When I last wrote about my decision to have plastic surgery to correct cosmetic and internal damage I had from my pregnancy, I had made an appointment for a consult and set a surgery date. Since then so much has happened I don’t even know where to begin. Toss in that some of those events occurred under painkillers and sedatives and I’m really struggling to find the right words, but I will do my best, for those of you thinking about having abdominoplasty, to tell things as they happened.
As I mentioned in my previous article I had chosen celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Fiorillo based on referrals and the proximity of his office to my home. It was only after I sought help for a hernia that I even considered having what most people call a tummy tuck. You see I’m not fond of that term. It has a stigma attached to it. In my head it was something that you had when you were old. In my mind this was not something an active 30 something should need. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this as even one of my sons’ pediatricians asked me, regarding my decision, “Do you have diastasis?…Well, that’s good it takes away the stigma associated with that surgery.”
Not that anybody should be judged for any decisions they make about their bodies, but it’s this type of thinking that has made discussing such procedures taboo. My own husband even suggested I tell those who ask about my “new” figure that I got there via a healthy lifestyle. I refuse to. It’s that exact thinking that made me feel like a failure when 2 years postpartum I still looked like I had a bun in the oven. But this is supposed to be a technical article so I will step down from my soapbox and get right to the point.
After my initial decision I was really excited. The thought of wearing all the long abandoned clothes in my closet, of ditching the Spanx and control top hose, it all sounded like a long off dream come true. It’s when it was no longer so long off that I started to panic. The looming date became one of terror the closer it drew. I started having doubts based in both fear and guilt. What if something went horribly wrong? Is it worth it? Is this just vanity? Why can’t I live the way I am? Am I being selfish? Then as the weeks turned to just days I developed an odd peace with my protruding stomach. This bulge being the result of a pregnancy I fought so hard to have. Will I miss this reminder of those amazing days when a swelled abdomen meant that life was thriving inside of me?
Three weeks prior to my surgical date I went back to Dr. Fiorillo’s Pearl River, New York surgery center for a pre op visit. Thinking I might walk out canceling I went in there with a list of questions and worries. Then, to crush any shred of doubt left in me “before” pictures were taken. That was it…things looked far worse than I ever realized. I knew then and there that I was making the right decision. It honestly, looking back now, was my only choice.
The week before surgery was thankfully a busy one. We had a major heatwave, a crapped out AC compressor, and our aunt staying with us for a family wedding. There was no time to think about what lay ahead until the night before, when I was instructed to take a triple dose of a nerve blocker. God bless that stuff because I slept like a baby and still felt quite relaxed the next morning, despite standing naked while two doctors discussed the position of my hernia and drew all over my midsection like I was a Magnadoodle. *Due to my large hernia a separate specialist was brought in for the repair.
I was given another pill by the anesthesiologist who then walked me into the OR. Within minutes I was on the table, an IV in my arm, and a mask being placed over my face. I believe this was around 8 am. What felt like seconds later my eyes opened up to see a digital clock in front of me. I woke up at 10:30 am feeling groggy but overall well. I have always come out of general anesthesia easily and as a result I was sent home at 1:30pm.
Some may think it’s best to not go home after such an involved surgery, but I was happy to be going to my own bed and bathroom. We had everything prepared; medications, gauze, soup, and lots and lots of pillows. I spent three days propped up with pillows. They were behind my back, under my knees, buffering my sides in case my children or dog attempted to come near me. I spent the majority of the time renting movies On Demand, keeping up with my pain pills, and praying my husband and mother were managing the house without me. My mother was here everyday for about two weeks. I needed the help, especially not being allowed to lift my children, which really was the hardest part of the ordeal.
Two days after my surgery was my first post-op visit with Dr.Fiorillo. We went over the fluid amounts collected in my drains and I got my first look at my results. My stomach, as it had been for the last few years, was gone. Even with all the swelling the difference was unbelievable, and as the days progressed I continued to look more and more like I used to look, before carrying 12.4 pounds of babies and all of their gestational apparatus tore me to pieces. I’m not kidding, they did their damage. To quote my doctor my damage was “an 8 on a scale of 10”. My diastasis, the separation that occurs when the linea alba that connects the rectus muscles gets stretched to the point of no return, was about double the norm.
The improvements that continued to reveal themselves over the next few weeks were more than just cosmetic. For the first time in years I could eat without pain and I no longer felt things moving through my intestines, which was a result of my organs having such limited support from my abdominal wall. My crowning moment, however, was diving into that bathing suit drawer, the one that I sadly avoided for so long. I pulled out the bikini I wore on my honeymoon and tried it on. “Wow, you look amazing,” my husband said. Though he never tried to make me feel bad about what happened to my body post pregnancy, I always could tell that it bothered him as much as it bothered me, probably because he knew just how uncomfortable I had become in my own skin.
I am now almost seven weeks post surgery. I began doing most of my normal activities at two weeks, started light exercise at three weeks, and at five and a half weeks I was free to pick up my children again. It was a long recovery as it should be when one is cut and sewn both internally and externally, but not nearly as bad as I feared. If I could go back to tell my pre-surgery self anything it would be, “Don’t be afraid and, by the way your scar will be huge.” That scar is the only drawback. It’s hip to hip, as in curving around the hips not hip bone to hip bone. My c-section scar, which was discarded with the excess skin, was a splinter compared to this.
Even though I look like I was sawed in half like a magic trick I can honestly say I would do this all over again. The way I feel about myself now is worth every penny and pain that this procedure cost me. I feel ten years younger. My clothes all fit again, and I am no longer hiding myself behind shirts that are too big. If anything I’m not hiding at all, I’m embarrassingly one shirt lift away from becoming that woman with the breast implants in Summer Rental, that John Candy movie where he rents the summer house and has the neighbor who has to show everybody the work she had done. Hey, with everything I’ve been through I’d say I’ve earned the right to flaunt it at least just a little!
For those who have something that you would like to fix, that impacts how you feel about yourself in a negative way, here is my advice:
1. Go for it, it’s your body and you need to be comfortable in it.
2. Know that surgery is not easy. Make sure there’s no less invasive way to fix your problem first.
3. Ask for help during recovery, you will need it.
4. Don’t be a martyr, take your pain medication.
5. If you have drains, take your pills before removal…that sh*t HURTS!