The One With the Infection

by Alison Friedman in Mommy's Musings, Stupid Infection

Love is infectious. Trust me, I know.

Recap: So, on August 9th, I was induced, had a last minute c-section, got pampered in the hospital for four nights, went home on August 13th, and the rest is history, yada yada. We all thought the worst part was over. Giving birth — whether it’s from the hoo-ha or with surgical intervention — is never easy or glamorous, but hey, you get a baby as your prize and it’s all worth the cost of admission, right? Well, of course right, but apparently whatever-I-believe-in decided I wasn’t finished paying.

The day after we got home from the hospital, a Sunday, I’d been feeling sore, but it was all the usual c-section recovery soreness and was nothing to blink about. But that evening, I broke out into a fever with the whole shebang: chills, sweats, aches. How could I be so lucky to come down with the flu — in August! — just after having a baby?

Well, it wasn’t the flu. Apparently, it was some gnarly bacteria brewing in me and causing a haywire infection at my incision site. But I didn’t know this yet. Instead, I followed the directions of the hospital discharge papers, called the on-call doctor (not Dr. Fiiiine or anyone affiliated with her practice) who told me “Feh! You’re not my patient. I don’t give a hoot about you. Go to the ER if your temp reaches 101.” Okay, so he didn’t really say that, but it’s basically what Dr. Shlub said because he’s a dinosaur who was annoyed to be on-call after hours and probably shouldn’t be practicing anymore (Oh, hello, hormones and Bitter-Betty feelings! How did you make your way into my blog post?). Dr. Shlub is also the same doctor who discharged me from the hospital and never even looked at my incision site after I told him it was suddenly feeling like OMG FIERY DEATH after three days of no discomfort. Yes, Dr. Shlub he is.

So, since my fever never reached 101 and I am an obedient patient, I never went to the ER. Sunday night passed. Monday came and went. Tuesday morning, I spoke to Dr. Fiiine to let her know that the 2838947298734 Vicodins I was taking a day were really blocking no pain and, oh yeah, I’ve had some fevers, and spoke to Dr. Shlub two days earlier who said, “Until you’re actually already dead, don’t bother me,” and so, ya know, what should we do? And before I could finish my question, Dr. Fiiiine ordered me in that afternoon for a check up, so back on the butcher paper I went for a look-see.

Eyebrows raised, lots of “Hmmmm”s, and aggressive touching left Dr. Fiiine with a diagnosis of cellulitis, a skin infection at my c-section incision. But wait! There’s more! It was the worst infection she’d ever seen in all her years of practicing medicine and only the second she’s had to treat in her eight years of private practice. I’m honored to be the recipient of such an award, but hold your applause, please. We wouldn’t want such esteem to go to my head.

My real prize was two week’s worth of antibiotics, instructions to put a warm, moist compress on the incision for fifteen minutes every four hours, and a return visit on Friday for a check up. She mentioned something about “drain” and “pack,” but followed it with “let’s hope I don’t have to do it and it just clears up on its own.” So I decided to only hear that part.

Sidenote: During the pique of this infection, my body decided it would also be impeccable timing to become engorged in the breasts. This made nursing, on a scale from sucky (no pun intended) to omgkillmenow, MISERABLE, so we were dealing with a boob treatment to help with the engorgement every three hours on top of the hot compress for the infection and my in-house pharmacy of pills I had to take. My mom and Bryan were running a makeshift clinic that would put Johns Hopkins to shame.

A little over 48 hours had passed since my Tuesday morning’s diagnosis and starting the antibiotics and we saw little change. The hot compresses seemed strange because as far as we knew, heat and moisture only creates a more bacteria-happy environment so we doubted its effectiveness in the treatment of my infection. But, joke’s on us, because as I got up out of bed on Thursday evening to go take care of bidness, I started to spring a leak from the incision site and it did not look or smell very good. I’ll spare readers the comparisons and refrain from using some gnarly adjectives, but because it didn’t look healthy, I called my doctor who said it was all a good thing! What? Yes! The heat enticed the infection to the surface and now it was looking for a way out, making it easy to pinpoint where that mofo was festering.

