5 things not to say to someone who had a breast reduction

Five Things Not To Say To Someone Who Had a Breast Reduction

4 weeks ago today, I walked into a hospital and walked out a kilo lighter. If you’ve read anything else I’ve posted, you’ll know that I have wanted to do this for an insanely long time, and that the road getting here was far from easy. Along the way, there have just been a few things that people have consistently said that have made me want to tear my hair out in frustration. Here is a list of some of those things.

1. “What a shame! There are so many people who would have wanted boobs that big!” or “It’s like slapping God in the face.”
My ordinary response to this line of thought is a shrill, ululating scream. But just for once, I’ll try and articulate all the reasons this eye-rollingly stupid mentality needs to die. Firstly – and I can’t believe it’s 2017 and this still needs to be said – my body is my body. If you had my body and decided that you loved having big breasts then that would be perfectly fine. I would respect your decision. Even better – I wouldn’t care! If you think you’re more entitled to my body then I am, to the point that your personal displeasure ranks more highly than my bodily autonomy, then you can kindly remove yourself from my life. I spent years in pain because of the size of my breasts. I struggled to exercise, found it impossible to find clothes to fit my body, was ogled and sexually harassed and felt trapped within a form of flesh that didn’t match my personal identity. It took 4 years of serious consideration and yearning before I could have this operation and for every day of those 4 years, my breasts only made me miserable. My happiness is more important than your opinion.

I am tempted to write a small thank you note to everyone who let me nervously babble about how scared I was of getting a cannula. It was literally fine and makes for a cool ~hospital aesthetic~ instagram pic.

2. “What does your boyfriend think?”
My answer to this is that my boyfriend loves me, hates seeing me in pain, and was the one who told me that this was something I needed to do for myself when I had my frequent moments of fear and doubt. If I was ever in a relationship where ridding myself of pain at the risk of becoming less sexually appealing was a dealbreaker, that person would swiftly find themselves as unwanted as my boobs. Sadly, I have read a few stories from women who have had this procedure and it’s affected their relationships, and I know it’s not useful to be realistic rather than reassuring in that situation and say ‘would you really want to be with someone like that anyway?’ However, the truth is that every single person needs to make the right decisions in driving them closer to happiness, regardless of partners or friends or family. I didn’t think for a moment how my boyfriend would feel about me doing this, because it has very little to do with him.

3. “My friend had a boob job too”
The person saying this never means that their friend had a breast reduction. And while I have nothing but respect and admiration for the women who want to go bigger, my experience is not even remotely comparable to theirs. Aside from the motivations for each surgery being wildly different, there is also a huge difference in price (with an augmentation costing £1000 less at my hospital). The scars for an augmentation are minimal, whereas the upper half of my torso could be used as a body double for the bride of Frankenstein. My reduction lasted 4 hours, removed a kilo of flesh from my body and involved slicing around and repositioning my nipples. My recovery has been intense, I have numb patches all over the place, my breasts are scarred-up, not perfectly round and I may never be able to breastfeed, even if I wanted to. Please do not compare my experience to the experience of someone getting implants.

My stay in hospital consisted of a lot of hospital gown selfies that failed to include my face.

4. “Wow, they’re still SO huge!”
This is the one that hurts the most. I really don’t know if people think they’re being constructive with this one, because big breasts are supposed to be considered attractive (?), but I think this is one of the worst things that has been said to me since I had my operation. I spent a load of money, underwent a major surgery with a tonne of risks and have scars that I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life. All for you to tell me that I still have massive boobs? That I dealt with the horrible few months of anticipation and worry before surgery, and the painful recovery after, for a very minimal change? I have to admit, some days I’m not in love with my boobs. Sometimes I look at them and I feel down because I would still categorise myself as a ‘girl with big boobs’, which is a label I finally thought I had shed when I took that last breath before I went under anaesthetic. It is really heartbreaking sometimes to not feel like this has changed my life enough, and comments on how big they still are only feed that insecurity.

5. Any kind of judgement about my future ability to breastfeed.
While I understand and am more than willing to respond to genuine questions about the limitations of this procedure, I really don’t appreciate people imparting their own judgements on the decision I made. I really don’t care that you could never do this because you have always wanted to breastfeed. Somehow, the constant pain of the present is always going to be less important than the remote possibility of me a) bearing a child in the first place and b) allowing that child to then attach itself to a part of my body by its mouth. I would never judge a woman for the choices she makes about her own body (and I certainly have no problems with the women who do choose to breastfeed), and it bothers me that in this day and age our bodies are still seen as baby factories and dairy farms. So yes, even when told that I should expect not to breastfeed, I decided to make a choice to improve my life far more than being a vending machine for a screaming infant could ever do.

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