By Katherine Prince
The air was cold and septic in the medical office that May morning. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves. I sat alone in the waiting room chair, pretending to be absorbed in a magazine. A chirpy voice snapped me out of my futile attempt at inner-peace. “Are you ready, Mrs. Prince?”
“I’m, just, uh, a little nervous…and excited…and,” I stammered on as I pulled my medications out of my pharmacy bag. “I didn’t take the Valium yet, just like you said,” suddenly remembering I would be fully awake for this procedure.
Yes, I was ready. I had considered this decision for three years. I had done the research. Looked at pictures. Imagined about the worst. I had come to grips with the real consequences that would follow. What if I had terrible regrets after? Would my husband really still find me attractive, as he said he would? I had reminded myself of what really mattered. I was ready to be confident. I was ready to put forth the real me.
I was ready for my implants to come out.
I got them put in July of 2008. It was an exciting time for me. My boyfriend of four months was in the military, and on a deployment. We had planned for me to go visit him in Japan after a girls weekend I had in Palm Springs. I was looking forward to see him, and had a feeling he’d planned something special when he’d asked I go by his place to pick up his favorite pair of shoes. I was also thrilled to go to a new land—that was, to leave the Land of Flat Chested Girls and arrive at the Land of Normal Looking Girls.
I had long been insecure about the debt in my bra, and finally caved to the idea of plastic surgery when a flat-chested coworker had gotten her breasts enlarged a few months earlier. The surgery itself was expensive, a tidy sum of $6000, and it took no more than 45 minutes.
Perhaps it was from the anesthesia, or just the reality that my adolescent dream of having “real” boobs had actually come true, but I remember the days following the surgery as surreal. I was thrilled that going bra and bathing suit shopping would no longer be a “you don’t measure up” experience. I felt that my implants hid my “abnormality” of having small breasts.
I married my sailor boyfriend in 2010 and shortly after I returned to school to become a Holistic Health Practitioner/Massage Therapist. This is when I began to realize I would be paying for my surgery with more than cash.
As my fellow students and I practiced different types of massage, I became disappointed that I couldn’t relax completely when I was face down on the table. One time was during Thai massage class. Sometimes the practitioner uses her full bodyweight, and it is amazing. But there were times that my body would be resisting because I knew the full pressure of somebody on my upper back would make me feel like my implants were going to pop out. I couldn’t quite get to that coveted state of bliss because I was protecting the bags of salt water that lived in my chest, and that pissed me off. I was missing out, simply because of my implants.
Then things got even more complicated.
Shortly into my new career, I learned I was pregnant. Pregnancy and breastfeeding shed a new light on my breasts. It was an amazing experience being able to feed babies with my body, and I began to look at my breasts with a new fondness. I felt strangely feminine for the first time. It had less to do with size, but more that I was doing something uniquely female with them for the first time.
I didn’t have any issues breastfeeding, but like many women, my breasts became absolutely huge. For the first time in my life I wished they were smaller. As a fitness enthusiast, they became physically and emotionally cumbersome. I felt eyes on me when I would go for runs, which made me feel scared and angry. I felt like an object. While I knew it was not exactly the same, I somewhat sympathized with women who had had large chests all their lives.
But what bothered me most of all about having implants was the message I would be sending to my children, and to the young girls around me. I imagined my three daughters coming to me when they are in middle or high school, full of their own insecurities, and trying to explain to them that they are beautiful the way they are, all the while my fake boobs stared them down.
As I began to contemplate this daunting possibility of ridding myself of my perfect looking breasts, I realized that I was still the insecure Flat Chested Girl hiding behind her inconspicuous boobs. I came to grips with the fact that I had unresolved emotional pain regarding my breasts. I was still the little girl who didn’t know her self-worth. And I realized if I kept my new boobs, I was saying I needed them to be beautiful. They were like two toxic friends that had to go.
Six years after my surgery, I began to make a plan. I researched the reversal procedure, which I found was called “explant” surgery. I found a website called RealSelf where I could look at pictures, find doctors, and talk to people who had actually done it. One doctor I interviewed for the explant looked at me with pity, saying I would be extremely unhappy, and so would my husband. It was completely dehumanizing.
But I kept on searching for a doctor who would give me what I wanted, and finally I found one who specialized in breast reconstruction and mastectomies. I scheduled my surgery on a May morning in 2014. My husband told me before the surgery he thought I was pretty no matter what. The surgery cost $1000 and took about 30 minutes. And the satisfaction of making a really good choice this time around.
Now, four years after my explant surgery, I am so happy I did it. And my husband is happy because I am happy. My life is not completely free of my body-image struggles; my breasts somewhat resemble one-week-old balloons. I have considered getting my skin reconstructed from the damage the implants caused, but I am unsure. In total, I have four discreet scars that tell my implant story, but now I feel pleased when I look at them. They remind me of a personal hurdle I had to overcome on my journey to wholeness.
Katherine Prince is a freelance writer, illustrator, and editor. When she is not daydreaming about making movies, writing or reading, she can be found in Southern California exploring with her four kids, watching history documentaries and running.
Image: Fully Blossomed, Meg Spielman Peldo
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