The Terrible Twos Are Crappy

You’d think that after almost six years of parenthood, I wouldn’t blink about having to change crib bedding. But I still find it to be a gigantic pain: the mattress is heavy and bulky, my small hands and nails can’t grip on to the corners, and when reaching in, the rails are at boob height and that hurts. And unfortunately, for the last few weeks, we are changing crib bedding almost every day because Arielle, in all her two-year-old glory, is exploring her artistic talents. Her favorite art form? Finger painting. Her favorite color? Brown. Her preferred medium? Poop.

Insider tip from me to you: Buy stock in Clorox.

You’re welcome.

You guys. I just can’t anymore. I think Madelyn did this like three times and then outgrew it. Arielle is a true arteest, staying true to her art. She’s going to be the one who chooses a major like painting in college and then insists on making it in the real world as a studio artist and then lives with us in our colloquial basement (because, California) until she’s 37.

“Arielle, you MUST stop playing with your poop. It’s getting old. Enough.”
“But, Mother! I am… [gasp] an artist!”

So here’s how this goes: every nap or nighttime, as we place her in her crib, we discuss how she must keep her pajamas on and that doody stays in the diaper and not the crib, and that it’s icky-pooey if it gets everywhere. She nods her head in agreement and understanding and then I’m pretty sure as we walk out the door and turn out the light, she gives us the biggest middle finger a toddler can make.

Now, my mom friends would say this is karma because Arielle sleeps late and loves her crib. Even when she is awake, she happily plays and sings and chats, so I rarely have to rush to her room in order to soothe a lonely, crying baby. So most mornings or afternoons, we just let her hang out for 30 minutes or so after waking up. This is Rookie Mistake # 1 because this is probably when she decides to get creative with her poop. And after that 30 minutes, when I enter her room, I discover the “art” strewn across her crib, her sheets, her… self. That’s usually when I say a lot of really bad words. If this was The Truman Show, the home audience would be clutching their pearls.

And so the cycle begins of never ending laundry. Crib bumpers take a long time in the dryer. Any bets on my electric bill this month?

OK, so after one or two times of this nonsense, one would learn to seek reinforcements since the “no poop” pep talk before sleep doesn’t work. But we must suffer from “Our Child Is Brilliant and Surely Wouldn’t Put Us Through This Torture Again” syndrome, but no, that little pooper doesn’t give a hoot about our water bill and clearly Bryan and I are masochistic enough to live on the edge.

And just when she’ll go a few sleeps without Diaper Removal-geddon, we think she’s learned her lesson and we are clear. But no. It happens again.

Earlier this week, I ordered a toddler sleep sac because the mom boards say that they work and mom boards are the gospel. Amazon Prime has never felt like such an eternity. UPS Man, you are my new best friend by end of day, June 23rd.

So last night, we finally remembered to put her in backwards onesie footie PJs, another tip from the Mom Gods on the mom boards. In the morning: Duh, no poop, because Arielle hasn’t figured out how to grow octopus tentacles to reach around the back and zip open her backwards onesie. As parents, felt like champions of the world this morning and our laundry machine breathed a huge sigh of relief that she’d get the day off. Poor old girl is tired. All that spinning — the vertigo is intense. Kenmore can do no more.

Later this afternoon, at her usual naptime, Arielle went to sleep. Now, I’m not going to say who brought her up to her room and put her down for her nap, but I was at lunch with a friend. So….

The Olympic Sleeper slept for 3.5 hours because she does have some redeeming qualities, and I was making dinner around the time she woke up. The chicken, potatoes, and broccoli were ready to come out of the oven just as Bryan declared he was going to get Arielle and bring her down in time to eat. Mmm. A hot meal that the family would enjoy around the table together after the longest day of the year.

And then I heard the swear words and the stomps on the carpet. Either Bryan had just hammered his own hands with Sriracha-soaked metal nails …. OOOOOOOOR, Arielle had produced another Poopacalypse. Whoever put her to bed was very trusting in her shorts and T-shirt. I mean, I don’t know. We’ll never know the truth.