Friday morning, we went in and the “drain” and “pack” words that Dr. Fiiiine had muttered became a reality. Since the heat opened up the incision where I had my own version of Old Faithful the night before, the wound was now open and Dr. Fiiiine tugged and yanked to encourage more drainage. Some hydrogen peroxide not only cleaned the area and deep inside the wound, but also created a volcano that mimicked a first place project at the school science fair. If you think I was still and quiet during Part I of this lovely morning, you would be wrong.

Then we moved onto the packing portion of the fun. Spooled, medicated gauze that literally looks like fettucini was packed into every nook and cranny of my wound using a long Q-tip swab. Shoving and poking the raw skin and lower layers of a surgically-created opening on my body located near no-man’s land (sorry, Bryan) feels REALLY GOOD! LIKE A SPA MASSAGE! WITH LAVENDER OIL!!!!! On Opposite Day.

Waaaaaah!!! I’m sure my screams could be heard worldwide. My poor mom’s hand, forever engrained with my finger nail impressions. And poor Bryan’s eyes, forever blinded by the sight of my insides and face muscles that flexed into unrecognizable figures. This was NO. FUN.

So, imagine my excitement when Dr. Fiiine mentioned I would get to continue this treatment! Every day! Twice a day! For probably over a month!

And that’s where we are. Twenty seven days after Madelyn’s birth and I’m mid-treatment for a rare and nasty infection. I’m glad to say it’s getting better. The infection itself is gone and now my wound is healing. It’s getting smaller and looking healthier. Dr. Fiiiine and the very nice nurse that comes to my house to pack the wound are all happy with the progress. Each packing session is still painful and I don’t look forward to my mornings and evenings when the procedure takes place, but I know it’s only temporary, even if temporary is under two months.

The worst part of this has not been the pain of the infection or the dread of the treatment, but my stalled bonding with Madelyn. I was not able to hold her or help around the house during our first week-and-a-half home. I never thought I’d long for changing a diaper, but as I laid in bed, unable to get in a comfortable position, hear her cries, and the laughing chatter of our visiting company downstairs, I felt like I was missing out on my experience with our newborn. Thankfully, Bryan is an amazing Daddy and took care of her pretty much all by himself. I was (and still am) very angry that I was cheated out of my happy time at home with my daughter and went to a low and dark place I wasn’t sure my mind knew how to navigate. But it did. Because even though I’m now a mom, I’m still a human. I was mad that I was not strong and invincible like my perception of mothers denotes.

I’m in a better place now, though. With the infection cleared and my increased mobility around the house, I’m changing diapers, and I’m participating in feedings, and I’m cuddling with my little M whenever I can. I’m still not as quick to get up and my swaddling skills leave little to be desired, but finally finally finally, I feel like the mom I wanted to be and know that from now on I will continue to be infected. Infected with lots of love for Madelyn and deep appreciation for Bryan.

  1. Grandma Ellen
    9/6/2011 3:22 PM

    So glad that the worst is behind you. I’m so proud of how you guys handled all of this (howls from upstairs aside….I’d have probably been louder). My little Madelyn is a lucky girl.

  2. Carol Becker
    9/5/2011 10:40 PM

    So sorry to hear all of this. I think you are the only one I’ve heard of that makes my story pale. My on call doctor gave me double pitossun, probably to get home fast. Then wham bang I went from a one to a nine and had the baby without even pushing. I was up and walking around immediately. Each day I got worse until I could barely walk. He had left a sponge in me and I had a huge infection. I could have gotten Toxis Shock. Let’s not hear in for on call doctors.

    So happy for you and the lucky baby. Brian raves about her.

    Carol Becker

  3. Mom/ Sharon/Mimi
    9/5/2011 7:14 PM

    Dear Sweet Madelyn,
    I hope you like the way your mommy draws people. Her style hasn’t changed since she was a little girl. She always (and obviously still does) drew herself like this. I always called it the “girl with the curly hair” drawing. I can’t wait to see if your hair is curly and to draw pictures with you!

  4. 9/5/2011 5:36 PM

    You are SUCH a riot! You must write a book because only YOU could make a gnarly infection like that sound FUNNY! I love your sense of humor, your real, accessible emotions, and the way you share it ALL! I really had the image of the infection oozing – thanks so much for that!

    So glad you and Madelyn are doing great, and happy that Bryan is such a major mensch! Can’t wait to catch up with you!!!
    Lots of love!

