October, 2016 Archive

New Me

by Alison Friedman in Mommy's Musings

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.

I asked the medical journal artist to draw me like one of his French girls.

I asked the medical journal artist to draw me like one of his French girls.

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.

My diastasis recti is a parting gift from carrying these two ... these cutie pie faces make it all worth it. Kinda. Not really. I mean, they do. But. Oh dear.

My diastasis recti is a parting gift from carrying these two … these cutie pie faces make it all worth it. Kinda. Not really. I mean, they do. But. Oh dear.

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.

It's harder than it looks. I walk like I'm made of Jell-o when I leave.

It’s harder than it looks. I walk like I’m made of Jell-o when I leave.

Riding on the carriage is like WHEEEE! It's basically exercise Disneyland.

Riding on the carriage is like WHEEEE! It’s basically exercise Disneyland.

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.

My current headshot.

My current headshot.

  1. 10/19/2016 11:44 AM

    I will be sharing here and probably Instagram too! @bornfriedmanmama It’s always so helpful to know about other moms going through this procedure. Having a support group of any kind helps to calm our fear of the unknown since that’s of course what’s going through my brain! Eeeeeek!!!! Let’s fix us and get us back to 100%! We deserve it and so do our families. 🙂

  2. Holly Eggman
    10/19/2016 9:53 AM

    Hi Alison,

    We have mutual friends and one of them, Stephanie Cooper, sent me your blog because like you I am in the same boat after 3 csections. I am having a tummy tuck and breast augmentation at the end of February. I would LOVE to know how your surgery and recovery go, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me. Best of luck!

Halloweenie No More

by Alison Friedman in Halloween Time, Marvelous Madelyn

Every Halloween, we go trick-or-treating with friends and I do my best to throw a little festive, pumpkiny cheer around the house in order to honor my Pinterest board. But in all honesty, and I know it’s going to get me in trouble, I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween. It’s a lot of stress to decide who you’re going to go trick-or-treating with (it’s kind of like the big question of where will you be at midnight on New Year’s Eve; or where will you spend July 4th in order to enjoy prime fireworks viewing), and I am also kind of cheap and don’t love spending money on seasonal stuff that sits in a box for 11 months out of the year, and I’m also still a little PTSD-ish about the pressure to be a slutty noun during college Halloween. But when you have kids, Halloween gets reborn and Mom-o-ween unfolds.

Madelyn's First Halloween. as a cow. I dressed up like a farmer and phoned in my costume that was a pre-existing outfit that consisted of a plaid flannel from Target.

Madelyn’s First Halloween. as a cow. I dressed up like a farmer and phoned in my costume that was a pre-existing outfit that consisted of a plaid flannel from Target.

I want Madelyn to have a pretty normal childhood and she’s a little behind in the Halloween department right now. At Jewish preschool, there are no Halloween festivities (pumpkins = Fall!). They get to don costumes for Purim, but not Halloween. I was secretly glad about this because Madelyn escaped that month-long buildup of anticipating October 31st. For her, Halloween was just a few hours before the start of November. For me, Halloween was easy.

But all I’ve been hearing about since Starbucks released their first PSL of the season is that “OMG Halloween is this mooooooonth!” and Madelyn keeps asking if it’s Halloween yet. Public elementary school is to thank for the constant talk of costumes and candy and decorations.

I had a pretty weak collection of Halloween decor — a few decorative pumpkins, a wreath, a witch that hangs from the bushes in the front of my house. My mom buys me scarecrows every year that Madelyn has affectionately called Mr. Corny. But I’ve kept it pretty light; more cutesy Halloween than blood-curdling screams scary Halloween.

Today Madelyn and I were walking through a parking lot for some errands and she saw the Halloween pop-up store that peppers the shopping centers where we live. She begged me to go in, but I hesitated because we had a to-do list to complete and this wasn’t on it. Also, Madelyn tends to be a delicate flower (read: wuss) and I knew there was no way in H E double hockey sticks that she’d enjoy the interior of the Halloween store.

The girl knows how to beg so I gave in and knew she’d want out of there the second she walked in. After all, right at the front of the store was a whole display of expensive animated figures that jump out and make noise or flash bloody machetes.

Well. Joke’s on me because Madelyn could not get enough of these new friends. Cloaked ghoul, zombie girl, giant hairy spider, werewolves with a fog machine — she. did. not. blink. She giggled and smiled and basically found her new Disneyland. It’s like I don’t even know my own spawn anymore.

