If you’re seeing this, that’s good news; I’m alive. So that means that the surgery was at least successful in accomplishing the first rule: “No Dying Allowed.”
The second rule is “No Pain Allowed.” Well. That rule was broken for a solid 11 days.
The third rule is “Move and Be Vertical.” That one was met with varying degrees of success and increased as each day after surgery went on.
The fourth rule is “Core Muscles Must Be Fixed.” I am pretty sure that was definitely accomplished, but I won’t know the benefits of that for a little while.
The fifth rule, which is optional, is “Wear A Bikini.” This wasn’t my original goal or intent whatsoever, but it’s safe to say I could maybe not cry when going bathing suit shopping in the future. Holy moly. Who IS that in the mirror?
So, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve made it far enough to be able to recap my two weeks post op now that I am — as fellow patients who’ve had the same surgery call it — on the flat side!
As I mentioned just before my surgery, I was super nervous and barely able to function in the days leading up to it. I really just didn’t know what to expect and feared the worst. Thankfully, my lil guy gave me lots of cuddles. He’s such a good little therapy dog. If it’s true that dogs can smell fear, then his nose was having a field day.
Surgery morning was rough. I barely slept obviously. And the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. but it didn’t matter because I was awake. Normally, early morning alarms are reserved for flights to New York and the like, but this wasn’t that unfortunately.
Six minutes after leaving my house, we arrived at the surgery center which is also the office of my plastic surgeons. This is when I was glad I had chosen a practice with Beverly Hills expertise without having to drive to Beverly Hills. We checked in and went into preop where I changed into my gown, got hooked up to my IV, and basically gave a master class in how to feel Woody Allen-levels of anxiety.
My nurse sensed this and offered me some IV drugs that would help calm my nerves. I asked what it felt like. “Like you’ve just enjoyed two or three glasses of wine.” Mmmmm… Me likey wine. It hit right away, I felt warm and a little floaty, and then a minute later, I was OH HELL NO HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM. I broke out into a sweat, my face turned sheet white, I felt like my feet were on the ceiling, and I was seeing TV snow everywhere. Of course this happened to me. Of course.
We called the nurse back and she slapped oxygen on my face which made me feel instantly better and then shot me up with some Zofran to fight the nausea that was gaining on me. At that point, things settled down, but the magical juice to calm my nerves basically did the opposite, so there goes my desire to go wine tasting in the future.
Then the doc came in to do some arts and crafts on my entire trunk. His purple marker blueprinted the next three hours of time and I looked like a Southern California freeway system when he was done. None of it made sense to me, but I’m sure he knew what he was doing after drawing all over my belly.
My last special guest was the anesthesiologist who went over basics with me, promised me I wouldn’t die, and then endeared himself to me with jokes and a calming smile. He was pretty wonderful. After Bryan and I kissed goodbye which prompted me to cry, the anesthesiologist walked me back to the operating room and instructed me to lay down on the table.
Like most ORs, it was cold in there, very big, and very lonely. I couldn’t see much, but I think the nurse and the anesthesiologist were setting things up. I figured I’d have a while until it was time to roll. I remember with my csection, it felt like hours until the surgery actually started and I was on the table with tons of time for my nerves to work up.
Nope, not this time!
A minute after I got onto the table, the anesthesiologist told me he was putting in some meds to help me feel comfortable in my line. I didn’t think much of it. Probably fluids. They’re always giving “fluids” for medical procedures. And then it dawned on me that maybe he meant this would be THE drugs. So I said, “Oh, wait! Is this it? Is it showtime? Are you putting me to sleep right now? Like, RIGHT now?” and he chuckled and said, “Yep. This is it!” And I said “Oh! Wait! Ok, I need to go to my happy place. Hold on.”
And then I woke up in recovery.
Bryan says I was awake a while before I actually remember being awake. He says I asked the same questions over and over, specifically if I was nice to the nurse when I woke up. I do know that I was very concerned about waking up angry or agitated and being a terror for the nurse. This was a source of my nervousness prior to surgery, but apparently I woke up fine and I was nice. This was a relief to learn (for the fifth time, but first time that I remembered). It felt like I’d only been awake for mere minutes before the nurse was dressing me and I was being put into a wheelchair to go to the car. Apparently, the doctor came by to check on me (I don’t really remember this) and he told us that my diastasis (the gap between my muscles) was huge. He made a big “C” with his thumb and pointer finger and assured us that they closed it up nice and tight.
I guess Bryan got me into the car and I guess he drove us home. And I guess he helped me up the stairs and into bed. And I guess I slept and watched TV on and off and took Percocet and Advil. You know, I really don’t know, but I think all of that happened.
This would essentially be the routine for a week straight. Me, dazed. Bryan, doing everything. My first 24 hours wasn’t too painful. I was just so limited. It was super hard to move and adjust myself in bed. Getting out to pee or take a short walk (important to do to avoid blood clots) was so, so difficult because I had zero strength in my muscles, and by the way, you use your ab muscles for every single thing. People ask me how it compares to a csection; I’d say it’s the same as a csection Xs 10. It’s the same sensation, but with a greater area affected and for a longer time. Plus, there are additional sensations like itching and numbness and tightness (more on that later), but yes, the abilities — or, disabilities, I suppose — are similar to the first few days of a csection.
The first few days were met with phantom itches all around my body. I think this was a problem for me after my csection too. My face was itchy, my legs were itchy — must be from the drugs. I had itching on my sides, but couldn’t scratch because I was (and still am) numb on my sides from the liposuction. It’s really weird to have an itch underneath and no feeling on the top of the skin.