Poor girl stood in her crib looking at us like we had 27 eyeballs.

Her diaper was on the floor. There was a smashed nugget on the floor with Bryan’s heel print in it from when he walked closer to her to see her damage. Her white crib was… not. She looked like a pig in a mud bath. Into the shower she went and off the bedding came… again. I walked into our laundry room and I think Kenmore rolled her eyes at me. She might have even tsk-tsked me. I poured detergent and vinegar in her to shut her up.

While our dinner got cold downstairs, Bryan and I had a very close-proximity conversation (teacher trick!) with Arielle, using calm, low voices and we talked about where poop goes and where diapers stay. Her lower lip quivered and it was hard to be mad at her. She nodded her head in understanding. At bedtime, her backwards onesie was zipped up and we put on a new sheet while the rest of her bedding was still in the dryer.

We spend so much of our parenthood trying to teach our kids lessons and making sure they learn from their mistakes. But in some cases, these mistakes have the opposite effect: Pavlov would be proud that we realized it was us who finally became conditioned. Click. Click. Click.

Really hoping Pavlov won this one because if she grows octopus tentacles and evolves to be able to unzip her backwards onesie in the morning, Darwin wins. And I just don’t think our laundry machine would appreciate that. Either this or we just stop feeding her. No? Ok. Backwards zipper it is.

Re-Birthday, Rebirth-day

Last week was my birthday and I turned 34 which is officially “mid 30s” and that just seems weird. I’m not one to get hung up on numbers, but I’m entering the era during which I began remembering my own parents. Normally I like birthdays because it’s a day to enjoy favorite things and people. I thought back to last year’s birthday; Bryan was out of town on business, I was sick with a mystery virus that felt like the flu on crack for a whole week, I didn’t enjoy a day with friends like I’d planned, I was suffering with chronic back pain, I was still nursing a toddler with recurring complications, and I felt the biggest and most off-kilter I’d ever felt in my life despite mostly regular clean eating. I started 33 in bad form.

My Facebook pity party on my actual birthday. Behind my cutesy self-deprecating humor was a sad cat with an orchestra of tiny violins.

I eventually recovered from my weird sickness just in time for Madelyn’s preschool graduation. And few months after my birthday, I finally bit the bullet and scheduled my surgery to correct my diastasis recti and umbilical hernia. A few months after that, Arielle and I ended our breastfeeding journey. And then a few months after that, I completed losing 20 pounds and underwent surgery that would truly change my life. I spent the second half of 33 relearning my new life as a mom and getting to know a new body.

And then last week, on June 7th, I turned 34 and realized I hadn’t been this happy in so long. Sure, my kids make me happy and my husband makes me happy, and my family and friends make me happy, but I wasn’t happy with myself; by my self.

Of course it’s a good day when you get a free Starbucks birthday drink (and calories don’t count on your birthday!)

Turning 34, despite the mid-30s thing and the becoming-my-parents-as-I-remember-them thing, was awesome.

For a handful of months, I’ve noticed my confidence bloom. Stupid things like getting to wear shirts that I’d previously eyed for so many years and left on the racks and playing with my girls on the floor and finally not resenting them because of back pain that had made it difficult to get out of bed have given me a greater sense of self. My work with Maya, my sweet friend and Pilates instructor, has sculpted me in new ways I didn’t think were possible and my work is so not even done. I continue to eat clean, mostly following Whole30 as my guide, but when I do want to indulge (and I do!), instead of self-sabotaging and throwing away progress, I now have the ability to get back on the horse and pick up where I left off. I have power back over myself, and I’m no longer feeling like my own victim. It’s so silly that that confidence translates to all better versions of the areas of my life as a mom, wife, friend, and even a stranger passing by fellow strangers. I smile more.

My actual birthday was a fairly routine day. I volunteered in Madelyn’s classroom as I always do on Wednesdays. I enjoyed a Pilates session shortly after. I cuddled with Arielle. I had a favorite lunch with Bryan. I saw some family members. I did a quick loop around the mall. I had the most delicious dinner with my parents and Bryan and the girls. My very regular and normal day-to-day events happened, but I felt so happy and complete when I set my head on my pillow, one year older.

