Why I Got My Implants Out
I was miserable. My relationships with my husband, my child and my friends were floundering. My eyes were raw from chronic crying. I would scream guttural cries in the shower, sobbing and wanting to rip my implants out from my chest with my bare hands. And yet, each morning I would get up and delay, for one reason or another, making a decision I knew was inevitable.
I needed to get my breast implants out.
It wasn't a straight line to that point. As I mentioned in my last post about why I got them, in many ways I had been happy with my implants. I initially got them when I was in my early 20s, and at that time only saline implants were allowed. I went from a 32A to a 32D, and as you can see from all my previous photos this turned me from a pear into an hourglass. I could flaunt cleavage when I wanted but as long as I didn't have them on full display I still looked natural enough that I could pass for having some lucky genes.
But shortly after I got them, the left one dropped down and out. Big time. I had to go back to my surgeon for a revision. The left implant was moved back up and secured in place with some stitches. More or less, it looked pretty good. The only major downside was after recovery I had itching and nagging pain in my left breast, on the outside edge under the infra-mammary fold. It was an annoying pain - like maybe a 2 or 3 on a 10-point scale - and it wasn't constant. All the doctors I saw said they'd never had any patients with pain like that, but that it was probably mild nerve damage and it would either go away or it wouldn't.
It didn't. But I liked the way I looked.
Twelve years down the road, I'd become a mom and gravity had had its way with my implants. I felt like it was time to get a revision, and started seeking a new surgeon. I had hated the first one - he treated me like I was making the pain up. This time I went with the most expensive, most highly sought after plastic surgeon in my area. I had asked him about my pain and what he could do about it. He was ambivalent - he couldn't promise anything, but maybe by going in there and moving things around the body would heal itself in a way that would solve the nerve issue. I went with slightly larger implants than my previous ones because I was switching to silicone from saline and I'd read that they sit differently on the body. I wanted to stay the same cup size so I took a guess at what size implant to get. The plastic surgeon was zero help on this.
They ended up bigger and fuller than I wanted or needed. I wish I'd gone smaller, not bigger. And that nagging pain? It became constant. Now it was a 4 or 5, sometimes worse. I couldn't sleep well or get comfortable in any position. The implants were so big my arms would bump into them, and when that happened with my left arm, pain would shoot through my nervous system. I'm left-handed so I had to start doing a lot more things with my right hand to avoid the pain. The doctor tried prescribing different medications and treatments to help with the recovery. The meds were awful, and the side effects were worse than the pain. And none of the treatments helped - the pain was still there. I stopped being able to workout.
I began researching my symptoms of pain and itching (something I should have done years before!), hoping to find some answers, advice, anything. I stumbled upon a Facebook Group about Breast Implant Illness (BII). Though I wasn't suffering as much as many women who have problems with their implants, being a part of this group made me realize I wasn't the only one. By a long shot. BII isn't accepted by the medical community yet, but it is a term to encompass all the nasty developments having implants can do to a body. I could probably write off a few people talking about BII as just hypochondriacs searching for another place to blame their maladies. But when you start to see the number of very real women with very real stories about how getting their implants affected their moods, their motivation, their energy, their drive and how their implants grew mold inside (proven once the implants were removed) or leaked silicone into other parts of their body, you start to believe in BII. Not every story ends happily, but many women bounce back to their former selves after explanting. Read through some of their stories, and you begin to question how implants are ever allowed except in specific medical cases.
I wanted to explant within a month after the exchange surgery, but both my surgeon and my husband encouraged me to heal fully from the operation. Maybe the pain would go away. My body was still adapting. I reluctantly clung onto this hope. Aesthetically, even with the implants being fuller and bigger than I wanted, I still preferred the look I had to what I was worried I would look like without implants. Damn vanity. Some days I would be determined and ready, only to see a photo of me or look in the mirror, and lose all confidence that I could transition. This was my husband's primary concern - that I would suffer a deep depression after removing the implants. He wanted me to be 100% certain. I wasn't.
