I have been writing about and posing with reality stars for nearly a year and many of you have followed me as I got dressed and got out, often after long exhausting days of work and motherhood. I’ve struggled to pull myself together into evening wear on evenings when I’d much have preferred to have worn pajamas. Most of you have been kind, and those who constructively criticized (about needing more makeup) I have listened. However I have been hiding something from all of you under my growing collection of cocktail dresses. No, I’m not really a man, but beneath the layers of sequins and tulle is my dirty little secret wrangled and stuffed into circulation cutting compression garments. I, my friends, have the belly of a 90-year-old woman.
Now forget what you’ve seen from JLo and Mariah. I don’t even believe Alexis Bellino, who tweeted me that her post twin pregnancy bikini bod came from “diet and exercise.” The fact is, I have dieted and exercised over half my life. Prior to my pregnancy I never even owned control top pantyhose and Yummie Tummie was a phrase I’d use to describe an ice cream craving. The truth is the human body was not made to carry multiples.
Having twins and beyond does damage that I never imagined. Damage that, according to most regular MoMs (mothers of multiples) I know, can only be corrected with surgery. My theory is that all of the wealthy, famous women who pop out litters and then end up bare midriff advertising Weight Watchers had plastic surgeons on duty during their c-sections. They may never tell the truth about what really happened to their bodies, leaving the rest of us feeling like damaged goods. It’s for this reason that I have decided to be open and honest about what has happened to me and what I really must do to get back into a bikini.
At birth my sons weighed a combined weight of 12.4 lbs. My once flat stomach was stretched so far that the few people I allowed to see me bed ridden at the end of my pregnancy were horrified and frightened that I’d burst open if I stretched even one more inch. During the 8 months I gestated I gained a whopping 80 lbs and it all went right to my front. My legs, arms, and ass stayed relatively normal, so much that people remarked they didn’t realize I was pregnant until I turned around. I was very excited that even on the morning of delivery I had not one single stretch mark. I thought this was the one indicator that I’d be back to normal by summer. I could not have been more mistaken.
Two months postpartum I began to wear some of my pre pregnancy clothes again. I was down 60 lbs already and much of the remaining weight was in my chest as I was nursing my twins exclusively. I felt pretty good, except for the bulge in my tummy. I told myself “9 months on 9 months off” but by the time the boys turned one I was back to pre-pregnancy weight, and still looked 5 months along by the end of the day.
I learned that my phantom baby bump wasn’t fat, but the result of separated abdominal muscles, a condition called diastasis recti…the affliction of mothers to multiples and colossal babies everywhere. Hanging below this bump, and the unidentifiable area that used to be my bellybutton is a flap of skin that I can describe as those drapey valances so many people had in their living rooms during the 1980s. I went to my doctor to find out if there was any hope. “You have a pretty bad hernia,” he said. “You really should consider surgery.”
That was over a year ago. Now after three visits to a hernial specialist, CAT scans and sonograms to measure my diastasis, and talking to Tamra Barney about what happened when her hernias became entrapped, which I was told I am at risk for, I finally decided it was time to take the plunge and see a plastic surgeon. Unlike the majority of umbilical hernias that can be repaired laparoscopically with a small incision, one resulting from diastasis requires a hip to hip incision so that the skin can be lifted and the muscles can be brought back together with stitches. This is far more involved and requires a longer recovery, the same recovery involved in having a tummy tuck. Since those living room curtains would only get worse once my pronounced belly lay flat again I adopted a “When in Rome…” attitude. If they’re going to cut me it’s all or nothing.
My quest for a Spanx burning party lead me to Dr. Michael Fiorillo’s Pearl River, NY Plastic Surgery Center and Medi Spa. Fiorillo is a double board certified plastic surgeon. I chose him for three reasons; 1. My hernial repair surgeon recommended him. 2. An acquaintance at my gym had the same team repair her last summer and she looks fantastic. 3. Renee Graziano credited him with saving her life when I interviewed her in January.
Fiorillo’s work can be seen on everyday women and celebrities alike. Real Housewives of New Jersey fans would recognize him as the doctor visited by Danielle Staub when she wanted her breast implants redone. MTV True Life fans would recognize him as the doctor who removed a transgendered man’s implants on a recent episode. He’s been sought by countless news programs and magazines for his expertise and commentary. In the end none of this mattered to me after my consult, what mattered was that he and his staff were friendly and open about the experience (pain, drains, and all) that I would endure should I have an abdominoplasty.
Fiorillo examined my abdomen, which I should point out has become more painful and uncomfortable as my workouts and everyday life (toddler kicks to the belly) continue. He noted the protrusion, muscle separation, and pathetically old looking sagging skin. He also noted some puff on my sides which he plans to correct with “a little lipo”. Say what? Not something I ever contemplated, but he insists it’s par for the course. “Will I ever wear a bikini again?”, I wanted to know. “Absolutely,” he promises, as early as four weeks post op!
So what’s the down side? Well insurance companies will pay for the 15 minute hernial repair,but not the 2 hours associated with the cosmetic part. This truly sucks for me, but I have had the money for this put away for quite some time. Again,this was not an overnight decision, I have been thinking about it for over two years. Another is the first few weeks of recovery, specifically the first 6 days when I will have drains that need to be emptied and measured. This is where my husband’s “for better or worse” vows will be put to the test as he will be expected to observe my fluids which will turn from “cranberry juice to apple juice” according to Fiorillo.
I look at it this way, life is too short to not be happy. If something upsets you that much and you can fix it, why not? I’ve had a rhinoplasty, IVF, and a c-section so I’ve had surgeries before, I know the pain is only temporary. Money balances out. The results however, those will be forever. I made my appointment for July 3d. I’ll be burning those Spanx in August, while wearing my bikini.
UPDATE: Due to the two surgeons’ conflicting schedules my procedure had to be delayed until July 24th.