Dinner with my crew to celebrate love, health, and delicious food. My belly and heart were happy when we rolled out.

I celebrated with some of my favorite friends, drinking wine and enjoying a June evening under the stars at the most popular spot in town. All these people showed up for me and we all had a blast; I was truly touched. When I was pressed to come up with a wish at the end of the song, I stared at a cupcake and couldn’t come up with one request to go out with the candle; I had everything I wished for. Instead, I said a mental “thanks.” Last year at this time, I sulked that I didn’t have all the things that I now have found myself with this year on my birthday: health, friends surrounding me, a properly functioning body, and a great appreciation for the little things.

I think of birthdays like most people think of New Year’s Day: a fresh start, a new beginning, another chance. January first always feels like a cliché time to reflect. But birthdays are our own unique day to celebrate achievements and what’s in store.

As crappy as my 33rd birthday was, the things that took place during the year helped me find my happy place on my 34th birthday. My mid-30s are shaping up to be better than I could have imagined. I am making a point to be true to myself, surround myself with positive people who love me back, work on self-care, and be more present. The distracting noises of my 33rd birthday have now been edited to sound more like an invigorating soundtrack for my 34th birthday and onward.

Nine is Fine

by Alison Friedman in Love and Marriage

Poor Bryan has Mother’s Day, our wedding anniversary, and my birthday all within three weeks of each other and while I don’t usually get hung up on elaborate plans or gifts, the man did well this year.

We try not to give in too much to commercial holidays, but I woke up on Mother’s Day to an email with a message that I’d been gifted with a BirchBox subscription. I’ve never had one of those subscription boxes before, so this was a super fun surprise and my box came in the mail a few days later. I thought it was super thoughtful of him to think of ways I’d enjoy being pampered every month, and it’s truly the gift that keeps on giving. The dude wins. I win. Everyone wins.

Just prior to Mother’s Day, Bryan also suggested we spend a night at The Four Seasons in our town for a little staycation. It really is a magical place and I love every minute I’ve ever spent there. We had a one-night babymoon there when I was pregnant with Madelyn and I’ve enjoyed many spa and pool days with both Bryan and girlfriends, but being on that property never gets old. But, it’s no secret that it’s not a cheap night away, so when Bryan came up with the idea, I kind of brushed it off and avoided being gung-ho about it because I’m usually too practical, but he was serious and who am I to argue with a man on a mission?

So imagine my surprise when I came home during the afternoon on May 25th, our actual anniversary, and Bryan executed a mini scavenger hunt that had me end up in our coat closet to see a long-time coveted Roomba! While I’ve been eyeing a Roomba for years, I wasn’t actually expecting to receive one for our anniversary! The epitome of romance, I tell you. I joked that it was even better than when Bryan Mackenzie gave Annie Banks a blender as a wedding gift in “Father of the Bride” (weird/exciting fact: a week later, I would be sitting DIRECTLY next to the Bryan Mackenzie actor, George Newbern, at the Pantages theater to see “Book of Mormon.” We literally rubbed elbows. I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face for the 3 hours we were there together. He thought the smiles were from the show. If only he knew the depths of my adoration).

So this Roomba, yeah, it’s amazing. Princeton is not much of a fan, but I do love how it just knows what to do and does a great job cleaning both my wood floors and carpeting. I totally don’t understand how it works, but I’ve decided to let go and just let it do its thing. I spent about 45 minutes watching it go around my floors and got super aggravated when it missed things, but I think it was being sassy about me micromanaging, so I gave up and when I returned, all the small papers, crumbs, and Playdough specks were gone. My advice to potential Roomba-ers: Just trust in the robot.

I cooked us dinner on our anniversary because we knew we’d be going out over the holiday weekend during our getaway. After dinner, we sat down to show the girls our wedding video and they got a kick out of recognizing people they know. We loved reliving our special day and telling Madelyn and Arielle about it. I got an idea to see if my dress still fit so I escaped upstairs to pull out my dress that’s in a bin under our bed. For the last few years, the dress barely went over my waist and there was no way I could zip it up. But this year, other than the gigantic spaces in the sculpted chest area of the dress due to some major shrinkage of my upper body (thanks, Arielle!), I was able to pull up the dress AND zip it up, and the dress fit like a glove (thanks, tummy tuck doctors and Pilates instructor!). So, that was exciting. It was even more exciting to play in the dress and dance with the girls at my side.