Wheeee! Scary things that jump out at me! Yay!

Wheeee! Scary things that jump out at me! Yay!

She was unstumpable. Surely, she’d completely freak out at the bloody appendages hanging from chains?

No. She held them up and swung them around like a lasso. If anything, she thought it was kind of gross that there was fake blood on them, but the concept of a plastic foot made of raw details didn’t even faze her.

"Look, Ma! It's like a necklace with a hand charm!"

“Look, Ma! It’s like a necklace with a hand charm!”

Madelyn is so thoughtful that she's always willing to offer a helping hand.

Madelyn is so thoughtful that she’s always willing to offer a helping hand.

There was a section of skeletons whose bones looked pretty real. There were all different sizes and some even wore capes. They were hanging on a rack in a row. Among them was a scary-ass clown.

She laughed and pointed.

In the back was the equivalent of the XXX movies at the video store from the 90s. There were entire scenes of the scariest creatures I’ve ever seen inside dioramas with pretty gory details and if you push a button next to each scene, it lights up and makes loud shrieky noises. One of them had the unfortunate luck to be electrocuted with zap sounds and all.

I was absolutely sure Madelyn would lose her mind and need therapy after exploring this section despite my suggestion to walk a different way.

Instead, she gleefully pushed the buttons down the line of the display and frolicked through the cacophony of dioramas that were a heartbeat away from becoming real, live Charles Mansons. She was like Maria in the mountains in the opening scene of The Sound of Music. I tell you. I do not know where my daughter went this afternoon.

She seriously just saw the scariest thing i've ever seen and she was hysterical.  Cracking up. Comedy club.

She seriously just saw the scariest thing I’ve ever seen and she was hysterical. Cracking up. Comedy club.

We explored the costume department with the kitschy crayons and slutty fairytale characters, and cheapened 1920s flappers. Then she found the political costumes where people can dress up like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They even had masked heads of donkeys and elephants, just to really camp up the joke that is this year’s election. Halloween is a scary holiday, but the real Halloween happens a week later when we all get to vote. Trick or treat? What will it be?

Madelyn for President!  Make America Silly Again!

Madelyn for President! Make America Silly Again!

And after all this — after all the creepy, gruesome, horrific, and nail-bitingly scary things she saw and heard in the Halloween store today — Madelyn still insists on dressing up as Rapunzel. She may play a toughie on the outside, but deep down, she’s still a soft princess at heart.

Milked It: A New Era for Arielle and Me

I didn’t really mean for it to happen when it did, but it’s sort of symbolic that Rosh Hashanah, the start of a new Jewish year, known for wishing health and sweetness to loved ones, would also mark the final time I breastfed Arielle.

It’s a [Hanukkah] miracle I even breastfed her as long as I did. Or at all! The journey was nothing short of my share of uphill battles and it never came easy for me when it truly mattered, but I was so intent on being able to do what I couldn’t do for Madelyn. The complications from my c-section with Madelyn in 2011 left me feeling quite depressed and defeated and I knew that if I ever had another baby, I would try to do my best to be able to breastfeed.

First day on the job as Arielle's personal dairy farm.

First day on the job as Arielle’s personal dairy farm.

And I did! For 18 months, just two days shy of 19 months, Arielle and I weathered a storm — Hurricane Boob — for the benefits of bonding, comfort, and the magical science that IS breastmilk. Do I think breastfeeding is the only acceptable form of nutrition for a baby? No. Madelyn did just fine on her powdered cocktails of Nutramigen. But I did feel like I missed out on an experience, and I am so glad that Arielle and I have had a very special connection that I’ve never had with anyone else. So, perhaps, it was about me all along; satisfying the curiosity of wanting to know just how special breastfeeding can be, as many women — friends and strangers — have expressed.

