And now for something completely different…
Boobs. Half the world has them. And they’ve completely taken over my life lately.
Our nation is so crazy on the topic of breasts. Whether you adore them, despise them, or want to ignore them, they seem to come up constantly in news and social media and conversation. From breast cancer awareness to breastfeeding, from porn to private bedrooms, from budding to sagging, boobs are one of the most talked about topics today.
I have no need to rehash everything that’s been said before on this topic or challenge any strong opinions, so instead let me commence with my own story:
I have huge, natural breasts.
I’m not overstating (and I’m certainly not bragging). The current bra I’m wearing is a 34 L, which most US bra-makers think is a myth. They think if your cup size is larger than a DDD then you either had plastic surgery or must have a larger back. I also have small shoulders along with my small back, which adds to my bra-finding dilemma. I’m basically limited to four brands: Curvy Kate, Panache, Comexim, Freya–all made in the UK or Poland. Most of my tops and dresses are special-ordered from Bravissimo, a UK clothes company that makes clothes especially for girls with large–well, girls.
I like my boobs just fine. Often they are inconvenient, sometimes they are sexy, I appreciated them most when breastfeeding my two children–but most of the time I don’t think about them.
It all started when I woke up one morning eight months ago and couldn’t move. I had to slowly, incrementally roll out of bed, intense agony with every jostle. This incapacitation lasted for about a week. No cause that I could remember, no explanation I could find.
A month later, I had chest pains that ended me up in the ER, afraid I was having a heart event. But no, the ER doc assured me after performing copious tests, my heart is fine. The problem is my strained pectoral muscles. Maybe I injured myself during yoga? Or perhaps as a result of the weight of my breasts?
My normal workout routine involved walking on my treadmill, yoga, and stretching. I worked harder to stretch my neck and back after this episode. And I ceased using my new yoga wheel, the likely culprit that broke this big-boobed girl’s back.
Then, about four months later, I woke up and couldn’t move again. This time the back pain was worse, if anything, focused primarily on my shoulders and neck with some lumbar/sacral pain as well. I began seeing a chiropractor regularly, which afforded me some relief. I experimented with supportive corsetry, bras without underwires, and no bras even. Finally, in desperation, I began to get weekly massages.
Everything helped, a bit, but nothing solved the problem: the long-term effects of huge breasts on an aging back.
Zaftig: The Case for Curves
by Edward Paige
In my twenties, then a young woman with what many considered an offensively curvacious body, I discovered the book Zaftig: The Case for Curves in a museum bookstore of all places. The book opened my eyes to a new possibility: that it was okay to be curvy in this world. I had grown up idealizing clothes hanger models and hard body athletes. It had never occurred to me that my own natural violin shape might be, not just acceptable, but something to be celebrated. This book saved me at a very critical age, helping me to relish the body I had been born with rather than curse it in wasted comparison. The art and illustrations are lush, the words are precious. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with body image, wholeheartedly.
Bare Reality: 100 Women, Their Breasts, Their Stories
by Laura Dodsworth
After marriage and having two children, my body was changed, of course. Everything had a different shape and feel, including my boobs. If anything, my boobs grew larger after nursing my children. I spent a decade struggling to adjust to a body that did not feel like my own. One book, Bare Reality: 100 Women, Their Breasts, Their Stories, was critical in helping me come to terms with accepting my new normal. And again, I learned to love my boobs. I recommend this book to anyone trying to come to terms with a woman’s relationship with her own breasts.
Today, however, I face a dilemma I never dreamed I’d have. What do I do with breasts that I’ve at last accepted and learned to love if they are ultimately harming me?
Fast forward to this past Monday. I met with an expert in Functional Fitness, who had me perform basic movements to determine what my skeletal and muscular needs are in order to continue touching my toes into my eighties and beyond. Afterward, he sat me down and said, “Basically all of your problems are coming from your girls, you know.” An odd combination of too flexible with not strong enough, over time my body’s compensations for the weight of my breasts have caused me to develop some dire problems that I need to fix sooner than later. He gave me hope for strengthening and possible healing, but when I got home that night and thought about it, the tears came.
And they came, and they came.
Today, I am at last considering a breast reduction. I don’t want to change my body, I like its natural proportions and how it looks in clothes. I am at last completely comfortable in my own skin and abundant flesh. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that her own body is perfect as it is and never needs alteration to fit some external concept of beauty. I wish everyone loved and celebrated their own bodies as I have learned to do.
Yet alas, even with all these convictions, I find myself reading a new book–
When Less Is More: The Complete Guide for Women Considering Breast Reduction Surgery
by Bethanne Snodgrass, M.D.
I am quite emotional as I read and write these words. When Less is More reminds me that I am not alone, no one is alone. The human experience has myriad nuanced expressions, but there are others who have had to decide this same question before me, who may have learned to love their curves in a straight-laced world, but equally faced the challenge of an ever-changing relationship between a woman and her own boobs.
No one can afford to get stuck in any phase of life.
Do I know what I will decide? Not yet. But I pen this post to encourage openness, to give hope for the entire journey each woman must travel eighty-some-odd years in a body with breasts.
And I wish you well, for you are beautiful no matter your chest size.
Muchier Scale: You have been, and always will be, a 10.