Plastic surgery. Tummy tuck. Liposuction. Celebrities have it done, we watch shows about it on TV, read about it in magazines and on the internet…but do these terms live up to true the “Mommy Makeover” status that they are given? If you’ve ever thought about privately it or even seriously considered it, you’ve probably wondered if plastic surgery lives up to the hype as well as the expense. If you have, then keep reading!
I gave birth in 2002 to three babies at one time. Yes, three. That can really do a number on a 5-foot, 2-inch body that was just average at best before pregnancy! Other moms and I would make comments and jokes about plastic surgery just like anyone else would about winning the lottery. Of course, I expected stretch marks and sagging skin but I never truly thought that one day I’d actually end up wanting to have plastic surgery to help correct it.
When our kids were about 6, I began to realize that I was probably never going to get my average body back. Though I dieted and exercised, I felt like nothing could change the fact that my stomach was going to remain looking like an ‘elephant’ forever. My stomach muscles were torn and no amount of exercise would tone them back up. For years, I read about tummy tucks, felt guilty about considering surgery and dismissed the thoughts several times. In 2008, I called a local plastic surgeon and got the nerve up to schedule a consult and an estimate. It turned out that I was not comfortable with the doctor and the cost was a lot more than I expected. I shrugged it off and my husband and I agreed that we couldn’t justify it; although he supported my quest to feel normal again. It wasn’t until a year and a half later someone we knew just happened to mention (and ended up recommending) another plastic surgeon, Dr. Lisa David. I felt confident with knowing the fact that she performed a wide-range of plastic & reconstructive surgeries, including pediatric, facial and cancer surgeries. I made an appointment and my husband joined me. I was more comfortable with Dr. David and the cost was much lower than the prior consult. After much conversation and feelings of guilt on my part, we agreed to go forward with it. I decided to share my experience with TMOM readers because it is not something that people tend to discuss openly in conversation.
The second visit with Dr. David was simply a question and answer-type meeting to be sure that I was in good health and that she understood exactly what kind of outcome I expected. It was also so that I understood what the surgery may NOT do. Could I expect to drop several sizes? No. Could I expect that my horrible stretch marks would suddenly disappear? No. Would I lose 15 pounds immediately? No. Oh, and would I instantly look like a super-model if I put on a bikini? No, no, no. I am not someone who is vain about my looks but I didn’t feel good about myself – even if no one except my husband and I knew what my stomach looked like. Dr. David was very good at putting our minds at ease.
I had to be free and clear of most vitamins and medications prior to surgery, but other than that, I just had to mentally prepare myself. I must say, as the day got closer, I kept worrying about something going terribly wrong and me not waking up after it was all over. I said lots of prayers and put myself in God’s hands. I had abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), minor liposuction on my sides and had additional work done to sew my abdominal muscles back together. My surgery was in the morning at the day hospital so I was scheduled to stay there for one night. There are only a few things I remember about that day. The first was Dr. David drawing with purple marker all over my stomach indicating where the incisions would go. The second was talking to the anesthesiologist to go over what he would be doing. After that, I was knocked out in 6 seconds flat and the next thing I knew, I was in a hospital room. I was on pretty heavy pain meds, so really, I was not in any pain and I was released the next morning.
The post-surgery procedure is something that most people are unaware of. Dr. David gave me clear instructions before surgery, but I wasn’t really sure what the recovery would be like until I experienced it. Based on the extent of the surgery, the recovery time varies. I had to take two weeks off of work and looking back, I probably should have stayed out of work a little longer. For me, it was actually better than I expected because I expected the worst.
Luckily, I don’t get queasy at the sight of blood, because my incisions were quite long and oozing with blood. With that, there were the plastic ‘drains’ which were embedded (I guess) into an area below my incision. The drains were there to do just that…drain any excess blood or fluid out of that area. There were little suction bulbs at the end of each drain and I had to empty out each one several times a day. Yuck! I did this until there was very little fluid and until the fluid was clear.
Dr. David told me that I would have to wear a ‘garment’ for 6 weeks. This was so that anything that may have gotten ‘moved around’ during the surgery would move back into its place. Think of the tightest Spanx you can imagine going from your armpit to just above your knees. Oh, and it was not very pretty! I had to wear this at ALL times except for when I showered. When I say at all times, I mean I had to even wear it when I used the bathroom. I cringed every time I did because I didn’t think the opening was large enough to keep me from peeing (or worse) on myself. The garment was so time-consuming to get on and off, that after awhile, I was fine with it.
The first 4 days of recovery were the worst in terms of moving around and dealing with the pain. Luckily, the pain killers worked and I really don’t remember being in much pain because I would treat the pain with the meds as soon as I started to feel anything. I couldn’t get the incisions wet until I had the drain and my stitches removed a week later…which meant modified bathing. I had to sleep in our recliner for a week with my legs elevated and anytime I did get up to stand or walk I had to do so with my body bent at the waist. This was not good on my back, but for the first few days home, I had to get up once every few hours and walk around to keep the circulation in my legs going.
Aside from the first peek at the incisions, I really didn’t get a good look at them until my stitches were removed. Very honestly, they looked disgusting. Dr. David had to make a vertical incision in addition to the traditional horizontal incision due to my short waist as well as my torn abdominal muscles. She also had to ‘reconstruct’ my belly button. She did tell me prior to surgery that she might have to do this. She did it so that my belly button would look normal in proportion to everything else. It didn’t matter to me, because when I was pregnant, my ‘innie’ belly button turned inside-out and became completely flat…and it wasn’t ever the same again afterwards. Another thing that surprised me was the amount of bruising that appeared on my sides; it looked like I had been beaten with a hammer. That being said, a person has to be prepared for the worst before looking at the results.
It took a lot of patience and trust in the doctor to realize that it was all worth it and I was glad that I went through with it. Did my clothing size change because of the surgery? No. Did I drop 15 pounds? No (only 4 to be exact). Did my stretch marks disappear? A resounding no! It has taken me almost three years to feel like my abdomen is ‘normal’ again. For the first year, I saw Dr. David for a follow up about every 6 weeks or so and after that, just a few times a year. However, the vertical scar was quite large and the redness didn’t fade like it normally should. She had me come in at least 4 different times to laser the scar to decrease the redness. When that did not work she had me come back in and she reopened the incision and neatly stitched it back up again. I was in and out in about 30 minutes and I drove home from the appointment. This occurred about 8 months ago and after one last checkup to make sure it healed correctly, I have not had to go in since. We paid for the surgery in 2010 and all of the follow-up appointments including the laser treatments and the additional incision were included in that.
I am thankful that my husband, my parents and my in-laws helped me out during the recovery process. I was fortunate to have a good-paying job at the time which helped us justify the cost and we were still able to put money into our children’s college funds. I am very conservative when it comes to spending. I don’t spend much on clothing, purses, manicures and pedicures or lavish belongings. I feel like this was a decision that will last a lifetime. Overall, it makes me happier about myself even if no one else but me and my husband can see my body. Although am not confident enough to wear a bikini, (and I am probably too old anyhow!) the procedure gave me the results that I expected.
If you have ever considered plastic surgery, please be sure to ask your doctor as many questions as you can to avoid any false expectations.
~ I am writing this anonymously due to the fact that social media is so ever-present. I would be glad to speak with anyone personally about this, but I would rather not have ‘plastic surgery’ pop-up in a search for me by an old family friend or business contact for logical reasons.
~ If you would like to contact this anonymous blogger with questions, please email Katie@TriadMomsOnMain.com.