I didn’t realize I would lose so much of myself along with my breasts.
It never occurred to me how much they defined me. How they defined the way I stood – shoulders back, chest out (not like I was sticking it out, just raised up) chin high – totally capable of taking on any obstacle that may befall me. Some people mistook my confidence for arrogance, but that’s okay. I’d rather they think I’m a stuck up bitch than a scared girl … which is the truth.
It is absolutely ludicrous to say one asset can define you, but now, when I look in the mirror, I’m filled with sadness and shame. I feel used and old. A relic of days gone by. How is that even possible? All I did was have a baby and breastfeed.
Yes, that’s correct. I didn’t lose my breasts to cancer or in a disfiguring accident; I lost them doing the most natural thing in the world – becoming a mother.
Now before you judge me, please try to understand.
I’ve always been desperately insecure. I can’t remember a time in my life when I ever felt good about my appearance. It didn’t help that I was always head and shoulders taller than everyone in my class, sometimes even my teachers, and then I had to start developing more quickly than the other girls. It became this hilarious game for both the boys and girls to flip my bra strap.
Fifth grade was by far one of the most humiliating years of my life. I was ashamed. I didn’t want people to know I wore A BRA! Then, one particularly embarrassing day, we had to wear white shirts for gym class. I begged my mom to buy me a whole package. I wore five Hanes undershirts to school that day.
I remember asking my best friend if she noticed I was wearing five shirts. She quietly said yes. I asked her if she could tell I had a bra on under all these shirts, she again said yes. However, she was more confident than I and said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m wearing a bra too!”
Naturally, she was more popular than I, despite being my best friend, and no one bothered her about wearing a bra. No one flipped her bra strap.
Fast forward to my freshman year of high school. There I stood, six foot tall, size D breasts, long face, long nose and crazy curly hair. What’s worse than being a freshman? Being a freshman who sticks out like a sore thumb.
Add salt to the wound when I hurt my knee and ended up on crutches for six weeks. Now, not only did I stick out for being a tall freak of nature, I was the freshman freak on crutches. Awesome.
I just wanted to hide. I wore baggy shirts and tried my best to disguise my statuesque figure. It didn’t occur to me having a curvy body was a good thing. Boys weren’t interested in me. They liked the stick figure girls – the athletes or the pretty girls. I was neither. I wrote for the school paper. I loved it, but in high school, that’s not very sexy. The fall of my senior year I was hired at a local clothing boutique. I was ecstatic.
This boutique was a coveted job for teenagers in my town. It felt like I finally had the brass ring. People would know I worked there and was finally one of “them.”
One of the requirements of the job was to wear the boutique’s clothes – or at least wear clothes similar to the ones they sold. Frankly, and embarrassingly, I had never gone shopping with anyone except my mom. I would see stuff I liked, try it on; we would “yay” or “nay” it together and move on. Never ever did she advise me on outfits, suggest clothes to pair together or even recommend different sizes. It was very mechanical shopping.
Knowing I was not great at picking out clothes by myself, I asked the manager, my new boss, to assist with a few items to get me started. It was by far the most fun I’d ever had in my life. She brought me tons of clothes, different styles, and sizes. She showed me how to pair different outfits together and even how to reuse the same shirt with different outfits. The idea to mix and match had never crossed my mind before! How lame was I?
I uncomfortably came out of the fitting room in the first outfit Lori chose for me. It was a pair of fitted knit pants, a thin white v-neck tank and fitted button down. I peeked my head around the corner and whispered for her.
“I’m not sure this outfit is a good look for me,” I apologized.
She frowned, “Let me see.”
Timidly, I stepped outside the dressing room in front of the tri-mirrors and looked down at my sock feet; embarrassed at the way I looked. Afraid she would laugh at me, the way everyone else always did.
A gasp escaped her.
“I’ll go change…” I quickly turned, tears brimming my eyelids.
“No, wait!” She cried. “You look absolutely amazing! Who knew that body was hiding under there,” she squealed. “Oh my God, Mistie, come here and see what Heather is wearing!”
Mistie, a cute, petite, confident little bit of a thing who made me feel even more embarrassed to be standing there, hustled over and stopped suddenly with the biggest smile on her face. “Damn girl, you’re hot,” she giggled. “Are you sure you’re single?”
Flushed, I hissed, “Stop it,” through my teeth. I was truly humiliated. I would have rather they laughed at me! These patronizing stares and empty comments made me feel worse than anything awful anyone had ever said. I was completely crestfallen two adult women would treat a teenager this way. Instantly I realized I needed to quit when Lori’s expression changed. She realized I wasn’t being modest; I was hurt by their words.
“Oh, oh no …,” Lori asked gently. “Heather, honey …” she pulled me front and center to the mirror and rubbed the sides of my shoulders encouragingly. “You look amazing. You are so thin with a beautiful waist. Perfect proportions.” She smiled at me in the mirror and gently gave me a half hug as she leaned in and gave my shoulders a squeeze.
“You should be a model,” she continued with a softer, loving tone.
