For all of their wonder and allure, breasts can be painful and misery inducing.
Women’s breasts have always been my friend.
My adolescent years were the often heard mix of hormones and first times. As, I moved into my 20s, I learned about breast enhancement/implant surgery through the predictable strip clubs and XXX movies. A few more girlfriends would enter my life, along with their breasts of various sizes and beautiful shapes. In my early 30s a woman became my wife and brought with her something I was clueless about. Breasts for all their wonder, allure and “oogilability” can be tiring, back straining and misery inducing. As our relationship advanced, I saw the toll that my wife was enduring. I learned all the signs: daily aching back, grooves in shoulders from bra straps, rounded shoulders and an overall miserable feeling.
And who wouldn’t be? There were extra pounds of bodyweight.
She wasn’t always this miserable, but life brings changes and this one in total wasn’t good. She was a painful, generous size G. Shopping for bras was frustrating and almost tear inducing for her and left me avoiding making some surprise purchases. When she exercised it would take monumental effort and sometimes two bras. Who wants to workout with two bras on? With this daily window into her misery, it wasn’t what my inner adolescent boy would exactly call cool.
After the birth of our daughter, things got tough. Breastfeeding was a struggle both emotional and physical. They worked it out though. What was tough was she changed sizes, again. Years passed, and things were not improving.
It was tough on me as well. Many men have this natural tendency to want to fix things. It’s something that afflicts me as well. And this was something I could not fix. It frustrated the hell out of me. I could be there emotionally and with words, massage, reminders to buy new bras before they wore out. These were things I could and did do but, they didn’t fix the issue. In fact, there was very little I could do to fix it. And that ate away at me, bit by bit. We men are most often the provider, the protector and in this case there wasn’t much I could do to help relieve her pain. I questioned if breasts were still a guy’s best friend.
She endured up to her limit of pain and beyond. With long term pain comes mental health issues and I am sure that this pain made a negative contribution to her mental health. It would for anyone. We talked intermittently about breast reduction surgery, she read about it online. I read about it as well. We finally made the decision to consult a surgeon. I was hopeful this would help her and significantly improve the quality of her life.
The decision to have breast reduction surgery was not one entered into lightly or, easily. And we did not come to the decision quickly. The aches and pains were unending and unbaiting.
On a personal referral, my wife met with the surgeon who was experienced and thorough in his explanation of the procedure and post-op outcomes. And most importantly, she liked him. This is probably one of the most important qualifiers. We knew this wasn’t just a “once and done” kind of thing. There would be several post-op visits and the intangible “chemistry/bedside manner” would be important throughout the entire experience.
Having gone through the predictable health insurance maze, we found ourselves a “self-paying” patient. The surgeon did extend to us a “discount.” We would “only” pay the price that insurance reimbursed the surgeon. Although this was good news, it still left us with a hefty bill.
In more practical terms, the breast reduction would take my wife from her painfully generous size G, down three sizes, to a DD. If you think that a size G was something desirable, I’ll ask you to seriously reconsider. The surgery would literally remove pounds of weight from her chest. This would relieve the back strain, help improve her posture, and begin to heal the deep bra tracks in her shoulders.
We also learned there would be one caveat in my wife’s case, breastfeeding would not be a possibility post surgery. By this point in our life, we were well clear of breastfeeding our daughter and had decided that we were having one child. So, this wasn’t an issue.
The day of surgery arrived and we left before dawn for our trip to the day surgery center. The roads were sparsely populated at this hour. Only truckers and the occasional car. An easy drive. My wife probably a bit on edge for a combination of nerves, no caffeine and sleep cut short.
In the still, dark, morning hours we pulled into the outpatient surgery center. She got prepped for surgery and we waited. And waited a little more. Waiting seems like the worst of all. We are here for elective surgery and yet, there is the unknown. We were both nervous. I did my best to support her. I know she needed me strong for this and I found the mettle in me to do be that for us. Seeing her off to surgery was one of the most difficult things I’ve done. Though it was a relatively low risk surgery, there were risks. Couple that with my love for my wife, a lump in my throat and a few tears starting to well up as I said, “I love you, see you later.” But, things were on a schedule beyond our control and she was soon whisked away.
I waited. And waited some more. Made some phone calls to family members. Texted a few friends. This was pre-Facebook’s massive growth–there were no posts to friends/family or, check-ins to make. I wanted the surgeon to take his time and do the surgery right/well. I prayed a bit. And waited some more.
The sun began to rise, day began to take shape outside. Some birds flew by, no doubt on some errand to gather food. Inside, the waiting area got a little fuller. Some kids were playing. Others in pairs seemed to comfort each other. The vinyl and oak chairs creaked whenever, I adjusted. Damn it. An older couple entered, slowly. The wife was going under. A reflection of my future, perhaps? The wall mounted TV droned on with it’s usual mix of daytime dramas involving paternity tests.
I was summoned to another room, Dr. Bowers gave me an update. She was in recovery. Surgery went well. I felt relief and then, a flood of post-op questions from me that he readily and patiently answered. The news of her successful operation was a major relief but, just the beginning of healing. She was eventually transferred upstairs to her room. And I was allowed up to see her. I took the elevator up a few floors and checked with the nurse’s station. Only one nurse present and she apparently passed the time on Facebook.
I was so relieved to finally see her, give her a kiss and confirm for myself she was okay! She was still a little groggy but, comfortable. Wound up around her torso like a mummy. The room was much nicer than hospital rooms of that time. Where there would be off pink or, white cabinets there were wood ones. She was comfortable. She would stay the night. I left a while later to pick-up my daughter and head home.
This is where a benefit of self-paying would emerge. The next morning I return to pick her up (or, so I thought). Across the hall from my wife’s room they are working feverishly to get the patient out of the room before twenty three and half hours expire. If the patient stays any longer, an uncovered room charge would occur. Contrast that with what was happening in our room: there was no rush, no push out the door. In fact, the nurse encouraged us to take our time. What a nice change! This was a huge difference to us. So we lounged, getting her gradually prepared to make the trip downstairs and home.
Once home, she convalesced for a few days. Pain medicines were a help. Several post-op checkups later the compression dressings were exchanged for bras with no underwire. A year or so later she moved back to underwire. She was more mobile, free and happy.
There were many takeaways from this experience. I think many apply to our daughter. She has seen someone close to her change their body image and learned that body acceptance works, up to a point. Sometimes, surgery is necessary. I think she has also learned from our relationship. We love each other unconditionally, we support each other emotionally and financially and that our love transcends the physical.
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