Madelyn asked me if my parents paid for my dress and I said yes. She said that she wants to wear my wedding dress to her wedding and wants to pay for the wedding herself “because I don’t want you to spend your money on my wedding. It’s your money. You should keep it.” I like the way this girl is thinking, but something tells me she’ll change her mind. Plus, it would make me all sentimental and happy to pay for her wedding someday. {Future Alison yells at Current Alison through the screen for being such a sucker.}

The next day, we went to the Four Seasons and marveled about the room. So fancy! We are Marriott people because of Bryan’s business travel and we collect some good frequent stay points, so a hotel that takes it to the next level is pretty special. We received chocolate covered strawberries for our anniversary and they were the best. I was giddy. Bryan was giddy. Life was good. Even though it was a little cloudy, it was still not-too-cold and not-too-warm outside so we spent a day out at the pool, ate yummy food on lounge chairs, and I got a facial while Bryan read a book.

We closed down the pool and got changed for our evening at the hotel. We could’ve easily left the property, but we figured we’d really take ourselves off the grid and just stay at the hotel for the evening. After all, the place is like Disneyland for grown ups.

We began our evening with wine flights of rosés and reds in the wine bar. Things got blurry for me real fast. Lightweight problems. Dinner was after. We walked down the hall and had the best seat in the house. I think it tasted good. I don’t really know. Sometimes when you have a lot of wine, your senses go kaput. Or maybe that’s just me? I don’t know. But our super friendly server brought us an anniversary dessert, so the Four Seasons wins in anniversary acknowledgement. “Happy anniversary. Congrats on being legally bound to someone for a significant amount of time. Here, have dessert and fatten yourself up since your looks don’t matter anymore anyway.” I mean, they didn’t say that, but actions speak louder and all that. We gobbled it up of course. My wine mouth had fizzled so my senses were back. All desserts are yummy when there’s a miniature chocolate square on top that has “Happy Anniversary” printed on it and background designed with gold flecks.

We found ourselves in the bar after dinner, listening to live music and people watching. We spent about an hour in there and thought we should head up to bed, but we still had full bellies and wanted to walk a bit more, so we wandered and explored parts of the hotel we hadn’t seen before. We were tired, but we didn’t want the night to end so early. We stumbled across an arcade with free play games. We quickly woke up. Bryan showed off his old school moves on an equally old school Ninja Turtles game and he made fun of me for the total body experience that is playing Mario Bros on an old arcade machine (does anyone else lean right when directing the joystick?). This was the best entertainment of the evening.

We called it a night around midnight and enjoyed the royal treatment of our hotel room. Robes and all. Sweet dreams were easily attained. Waking up to zero responsibilities was refreshing. Our girls are amazing and sleep late on the weekends, so we normally don’t wake up before 9 when we are home with them, but vacation life takes it to a whole new level, and we had another day ahead of us at the pool, so resort living was a dreamy escape.

Dips in the pool, more yummy food, pampering treatment from the pool deck staff (tray passed cups of ice cream balls, samples of smoothies, and thorough sunglass cleaning? A girl could get used to this) — it was another special day together, getting spoiled. Celebrating our 9 years of married life with 30 hours of “just us” time was the best idea Bryan ever came up with. Well, after gifting me a Roomba.

I feel like the luckiest girl to have a husband who encourages us to take time out for ourselves — individually and as a couple — and treats our relationship with care and love. Nine years of marriage is still young compared to many couples we know and look up to, but our nine years have been filled to the brim with memories and accomplishments. Thousands of hours of binge-watched television, hundreds of musicals we’ve seen and performed, handfuls of states traveled, months of Dodgers games attended, six jobs between us, two homes, two daughters, one game show, one dog… I love the life we’ve built and it all adds up to the fact that we keep seeking adventures that result in unique experiences I don’t think either of us would ever enjoy without the other by our side.