“Plus you’re going to make every single woman in America jealous of your boobs,” Mistie laughed. “Seriously, I’m totally jealous. Skinny, big-boobed, bitch,” she smiled playfully and swatted at me.
As I stood there and realized they honestly thought I looked good, I stood up a little straighter. Still not quite believing it, I shook my head, but managed a shy smile.
It had never once occurred to me to look at myself that way – to dissect my proportions. I looked at other girls that way, but more in a jealous way. More like “Oh, she’s so lucky she doesn’t have hips, or five mile long legs or boobs that will actually stay in her shirt.” It never once crossed my mind that maybe I might be built better than the other girls. Guys might find my body more attractive. That the girls I was envious of might actually be jealous of me because they had boyish figures.
These little fashion shows continued at work during slow times and it was so much fun figuring out how to play up my figure. It was some of the most fun of my life. I actually felt good about myself for the first time ever. Working at the boutique taught me how to flaunt what I’ve got. Okay, maybe I didn’t have the most gorgeous face, but I had a body like a brick house and I was a whole package. That’s sexy.
Fast-forward to college and immature frat boys who enjoyed my DD breasts a little too much. Yes, somehow they had managed to get even larger the summer between high school and college. Fortunately, my waist did not. (I seriously wish I knew how I made that happen!) Anyway, their comments were not sexy; my breasts were like other people I carried into the room with me! The little frat boy bitches made no attempt to hide the fact they were talking about them even when they were standing right in front of me. It made me feel awkward and insecure all over again.
I began to withdraw. From everyone. My friends, sorority sisters, my family. I was so ashamed of my body once again and didn’t know what to do. I knew this was what I was stuck with and hated myself. Why did I have to be so unbelievably tall? (I know 6 foot isn’t giant-like, but that’s how I felt.) Why was my face so long and unattractive? Why do I always smile so terribly in pictures? Why are my damn tits spilling out of EVERY bra I buy from Victoria’s Secret and pressing uncomfortably against my clothes!? The next size shirt up made me feel like I was hiding again and that didn’t make me happy either. I was so frustrated; I began to wonder if I would ever feel accepted for being me or if I would always be “the tall girl” or the “big boobed one.” As if my self-hate issues weren’t bad enough in high school, they leaped to a whole new level in college.
It wasn’t until I met a man – who eventually became my husband – who told me he was so attracted to my personality he just couldn’t stay away. He told me my laugh was infectious. He said every time he heard me laugh, he found himself hurrying over to me because he loved seeing my smile. In the early days of our relationship, he told me how much fun I was. How smart. How comfortable to be around. He told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. I wept that night. Some of the frat boys had called me hot. Big deal. They just wanted to see my bare boobs and motorboat them. (Seriously, they told me that! How quickly did I run away? About as fast as my ten-ton jugs would carry me.) No one, except maybe my dad, has ever called me beautiful.
Once we were married, I started dressing differently than I did in college. Not in a bad way, just a more mature way. Probably the way everyone does. I figured out how to buy clothes that accented by figure without looking like I was trying to get people to stare at me. I started going to big name department stores and buying nice, expensive bras that fully contained my breasts and made me feel more in control of them. God bless Nordstrom, Von Maur, Chanetelle and Le Mysetre! I started to feel myself getting more confident. It’s amazing what a well fitting bra can do for a gal!
We got pregnant five years after we married. My breasts became absolutely enormous. Truly not sexy and a little bit scary. They got in my way. They HURT. They made my back hurt. I was ready to cut them off my front because I couldn’t take it anymore. People would say, “enjoy having big breasts!” or “I used to walk around naked in front of my husband when I was pregnant and he LOVED the ladies then!” Um, no thank you. Not only is my big belly making me feel super unsexy, but also my breasts were now a size EE. That wasn’t a blessing it was more like a curse.
After having my daughter, my body pretty much went back to normal, but not my breasts. They shrunk and became saggy. The elasticity of pregnancy weight gain, plus allowing for milk production had caused my once perky breasts to have no resemblance to anything I had ever seen before.
I cried every day in the shower. I couldn’t believe my breasts, my best asset, were now gone. Getting out of the shower was even more miserable because I would catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. No matter how hard I tried to look away or focus on something else in the room, I would always see my saggy breasts and feel so ugly.
I didn’t even want my husband to see me naked. He was hurt and confused. He told me yet again how beautiful I was. He told me my body is the most beautiful its ever been because it gave life and nourishment to our beautiful baby girl.
Through my tears, I told myself to believe him, but I couldn’t. I told him I wanted a boob job. He held me close and assured me we could do whatever I wanted. He understands how important big, full breasts are to me.
As quickly as I feel relieved to hear he’s on my side, it dawns on me – I would be devastated to have to tell Caroline someday that I had a boob job. I would never want her to define herself by her breasts. I would rather die a thousand deaths than ever hear my daughter say she thinks she needs a boob job. But the nagging question remains, how can I find myself again without my boobs and still be a good mom?
It’s a question I still have no answer for.
You can read more from Heather Chastain here..