But it was time. She was hardly nursing anyway. She would go days between nursing sessions and didn’t seem to notice because she really didn’t need it. I started to wear my nursing tanks and bras less. I wasn’t really nursing her out in public anymore. She was starting to just ask to go straight to bed and skip the milk before naps and nighttime. And then yesterday, Erev Rosh Hashanah (that’s like New Year’s Eve), we were cuddling, she was thirsty, and really, I was too lazy to go downstairs to get her a drink so I figured she could have breastmilk because I am nothing but a walking pantry, and she wasn’t into it; a few suckles and she unlatched. I tried to get her interested again because, I mean, I really didn’t feel like going downstairs (it was cold!), but she shook her head and kept asking for “wa wa.” I suddenly felt like a chef whose patrons were sending entrees back to the kitchen. Where did I go wrong? Why did she not want me? My recipes had always been tried and true! I straightened my chef hat, twirled my tiny mustache, and in my best French chef accent I thought to myself, “Well, what’s that famous French saying? “A little dab’ll do ya?” I tasted a dab and — sacrebleu! — my milk was salty! That’s a sign of milk that hasn’t been emptied and neither of us had been very interested in emptying!

And that’s when I realized that this was the end of our journey. It had to end eventually. I knew that when I first started. People would ask me how long I’d plan to nurse Arielle, as if I was a carton of milk branded with an expiration date — tssssssssss 18 months — but I always just shrugged and said, “Whenever either of us get sick of it.”

Well I came to learn that neither of us were sick of it. Trust me, I was sick of it many times along the line, but I had recently actually gotten to a point where it was easy and drama-free. But we just went with the flow — literally — and I knew it was looming after she turned one, but I also didn’t seem to have any reason for us to stop. But now, between her display of needing breastmilk less, my sudden salty milk, and an impending surgery I’ll be recovering from in about six weeks (more on that later), this feels like the right time that will be stress-free for her and not painful for me.

For the past 18 months, our nursing sessions have always been accompanied by my phone in my lap. Bad habit, probably, but early on my phone served as a distraction when breastfeeding was painful, and then it was kind of a time killer when she wouldn’t stop pre-gaming before bed, and recently it has been a quiet time for me, away from the rest of my household and able to just rest my mind on quiet, brainless activity. But last night, for our final nursing session, I put my phone down, and drank her in, and told her all the reasons why I love her and why we went on this journey together. I cried. She had no idea. But I cried because this is my last baby. My second baby, and my only one to successfully breastfeed. I was sad when my pregnancy experience was over because I’d never know that again (and I’m also weird and liked being pregnant), and I was sad when she left the newborn stage because I’d never love another tiny, little baby again, and I was sad when she started walking because she’d never really need me to explore the world again. I know I sound like a total nutcase, but each milestone, though exciting, leaves me a little older and less needed by these wonderful daughters of mine. Well, I suppose less needed for this period of life (I anticipate being very needed when they want money for shopping or for soap opera breakups). But with each of these milestones achieved, I always knew I was still providing her nourishment and comfort with breastmilk. (That, and if we ended up like Tom Hanks on a deserted island with a volleyball, I could totally keep my family alive!) Now, though, I am two deflated B-cups away from having any biological purpose: I am finished making humans and finished feeding them. Send me out to pasture. Moooo.

As I sat in the comfy chair with Arielle during our last nursing session, I went through all of the major moments of our breastfeeding relationship and tears trickled down my cheeks. My mind showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly, like a time lapse of all the highs and lows of or our 18+ months together: from our first suckle in the hospital on 3/4/15 to the first successful feeding after her tongue tie release; to breastfeeding at Disneyland and on airplanes and at carnivals and Shabbat services to various dramatic blebs and plugged ducts that had me flirting with mastitis; to hating nursing and threatening to quit 13 times to accepting the amazing help of my husband who washed pump parts and set alarms and propped pillows; to having to change my diet completely in order to help Arielle’s digestion of my milk to over supply and under supply at various points of our journey; to sweating bullets while figuring out how to cover up at the mall when a screaming baby was frantically hungry and searching for food and comfort to not giving a shit about what other people thought and hoping to teach others less fortunate to understand and normalize breastfeeding and eventually leaving the Hooter Hider in the car in a fit of freedom; to hand expression when I realized it did more than my pump and blissful peaceful lazy weekend mornings cuddling in bed with Arielle at my breast while big sis and silly dog and daddy played around us; to the sisterhood of breastfeeding support groups and going from desperately needing the information to confidently sharing the information. I don’t regret it, though at times I thought I did. But now, looking back, I know that 18 months is no small feat and I cried because I was proud.

My job here is done. Boob drop.

My big girl is a party girl, probably thanks to her months and months of being up all night at the boob keg.

My big girl is a party girl, probably thanks to her months and months of being up all night at the boob keg.