So I Went Ahead And Had That Tummy Tuck

Really, it was embarrassing. My kids were three and one, and that meant I hadn’t been pregnant for – well, for a year – and yet, almost every day, someone would pass and yell, “Hey, congratulations!” Young men would offer me a seat on the subway with a concerned look. The nannies at my older daughter’s preschool would look at my two girls and point at my belly, exclaiming “I think it’s a boy!” Over dinner, I’d tell my husband the latest affront and try to laugh, but it never really seemed funny. My stomach was hanging over my jeans, protruding like I had hidden a turkey under my sweater, and I couldn’t seem to do anything about it.

In fact, I had a real problem. My abdominal muscles were so weak and unhelpful that my back gave out every night. I dreaded taking care of my kids – not good, if you’re a stay-at-home-mom – because my pelvic bones would shimmy away from each other every time I had to lift anything heavier than my toothbrush. I tried acupuncture. I dieted. I bought a splint. I saw a physiatrist. I bought fat pants. I went to physical therapy. I bought shirts that draped. More physical therapy.

As the weather got warmer and my youngest was nearing 18 months, an old friend popped up on Facebook. He was in town starring in a play, and wanted to see me. He asked for a home-cooked meal, to meet my husband and kids; he’d come to Brooklyn and juggle for his supper. What a sweet idea! I decided I would make an apple pie, to remind us of the days when our families used to eat Thanksgiving together, all those years ago, before our parents died and we lost touch. But then, I didn’t respond. He emailed, to make sure that Facebook wasn’t the problem. I ignored it. Suddenly, my belly was what I had become – it was the sum total of the 20 years since I’d seen this boy, and the only way I could hide it was to drop out of sight.

Bad behavior – that’s how we usually know we’ve hit rock bottom, isn’t it? I’d ignored the friendly overtures of someone I used to care about; I’d invited someone to dinner, and turned out the lights. Awful. So, here’s what I did: I took a deep breath, and $15,000 from my savings, and scheduled a tummy tuck for July. My surgeon was a young mom who was positive that I was doing the only thing I could do. [tagbox tag="plastic surgery"]

She stood in front of me and lifted the bulk of my sagging, flour-sack belly. “Do you know what this is?” she asked, pushing with all her weight to fit it back into my abdominal cavity. “These are your organs, hanging out your front.” She pointed to my popped belly button. “And that’s an umbilical hernia. Your intestines are poking through there, too.”

I won’t lie: it was brutal. She sewed my muscles back together, and cut away the fat that had nested under the skin. She stretched my skin down, and cut away the excess, dropping my c-section scars in the process. She removed my belly button, repaired the hole, and put it back in a whole new place. When I came home, I had a purple incision that stretched from one hip to the other, and when I saw it, my knees went weak. Ativan was the only thing that would allow my husband to change the dressings. I couldn’t stand up straight. I had to pee through a hole in a skin tight compression garment, and I was told not to lift my kids for six weeks.

But when the pain and terror started to ease, and I stopped to look at myself in the mirror, I saw something I hadn’t seen in years: a glimmer of myself, before the pregnancies and the kids, before the sleepless nights, and the drapey shirts, and before the kind and not-kind remarks of strangers. I’m not gorgeous, or Hollywood thin. I’m just, finally, myself again. Someone who can stand on the subway with the rest of New York.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

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    • Nancy

      Sounds like you definitely made the right choice!

      But how did that happen to you? Just from having children? It sounds like it could be dangerous, to have your internal organs hanging in your belly like that… Did the doctors mention why that happened and how it could’ve been prevented?

    • CL

      I just emailed my husband a link to your article…I had twins 13 months ago & have been physically miserable ever since. I carried them full term & they were 7.5 & 5.5 lbs, which I’m proud of.

      My son was positioned breech across the entire top of my stomach, & the way it protrudes has since made me think that things didn’t go back to where they belonged. I still cannot breathe as well as I used to (I get winded so easily it’s pathetic, & I’m not in that bad of shape) & have constant back pain. I wake up every morning nearly in tears bc it feels like I’m being stabbed in my lower back. As much as I love my kids, the thought of lifting two now 22 & 24 lb kiddos just depresses me bc I know it’s just going to hurt.

      I really can’t lay on my back at all anymore…I finally started trying to do Pilates again though as I’ve been told by countless people i “just need to build my core muscles again.” Well duh. But seeing as how my core muscles are now non-existent, it figure I be rebuilding those damn muscles until my dying day.

      This has kind of turned into a rant, but I’m grateful for your article. My husband actually called me after he read it & said he knows we’re going to have to do something drastic to fix these problems. I think he thought I was exaggerating for awhile, but I know he gets it now which gives me hope. So thank you!

      How did you feel on a day-to-day basis prior to the surgery (physically)? I have no way of knowing until I see a dr if my stomach is doing what you described, but I suspect to some degree it may be. I do know that I can flip the top half of my stomach in on itself…which aside from a disgusting party trick is not ever something I imagined I could do with my stomach. Did you have the same issue?

      Again, sorry for the novel. I just need info as ammo & your article about nailed it. Thank you again!

      • Amy

        Hey CL–

        I had a huge diastasis–meaning my “six pack” muscles had a big gap down the middle, making them basically incompetent. You could fit your fist in there. Hence, as you said, there was no “core” to work on. Everything was slack. So, like you, I had a lot of instability, and a lot of back trouble. My pelvic bones didn’t meet properly, and I had a lot of pain. A physical therapist who focuses on pregnancy and related issues would be able to help you with a diagnosis and maybe help you stabilize things while you think it through. But, in the end, it was the plastic surgeon who really got down to the bottom line with me.

