I caught up with a co-founder of a non-profit in town to talk about her recent plastic surgery.  Tara Chavarria and her husband run Christ for Life Sk8 Church a safe place for troubled teens to find community, hope and Jesus.

Besides being a wife, mother and director of operations to Sk8 Church, on September 13 of this year, Tara walked through the doors of Coastal Empire Plastic Surgery Center Clinic.  She was about to undergo a breast reduction surgery.

Tara, after BRS

I wanted to know why, why now, why this, and if it was possible to undergo “plastic surgery” for the right reasons. Most lasting in my mind were the three words Tara kept repeating to describe this surgery’s impact on her life: freedom, relief, second chance. Read the final question to hear her expound on these words.

Read on to see how plastic surgery can be part of redemption (making things new, reversing the curse) when you approach it carefully, prayerfully, intentionally. For those pressed for time, just skim bolded and italicized sentences. 🙂

You’re 35, you’ve had two kids (7 and 8), you’re raising two more kids (your stepson 14 and adopted daughter 22). Why did you decide to undergo a breast reduction surgery (BRS) now?

Tara: My breasts have always been a big part of my life, which wasn’t always a good thing.  They affected everything I did.

Up until this year I was very uneducated about it.  I always thought a BRS  meant you couldn’t breastfeed.   I wasn’t sure we were done having kids.  I’d always dreamt about it and talked about, but I thought it was $20,000, an unattainable goal.

What counts as big? What size makes women feel attracted to a BRS?

Anything over a DD. Any woman size DD or larger talks about the weight, the back pain, the inconvenience of finding clothes that fit. I’ve talked with so many women who have thought about BRS.

What size were you?

I was a size C in 6th grade.  By 8th grade I was a D. In grad high school I was a DD.

I was popular because of my big boobs. I was the slutty girl because I used them.  I found my identity in that. I mis-used them a lot.  So they’ve always been huge part of my life. THEY were the center of attention whether I wanted them or not.

Tara pre-surgery, relaxing next to Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, CO

Everything has always revolved around them.  Before my surgery I was a 32G.

I don’t even know what that means. 

It goes D, DD, DDD, E, F, FF, G.

When I brushed my teeth they would rest on the sink.

This is a dream I’ve had that has outlasted everything else. Before marriage, kids, career, I’ve always had to think about my breast size.  To have them reduced so I can run or dance and just buy normal clothes, it’s a bigger dream than anything in my life.

How did you find out about BRS? 

My best friend in Savannah, Georgia, booked me a consultation. I learned that it was only $5000, an attainable goal. And there’s actually only a 1% chance of losing PARTIAL ability to breastfeed.

It simply became an issue of when. Did we have the money?

How did your husband feel about it? Did he support you?

Buck was really reluctant at first, with surgery there’s always risk.

And, while my breasts were large, they weren’t deformed or anything. He enjoyed them.  We’ve been off and on since I was 16… he’s always loved them… they’ve always been part of our relationship.  I tried to be sensitive because I wanted his support. Didn’t want to book it and go. We talked and prayed about it a lot.  He was fearful, but he understood the relief of neck and back pain, the freedom that it would bring.

The consultation was Feb 2011; Buck was ready by June. He was actively saving money with me.

We had a Boobie Envelope.  He contributed more than he needed to. We buy and sell old cars in the summer. We bought a car in June and sold it in September for a large profit. He put all of the profit to finish what we needed for surgery. I thought, “Wow, a man with thousands in his pocket could have thought of a lot of other things to do with that money than pay for his wife’s boob surgery.” But, he didn’t think twice.  He put it in the envelope.

Tell me more about praying about this. How was God part of your decision?

I definitely struggled at first. God made me who I am, he made me with those large breasts.

I knew it was a personal desire, but I wanted confirmation from him.  So I was very careful not to make anything happen. I prayed about the date for surgery, he confirmed. He brought money, he is pretty clear to open or close doors. I tried to stay sensitive to that and not just plow ahead because I wanted it.

I asked him to use it for his glory… seems weird, because I’m talking about boobs.

But he has. I’ve been willing to share about the surgery because there are other women who struggle and I can even use this word, suffer, in this area. I’m comfortable sharing what he’s done in my life.

I’ve been able to encourage other women to take care of themselves. You don’t have to live with something that is holding you back. We talk so much about working to overcome spiritual or emotional things, but if it’s a physical thing you have to just accept it.

