. ❤

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  4. Whay a brave post. Thank you Karen for showing us all vulnerabilities are potentially a route to great strength

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  5. You are so beautiful to me. You are a part of my daily life. Did you know that? You are. I’ve been thinking about you so much lately and I love that you posted this today. I cried as I read each part of your process. Thank you for sharing more of yourself. For being vulnerable and brave. I so recognize your thought process and I have so many moments when I reflect upon my past and find myself wondering, “How on earth did I even get through that part of life? It’s a miracle a survived at all.”

    And this: “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?” This is just so moving and powerful. Yay you, Karen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Jessica, you’re a daily part of my life too. I’m so blessed to have friends like you. The biggest miracle in my life is how I’ve managed to allow wonderful people like you to find me and embrace me and how I’ve let you in.

      We all walk around so vulnerable, even the ones who look like they have it all. I saw a beautiful young lady walking through a parking lot. She had perfectly tousled hair, a cute bohemian top and those ankle boots that I still can’t figure out how to wear. Then I noticed the way she was holding her purse, strapped across her shoulder and held tightly to her chest. It was like she was saying, “No one is taking this purse from me.” It made me wonder if someone hurt her, violated her or scared her. I’m noticing more things like that lately. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes! You’re so right. I think as humans we share the common thread of vulnerability. Once we see that it’s universal and not something to be ashamed of — we see it everywhere. It helps me not only with my relationship with myself but with other people too. There’s less fear and aloneness and more compassion and space. Who knew? XOXO

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Post Script: I think why I was moved to comment is that really doesn’t matter what size or shape we are, we struggle with unrealistic ideals and internalize your own valuations self-worth as females based on those concepts. Thanks, again.

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  7. Wow, just when I thought I couldn’t find my voice…you write, and I am lifted. Here’s my journey (well, the short, short, short, version 😉 )

    I was in Banana Republic earlier today. I was shopping for a basic long sleeve tee for fall. Nice-fitting jeans (another story) and nice long-sleeve tees are a staple for this 48 year old. So, here’s the short of it. I’m 106lbs, 5’1″, and have never wanted my 32C breasts.

    But, today I’m standing in the fitting room and there they are. Bigger from age. Menopause. Wine. Who knows. All of it. The damn tee-shirt doesn’t fit the way it did. There they were in front me, lower and bigger—and pulling the across the front.

    Karen, I bought a size up. I thought about my 16yr. old daughter. I thought about being almost 50yrs. old. I thought about how much I desired to end my own crazy head game with myself. I thought about how comfortable my daughter was in her skin. How she wears the same size and how cool she is with her body image. She’s been a huge source of my healing.

    So, again, the short it is for me is my journey of self-acceptance. Here’s to self-love and adoration! Here’s to all the gym memberships and 15 years of marathon running. Here’s to the ultimate mirror: My mind, body, and soul.

    My husband loves my body. He’s still ‘wowed’ after 20 years of marriage and two kids, and because of my experience in the fitting room at BR, as well as your post—I am, too.

    Thank you.

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    • That journey of self-acceptance is such a winding road. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I so relate to that realization that it’s not the end of the world to go up a size rather than shove myself into a size that is a lie for my body. I’m not the size 2 I was in my 20s but at the same time, I appreciate my body so much more. I love that your daughter helps you heal. I feel the same way. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Karen, this is beautiful. And so honest and vulnerable. Your pieces are always well done but this is certainly one of my favorites.

    I appreciated the comment about why you had to leave college. I had to drop out my junior year due to debilitating panic attacks, flash backs, and all the other lovely things that accompany complex trauma. I’ve always felt like I failed for having to stop. I’ve been starting to feel better about it though. And while I wish you couldn’t relate, the fact that you can makes me feel less alone. It’s also so much easier sometimes to be empathetic with others, so finding others who can relate can make it easier to be more understanding and supportive towards myself. Thank you for this post. ❤

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    • I’ve carried a lot of shame around having to leave college, like if I was stronger I would’ve finished. But I now see it as amazing that I got as far as I did with what I was dealing with. I can’t believe I got through high school, much less got accepted into college! I put so much pressure on myself but when I have to drop some of the heavy load I carry, the only things that are left are what’s most important. There’s no shame in surviving. Thank you, Kelsey, for your words and support. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You’re a beautiful writer, Karen, one of my favorite writers. But I’ve got to say…this may be my favorite piece–your best piece–to date that you’ve shared. It’s brave, authentic, engaging, personal, relateable, and flawlessly written. Maybe it’s because your armor is gone now? Maybe it’s just because you get better and better. Maybe it’s just you. Though those latter two are probably redundant. ❤️
    Love you Karen! Christy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christy, thank you so much for that. It poured out of me and I wrote it in record time with few edits, which is probably why it feels so pure to me. I really do feel free! Much love to you!!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. So much in this post, so good, so helpful to many women (and men as well). Your husband is wise, lovely, and supportive. Thank you for your honesty.

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  11. I so love, love, love this story. I love how you’ve grown and healed and moved into self acceptance. So beautiful. There is something about the challenge of healing our soul when we’ve been sexually violated, that is different from other forms of violation/ abuse. And you’re living, breathing testimony to what can come of shitty situations. Brava!

    Liked by 1 person

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