        It was a rough road, but I feel so much better.

        Take your husband with you to a couple of plastic surgery consults! Get recommendations from your OB. Just starting the conversation is a relief.

        Good luck!

        Amy

    • hotmommi

      after having two ten lb babies less than 17 months apart, my stomach looked horrible. my doctor said it took him 4 hours to repair the damage. yes it was very painful and my husband had to help alot during recovery. 7 years later i still smile and look at my flat tummy. i’m very happy with my choice. its the last big gift i gave myself

    • Brandi

      Good for you! I mean that sincerely. When your organs are hanging like that, when you just don’t feel like yourself, when nothing else has worked you do what you have to do. Thanks for sharing your story! I’m glad you feel better since your surgery. :)

    • Simone

      Reading the stories I feel that most are cop outs. Plastic surgery can never replace sound therapy that is need to deal with changes in one’s body. It’s unrealistic to want the same the body you had before. Sure people get plastic surgery all the time, yet many are still not happy. Be real with yourself.

      • bl

        Are you saying this author and previous commenters used “cop outs”? For their legitimately damaged stomach muscles? These didn’t appear like women trotting down to the plastic surgeon to cry about stretchmarks ruining perfect bodies (but truthfully if people do that, fine by me if you have the money to dedicate to it!). They are “being real with themselves”; they had real medical problems and fixed them. I actually can’t believe this is even considered cosmetic.

      • hotmommi

        one thing i have learned is, everyones body is different. it is a blessing for women who can work hard and lose weight. however when you have separated your stomach muscles, sit ups are not going to cut it.

        yes there are thousands of women out there who continue on with their bodies as is after children. i am one of the mothers who had an option that i chose to use. i was NOT happy with my body after my children. yes, i was in awe of what i was able to produce with it. i also breastfeed my children for one year each. my breasts are different now. i have not had them fixed and have no desire to. the changes do not bother me like they did with my stomach.

        surgery was a good thing for me, perhaps not for everyone. we should never criticize peoples choices. we should be glad that after all these years we have them.

    • J

      Wow, reading this is so scary for me. My stomach is back to normal, and has been since three months after I gave birth. I did sit ups and yoga to get it to be flat again. I hope my future go as smoothly… If some women need surgery, I’m glad it’s an option for them

      • J

        that should say future pregnancies.

      • hotmommi

        i’m glad a mother who didnt have problems returning to their pre pregnancy stomach commented. some women “snap right back” and thats great! i think its interesting that many of the mothers are stating that they exercised and received no results.

        my doctor told me if i was serious, i had to lose 50lbs.and i worked very hard ( weight watchers & a personal trainer) and after 6months I lost 50lbs and had my surgery.

        kudos for you to be able to do it on your own : )

    • Darcie

      Hear hear Mama! Years of therapy would never give you that feeling back. Good for you to follow your instincts!!

    • Lynne

      I’m 3 weeks post tummy tuck surgery. Yes, it’s been painful, but even though I won’t see the final results for a couple months, I can tell my stomach will look great. Being at goal weight for many years (I’m 47), I had lots of loose skin and no muscle tone what so ever. I worked out a lot, but never achieved one ounce of difference in my stomach. I know having a nice flat and strong stomach will be something I will enjoy for the rest of my life!

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    • Jensen

      Someone recommended to me a tummy tuck in Utah, but I am just so scared about the risks of it. I’m not convinced yet to do it. Anyone have some advice?

    • http://www.tummytuckjacksonvilleflorida.com/ Tummy Dr

      I’m happy for you! Must be wonderful to look in the mirror and see yourself again. For anyone looking to find a surgeon make sure you do a lot of research on each doctor you find to make sure you end up with the right one.

    • Sam J

      Guys chkout this video, an unusual tip to burn your stubborn belly fat http://www.girlyhacks.com/lose-stubborn-belly-fat.htm

    • Carrie

      Great post. I had been obsessed with my diastasis recti (that is the medical term for what you had) for 4 years after delivering my second child. This condition is very common as I am part of a support group on split stomach muscles on facebook. However no one talks about it, nor does the medical community. Hence why surgery isn’t covered by insurance. I had exactly what you wrote about. The many “pregnancy looks and comments” sent me to tears often even though, I too, would try to laugh them off. I also had the umbilical hernai as well. I am 4 weeks post tummy tuck. Yes, the decision was hard, I was scared of complications, and finding the money. ($8,000 in Minneapolis) but I knew this would only benefit me as I age in having a strong core. I am 46 years old. I am a runner and gym rat, so all the working out never changed my stomach. I didn’t find the surgery that brutal. Harder than a c-section for sure. It feels like someone stuck a board under your skin. The hard, tight feeling was the only thing that hurt for me, not the incision. Glad I did it. And the mention of “vanity plastic surgery”. My breasts after nursing are very pathetic. But with a supportive bra, who would notice. But the stomach was a different story, something I could NOT get over nor live with. And with the weight of your organs pushing out, no garment such as a spanx was ever strong or stiff enough to pull it in. Long story short….thanks for sharing. And it feels good to know how others are dealing.

    • jay

      thanks for sharing your story
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    • http://losangelestummytucks.net los angeles tummy tucks

      Wow, reading this tummy tucks is so scary for me. My stomach is back to normal, and has been since three months after I gave birth. I did sit ups and yoga to get it to be flat again. I hope my future go as smoothly… If some women need surgery, I’m glad it’s an option for them.

    • Summer10

      I really enjoyed your story, totally understand that it’s what u became.. I avoid people and social events all the time as too embarrassed about my pregnant tummy look.. I’m booked into surgery this week to finally feel normal again. I have 3 children under 4 years of age and scared of how they will cope.