Talking about explant with your children can be awkward depending on their age, your relationship, whether or not they know you have breast implants, and your reasons for getting them. When you reconstruct your breasts with implants after cancer, chances are high that your kids know about your battle. But when you augment or restore your breasts with implants, your kids may not even know they’re in your body.
It’s also possible that the woman you are today wouldn’t opt for breast implants and that you’d rather not reveal this historical side of yourself. Perhaps you have a teen struggling with body image issues, and you feel it’s helpful to talk openly about your experience with breast implants, but your reasons for getting them are private (e.g., judgment or pressure from their other parent or with hopes of feeling “good enough” after discovering an affair). And, of course, it’s particularly difficult to navigate explant-related conversations with your children when you lied about having breast implants.
Although the context for these conversations is highly nuanced, you can navigate them by knowing what matters, doing what matters, and letting yourself off the hook.
Knowing What Matters
No matter the conversation’s backdrop, it’s best to begin by focusing on YOU. Though you’re likely accustomed to putting your children’s needs above your own, it’s important to invest time discerning the kind of mom you want to be while moving through this part of your explant journey. If you feel your kids are old enough to be a part of these conversations, that likely means they’re also old enough to remember them. While that can be intimidating, it also affords you the chance to connect in more authentic ways.
It’s also important to spend some time visualizing what you would NOT want to watch playing out. If you cringe as you imagine throwing your younger self under the bus, revealing specific details, acting shameful, or misleading your children, then those behaviors belong on your “What NOT To Do” list.
When it comes time to execute your plan, take a moment to review your lists and remind yourself of what you want to be guided by and what you don’t want to see yourself doing.
Doing What Matters
If you’re reading this article, that likely means that it’s important to you to talk with your children about explant. But when the conversation feels uncomfortable, you may put it off or avoid it completely. Rather than beating yourself up about your avoidance, honor that it indicates you’re doing something important that feels risky. Also, genuinely validate that humans typically aren’t fans of jumping into situations that feel threatening. And then embrace that following through on these important conversations is one of the many ways explant offers you hidden opportunities to act with self-respect or to redeem yourself from internalized (and often unwarranted) shame.
You’re more likely to do what matters when you feel prepared. That may involve writing out what you want to say and then practicing it out loud so you get comfortable hearing yourself. For what it’s worth, whenever I’m going into any challenging conversation, I nearly always write out and memorize the opening lines. That way, I build a “mental muscle memory” that carries me through any escalating emotions or nervousness.
You may also want to consider very practical things like time of day, place, privacy, and mode of connection. For example, when adult children live far from home, you would want to connect in a way that ensures good quality video or audio connection and when you’re both unlikely to be interrupted. With teens, however, it’s often helpful to have conversations on their turf (e.g., their bedroom) or when you’re not staring at each other (e.g., while driving home from an event).
It’s also important to proactively consider important boundaries. Are there questions you don’t want to answer? If so, think through how you will respond (e.g., “That’s a good question and it’s more than I want to talk about right now.”). Are there people with whom you do or do not want your children to discuss this? If so, it’s important to clearly communicate your wishes rather than make assumptions about their insight into your feelings.
When Your Kids Don’t Know You Have Breast Implants
There are many reasons your children may not know you have breast implants. Perhaps they were much too young to discuss it at the time. Maybe they’re step-kids that you met later in life. Or maybe you lied about having breast implants.
I found myself in the first category: Our youngest daughter was less than two years-old when I decided to “restore” my breasts with implants. Though our older daughters knew about my surgery, the youngest had no memory of it. As she aged, it never came up organically in conversation. So, part of my explant preparation was admitting to my 14 year-old that I had breast implants. (In Busting Free, I share more details about how I approached this conversation. Though Busting Free is a self-help book for women whose life journeys include breast implants rather than a memoir, I do disclose how I navigated the common mental, emotional, and social challenges on my explant journey).
Irrespective of why your kids don’t know you have breast implants, it’s important to honor when the woman you are today longs for transparency. That means acknowledging why you want to have the conversation now and owning if you misled or lied in the past. We often feel that we have to explain ourselves and that we need a “reason” or justification for why we never brought it up or lied. In reality, your truth is all you need.
It’s okay to tell a teenager, “You were too young to understand it at the time and it just felt increasingly awkward as you got older and more time passed by.”
It’s perfectly fine to tell a step-child, “There was never a reason to bring this up until now, but I want to include you in this part of my life as I move forward.”
Finally, it’s honorable to tell a once-lied-to-child, “For many reasons, I denied this in the past. I want to set it straight between us now.” If lying violates a personal value you hold around honesty or integrity, it’s okay to apologize once. However, over apologizing erodes self-respect and that’s the opposite of what you’re going for with these conversations.
Letting Yourself Off the Hook
It goes without saying that some rather complex thoughts, feelings, judgments, and beliefs fuel your breast implant through explant journey. As mothers, we easily slip into “mom shame” when we act unlike the mom we most want to be or feel we’ve let our kids down. While it’s important to open up to all of your feelings on this journey, it’s equally important to let yourself off the hook of old, familiar, internalized breast shame.
After all, you grew up in a society where breasts are the icon of femininity. They are so valued and objectified, that unlike any other body part, you can surgically augment, restore, or reconstruct them.
But when it comes to talking about your breast implant journey with your kids, you may feel you’re admitting to doing something wrong, weak, or vain.
The reality is that you did something entirely human.
And being real with your kids about how you responded to the social messaging about women, breasts, and belonging is an important way to set yourself free.