Arielle Turned 2 and My Dreams Came True

In March (Yes. I know. It’s May.) Arielle turned 2! We celebrated with a big party that was supposed to be small because, as usual, I said I wasn’t going to go all out for her second birthday, but we all know how that goes. But I did cut back! We threw this party specifically for 2-year-olds in mind, so we didn’t invite everyone we’ve ever met. And I didn’t make myself crazy coming up with activities because I just outsourced that out to one of the greatest bands in the history of music; a band that transcends the test of time and age. A musical group with a repertoire so complex and diverse, the melodies speak to all people. The band? THE BEATBUDS.

Now, coming up with the idea for this celebration was easy. It was quite obvious that we should have a BeatBuds party because I have a crazy mom crush on the guys and music Arielle loves to dance and play music with lots of energy and rhythm. The BeatBuds play at many community events, celebrity parties, and private groups, so it was an honor to pay for them to come to our home because they put on a great party! They bring all of their equipment and work with the kids perfectly. Lots of humor that adults could appreciate in addition to silliness that kids need made the performance in our living room a hit for everyone!

When planning this party with a light music theme, I had fun coming up with the menu and names of the food. Sometimes I think I throw parties just to be able to participate in this exercise.

This recipe for pasta salad is my favorite and when the name came to me at 2 in the morning and woke me out of my sleep, I wasn’t even a little bit mad.

Plain cheese and BBQ chicken pizzas made all humans at the party very happy. Plugging Ameci’s in Newbury Park for doing an amazing job on these beauts!

We weren’t sure if we should order wings to go with the pizza. But we figured we should appease the adults. And the food title that was too good to not use.

This is probably the pinnacle of Fiona’s career.

I STILL have almost every song memorized from the Dookie album.

Snacks for the kids. Funny, so many of the kids looked like they were in their 30s and 40s. Hmmm…

This is one of those stupid details because I included it for the pop of color of the container… and then had to buy popcorn to fill them.

I know juice boxes don’t really need signage but…

Dilemma: The market near me makes the BEST cupcakes. BUT… their pick designs were u.g.l.y. So, I took matters into my own hands and made my own (72 of them) with pretty sparkle papers punched into stars. This is the kind of thing that makes me a candidate for mental help.

I just don’t want to live in a world where salty and sweet can’t mingle together.

I hung music notes with Arielle’s face on them because… why not?

Once the set-up was all finished, the birthday girl got a birthday bath in her birthday suit and then the girls got together to pose for some pre-party photos. I rarely match the sisters, but in an effort to find some music-themed outfits and totally failing, this is the only get-up that worked for them and even though I lost sleep over this for two weeks, I’m actually super happy with how cute they looked. Plus, they absolutely love matching.

Birthday bath! Had to get her nice and clean so that she could get all nice and dirty from dancing and frosting.

Madelyn gets SO excited for parties at her house. I don’t know WHERE she gets it!

These girls.

Wearing rockstar shades is very serious business.

We took TWO many photos but this was the one!

Guests arrived and The BeatBuds began to set up their show while people mingled. I fan girled as I realized they were IN.MY.HOUSE and considered changing into Coachella attire (crocheted ruffly bustier and deep slit skirt anyone?), but didn’t want to scare away our friends (or let The BeatBuds know too soon my true feelings. It’s all about the chase, amirite?) I suppose a flower crown would’ve been appropriate enough, but allergy season was just beginning and I didn’t take my Zyrtec.

Just before the party date, The BeatBuds sent me a CD in the mail so we could listen to it in preparation for the big show. Best homework I’ve ever done (Sorry, Art History 101). I mean, it even beat “Hamilton” for playtime in the car for a solid few weeks. When “Billy the Bee” and “Sam the Garbage Man” take over for “The Schuyler Sisters” and “Ten Duel Commandments,” you know it’s good stuff.

So when the music started, my girls and I were ALL. IN. And, refreshingly, so were all the kids!

