Photo: Courtesy of Halina Newberry Grant
When I was in grade five, it felt like I went from flat to double D overnight. I wore a bra before any of my peers and was painfully self-conscious of anyone discovering my shame. Girls my age were still talking about jelly shoes, not cup sizes. Even as I graduated to junior high and high school, and my classmates were strapping in, I continued to stick out because of my size. My bust was on display and open for discussion, even among my closest friends.
My breasts were an uncomfortable burden, but I knew there was an antidote: My mom had a breast reduction when I was eight years old, and when my sister or I complained about our developing bodies during puberty, our mom reminded us that a reduction was a solution to our angst. I just had to grow up first.
Throughout young adulthood, my body size fluctuated with yo-yo dieting, bingeing and restricting (symptoms of an unaddressed eating disorder), and so did my breast size. When I began practising yoga in my late 20s, I gained confidence in my body, but I maintained the inner mantra that I would feel more positively about myself once I got a reduction: Clothes would look better, I could exercise comfortably (and in public) and I could wear a fitted T-shirt without feeling like I was interviewing for a job at Hooters. But I delayed the procedure because I wanted to wait until after I had kids. I would breastfeed, using them for what nature intended, and then say goodbye to what a fitting room attendant once called “God’s bounty.”
I now have two daughters, ages six and two. Like a lot of women, I expected breastfeeding would be effortless and intuitive. It’s not. My girlfriends with smaller breasts thought I might have an easier go of nursing, assuming size had something to do with milk production or innate technique. The truth is, no matter what our breasts look like, we all need lactation specialists, postpartum doulas and how-to classes. I donated my body to the needs of my kids for six years, and now that I’m done, I should be scheduling that appointment with a surgeon. But I’m hesitating. My breasts are still large and uncomfortable. Bra shopping is easier because, thankfully, we’ve had a cultural shift that supports a more diverse range of body shapes and breast sizes. And with that has come a mental shift for me to work harder on accepting my body as it is today, which is tied to wanting to teach my daughters the same.
My girls are still young, but it’s inevitable they’ll feel uncomfortable in their bodies at some point in their lives, regardless of how they grow. But if puberty hits and they’ve inherited my genetic breast code, I don’t want them to think there’s something wrong with their bodies. I don’t want them to feel like they must change themselves to fit in or feel normal. In the coming years, my physical discomfort may lead me down the road to reduction, but for now, I accept the size of my breasts—and if I fake it for long enough, I may even learn to love them.