Would You Let Your Teen Have Cosmetic Surgery? I Wouldn’t… Until I Did
There are certain parenting issues we all expect to encounter as our kids get older: pushing for a later curfew, or wanting an outfit we parents deem either too expensive or inappropriate (or both). And then there are always situations you never could’ve predicted, but somehow navigate, because what’s the alternative? There are precious few matters on which I knew exactly where I stood, prior to parenthood, where I found myself doing a complete 180 from where I thought I’d be, but (with permission!) I’m going to share about one, today.
My young adult daughter had cosmetic surgery. Not only did she have it, but with our help and support. I never in a million years could’ve predicted this before it happened.
I was—really, still am—very much a “love yourself exactly as you are” kind of person. Any complaint from either kid about not liking something physical about themselves was always met with a rebuttal about 1) why the supposed issue in question was something I love about them and 2) how everyone is different and unique and whatever that thing is, it’s perfect. (Non-physical issues are a little trickier, because sometimes it’s something you can/should change, so let’s ignore that for the purposes of this topic.) There have been many, many rolled eyes in my tenure as a mother, because obviously I just do not understand how awful it is to have this particular cowlick or that troubling birthmark or whatever. Still, I have always tried to model loving my own self, and the kids’ selves, just as we are.
To be clear, I am anti-unnecessary-surgery.
My now 19.5-year-old daughter started talking about wanting a breast reduction shortly after starting high school. At first, I admit I thought she was being ridiculous. At that point, she was still newly in eating disorder recovery, and while puberty had wreaked havoc on her in multiple ways, we figured this was part and parcel of bigger issues, and as she became healthier (and stopped growing), this discomfort would melt away. Well, I’m happy to report that she did get healthier, both mentally and physically, but she did not stop growing. More specifically: her chest did not stop growing. For years. What had started as “God, I just hate having breasts” and me trying to help her toward body positivity had, by her senior year of high school, become having to special-order bras, an inability to find clothes that fit properly, worsening scoliosis from constantly hunching over, and chronic back pain.
To be clear, I am anti-unnecessary-surgery. This same young lady has mentioned hating her nose for years, too, and you know what? Her nose is not only lovely, it works just fine and causes zero health problems. So if she decides to have rhinoplasty someday, she’s an adult and that’s up to her, but I think it’s a terrible idea. If you had asked me a few years ago if I would’ve helped my daughter arrange for and finance reduction mammaplasty—this is a major surgery—I would’ve said absolutely not. And I would’ve been wrong.
Once it was clear she was experiencing an actual health issue, and a day-to-day quality-of-life issue, we went and talked to her doctor. We were advised to wait until she was at least 18 and had been a stable size for at least a year. We were also advised that it was unlikely that insurance would deem it a necessary surgery, which surprised me. (If you feel like falling down a rabbit hole on this, Google “Schnur Scale” to read up on how insurance companies decide if you have “medical necessity” for a breast reduction. Spoiler alert: most insurance has a minimum removal amount to qualify, which means that if you are a teeny tiny bird-boned human whose breasts are oversize for you your insurance company’s stance is “too bad.”) This left us with not just the surgery itself to decide about, but also financial arrangements to consider. It was pretty overwhelming (to me; I think my daughter was just excited about finally getting it done). Here’s a quick-and-dirty rundown if you find yourself facing this issue and you’re as clueless about cosmetic surgery as I am.
Start With the Primary Care Doctor
Whether the candidate in question is still a child or an adult, start with their regular doctor—ideally, they know the patient best and can help advise. In my young adult daughter’s case, for example, she didn’t have any weird additional health concerns we needed to talk to a surgeon about, but because the pediatrician had been following her scoliosis for years, we were able to both get a current set of x-rays and gather up everything related to that (for insurance purposes; silly us) before we started talking to surgeons.
Figure Out A Timeline
Mammaplasty is major surgery; did I mention that, already? This is not like getting your wisdom teeth out, where you can schedule it on a Friday and be back to class on Monday. Be realistic about when two solid weeks of downtime (at a bare minimum) is possible. Four weeks is even better, but two weeks is critical. Although my daughter had initially wanted to have her surgery before she left for college, between her summer job and getting ready to go, we ended up waiting until winter break. She came home as soon as she was done with exams and had her surgery the next day, which gave her almost five full weeks before she had to get back to campus. (She felt pretty good by week 3, but still, I didn’t mind being able to keep an eye on her and I suspect she didn’t mind being spoiled.)