At the end of their set, we were invited to try out the drums and I think Arielle is the next Ringo.

Homegirl has some serious percussion skillz. I was just hoping she’d charm them into getting the set list and a drumstick for a souvenir. No such luck. I achieved these things at previous Jason Mraz concerts in bigger venues, but I guess The BeatBuds keep a lockdown on their swag. It’s ok. The photos and memories alone are more valuable.

And then when we all posed together for a picture, well, it took everything in me not to ask them to also sign my bra. Maybe I should’ve worn a Coachella outfit after all.

And then, as a final encore to the music party, The BeatBuds led the crowd in a rousing and accompanied rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

As the ultimate mom fan girl, it left me breathless, of course, but Arielle was not breathless as she blew out her cupcake candles all by herself. Just the year before, she looked at the fire on top of her frosted pastry as a confusing custom that we all subscribe to, but this year, she totally got it! Big girl realization! I was prepared to ask Madelyn to assist her in blowing out her candles, but the birthday girl was totally on board.

And that was when adorable purple and pink frosting-stained faces became an epidemic among Arielle and her guests. While The BeatBuds packed up and I offered them lunch and cupcakes, Jewish mother-style, we finished mingling with our friends. I love making up stupid names for food and hiring entertainment on which I have inappropriate music crushes, but by far my favorite part about hosting birthday parties is seeing our pals come together and creating more memories. Yes, beneath all this sarcasm is a sappy and sentimental fool.

It was a really great party and I’m so glad we did it. I was on the fence about having a party because I wasn’t super motivated to do the work, but simply choosing to not celebrate Arielle with a party seemed like the opposite of all that Arielle is. This little girl is the life of any party and brings so much joy and laughter to our every day lives, so it was easy to create a celebration around her. Yes, she’s feisty and yes, she is always looking for trouble, but her sweet cuddles and attention-seeking twinkle in her eye keep her in our hearts… and on our toes!

“Two years old” is not quite a baby anymore. It even sounds so big! She’s a 100% red blooded toddler and turning into a curious little girl every day. We love watching her grow and dance to her own beat. She’s completed our family and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Except when she throws food from the table. We’d really like that to stop.

Happy 2nd birthday, Arielle… back in March… but still! We love you!

What the Tuck?! And other thoughts post-op

It’s mind blowing to think that two-and-a-half months ago, I was experiencing the start of a new chapter! I am 11 weeks post op from a surgery to correct my diastasis recti and umbilical hernia and let me tell you: I have never felt better!

I can officially go on record as saying that this surgery was the best decision of my life. It was 14 days of baaaaaaad. Another week of icky. And by the start of the fourth week, I was in a decent place. By six weeks, I was pretty much back to business. And now, at 11, I barely remember any of that. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: the weeks of absolute terror before the surgery where I couldn’t speak, eat, sleep, poop, or function in any way were SO MUCH MORE debilitating than the actual recovery from this surgery. Recovery is not easy and there’s absolutely no way you could do it without help, but once that hump has been jumped, there’s really no looking back.

A bunch of women on this Facebook mom group I’m on started a whole thread about tummy tucks and fixing the mommy pooch. A bunch of them said they were too nervous to do such a big surgery, but I pep talked to the max because I, of all people, know the terror that takes over when the thought of this surgery enters the brain, but I’m also here to say “I DID IT!!!” And though I was in pain for some time and it was the least convenient thing to happen to my family, it is something I will never regret especially since I’m only 33 years old and didn’t want to live with chronic back pain, abdominal sensitivity, and difficulty playing with my kids and students on the floor.

For the few times Arielle decides to stay still and play daintily on the floor, I can now play alongside her.

For the few times Arielle decides to stay still and play daintily on the floor, I can now play alongside her.

As moms, we all deserve to feel whole and complete, so that’s why I’ve adopted the attitude that every mom should find a way to have this surgery if she needs it! Really! I wish I could give tummy tucks to everyone. YOU GET A TUMMY TUCK! YOU GET A TUMMY TUCK! EVERYONE GETS A TUMMY TUUUUUUUUCK! I’m like the Oprah of tummy tucks now.

