The pain relief was immediate. I woke up from surgery, and even though my nipples were on fire, I couldn’t sense the nerve where my shoulder connects to my neck. I’ve known that joint by heart for years now. I had reached the point where I thought it didn’t hurt when I simply knew where the junction was, as opposed to feeling pain radiate outward from it. Even the chest fire was mild by comparison, the sort of pain I used to associate with nursing, intense cold, and drastic hormone shifts.
But, as with any surgery, breast reduction came with a few unexpected complications, the largest of these involving physical sensations. The doctor correctly assured me the fire would be gone within hours, because breast tissue has few nerve endings. But my chest gurgled and glurped for days as air pockets shifted and liquid drained. It didn’t hurt, but I could sure feel it happening. I didn’t lose any actual feeling, after all.
And then there was the other thing. The doc migrated my nipples north without ever disconnecting them, so they were the same as ever, but in a new position. Before, they hung to my belly button. Cramming them into a bra used to mean relocating the lowest bits by a good six inches. Not any longer. No cramming for me. But my breasts are having a bit of an adjustment to their new home.
You know how people who have lost had a limb or digit still sometimes get sensation in it? Well, I didn’t lose much tissue or many nerve endings, but I’ve still got that problem. Phantom boob syndrome, I suppose you’d call it.
There was a particular feeling that I only experienced when I wore nursing bras. When the supporting bra structure pushed too firmly against the underside of my breast, while my nipple chafed against fabric at exactly the wrong height, it meant one thing. My breast had crept up in stealth mode and disengaged the cup security hook to flop free and dangle loose in my shirt, usually leaking milk everywhere.
It’s been years since I’ve nursed, but I’ll never forget what that felt like.
I’m used to having my breasts curl under in my bra, so the most sensitive bits are a little sheltered from fabric contact. But my new boobs chafe. Plus, the nipples are far higher on my chest. Add to that the fact that I have to wear a bra twenty four hours a day for the first six weeks, and I’m a walking recipe for sensory chaos.
Every once in awhile, I’ll notice my chafed nipples rubbing against my bra from their new vantage, six inches higher than the old one, while I feel pressure along the band line. And I’ll have a moment of panic that I can only curb by sticking my head in my shirt to ensure that neither prisoner has escaped into the wider world.
I’m always shocked when both of them are resting happily where I put them in the first place, directly inside the bra, nipples forward, sagging not. They, I presume, are sniggering to each other because they can still taunt me, even if they can’t make my back hurt.