People say “Well you’re lucky it was a medical issue.” But now I’m more open to seeing plastic surgery as a good way to help us out of suffering.  Who wants to age with breasts around their waist??!

I don’t see a problem if after all your kids you get a lift and get tucked back up.

Have you had to work through any grief or sadness over losing the size you were?

No.  I wasn’t using BRS to fix something inside of me.  Those breasts were literally taking away life. The surgery was removing something always in the way. If you had a big tumor on your neck, you just take it off and dance. I had a bonfire and burned my old bras and shirts.

Every day I wake up and I get to put on an XS shirt instead of a XL and I love it. I love getting dressed, I change clothes like four times a day. My 22 year old is not stoked with me taking clothes out of her closet.

And there are other benefits. Because they’re lifted, I don’t even have to wear a bra. No more support and sag issues.

How did you choose your size? You do get to choose, right?

I gave Buck permission to speak into that. I would have erred on the side of smaller, which is common.  But with Buck’s help we chose 32C, almost D.  This still doesn’t have weight bearing affect on me.

How did you choose that size?

My husband and I looked at Victoria Secret mags together. We looked at a lot of boobs and we figured out what size he wanted.

I erred on the side of bigger… told plastic surgeon, large C small D.

There’s a vanity piece in this.  I didn’t have them taken all the way off. I mean they look good in a bathingsuit.  Didn’t need to go the other way of some self-sacrificing martyrdom. I got to pick.

So I picked nice.

How did that affect you both, sexually, afterwards?

Our sex life didn’t really change.  To be totally blunt, normally I’d have to fish my boobs out of my armpits and hold them in front of me to look somewhat normal. I’ve never been able to shop at Victoria Secret because they only go to DD.  I’d try to make it work and the triangle was on my chest bone  and my boobs are on my stomach. That doesn’t do what lingerie is supposed to do.

Bought my first bra and panty set after the surgery, Buck can buy me things now, cause anything fits. Before he couldn’t buy me anything but a giant sweatshirt.

Something else, a bigger deal actually. I was sexually abused in my past.  Somehow, having them put on new has had a big effect, a good effect. It’s an interesting difference.

You mean like your breasts are yours, now?

Yes, before if Buck would touch or play with them, there was an uncomfortableness, because of my past.  Now whole new thing, whole new experience, more open with them.

These haven’t been handled.

I’m freer with my body… more open to Buck. They don’t have that uncomfortable feeling.. they’re not baggage.

What pushed you to take the final steps to pay for it, to allow yourself to go into surgery?

My friend, her empowerment and her belief that it could be done.  She took the steps to make and pay for the consolation.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.  She did.

She wasn’t afraid of offending me, or afraid of what I would think. She saw it was enough to just get a consultation. She crossed lines of modesty, and it was okay. It was great.

We’ve been friends for four years.  Our husbands are good friends.  And she committed to taking care of me for two weeks while I had surgery down there. I flew down there.  It took time to recover. I couldn’t go straight home.  I couldn’t lift anything, as a mom it was very challenging to recover.  My friend helped make it happen.

I want to talk a little more about the actual surgery. What was the easiest part?

I took some gas, then woke up and it was all done. The procedure was really simple.

How long did the BRS last?

One and a half hours.

What was the hardest part?

I was away from home for two weeks, away from my kids.  I homeschool and Buck was with me for 1st week. But the second week was hardest.  I was so homesick.

Can you tell me about the pain?

Because I’m a recovering alcoholic/narcotic, I wanted to do recovery without any pain meds except with ibuprofen. I had to fight my doctor, my friend, my husband. I had a strong conviction to not take them. So many friends and youth I work with are addicted to pain meds.  Everyone has a reason. I wanted to show how you could go through major surgery without pain meds. I didn’t take narcotics.

And it was bad, but once you’ve given birth . . . Hey, what is worse that that?

An excellent point.  

What did you look like after the surgery?

I was very sore, bruising all over. Curves of bruises that went from black to blue to yellow.  It kind of felt like I had fallen off a horse on your front. They were pretty ugly, and I was pretty blinded by pain, because of no narcotics. Any movement and I thought I was going to pass out. But even with that I felt instantly lighter and relief, even sitting up in the recovery room.

I was sore for six weeks. During that time I couldn’t lift anything, not even milk out of the fridge. It was good because it taught my kids that when a family member is down EVERYone helps out.

My incisions are still sore and it’s been 9 weeks.