EVERYONE GETS A TUMMY TUUUUUUUCK!!!!

EVERYONE GETS A TUMMY TUUUUUUUCK!!!!

My back pain completely disappeared around week 4. It took a while to tell because the first few weeks after surgery, I had really horrible lower back pain, but just as my docs had warned me, it was super temporary due to hunching over from the tightness in my abdomen. Since I couldn’t stand up straight for about three weeks, my lower back was very achey and unsupported. But as soon as I started standing and walking normally again, the lower back pain went away and that’s when I realized that the middle back pain I’d had for five years had completely lifted away. Like Mary Poppins floating over London with her umbrella, my back pain just dissipated into thin air. Funny how all it takes is muscles arranged in the correct place to make your body happy. I have pep in my step again. I’m back at Pilates with Maya several times a week and I can feel myself getting stronger. Soon I’ll be able to do exercises I couldn’t do at all before the surgery because my abdominal muscles were so broken beyond non-surgical repair that proper form was impossible. This is so exciting to me!

Pilates punches -- I pretend I am punching the muscles that did me wrong five years ago.

Pilates punches — I pretend I am punching the muscles that did me wrong five years ago.

And then there’s the superficial part. I’m digging deeeeeeeep into my closet to wear clothes I never thought I’d wear again. I can shop in pretty much any department now. Pants fit properly. I CAN WEAR PANTS. Like, non-yoga ones! However, I still wear yoga pants on the regular because I am experiencing normal swelling that comes and goes for the first six months post op. So while I can fit into jeans now, I am not comfortable in them after a few hours and at the end of the day, it looks like a denim tourniquet had been strangling my middle. But still! I can get them on! I’m waiting a few more months before I do a whole closet makeover. That’ll be fun! And expensive. Oops.

And then there’s the bikini.

I had removed that word from my vocabulary for many years. While this was never the goal or even an idea in my head, I’m sort of thinking I might wear one this summer. Maybe. I don’t know. But I could. And that’s pretty cool.

I’ve learned a lot in the last 11 weeks since my surgery and I want to make a list of tips in case anyone reading this feels they’re flirting with the idea or teetering on going through with it. Surgery isn’t necessary for everyone. Diastasis recti isn’t a problem until it’s a problem. There’s nothing wrong with a separation between the abdominal muscles; many people function just fine with this condition. But when exercises to close it don’t work, or there’s pain, or an umbilical hernia is involved, surgery is likely the only choice. And this is when I say in my Micro Machines commercial voice: “Consult with your doctor. This is not medical advice and you should not make medical decisions based on words written by a silly mommy with a blog.”

* A table at your recliner or bedside should include all your medications including stool softeners, water with flexi straws, arnica tablets, TV and fan remote, phone chargers, drains measuring journal with a pen, Aquaphor and non-stick pads for daily belly button dressing, and lots of pillow options.

* Wear tops that button so you don’t have to take shirts off over your head which require you to lift arms and twist more than you’d like. Robes are key since you won’t be able to wear anything on the bottom easily due to drain tubes in the way. h

* Colace AND Senokot are gifts from God. Also, flushable wipes. ‘Nuff said. (For me, it was Day 5 and it was fine).

* If you’re recovering in a bed, prop pillows under your knees and behind your back so you rest and sleep in a beach chair position to take stress off your incision.

* TAKE YOUR DRUGS. Don’t be a hero. For the first week, I took my Percocet and ibuprofen around the clock as prescribed. The Percs made me drowsy and I drifted in and out of sleep all day, but I knew as soon as they were about to leave my system. Bryan set alarm clocks for me to take my meds even during the night. It was like taking care of a newborn all over again. I was never in any surgical pain because I stayed ahead of the pain. By the second week, I stayed ahead of the pain only during the day and slept through the night. By the start of the third week, I was off all medication. The only pain I had was intense soreness when moving and getting in and out of bed.

* A walker and shower chair will save you. You must stand and walk after surgery to avoid blood clots in your legs and to practice moving (the more you move — slowly and easily — the sooner you’ll recover). A walker helps alleviate lower back pain due to inevitable hunching and a shower chair makes showers more relaxed and less panicked.

