If you’re a sensitive soul – maybe you should skip this post. I use the word “Nipples” quite a bit…
There are few things more worrisome for an 18 year old girl than nipple loss. Yes, I wrote ‘nipple loss’ and not just to get random search term hits to my blog.
I spent about 3 days being very nervous about this happening. Happening to me, I mean – not just random nipple loss for some poor unsuspecting person, but a very specific worry aimed at my own two. “The reason?” you might be wondering. Simple – breast reduction surgery.
I had been preparing for this surgery for about 6 months but the doctor did not want to perform it until I turned 18 and ‘finished developing’. Finished developing- these could still grow? I’d started developing when I was 11 and by 12 I looked like a short version Dolly Parton without a wig or vocal abilities. I was completely developed well before my 18 years were up….but at that point, it was only a matter of months; so I patiently waited and dreamed of what it would be like to buy a tacky bra from the bargain bin at Target.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with buying a bra with the ‘advanced’ letter cups – basically anything starting with a “C” (for Chesty) or larger costs a small fortune. Not to mention the embarrassment of being ‘fitted’ for a bra by some well-meaning but loud-voiced bosomy woman that is gushing about how ‘lucky’ we are to be ‘full figured’. When you’re 12 and your friends are buying ‘training’ bras or Wonder Woman Underoos but you’re sporting a 38 DD you don’t really feel grateful about being ‘full figured’.
I wore ill-fitting bras for years because I was terrified of being ‘fitted’ in a public department store. And I certainly was not going to go to a ‘specialty’ store that caters to those with large mammalian protuberances. But I digress (how odd, eh?).
I turned 18 in the 20th century (I WILL NEVER TIRE OF WRITING THAT), March of ’88 to be exact, but as it was the end of my senior year in high school, my parents asked me to wait until I graduated. I think I waited about 24 hours after graduation for my surgery. I was so excited that nipple loss was not even in my thoughts; that 3% statistic was not going to come between me and my dreams of cheap, colorful, tacky bras with single hooks and straps that looked sleek & sexy as opposed to straps that resembled an old lady’s beige pocketbook.
Everything was GREAT right through the surgery. Upon waking up, I hit a few snags. This was my first operation and overnight stay in a hospital. Prior to this, I’d never broken a bone or even had stitches and I certainly had never had anesthesia. It can make you vomit. It made me vomit.
I remember coming to and seeing all these people standing around my bed staring at me. A few of the loiterers where my co-workers, which was weird; when you wake up from breast reduction surgery, you really are not in the mood to spend time with co-workers; or anyone, for that matter. I still don’t know exactly how they came to be there. Anyway, I could feel my gorge starting to rise and I knew I was going to be sick, so I (rudely, I’m sure) ordered everyone out and desperately started to look for some sort of receptacle. I failed to notice the tray stand that was right in front of my CHEST and proceeded to ram my newly reduced breasts against them. HOLY CRAP that hurt…the nurse, who didn’t leave, quickly moved the tray and held out her hands out to receive the gift of bile. I have to say that anyone willing to catch vomit is pretty amazing and selfless.
It was about then that I had my first worry about nipple lossage (yes, I made that word up – if you don’t like it, meh…). Luckily, they did not fall off into my lap.
As the day progressed, a different nurse came in to change my bedding. At this point, I was still a little queasy, disoriented and starting to feel the effects of the pain meds wearing off. She told me to ‘get up’ – so I got myself and my IV pole up and felt really horrid…like I was going to puke. I tried to sit on the edge of a chair and Nurse Nasty would NOT allow me to do this. She BARKED at me to stand up – I was almost in tears standing there with shaking legs trying to figure out what I’d done to make this person so obviously angry at my very existence. I should have puked on the floor.
I had to spend the night in the hospital – and as you know, sleeping is really not an option when people are continually checking your vitals. I remember fitful dozing and intermittent monitoring by lovely Nurse Nasty. Eventually her shift was over. I don’t know why she chose nursing as a profession. She reminded me of the nurse in Stephen King’s Misery. I’m surprised she didn’t hobble me with a sledge hammer.
Anyway, I finally fell into a restful doze only to be woken up again. I opened my eyes to see one eye peering down at me from the face above. The other eye was sewn shut. I have to admit it sort of freaked me out; especially in a dark hospital room in the middle of the night. I remember my stomach actually turned and I broke out in cold sweat on my forehead. Then she smiled at me; patted my arm and warmly asked me how I felt. She was so nice. So of course I felt guilty that I was unnerved by her sewn up eye.
(TIME WARP: Interestingly enough, 14 years later, I met a one-eyed nurse at the NICU where my infant son spent several months. After we became friendly, I got up enough nerve to ask if she was the same nurse I’d had in 1988 [because it’s kind of difficult to just say “Hey, were you the one-eyed nurse that completely freaked me out in 1988?”]. Turns out she was! Pretty cool, eh?)
Back to 1988…
So I make it through the night – nipples intact! Whoo Hoo!! This was the day when the doctor would remove the bandages and we’d look at his handy work! I was excited and apprehensive. I have a pretty weak stomach and the doctor had explained that I’d have a lot of stitches, staples and bruising. There’s a lot going on when you have 5 ½ lbs. of ‘boob-fat’ removed.
I remember he cut away the bandages and I looked down to see two tiny squares of gauze covering my breasts. TINY SQUARES OF GAUZE!!! Those would have been pasties just 48 hours ago and now they covered my entire CHEST! I wanted to get out of bed and dance around the hospital room…well until I thought about my nipples flying off with the first spin and landing on the floor. I doubt the 5 second rule would have applied.
I should probably explain this nipple loss thing… when you have a reduction, often times they have to reshape the areola/nipple area – which requires cutting around it ¾ of the way, trimming it, then sewing it back on. There’s about a 3% chance that your body will reject the procedure and you will actually lose your nipples. And of course any trauma to the area during healing can cause similar problems as well. I was definitely worried about trauma.
So I contained my giddy feelings for the safety of my nipples and just SMILED until my face hurt. I didn’t care about the staples or stiches or bruises. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, my friend came to visit. She brought me a present. Not flowers… not candy… but this:
Yup – a cheap, red, lacy bra from the bargain bin at Target! Not an underwire in sight! Only a true friend will buy you a slutty bra as a get-well gift. Thank you, Karen! I have to thank my male friends too – It was probably kind of awkward for them to visit. They didn’t come with bras, however…
Once I was discharged, I had one more obstacle to overcome before I was safely ensconced in my bed. I had to make it home, sans seatbelt, in my Mom’s Pontiac Firebird…with the low dashboard. It was 12 miles of sheer nerve-wracking terror. I was convinced that we’d rear-end someone; my chest would careen into the dashboard and that would be the end of the nipples. Luckily we made it home safe and sound with everything where it should be.
And that is my story.
I would like to thank my parents for their full support of my breast reduction surgery at such a young age – for me, it was a life changer!