They say to the moms, “Take some time for yourself.” Oh, I’m taking some time, all right. I don’t want to be taking the time, and I’m scared out of my mind to be taking the time, but one month from today, I am having surgery to correct all the *** SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ AHEAD IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR THINKING OF BECOMING PREGNANT *** destruction that my two darling daughters caused during each of their pregnancies.
After a handful of years of consideration, research, alternative methods to correct, and saving up some cash, I will be undergoing major surgery to correct the split abdominal muscles that never went back together after the girls were born. Due to this separation of my muscles, I have an umbilical hernia that is painful to the touch, chronic back pain, inflexibility, ill-fitting clothes, and no strength during physical exertion.
The fix? A tummy tuck.
For me, it’s not about the vanity. In fact, one of the plastic surgeons I consulted — who is great at what he does and comes highly recommended — swore that after surgery, I’d be so beautiful again and I’d be back in a bikini and will have never looked better. That’s how I knew he wasn’t for me. As skilled and as revered as he is in his field and local community, he wasn’t understanding my perspective. I don’t care about being back in a bikini. I’m not concerned with being a hot mom again. I don’t think I was even hot before, so I certainly don’t expect to spawn into hotness now. My concern is about my comfort, my health, and my ability to physically keep up with my kids. The team of surgeons — they’re brothers — I hired understood that, and while there is a slight possibility I may actually end up looking kinda-sorta potentially and relatively hot after the surgery, I am relieved they understand my main priority.
This is a big deal. I had two C-Sections. Moderately small humans were excavated from my innermost sections of my cavity with life connected to them. One was hard to recover from. One was easy. I asked a few different doctors about how this little slice-a-roo compares to C-Sections and one answered: “You’re going to WISH this was a C-Section.”
And that’s when I decided I will eat carrots and air for the rest of my life and surely my middle would go back to normal-person status. But it was explained to me that diet and exercise do not correct split abdominal muscles. This condition is called diastatis recti and most OBGYNs don’t spend a tick-tock thinking about this or educating their post-partum patients about this major change and way of life. It’s unfortunate because it’s quite common. Some diastatis recti can be slightly corrected through very specific exercises facilitated and overseen by an expert (a physical therapist or Pilates instructor), but once a hernia is involved (thankyouverymuch), no targeted movements can fix it. For two years after Madelyn was born, I worked out at boot camp in a super fun environment with a very motivating coach. I lost weight and my entire body slimmed down thanks to the high intensity interval training workouts and sensible eating. However, I was so frustrated that my belly never looked unpregnant. Unfortunately, I was doing unsafe exercises. I didn’t know yet that what I was doing was making my diastasis recti worse (crunches and planks are not safe exercises for DR). My abdominal muscles — as all women’s during pregnancy — stretched out to make room for a growing baby; think about the structure of a wooden barrel. But after pregnancy, my muscles did not go back together and stayed split making a gap for organs and other tissue and now those wooden slats of a broken barrel are sticking out and not reforming to its original state and there’s the discomfort of general insides poking out where they shouldn’t.
Once there’s a hernia involved, surgery is the only way to fix the entire area. Once I’m fast asleep in lala land due to the medical cocktail traveling through my system, they’ll be able to slice and dice and tuck what should be behind the muscles behind the muscles, and then stitch those muscles back together the way they should’ve gone after pregnancy. And because they want me to look pretty and evened out, they’ll take away any unwanted excess stuff (i.e., the ice cream and pizza I enjoyed when I was pregnant with Arielle) in the abdominal area and my reward AFTER MANY WEEKS OF PAIN AND SUFFERING DURING RECOVERY will be a flat tummy and a functioning abdominal area and a pain-free back. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to wear something other than the Mom Costume and I’ll get out of leggings 24/7.
The good news is I’ve lost 15 pounds in preparation for this surgery thanks to cutting most sugars and grains from my diet while following a Whole30-inspired way of eating for the last few months. I don’t even miss the bad stuff and I’d like to continue it for life. I’ve also been doing private Pilates sessions with my friend Maya in order to prepare my muscles and strengthen them for recovery. I’m basically an Olympian (I highly recommend Maya Epstein who owns her own mini studio for privates and duets! She makes me feel comfortable when I’d otherwise feel very intimidated and she’s making sure I am practicing Pilates in a way that’s safe for my condition.) The leaner and stronger I go into this, the better my experience will be… or so I’m told.
How am I feeling about this? Oh, I haven’t slept since I booked the surgery a couple months ago. And I imagine I won’t sleep for the remaining 4 weeks until the surgery. I am so so so so so so so so so beyond scared, I can’t even put into words (and that’s how you know how scared I am!). Everything I read says that it’s going to be a really awful, horrible, excruciating week of hell after the surgery. Then, slowly, things get better. Apparently, by the sixth week, I will feel mostly normal as swelling trickles away and strength gradually returns. Other than my two C-Sections that I was awake for, I’ve had only two other surgeries; one was oral surgery for my wisdom teeth and the other was when I was 2.5 years old and had surgery to remove two extra toes on each foot (I had 12 toes when I was born. #themoreyouknow *rainbow swoosh*) I don’t really remember either surgery or what it was like to go to sleep or wake up from the procedure, but something tells me this will blow those two out of the water.
In addition to the pain, of course I am not feeling too great about how worthless I’ll be. No lifting for six weeks? Bye, Arielle. It was nice knowing you. Sorry for being a deadbeat mother for a month and a half. I won’t be able to drive and I won’t want to do unnecessary schlepping, so bye, Madelyn. Sorry I can’t be there for you at dance class and to volunteer in your classroom. Oh, and friends, I’m sorry for giving super half-assed RSVPs to all your holiday parties or birthday celebrations. But isn’t that the typical way of thinking for a mom? Worrying about how everyone else will get along? Thankfully, my rockstar husband who did an amazing job taking care of me after I delivered both girls will come through again to not only take care of me, but to hold down the fort here at home. And I’m so glad our parents live nearby so they can help with the girls as only grandparents can do best. Some women stay in hotels while they recover so they can be away from the chaos of the family or get professional nursing care, but I am choosing to recover at home because I know that all my people will be wonderful in helping as I recover. But I am still a Jewish mother, so I can’t help but worry.
I’ve read that no woman ever regrets this surgery. It’s brutal and scary, but once the worst is behind them, they say that they never looked back or wished they hadn’t done it. I am choosing to focus on that as the days loom ahead of me and while I’m suffering through the recovery.
So, November 18th, I’ll be a whole new me. It’ll be nice to be proportionate again and it’ll be heavenly to feel the pain fizzle away. I can’t wait to hold Arielle without my entire back supporting her and I may actually not mind doing the dishes without the counter hurting my belly against it. Jeans. Who wants to take me shopping for real jeans? Tying my shoe will be an easy experience instead of a cursed one. These are the things. These are all the things.
Gather all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. The doctors are putting mama back together again.