* Wear your binder at all times except in the shower. It takes a few days to get the right feeling of tightness and it requires assistance (Bryan is a professional binder wrapper now). Most docs send their patients home wearing a binder.

* I slept on my back for five weeks. Then tried my side as my flanks and hips were less swollen and painful. I started sleeping on my stomach again at about nine weeks. My body knew when it was comfortable.

* I lifted nothing for six weeks and did no housework for six weeks. A complete and total momcation was required. Thankfully, Bryan works from home and was able to help immensely and both sets of grandparents were on deck to assist with the girls.

* I was off work between Thanksgiving and New Year’s due to the nature of my work schedule and school calendar, but I’m glad I took all that time as my job requires me to bend over to low desks and be on my feet all day. I also didn’t drive for about five weeks. Even though I was off narcotics at two weeks and could legally drive, it wasn’t until I started driving that I realized I was still tender and sore. Getting in and out of the car, you don’t realize how often you bump into arm rests or seatbelt receivers or the steering wheel. Also, turning to look requires minor twisting of the torso which can pull the very tight abdominal muscles. Even though you may feel better, your mobility is still a challenge and movement within the car is tricky.

* Maternity leggings are a lifesaver. It seems backwards — a tummy tuck and I’m back in maternity pants? — but the high rise flap allows for the absence of waistbands on and around the incision or swollen areas. This is so much more comfortable. I wear these leggings every few days to give my body a break when tight yoga pants or jeans do a number on my recovering body which often times feels like a roller coaster. So if you have any maternity leggings left, save them! I sold most of my maternity clothes, but I’m glad I kept a couple of these leggings.

* Protein, protein, protein. It aids in healing wounds and muscle. I started to consume a lot of protein during my c-section infection recovery after Madelyn was born, and I noticed a significant difference when I started heavy protein. I did the same after this surgery and I believe it helped get me on my feet faster. I didn’t actually have much of an appetite for a couple weeks, but drinks like Boost or Ensure contain extra protein and taste really good (love the chocolate Boost!), so I sipped those (with a flexi straw! So I wouldn’t have to sit up to drink) when I didn’t feel like eating.

* Shave ice was super refreshing the first few days after surgery. My mother-in-law brought it over a few times, and it felt great on my throat which was sore from being intubated. If you don’t have a shave ice place nearby, I recommend smoothies or Slurpees. Don’t be surprised when you sound like you have vocal fry for the first couple days after surgery. It goes away after about two sleeps!

* Take pictures daily for the first two weeks. It’s fascinating to see the changes, watch bruises fade, observe the healing of a new belly button, and admire the work of art that you now are! After about two weeks, I started taking weekly photos. It’s kind of like pregnancy week by week, but the opposite direction. #goals

What the tuck?! This was 10 weeks after surgery. The result is way better than the lighting.

What the tuck?! This was 10 weeks after surgery. The result is way better than the lighting.

I’ve been so lucky to go through this journey with some strangers who’ve become Tummy Tuck Sisters to me. We are in a group together and we keep each other updated throughout our healing process. One of my friends from the Chicago area even had this bracelet made for us to commemorate going through with this in the name of bettering our bodies back to a healthy status. Support isn’t just important for the abs. Support is important for the mind and heart. And thankfully, I’ve received nothing but loving support from family and friends in addition to other women who are considering tummy tucks or who are on the other side of one.

For me, it has never been about vanity. It was always about empowerment to be able to use my body the way it’s supposed to work. And I’m on a serious mission now to empower other women to find a way to make this surgery work for them if they’re a candidate. Diastasis recti is such a common condition and it’s a problem for so many people. Once a mom recognizes she has it, she needs a team of people cheering her on. Thanks to my family and friends, my Pilates instructor, and my fabulous plastic surgeons and their staff, I have never felt better.

My powerful support bracelet from my TT sista in Illinois. Miles apart but inches closer!

My powerful support bracelet from my TT sista in Illinois. Miles apart but inches closer!