My Husband Told Me He Couldn't Be Married Anymore — So I Made A Decision I've Kept Secret For 12 Years

"When the nurses woke me up from anaesthesia, I couldn’t pry my eyes open. I wanted to sleep forever."
The author after surgery in 2011.
Courtesy Of Tamara MC
The author after surgery in 2011.

In 2010, after a 17-year marriage, my husband asked for a divorce, saying he couldn’t be married anymore.

We had two sons, 14 and 16, not quite two years apart, whom I had nursed over four years straight. My once-perky breasts weren’t the same after. Whose are? They weren’t terrible, just more deflated, like a helium balloon the day after a birthday party.

I used to joke with my husband that I was planning to have breast surgery when I finished nursing. We had laughed hysterically about my desire for surgery because we both knew I was terrified of hospitals and drugs. I was an au naturel granola girl who hadn’t even had caffeine until her mid-30s. I never smoked a cigarette or tried an illegal substance either. Only when I have a migraine do I hesitantly swallow an Advil.

But after my husband asked for a divorce, something inside of me shifted. If I was going back on the market, I needed my before-childbirth body back. Before kids, my breasts were always my standout feature. Not that I showed them off, because I was horribly shy, but because of my petite frame, people couldn’t help but notice my chest. I wasn’t even 5 feet tall, and I was just over 100 pounds, but I had a 32DDDD, according to measurements taken in high school by a saleslady in Victoria’s Secret.

After pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, my breasts got even more humongous. I could barely contain them in a swimsuit when I brought my sons to the pool. I looked like Dolly Parton without the blond hair and form-fitting clothing. Instead, I hid behind XXL T-shirts, not wanting an ounce of attention.

As we were going through legal proceedings for our divorce, I demanded that my soon-to-be ex-husband give me money for a breast makeover. (He was the primary breadwinner.) “You must be crazy if you think I’m going to pay for you to get new breasts,” he told me.

Suddenly I became even more insistent on buying Breasts 2.0, but now as a rebellion, my well-earned right as a childbearing woman. My husband was bolting out of our marriage with more or less the same body, and I was reluctantly starting my life over with a used-up, worn-out one — hanging breasts, larger hips. My feet had even grown half a size. None of it seemed fair.

I received part of my ex’s retirement account and decided to use a portion toward the surgery. I scheduled an appointment with my mum’s plastic surgeon. My mum, like me, had huge boobs, our curse and gift, and when I was still in high school, she had breast reduction surgery. Her breasts were much heavier than mine and killed her back. Bra straps dug into her shoulders.

Unlike my mum, I wanted surgery less because of back pain and more because of vanity. I’d been married for almost my entire 20s and 30s and was terrified of dating again. Who would want a 40-year-old with two teenagers and a not-perfect body? I was convinced that to find love again, I couldn’t look like a mother. I’d have to revert to my 20-year-old appearance.

I confidently told the plastic surgeon what I wanted on my first visit. “I want a slight lift and a reduction,” I said. I’d barely shown my breasts to anyone other than my husband, but now I was standing in a room topless with a stranger inspecting them in the same way I had scrutinised desert rocks as a child, searching for sparkly mica.

The surgeon grabbed my boobs with his cold hands and lifted them toward my collarbone. He then said, “You need implants. Your breasts don’t have enough volume.”

I visited the surgeon a second and third time, and his recommendation didn’t change. He said, “Listen, if I don’t give you implants, you’re going to be unhappy with the results.” I held off on the surgery, confused. My breasts were already huge. How on earth could I need implants? My hippie, alternative-medicine self couldn’t imagine inserting a foreign object into my body.

During one appointment, the surgeon led me to a room with his nurse. She displayed more than half a dozen saline implants on a table, ranging from small to large. It looked like we were preparing to participate in a raucous water balloon fight.

“Here,” the nurse said, handing me a large size. “Put this under your bra and look in the mirror.” I slid the plastic under my Walmart sports bra and stood in front of the mirror, looking miserable.

The nurse said, “You definitely don’t need this size. It’s too big for you, but I wanted you to get a sense of the different sizes.” When she advanced to one of the smallest sizes, I finally felt a tad more comfortable.

“That looks good,” she said. “I think you’re a 200cc girl.” The implants would compensate for all the breastfeeding sag, giving my breasts enough volume to puff them up slightly without looking obnoxious.

My boys stayed with their dad on the weekend I went in for surgery. I didn’t tell them or anyone except my mother and best friend, who would be my caretakers. When the nurses woke me up from anaesthesia, I couldn’t pry my eyes open. “You need to wake up now, Tamara,” I heard the nurses say, pounding my shoulder. I wanted to sleep forever.

