I promised earlier to share the dilemma of the boobs and tum problem I have at the moment. This could get kind of long so get comfy, put the kettle on and come on a journey with me.
I was an early developer. I developed 'up top' at the age of 10 and was in a C cup by the time I was 12. At the age of 11 my periods started. It came as no surprise to me as my Mum and my Grandma had both also been early developers so Mum made sure I was ready and knew all about what was going to happen to my body long before it did. Looking back, I suppose these days one would say that talking to your nine year old daughter about babies, periods and boobs is too early, that it robs them of their innocence, but I needed to know. Maddie's coming up for 8 soon, so I know I'll be sitting alongside her in the next two years having the exact same conversation and I'm not sure if I'm ready for that.
But my Mum was and when I was ready to wear a bra she took me to the shop she'd always bought hers at. But she never had me measured. I tried on a few bras and opted for the ones I felt comfortable in. I had no idea that the bra should sit firm against my breastbone between my boobs and that the front of the bra shouldn't lift. I had no idea that the back elastic should sit straight across my back and not ride up. I had no idea that my cup should not spilleth over. And so, throughout my teen years I wore a 34D.
I grew but my boobs grew quicker. At school I was called 'Jugs' by the boys. At the time it was something I lived with. It's a major factor in my decision to opt for a single sex school for my daughters. I don't want them going through the ridicule I faced. The boys found it funny and I laughed along too, because it was easier to do that than to sit in tears each time they ripped my heart open, publicly making a mockery of my figure. It's hard enough being a teenager but to have yourself be the centre of attention because of your physique is unbearable. In games lessons I would be jeered at every time I ran and for a very athletic girl, this was a nightmare. I gave up athletics as I couldn't bear hearing the cries of 'look at them wobble', or 'careful Karen, you'll end up with two black eyes'. At one point I was the fastest sprinter in the school. I was also in the A-teams for both hockey and netball and it was only because another girl in my year had the same problem and also hit the squads that I didn't give up as I knew she was being ridiculed as much as me.
With clothing I could never tuck a shirt into my skirt. My bras fit so badly that my boobs would literally sit at my waistband and they were so bulbous they'd extend out beyond my frame. It really was like having two melons stuffed down my shirt. I couldn't sleep on my front and if I slept on my side one would flop over and crush the other. Lying on my back they fell to the sides under my armpits. Looking back and describing it might sound humourous, but to me it was hell. Each time I bought an outfit the assistant would loudly declare I'd bought the wrong top/bottom combination. I had to, I had no choice but to buy a top three sizes bigger than my bottom. When my Mum bought bras they would ask her if she was sure she had the right size. She always replied in the affirmative and even to this day will get defensive if I ever suggest she got it wrong. She'll even go so far as to say she had the same problem, that she was big, but as much as I love her, for this she failed. She failed to deal with an essential part of my development and even now I don't think she fully understood just how it affected me. It wasn't until I was earning my own money that I took it upon myself to buy my own bras and get measured professionally. So, until the age of 18 I wore the wrong size.
When I did get measured I was staggered to find out I was a 32FF. I will never forget the utter humiliation I felt at having to lift my top up for the assitant to measure me. I will never forget her physically lifting my bosoms up to measure my rib-cage underneath. Yet she didn't bat an eyelid. She calmly told me my size and asked whether I'd like her to select a few bras for me to try. She told me what was wrong with my current bra and asked if I'd been measured before. She knew her stuff. She knew damn well I'd never been measured and she knew this was the first time I'd had it revealed what size I was. She also knew I was shocked as I cried when I tried the first bra on. I couldn't believe how big it was. I hated the wide straps and I was disgusted that at the age of 18 when all my friends were wearing skimpy tops and off the peg underwear, I had to wear a fortress that needed three rows of hooks to hold it in place. I also hated the fact it cost 3 times what my mother originally paid for the bras that didn't fit.