Up until only the last day or two, I was severely hunched over. At first this would seem like a protective posture to keep my abdomen from being exposed, but actually, it’s a total limitation. I actually, literally cannot stand up straight. The tightness in my abs is indescribable. I asked a friend who had this surgery about a year ago what it felt like, and she did a great job describing it, but I couldn’t comprehend. It’s like describing the color red to a blind person. But the tightness in my abs feels like a tourniquet running through me and bisecting my center making it impossible to stand up straight. It’s as if I’m wearing a Victorian corset that some angry and stubborn old great aunt forcefully tied up… but instead of wearing the corset on the outside, it’s on the inside. And really, that’s pretty much exactly what the docs did. They stitched those muscles together and tied them tight, bringing the two muscles to meet in the middle. (This has made laughing, coughing, and sneezing extremely scary. And praise [whatever you believe in] for Senokot and Colace).
By far the worst part about my recovery were the drains. People warned me about abdominal pain and the tightness and the back pain from hunching over, but everyone totally played down the drains. I had zero concerns about drains going into this whole thing, but lo and behold, they were the absolute worst part about my surgery recovery.
So, two drains were inserted just under my incision (my incision is hip to hip right along the bikini line) which means I had two holes with long tubing that emptied fluids into a bulb on each tube. I wore the bulbs safety pinned to my binder that was on me 24/7 except for showers (then, the bulbs would be safety pinned to a towel I draped around my neck). One of Bryan’s many nursing tasks was to empty the drains and measure the output. Most people get their drains removed three to seven days after surgery which is also based on the amount of output. Drains can be removed once each drain stops exceeding 25 mLs of fluid for two 24-hour periods. So, for most people that’s three to seven days.
But, why would I be most people? Why????????
Why not 11? That’s way more fun, right?
If it had been seven days, I probably wouldn’t have complained about the drains other than them being a little annoying. But after seven days, the skin around my drains became very angry and irritated and several times I was sure I was getting an infection (but maybe that’s because I’m paranoid of infections after surgery — ahem PTSD from Madelyn’s birth, ahem). Any slight movement or touch of the drain tubes made the entire area feel like machetes were being slammed into me. The tubes were tied to my skin with stitches and they were really painfully bothersome. The area was so painful that I could not wear anything on my bottom, and I’m not really one who enjoys to go commando. My legs were always cold though because winter decided to show up (aka it was 62 degrees outside and my heater kind of sucks) so I’d wear PJ pants up to my thighs, but when you do that, you can’t easily walk, so then my entire posture was poor which affected my back pain. All. Because. Of. The. Drains. Showering was painful because the water would hit the tubes or the drain holes where the tubes came out. I really could go on and on, but the drains put me into a severe funk and I felt extremely depressed until they could finally be removed. It frustrated me so much that the actual surgery pain wasn’t so terrible — more just uncomfortable — but that the drains, which are a side effect to having surgery, were the major source of my pain and unhappiness.
I was so afraid that taking the drains out would hurt because any kind of handling them was so terrifying. But I am relieved to report that when the doctor finished taking them out, I didn’t even know that he’d started. It was instant relief. I was able to stand up straighter, wear pants, and move without feeling like I was being chopped up. Once those drains came out, it was like my healing could truly begin.
Since then, I’ve been taking it easy still, but I am able to move about my house (I was pretty much stuck in bed for 10 days) and do basics much more easily. Last Thursday, 13 days after surgery, my mom got me out of the house and we walked around the mall. It was nice to see the outside world and move my body more. By the next day after that, two weeks after surgery, I felt good enough to go see a friend perform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I figured trading in my bed for theater seats and my TV for the stage wouldn’t be too much of a drastic change, and fortunately, all went well. I’m still not driving and I absolutely cannot do any lifting or exercises until six weeks after surgery, but I’m becoming human again which is so refreshing.
Repairing my diastasis recti and hernia has been worth all the trouble and discomfort, and I haven’t even really experienced the results yet. I’m standing up 90% straight now, and I am still super tight in my abs, but I’m excited to see how I’ll feel when I’m healed (which can really be anywhere from three months to a year depending on the stage of healing). I’ve seen myself in the mirror and don’t even recognize who I am! I am completely flat and I have a very nice hourglass figure. While the cosmetic effect was never really a priority or impetus for this surgery, I won’t lie; it is pretty exciting to think about all the new clothes I’ll get to buy and the confidence I’ll feel. When I look at myself in the mirror, it’s still very weird, though, because I don’t feel as good as I look, but I know that I will really like the end result once the numbness dissipates and the tightness loosens and my belly button is healed (yes, I have a new belly button! The old one wasn’t in the right place anymore once the docs stretched my skin to where it should be. That even means that freckles disappeared and some moved into new areas!).
I so appreciate our parents who stepped into help with the kids, bring us meals, and offer support in any way. Their willingness and availability make me wonder how anyone can do this surgery without nearby family. It was so nice to see friends who came to visit because that breath of fresh air they brought reminded me to heal quickly so I can be social again, which is important since I have a giant case of FOMO. And my husband is the best nurse because he was always so patient with me when I was, well, not an easy patient. He set alarms at all hours of the day and night to keep me on track with my pain pills and he went out on errands to pick up necessities; he helped me in and out of bed no matter the time, and really held up his end of the bargain in that whole “in sickness and in health” deal. He did things for me that I didn’t think we’d have to do for each other for another 50 years, while still doing all the things that have to happen now, like run a household and care for our daughters. Bryan, I love you and appreciate you so much for making this surgery happen for me.
Diastasis recti is a really frustrating medical condition that takes a flash of joy out of motherhood. I am so looking forward to being able to move well again and I am thankful that I could be repaired. I wish I had known about diastasis recti sooner so I could have improved my abdominal split earlier in my pregnancy and post-partum journey. Proper exercise may or may not have been able to help me, but surgery has, and I’m confident that my skilled doctors did their job so I can have a second start in being the mom and woman I always imagined I’d be.