When I came out of recovery, the doctor and my mother stood on either side of me, my arms swinging over their shoulders. They held my weight and walked me out of the clinic and into my mom’s SUV. I got into her car and closed my eyes. The next thing I knew, I was in her guest bedroom, propped up with pillows. The new implants were lodged beneath my muscle, and the pain was insane, perhaps worse than natural childbirth.

After my divorce, my self-esteem had plummeted. I truly thought having a great body would cure the hole in my heart. Boy was I wrong!

My breasts looked better without a shirt on after the surgery. But from outside my clothes, I looked virtually the same. My implants were barely visible to the human eye (and hand).

The author soon after surgery, covering up.
Courtesy Of Tamara MC
The author soon after surgery, covering up.

The doctor had to cut out my nipples and sew them back in a new place. He warned me I could lose sensation. I spent weeks pinching them, getting more worried by the day. Nothing but numbness. Today, they feel like phantom nipples, like they’re there but not there, hovering above their original location.

Nearly a year later, when I went for my follow-up appointment, I asked why my incision scars were still brown and hadn’t lightened. The surgeon eyed them and said, “Looks like I dragged your nipples into the incision sites.” He offered to do a fully comped surgery to slice out the excess nipple tissue. I smiled and said nothing. There was no way I was going back for another elective surgery.

A year after my divorce and surgery, I began seeing a guy I ended up dating for more than eight years. Although he complimented me on my breasts, neither of us brought up my surgery, not even once. Perhaps I had disassociated from my implants, hoping if I didn’t say anything, they’d magically disappear. There was me, Tamara. And then, somewhere far, far away, my implants.

I’m not sure if he noticed, but I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have. I took my shirt off only in the dark, but how could he not notice the incision scars straight down the middle of my breasts? I’d always been shy about my body, even in my marriage, especially since I grew up in a religious community. But now it was coming from a place of shame and regret, not modesty.

As an academic, I work in gender and women’s studies, so perhaps I was also worried about being judged as a fake feminist for getting plastic surgery. Or as shallow for wanting my pre-baby boobies back. Maybe I was afraid of being called out for my vanity when I’m someone who hates too much attention in my everyday life. But more than anything, I felt angry at myself and embarrassed for deciding under duress to put implants in my body when I didn’t really want them there.

Whatever the reason, I’ve never discussed my breast surgery with my subsequent boyfriends. Either they didn’t notice or they didn’t bring it up. I even dated a surgeon who I thought for sure would ask about my surgery. He was a freakin’ surgeon! But nope, nothing.

Having nice breasts is nice, but the anxiety they’ve caused me is not worth it. Since my surgery, not a day has gone by that I haven’t neurotically checked them every morning when I wake up and every evening before sleeping, like I do the locks in my house. I examine my breasts to ensure they haven’t burst. I sleep particularly, too, making sure not to put too much pressure on them. I no longer want to babysit my breasts.

I go for yearly mammograms, and because of the implants, they have to do two sets of images. I don’t even like getting dental X-rays, but now I’m set up for a lifetime of double radiation. If I could do it over again, I’d follow my gut and stick with a reduction and lift, nothing more.

When I asked the surgeon who pressured me into implants if my breasts would droop with age, he said, “No. You’ll have the best breasts in the nursing home.” My breasts have sagged already. The incision lines that were so perfectly centred are now lopsided, looking like they’re performing the viral floss dance.

In retrospect, I believe you shouldn’t make life-changing choices for several years after going through a breakup, ideally three or more. I was in a haze during and after my divorce, not thinking clearly, almost like I had teenage brain.

But I just turned 50, and I no longer care who knows about my augmentation. So what? Really, so what??? I’m now worried the stress of harbouring my secret will hurt me more than the actual implants. I’m exhausted from living with regret, shame and stigma. Maybe someday I’ll decide to have the implants removed, but that will be my decision to make. Being a feminist means allowing others the right to choose what’s best for their own bodies.

These days my chest is splotched with age spots, and my décolletage is crepey from a lifetime of big breasts. No matter how carefully I lie on my side, a pillow nestled between them, I can’t halt the process of fine lines. What I care most about now are healthy breasts. I go for those regular mammograms, do self-checks, get daily exercise and eat a plant-based, mostly organic diet. I don’t smoke or drink, and I try my best to live a joyful and stress-free life.

I won’t be sunbathing topless or hopping on the nude cruise set to sail from Miami in 2025. That kind of exhibitionism just isn’t who I am, although I think we all wish we enjoyed our bodies more. Rather, the change will be having compassion for my once-fragmented parts and cohering my breasts with the rest of me. My new pledge is to radically accept myself, implants and all.

As a cult, child marriage and human-trafficking lived-experience expert, Dr. Tamara MC advocates for humans to live free from gender-based violence and coercive control. Her Ph.D. is in applied linguistics, and she researches how language manipulates vulnerable populations. She’s seeking representation for her debut memoir, “Child Bride: Escaping an American Sufi Cult.” She can be found at

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