It drug on. Months passed. The pain did not improve. My relationships deteriorated. I wasn't the mom I wanted to be. Or the wife. My husband could barely touch me for fear of being too rough with my left breast. I saw multiple doctors. I did not have a rupture. I did not have capsular contracture. No one could definitively say what was causing the pain, or that explanting would fix it. I reached a breaking point. Something had to change or I would not be able to go on.
I finally had a breakthrough. I made the decision by myself and for myself: this was my body, and it was the only one I would ever have. I needed to respect it more than I loved my image and compromising my health, sanity, and family for looks was ridiculous. I became determined, which pretty much means wild horses couldn't stop me. I began searching for a plastic surgeon who would be willing to explant and do it the way I wanted.
Multiple doctors I saw tried to convince me not to do it at all. My current aesthetic was very good, and I would look "awful" or have "granny boobs," they said. They each wanted me to try a pill or therapy to solve my pain rather than deal with what actually caused it: heavy, large sacks of silicone in my body, pressing on my nerves and inflaming my insides.
I took their scary predictions with tears in my eyes and steel in my spine. Maybe I would have granny boobs in my 30s. Maybe I would look awful. But that was better than daily pain. I wanted my freedom of movement and sleep back. Even if I had to give up my blog. Even if I would never wear a swimsuit again. Any change would come as a relief, because I was trapped until my implants were out of my body.
Finally, I found a doctor who cared more about treating me as a person than making women beautiful. He was hesitant - he had the same worries my husband did about my future self-esteem. He was very clear about expectations and what he could and could not do. He actually preferred to replace my implants with a much smaller set, but I refused and he respected that. He said I could always place new implants down the road if I decided I needed to. I doubted I would want to, but knowing this made it a little easier to pull the trigger. I did it.
I was both completely sure and terrified at the same time.
The recovery was shorter than implanting or my revisions. I didn't look awful even if I looked nothing like my big-bosomed former self. I had a lot of ups and downs. It was particularly depressing to remeasure myself and discover that I was now a 32AA, down from a 32D or occasional DD. Luxury lingerie in several brands looked terrible - I have zero 'upper pole' now. I burst into tears on more than one occasion after trying on what seemed like a sure-winner set of lace. One of my favorite brands, Agent Provocateur, barely has anything smaller than a 32B - no way to pull it off now. I lost a lot in removing my implants not the least of which was the flexibility with various lingerie (and regular clothing) which has been a blow for this lingerie lover.
But I gained so much more. I am real. 100% real. This is me. My breasts are amazingly soft! After fourteen years of implants I had forgotten how soft my real breast tissue was. My pain, the pain that plagued me for so long, was nearly gone in four weeks and completely absent after eight. There was no mold and no leakage from my implants, and that is a massive blessing. I am young enough that my skin is still springy - it's largely pulled back to a normal shape. I am not a Baywatch babe, but I have zero desire to be one anyway. I am so happy to just be me.
I'm a better mom and better wife in spades. I am still tired, but I think that's from having a three-year-old wearing me thin. I am back to working out, something I didn't do for ages because it hurt so bad. I am finally respecting my body the way I want to.
And I'm discovering a side of lingerie I never knew. I couldn't really pull off bralettes and tanks well because the melons on my chest looked ridiculous in them. I am getting to know brands with unique character like Chakra Intimates, which I'm wearing here. Their clothing embraces healing energies, spirituality, and connecting with one's inner self. I can think of no better lingerie to re-imagine myself in. I am relearning what looks good on me and what makes me feel good inside. Taking these photos and posting them is a big step, but one I'm confident in. I want women to know there is #lifeafterbreastimplants. If you have criticism or negative comments, I don't really care. Make them. Because I am finally whole enough that I am not doing this for anyone's praise or approval, other than my own.