Do Your Research
The Internet is a wonderful thing, and it means you can find out not just who’s board-certified and specializes in your particular surgery, but also what other people think of them. Do your due diligence at home before you venture out to talk to anyone; it will help keep the process of choosing a doctor manageable.
Get A Second Opinion (And A Third, Maybe)
The practitioner who seems ideal on paper (or on the computer) may not be the right one, for any number of reasons. Because we live in a small town, my daughter broadened her search to our nearest big city and located a doctor about an hour away who seemed to be The Guy for this sort of thing. During her consultation it was clear that he was an accomplished surgeon, but also clear that he was not the right surgeon for her. Despite a calm and reasoned explanation of why she was there, he made several comments which basically boiled down to “but this is what guys love and people pay me a lot of money to look like you.” (Um. Wow.) Neither of us felt comfortable with him, and my daughter was disheartened because he was supposed to be “the best.” Well, it turned out that a local surgeon had great reviews and was much more human and less “slick,” not to mention that his price was a lot lower. (Note: There are sometimes good reasons to travel to a doctor farther away, but I was also nervous about the distance just in case anything went wrong. You have to weight this stuff when deciding.) Any doctor worth their salt is going to be fine with you shopping around.
One more thing, here: Now is not the time to be shy. Ask any question you have and be prepared to look at before and after photos of past patients (even if you feel squeamish or weird about it). You want to both evaluate what the surgeon says to the potential patient and survey their handiwork.
Hash Out Finances
If you’re lucky, insurance will cover the surgery. I mean, so I’m told. (#stillbitter!) We were looking at paying for it ourselves, so this was no time to be shy about money talk. First of all, many (all?) cosmetic surgeons will offer some sort of financing, if you need it. They’re used to insurance denying their services and they are going to try to help you make it affordable. But also ask about discounts, because sometimes if you’re willing/able to pay in a lump sum, you get a break on the price. And here’s the real point I want to make: Talk money with your young adult. My daughter decided, as an “adult” (quotation marks because what 18-year-old is truly an adult?), that she wanted to have this surgery. We agreed that it would be life-improving, but at the end of the day, it was still an elective surgery that’s not covered by our insurance (which we are already paying thousands of dollars for every year). For us, the logical conclusion was that we would split the cost; she paid for half and we paid for half. That may not be what works for your family, but for us, it felt important for her to bear a reasonable amount of financial responsibility as part of this decision.
Be Ready For It To Suck
Any surgery is trauma as far as the body is concerned, and mammaplasty is a lot of trauma. The first week after surgery is rough and thanks to swelling, you’ll be dealing with the added bonus of trying to figure out if they even did anything, because—just warning you—those now black-and-blue breasts are going to be even bigger for a while. If you’re the patient: sleep, sleep, and more sleep. Drink as much water and other healthy fluids as possible and eat what you can and hang on, because it gets better, but slowly. If you’re the caretaker: get ready for sainthood, because it’s going to be a looooong first week (or maybe two) of ice and painkillers and tears before you stop wondering if this was a horrible mistake.
And Then, Be Ready To Be Amazed
Let me start with the caveat that this was a major surgery and my young adult had a speedy and uneventful recovery; please do not take her experience to mean that we’re being flippant about the gravity of a procedure like this, and do your own due diligence before any surgery, etc. That said: it’s been 10 months, now, and any doubts I may have had before about my daughter’s surgery are gone. She routinely refers to it as “the best decision of my entire life.” Her back pain is a distant memory, and—I hate to admit this, but—her self-confidence has improved a hundredfold. She carries herself differently, in part because she’s no longer in pain and her posture is much better, but mostly because she’s no longer self-conscious. Her wardrobe of baggy “comfy” tops is now interspersed with fitted dresses and blouses she bought off the rack that she couldn’t physically wear before (they would have had to been tailored for c. 3x the retail price beforehand).
I am totally anti-cosmetic-surgery because you’re perfect just the way you are, except I now have to admit that this “medically unnecessary” surgery turned out to be an excellent choice for my young adult daughter. I must admit I was wrong to believe all elective surgery is a bad idea. (Note to my daughter: But your nose is fine. I mean it.)
Photo source: Depositphotos/Wavebreakmedia
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