Anything unexpected?

-Before BRS

How nice they look.  I knew they were going to reduce them. They hung down by my belly button, but I couldn’t believe how well he put them back up.  They trimmed the nipple and put it back on all perky and cute.  Didn’t expect them to look that good.  They’re even. Smoothed out all the wrinkles, suntan wrinkles, chest wrinkles of weight. Four days later and I looked down and noticed wrinkles were gone. True relief to my back and neck.  Always attributed to my back and breasts, but wasn’t totally sure… but I was right.

Insurance will pay for this surgery, because of what it does to your back and neck… but the results were better than I expected.

What was your first reaction seeing your new 32Cs?

Six days into recovery I put on a bathingsuit I had bought.  It was very painful, but I was able to tie it on and see what it would look like… and they were hot.

What was your husband’s first reaction?

His was more joy that he was fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams, not physical attraction. Honestly, they were gnarly at first, really ugly, bruising and bleeding. He was awesome, he helped me change the bandages.

Your kids?

My daughter said to me when we were raising money for the boobie envelope, “It will be such a blessing when you don’t have to get those things into your big bra anymore.”

What advice would you give to other women in similar situation?

THE number one thing is you have to have the support of your partner/husband/friend.  You CANNOT do it alone.  There’s recovery to begin with and there’s opportunity for large resentment. BRS means altering a huge piece in your body that your partner is used to. When you’re in a relationship I don’t believe you have freedom to change those things without their input.

I’d say make an appointment.. start the journey. Every person I know with large breasts has talked about getting a reduction.

What advice would you give anyone considering plastic surgery? Do you think it’s a good idea?

I understand what it feels like when all your decisions for clothes, to working out, to sports, to doing dishes gets planned around that body part, whether you’re flat or your nipples are inverted or you have huge breasts.  I know what it feels like to feel like a freak.

As women it’s hard enough to feel beautiful and attractive after you’ve had kids.  Your body has taken a toll, your relationship is growing. I say why not?

Do something that enhances and makes you feel comfortable.

DON’T get surgery to fix something inside you, to help you lose weight.

Don’t attach an unreal expectation to BRS. Having breasts I like is a nice accessory, but it’s not a fix it for your self-esteem or your marriage

How does your decision help/hurt your girls and their future decisions?

Chances are great they’ll have huge breasts. I will have no problem with them having this done, would love for them to have it done early.

At the clinic I met a girl who was scheduled to have a BRS surgery around the same time as me.  She was 16 and she was same size as me. Overwhelmed by a mom who would give her daughter this freedom early on.  They are such a burden, I kept thinking how she would be swim and exercise and even able to do the dishes without getting her boobs in the water.  I told her mom she was so awesome she was getting this done for her.  Now she has a chance to play sports, be a cheerleader, not be made fun of.

Also, my girls saw how we worked really hard to save the money and pay cash for the BRS. We don’t do any debt, our family principle.  We had a garage sale and it all went into the boobie envelope.

I sold a lot of salsa.  The kids sold stuff, too and donated it to the surgery.

If they had a surgery they needed, we would tackle that as a family, too.

Final question.  Can you summarize the change in your life with three words.  

Freedom, Relief, Second-Chance

Freedom – everything I wore, every physical activity had to be planned around my breasts. They were like children.  For instance a trip to the mall was planned around what stores I could shop at. I don’t have that distraction anymore.

Relief – back and neck was in constant pain. I would always be hunched over. And people staring at them, so nice to not have that anymore.  Everyone stared, men and women. I’d find I’d constantly be noticing them not looking at me, but at my breasts.

Second-chance – I’ve had so many new experiences. I ran for the first time, I mean work-out running. I felt light as a feather, my body was balanced and felt AMAZING. I felt like Forest Gump, I cried while I was running.  Clapping, do you know how cool it is to be able to clap?  Things I get to dream about and do. I’m not top-heavy or forward-leaning.

I have to tell you, the first time I sat up after surgery I almost flung myself out of bed. I didn’t feel like I was doing a sit-up with a weight on my chest.

They took off 3 lbs. (To give you an idea that’s a bag and a 1/2 of sugar. Put that on your chest and sit-up)

Freedom, Relief, Second-Chance.

Tara, thank you for your honesty, your verve and your courage with us.  Celebrating your newfound freedom with you!

p.s. a fun picture of Tara’s girls wearing her previous bra… on their heads