  5. Mom/ Sharon/Mimi
    9/5/2011 5:25 PM

    You could not have explained that ugly mess any better. You have been a real trooper through this entire unfortunate set-back in addition to being brave, strong and determined!! You beat the infection and the wound is healing and getting better everyday because of your attitude & sense of humor. Now that you are a mother yourself, you can understand why I haven’t even felt your finger nails digging into my hand during this soon-to-be-a-distant-memory story . It all ends with your last sentence–that’s perfect & needs no treatment. Much love!

That One Virus

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, The Sick

Since we are the world’s okayest parents, we took Madelyn to see “Hamilton” with a fever. It wasn’t super high. It was one of those 99ish fevers that probably meant she just overdid it at school. Or maybe the fever was the pupu platter before the main entree of an oncoming cold. At intermission, I was already thinking about my game plan for the inevitable snotty noses and complaints of plugged ears. After all, Arielle had just finished her cold (thanks, preschool!) and it was pretty much the one-month mark of school, so a cold for Madelyn was not exactly surprising.

After we got home from the Great Tow Yard Midnight Adventure of 2017, we put Madelyn to bed and hoped for the best. You see, we had the day off from school and wanted to enjoy one last family day at Disneyland before our annual passes expire in October. We decided we’d play Disneyland by ear: if she woke up totally fine, we’d go. If she woke up kind of OK, we’d drug her and go. And if she was legit sick, we wouldn’t go.

She woke up totally fine. We went.

I brought the Advil and Tylenol with me just in case that random fever turned into anything else. And twice, we literally bumped into my friend, who’s a nurse and the wife of one of our pediatricians, so really, the healthy vibes were on our side. The Disney day would be perfect.

And it almost was except for those times that Madelyn spiked another random fever. That’s when I patted myself on the back for being at Disneyland and administering Advil. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Once she had the fever reducer and pain reliever in her system, within 20 minutes she was back to her ol’ self.

Arielle might have been judging me for choosing to bring her sick sister to Disneyland. But I didn’t KNOW she was sick yet, AR. I. ELLE. OKAAAAY???

By the end of the day, though, she was a disaster. At first I assumed it was due to exhaustion from the late night at “Hamilton” only 24 hours before, but as time went on, it was clear she was achey and had chills. She was miserable as we were leaving Disneyland, and I’ve never wished so badly for a cold to just start already!

Friday morning, it was very clear that she would have to miss school and that fever persisted. She turned her nose up to juice and popsicles and applesauce, and she just wanted to sleep. She had no energy whatsoever, and began to look as sick as she felt. Her eyes became puffy and by Friday night, I was icing her eyelids to bring down the swelling, but they didn’t budge. I knew we’d be making a visit to the pediatrician on Saturday morning. Because these things always happen over a weekend. Of course.

She woke me during the night with complaints of aches and chills again. It seemed like the meds would work great until they didn’t. Spoiler alert: this pattern continued for six nights and counting. And still, no signs of a cold.

We shuffled ourselves into the doctor’s office on Saturday morning and we ruled out some things that had popped up in my rabbit hole of Google searches. Of course her eyes were not as puffy, so we looked like morons, but isn’t that how it always works? It was not even a full three days of a fever, so we agreed that a virus needs a bit more time to do its thing. He even ordered a strep test, but that came back negative. I was hoping it was positive so we’d have an obvious plan of action, but we decided together that if by Monday, she still had a fever, we would come back for some blood work.

Well, you know where this is going.

Monday, I called her out of school again to give her another day to rest and just in case her temperature spiked. Sure enough, by mid-day, she was back up into the 100s, so we enjoyed an end of day visit with another one of the awesome docs in the group. The doctor agreed that a cold would’ve been obvious by now; her ears looked clear; and five days of fever was a little on the long side for flu. Since she agreed with our equally wonderful Saturday doc, she was about to apologize to me for the drama of inevitable lab work she was going to order if the last straw idea turned out to be negative.

After a tiny finger prick, a little rectangle that looked like an at-home pregnancy test from the dollar store was used to read a drop of Madelyn’s blood. The doctor said that it takes about ten minutes to get a read, so we should just wait a bit in the room and then we’d have an answer. However, before that little test was even walked out the door, the tester started to show two positive lines, but not for a pregnancy… for mono!