I learn to dress well to cover it, but I never quite got away with it. I was known as being 'the one with the big tits'. When I was marrying Andy I could not find a single wedding dress off the peg that would accommodate a size 12 bottom and a size 18 top. Most wedding dress assistants I came across were bitches at the best of times, but they really surpassed themselves when they smirkily suggested I buy an 18 dress and have the bottom taken in - at a hefty cost of course. Luckily my friend's Mum was a dressmaker and she made my dress to fit.
But the biggest humiliation ever was my wedding day. I'm not sure if I'll ever let this one go and although I'm a forgiver by nature and although I've forgiven, and believe me, it was hard to do, I will NEVER forget this one. Our best man opened his speech with the words, 'when my baby son first saw Karen his first thoughts were, Christ, I'll never get through all that'. This was in reference to his son being fed by me. This was in front of 80 people. Some of whom I hardly knew. This was in front of my family and my bosses. I sat at the top table with EVERYONE looking at me and it ruined my day. Nobody laughed and as ever, true to form and covering my pain and sensitivity, I pathetically giggled to show that I hadn't had a sense of humour failure. The one time I felt I looked gorgeous, the one time I wore a dress that fit me properly, the one time my underwear made the best of my figure. The one time that nobody would dare to ridicule me and our best man did it in one sentence in front of all the people I loved the most. It still upsets me to this day that he did it. He has no idea what that did to me and I'll never tell him, but I've never forgotten and I never will.
Then I got pregnant and I actually went off the scale as far as bra sizes went. I spent my entire pregnancy wearing a bra that was too tight and it was only because my bump was so prominent and I carried throughout the winter that I was able to hide my chest and feel normal for a while. Then after giving birth the next humiliation hit me. Breast-feeding. I'd always had inverted nipples and feeling freaky enough with huge boobs, this didn't help. Try as I might to get them to come out so my baby could latch on, I just couldn't do it. No milk came in and even when the nurses took me to the pump room to see if I could express milk, nothing came out. No water, no colustrum, nothing. I can still picture the midwife's face when she turned to me and said, 'you really can't do it can you? We either have to give him a bottle or put him on a drip because he needs to be fed NOW.' The sense of failure and utter uselessness I felt then must have been the deepest pit of despair I'd sat in. Here I was with the biggest boobs in the hospital and they were absolutely no use other than to provide entertainment for others.
But there was heartening side. Prior to getting pregnant I remember telling Andy of my misery and I still well up now describing this, but I remember being in tears about it when he casually mentioned visiting the doctor to see whether I could have an operation. It was something I'd never thought about as plastic surgery was something for bimbos. Bimbos with nothing else to do with their money. Plus, I couldn't afford it anyway. But, with nothing to lose I scheduled an appointment with the doctor and she instantly agreed I was a good candidate. To cut a long story short, two months later I received a letter from my surgery saying they would agree to the operation, refer me to the consultant and also pay the bill from their funds.
I must have been in a deliriously ecstatic state for at least a week. To finally know that I could be normal after all these years was difficult to comprehend. My operation was scheduled for the January, but at that point I was 6 months pregnant with Joshua. Having spoken to the consultant he urged me to have surgery as soon as possible after childbirth and gave me three months to 'settle'. At this point the weight of my boobs was physically pulling my breast away from the breastbone and the tops of my breasts were covered in stretchmarks. My shoulders ached where the weight of them constantly pulled the straps down and the sores underneath caused by the lack of air getting to them was unbearable to tolerate as I had to wear a wired bra that pressed against me.
I had the operation in August 1999. It was the BEST thing I have ever done. I have NEVER regretted it. My only regret is that I didn't have the conviction, foresight and courage to do it earlier. Yes, I have scars, but my surgeon was neat, VERY neat. I had a nipple inversion correction and now they function normally. I'm that confident with them now that I have no qualms about showing people the scars and given the opportunity to go somewhere hot I would go topless - even in front of friends. I was told it would be highly unlikely I'd breastfeed again, but after my fourth pregnancy I had a milk flow. It wasn't enough to sustain a baby but it was there.
Now, I can buy underwear off the peg. I can afford it. I can buy dresses and suits that fit properly. I can run and swim and jump and skip without feeling self conscious. Now I know that men, although they check out my boobs, actually see my face first. And that feels good, really good.