Stress Reduction

If you don’t want to read about large breasts as a medical condition, keep scrolling.

If you do want to read about large breasts as a medical condition because you think it is sexy, keep scrolling.

If you’ve known Sage since she was a little girl, and it makes you uncomfortable to read about her breast reduction because she’ll always be your little Sage, then you need to let her grow up in your mind and be a 22-year-old woman who is making choices about her body.

Let’s back up a bit, shall we?

Sage got a bra before nearly all her friends did. At first, it was the thrill most adolescent girls feel at the visible development of womanhood. But, it quickly became something she worked at hiding. Her modesty is such that if you have known her a long time, you might be skeptical that she even needed a breast reduction. You see, my girl figured out pretty quickly that avoiding the kind of attention large breasts bring was her goal.

She wore t-shirts over bathing suits, the neck of her shirts was hardly ever a V-neck because her cleavage would draw more attention than she wanted.

Sunday mornings, she carefully chose her clothing knowing she would be kneeling at a railing and those serving communion would be looking down at her. She told me she didn’t want to be a distraction to people while they worshiped.

As a student teacher, she also carefully chose her wardrobe, so leaning over a desk to help a student wouldn’t mean exposing her breasts.

In her teenage years, we would make our way past the cute little bralettes at Victoria’s Secret, past the sports bras with thin straps, back to the section with bras that could support her breasts and keep her from spilling out the top and sides of the bra. These were the bras I wore. Middle aged woman bras. My 15 year old had few choices, and they were not cute or sexy; they covered and supported. (At her consultation, when her surgeon asked what size bra Sage wears, Sage looked at me as we both shrugged. She’d been measured many times at Victoria’s Secret, but no bra she had ever bought really fit. So, we guessed DDD, but we thought it was more like E…at least.)

By the time she was 17 or so, her back was hurting. Chronically. She reported this repeatedly to her doctor and nurse practitioner. They sent her to physical therapy, but the exercises didn’t abate the pain.

When she went to the gym, she wore two incredibly tight sports bras, one over the other, in order to bind her breasts enough that they wouldn’t hurt – or just be in the way.

She wore a backless dress. Once.

Sage Dress 1Sage Dress 2She made a bra of sorts by duct taping her breasts together and hoped her sweat wouldn’t release the tape during the wedding she was attending. I took pictures of her before she left for the evening, and in every single picture she’s holding her arms in front of her chest.

It took years for her to get approval for her breast reduction to be covered by health insurance. Years of reporting chronic pain, going to physical therapy, and reporting other health issues that come with large breasts. There was a laundry list of requisites for such approval, some of which were:

  • Large dents in the shoulders from years of wear from bra straps holding up heavy breasts.
  • Nipples that are at least 10 inches below the collar bone.
  • The surgeon must take out at least a pound of breast tissue from each breast.
  • Chronic eczema/rashes under the breasts.
  • The size of the breasts get in the way of normal daily activities.

Sage had been such an advocate for herself with physicians over the years, making the case that she was a candidate for breast reduction surgery, that finally in early January her insurance approved it.

Her relief spilled down her cheeks as she told me she had been approved.

She prepared for surgery mostly by vigilantly quarantining, so Covid-19 would not derail or reschedule her plan.

She also bought a necklace.

Sage never wore necklaces because necklaces draw attention to one’s chest. Anticipating average sized breasts, she chose a necklace she would like to wear around her neck after the surgery.

SocksPre op thumbs upSurgery in the time of Covid-19 meant I couldn’t go with her. While it was still dark, I dropped her at the curb, and she marched into that surgery center, readier than ready. She texted me pictures along the way, as she dressed in the gown and donned her yellow grippy socks. Then, a final text to say she was heading into surgery. And this mama prayed for her surgeon’s steady hands and focused eyes.

When they called me to say I could pick her up, I dashed over to the surgery center and was led back to my beaming daughter. She was sweet and funny as she shook off the anesthesia. The nurse taught us how to manage the drainage tubes coming out the sideSage after surgery of her breasts and made sure we understood about bathing and lifting and resting. Then, we piled her into my car and got her home to her cats – who were, of course, the very best medicine.

CatsAfter the first few days of sleeping and healing in the post-surgical bra that kept her bound up, she got to change to a sports bra – she only needed one. The deep wounds of body dysmorphia and self-judgment she had suffered since she was a middle schooler mean it is not only her flesh that is healing.

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