I was shocked. When both doctors first mentioned the long shot of mono, but kind of dismissed it, I also didn’t consider it to be a possibility since Madelyn hasn’t been getting friendly at fraternity parties.

That I know of.

You know, she may have mono, but she could still be a hair model.

So here’s what we know: mono symptoms can last around ten days in kids, which typically just include fever/aches/chills and perhaps some swelling, which explains Madelyn’s eyes. Thankfully, there’s no major swelling in her lymph nodes or abdomen, which is good news for her liver and spleen. Apparently, mono is a lot easier to power through as a kid. I asked about the contagious factor because Madelyn also lives with a very cuddly little sister, and the doctor surprised me and said, “Even better! The sooner they get it over with, the easier it will be.” But also, it’s not super likely that Arielle will get it, and mono is transferred via saliva.

So how did Madelyn get mono? We’ll never know. Stuff like that drives me crazy. I would pay so much money to find out the exact moment and specific saliva molecule that infected my daughter, but science isn’t that good. I did learn that incubation is four to seven weeks, which means it all went down sometime in July or August, and we’re just only seeing symptoms now. The only thing to do is keep her comfortable which includes fluids and fever reducers. She’s also taking over Bryan’s iPad, watching TV shows and taking photos.

Animal face filters: the ultimate cure for the mono blues.

Her favorite new thing to do, though, is sending me texts. While we are in the same house. This is what happens when they learn to read and write; they can then communicate like adults. It’s maddening. She also became demanding when, due to user error, the apps or Netflix would poop out.

Here are a few examples of texts along with my most inner thoughts to her messages. This is a great reminder to never give her a bell to ring from bed.

She’s cleared to be out in the world: school, extra-curriculars, meals. She just hasn’t left the house much mostly because she has no energy. I’m hoping that after missing six days of school and resting at home, she’s almost at the end of this. My heart can’t take it anymore. And there’s also not enough coffee in the world to get me through the day since the nightly wake-up calls — literally — are so difficult and sad and exhausting. It’s like having a newborn again, and there’s a reason why we stopped after two: I’m a wimpy mama!

I will say, though, that other than mono lasting so damn long, it’s not as difficult or as annoying as taking care of a child with a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection. At least there’s no snot or plugged ears or constant coughing all day without much relief. When she spikes a fever, it’s upsetting and dramatic, but it’s also very temporary. But it’s not, well, messy, per se. So, silver lining?

Madelyn will take all the healing vibes she can get as we get her through this totally random bout of mono. We can’t wait until she can come back to school and return to dance as soon as she feels up to it. And when she’s in college and her friends are down with a case of this virus, she’ll know just how to take care of them: with patience, binge watching television, and a lot of humor.

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.



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!

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On The Flat Side!

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.

Doctor Princeton comes to my rescue the night before the big slice-a-roo.

Doctor Princeton comes to my rescue the night before the big slice-a-roo.

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.

This is my "OMG WHAT AM I ABOUT TO DO TO MYSELF?!" face.

This is my “OMG WHAT AM I ABOUT TO DO TO MYSELF?!” face.

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.

Oxygen masquerade party! Wooooo!

Oxygen masquerade party! Wooooo!

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.

TV binge watching, breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed, and lots of sleep  -- the ultimate momcation in the name of healing.

TV binge watching, breakfast, lunch, and dinner in bed, and lots of sleep — the ultimate momcation in the name of healing.

Bryan's mom made her delicious chicken noodle soup for me which was perfect post-surgery and helped soothe my rusty throat after being intubated.

Bryan’s mom made her delicious chicken noodle soup for me which was perfect post-surgery and helped soothe my rusty throat after being intubated.

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.

My drawings, like my new body, are a work of art.

My drawings, like my new body, are a work of art.

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.

On drain removal day, it was 62 degrees outside and I wore a long jacket because otherwise my tushie would've been showing since I couldn't pull my pants up. Isn't abdominal surgery recovery super sexy??

On drain removal day, it was 62 degrees outside and I wore a long jacket because otherwise my tushie would’ve been showing since I couldn’t pull my pants up. Isn’t abdominal surgery recovery super sexy??

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.

Even I thought I Photoshopped myself.

Even I thought I Photoshopped myself.

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.

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.