By Eimear O’Hagan
A woman’s relationship with her breasts is complicated. Here, two women explain what makes thousands of us undergo painful surgery to change them.
From 32A to 32DD
Lorelei Grant , 23, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in Brighton with her partner Tommy, 21, a charity fund-raiser, and their daughter Lyra, 18 months. She had breast augmentation surgery in April 2012. She says: “My hatred of my breasts took such a toll on me that it led to the breakdown of my relationship and left me depressed. Unless you’ve had body-confidence issues, you can’t understand how devastating it can be.
I had a boob job this year because I wanted to leave behind the feelings of insecurity that had tortured me since I was a teenager. People make unfair assumptions about women who’ve had breast-enhancement surgery, but for many it’s not about vanity or wanting to look like a celebrity. I didn’t want attention. I just wanted to look normal.
At school, my curvier friends would jokingly call me ‘fried eggs’ or ‘ironing board’. Boys always chatted them up but ignored me – I looked like a little girl.
Tommy and I started dating in 2009, after meeting through friends. Happy in a new relationship, I tried to forget my body hang-ups. However, after Lyra was born in January 2011, I breastfed for six months, which reduced my 32A breasts to barely a 32AA. At the age of 22, I had the chest of an 80 year old. They weren’t breasts, just flaps of skin.
My relationship with Tommy suffered. I refused to undress in front of him and couldn’t make him happy when I was so unhappy myself. We split up for four months, but got back together last November because we missed each other so much. It was then that I knew I had to do something about my breasts.
After speaking to my mum, Tracey, 45, about how I was feeling, she offered to pay for me to have surgery, understanding it was the only solution to my problem. Although Tommy tried to reassure me I was perfect as I was, eventually he supported my decision.
I had my operation with surgery group MYA in April this year, and my mum paid the £4,000 bill. In the days leading up to it, I was sick with nerves. And as a mum, I questioned whether it was irresponsible of me to put myself through surgery that wasn’t medically necessary. But in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing.
The surgeon suggested I go up to a DD, as this would still look in proportion on my size-8 frame. And when I saw my figure after the surgery, I cried with joy – I finally saw a woman in the mirror.
Four months later, and my new-found confidence has seen me pass my driving test and I’m startinga business course at college next month. Lyra and I are also having swimming lessons – and I’m wearing a swimsuit for the first time in years!
My life with Tommy is happier than ever and although he says he loved the old me, he loves the new, happy me just as much.”
From 36HH to 34C
Charlotte Isted (left), 23, is a neonatal nurse and lives in East Sussex with her boyfriend, Dave, 28, an estate agent. She had breast reduction surgery in 2009. She says: “Trying on a lacy bra in a lingerie shop recently, I smiled as I looked in the mirror. These days, shopping for underwear is one of my favourite things to do, but it wasn’t always this way. Just a glimpse of my huge 36HH bust could reduce me to tears. The only bras that fitted me were ugly, and trying on underwear only served to remind me how much I hated my breasts.
They really were ruining my life. I know some people will scoff at me for being overly dramatic or vain, but living with huge breasts is mental and physical agony. And my decision to go under the knife to reduce them was not taken lightly.
I was 13 when they started growing – and boy did they grow. Horribly self-conscious, I swamped my figure in dark, baggy tops. When you’re a teenager. you want to be the same as everyone else, but I stood out – literally. The comments I got were awful.
When you have big breasts, you feel like the rest of you is invisible. No one notices your personality – you’re just the girl with the massive chest. Aged 14 and already an E cup, I begged my GP for breast reduction surgery, but was told I was too young. Then at 19 I was rejected because my BMI was too high – I was a size 14-16, and had a BMI of 26, which put me just into the overweight category. The guidelines are there to encourage people to lose weight before resorting to surgery, but I knew my breasts would be huge no matter what size I was.
Men’s eyes always wandered south in conversation and I convinced myself it was my breasts – not me – they found fascinating. I had my first relationship when I was 19, but I was always moody and never let my boyfriend see me naked. We split up after nine months.
In 2009, the weight of my breasts was contributing to back problems I was experiencing, so I was offered a course of physiotherapy on the NHS. It was my physio who suggested I have surgery privately. At the time, I was planning to go into nursing, but my physio said that with my bad back, I would never survive the long shifts on my feet.
I realised then that I didn’t want my breasts to control me any more. My nan, Vippy, 80, helped me with the £5,800 costs and I had my surgery to take me down to a 34C in 2009 at the Nuffield Health Brighton Hospital. While I was nervous, I couldn’t wait to be ‘normal’.
Six weeks later, my support bra came off for the first time, and I saw my new breasts. I was delighted. My ordeal was finally over.
I’ve since slimmed down to a size 12 and my wardrobe is bursting with pretty dresses. I started dating Dave a year ago and I am much happier because I feel confident about my body. Not even getting naked in front of him scares me! My breasts ruined my life for too long. Surgery was the best thing I ever did.”
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