Becoming Me Again: A Plastic Surgery Story Part 2

Before and after a full abdominoplasty to correct a hernia, diastasis, and excess skin from pregnancy.

Before and after a full abdominoplasty to correct a hernia, diastasis, and excess skin from pregnancy.

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.

The twins an I on my first post op beach trip. No cover up needed.

The twins and I on my first post op beach trip. No cover up needed.

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!
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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!


One Year in the Biz: Time to Quit Bitchin’

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Dear Readers,

One year ago I had this quirky idea to start blogging about going to local reality star appearances in an attempt to get a media intership. I was hot off of reading A Place Of Yes by Bethenny Frankel and ready to claim the career of my dreams. This, in my mind, was the booby prize after a failed attempt to move South and be a stay at home mom. The rationale was “Well, if I have to work, it best be something I enjoy.” Fast forward 365 days and nothing, I mean NOTHING, is what I thought it would be.

My original site, thebravobitch.com , quickly became a real true reality television website. The modest product signing idea, with the aid of Twitter, morphed into full fledged reality star interviews, first via email, then by phone, and eventually in person.  Waiting in line to have a book signed would give way to sitting at tables for ticketed events, to, now, invitations complete with press passes and red carpet access. My life became a double one. I’d spend my days as I always had, working, cleaning, mothering to have to change into dresses and heels to go to evening events from which I would come home late. Often I’d get up at 6am the following day to do it all over again. Exhausting, yes, but the sheer energy and bliss that comes from living the life that excites me has been fuel enough to combat the lost sleep.

My goal for an internship also changed. Before I knew what was happening I was hiring my own interns. My interns turned to writers and I now keep a staff of 5 incredibly talented people. We are like one little family. Our group texts alone could be a reality show. They’ve become my core group of friends. Add on to that the friends I’ve made in the business and 4,000 fantastic tweeters and I would say my cup runneth over.

It has not always been easy. I’ve been criticized, I’ve been harrassed (you would not even believe how serious it got at one point), and I’ve been full of doubt. However, everytime I felt like giving up something would happen that told me it was not the right time. It could be as simple as an encouraging tweet, to as huge as the knowledge that someone very influential was watching me.

So what have I learned in a year? I have learned that with hard work, dedication, and the willingness to put myself out there I can move mountains. If I can impart any wisdom to you all it would be don’t be afraid to ASK for things. You would be surprised how often people say “Yes.” I also learned that reality stars work their asses off to stay relevant. These people are on the move and getting their names out there everyday. They are some of the most driven and dedicated folks I have ever met. I learned not to take myself too seriously. I learned that  I can  put myself out there and if somebody doesn’t like me or what I have to say I will be OK. I learned that things often don’t go the way we want them to, because sometimes what we think we want isn’t what’s right for us at all. I thought I wanted to not work outside of being a mom, reality is, working at something I love to do is the best thing for me.

People ask me, “What is your  long term plan?” Where am I headed? The honest answer is I really don’t know. I couldn’t have predicted I would be here typing this today, so I certainly can’t predict what’s going to happen next year, next month, or even tomorrow. Recently I had the chance to interview for what could be my dream job. If this works out, I honestly could not write a better ending (and new beginning) to my story. But, if it doesn’t, I won’t be sad, because I now know that a power greater than I am can see that it was only what I thought I want, and some other magical surprise will be waiting around the corner. I hope you will all continue to follow me and hold my hand so that we can turn that corner together.

Regards and Hugs,

TBB

PS: I also learned that nobody thinks I’m a bitch, so from here on in you can find me @TheBravoBlonde ! (But, I’ll always keep my other name in my back pocket …just in case ;))

TBB Meets WW

imageOops I did it again! By now you all know that I have the gift of gab. Often a 15 minute phone interview can turn into an hour off the record convo if the chemistry between my subject and I is right (remember these folks are all talkers too!). The pressure I feel at meet and greets to get an impression made in as little time as possible is particularly extreme. Things were no different on May 9th when I once again descended the steps at Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ to meet one of my idols, Wendy Williams.

The first year of my career a co-worker introduced me to Ms. Williams’ show which was broadcast every afternoon on New York’s 107.5 WBLS. “You have to listen to this woman” she told me one day. “She talks about ‘Baby Mamma Drama’, and gets the craziest advice calls.” I remember being hooked instantly. How dare my suburban uppity white surroundings keep this show a secret from me for so long! Within weeks Wendy became “a friend in my head” and I would look forward to her company on my tedious traffic plagued ride back to the burbs. I started quoting her to others and was excited to find my equally uppity white male cousin (who shares his July 18th birthday with Williams) was also a fan.

I read Williams first book many years ago. Usually the world’s slowest reader, often starting a book and never finishing it, I devoured Williams’ text in the course of one day. My heart was broken when she left the radio. Her hit talk show is never on when I’m at home or awake, and I am left to wait until summer (when I have a lot of vacation time) to watch repeats. Still I have the utmost admiration for her and continue to consider myself a fan.

Back in February I had what I thought was an opportunity to meet her when I covered an event she was rumored to be attending. She never materialized, at least not that I saw, and I left that night feeling a bit disappointed. So when Brent (AKA our very own Housewife Guy) told me she was going to be signing books at our fave mom and pop book shop I was raring to go!

When Williams arrived, in some of the highest heels I’ve seen, she wobbled down the steps to her awaiting fans holding on for what seemed like dear life. Once she was safely down she let out a boisterous “How you doin?” and the crowd went wild. She was casual in skinny jeans and a fitted red top. With minimal makeup on she still looked stunning and very lithe in person. I made sure to glance at her diamond ring which I’d heard her talk about. Now I happen to have a decently sized diamond for the average woman, but this ring ate my ring and all its cousins. It’s quite impressive.

William’s latest book, Ask Wendy, is based on the questions she’s received and the advice she’s offered over the course of her career, so in keeping with the theme she started the signing by taking questions from the gathered group. Everyone seemed too nervous, but one woman, who boldly told us about her vile sister in law who has torn her family apart. After that there still were no takers so I raised my hand and asked about dealing with mom guilt while trying to get the work/family balance right (and shamelessly plugged our little website).

After telling me that basically there is no way to achieve that balance, the signing commenced. Williams, like Bethenny Frankel and Teresa Giudice, was friendly, open to taking pictures, and brief chit chat. Here’s where I flubbed again. I introduced myself and delivered my business card, my main mission for the evening. Then I talked a wee bit too long. “Well Tara,” she looked at me a bit sternly, ” I have your business card.” Translation: “Move it along…now!” So I may or may not have gotten a bit scolded by Wendy Williams yesterday, but hey she’s the Queen of Media, she can do whatever she wants…and she has my card! Hey Wendy, call me, maybe?