Mommy’s Musings Archive

One Shingular Sensation

by Alison Friedman in Mommy's Musings, The Sick

At first, I thought it was a feast of bug bites. Just above the ribcage/under boobage, I had an itchy spot. It didn’t look like anything more than skin irritation, and last Friday, during our parent-teacher conference, it took everything in me not to rip off my shirt and scratch away at the itchy, tingly area. I might have even zoned out around the part about Madelyn… something blending words… something under a minute… something sight words. I don’t know. At the end, when she asked if we had any questions, I didn’t really ask any because I just needed to get out of there and satisfy the itch. That’s how you know it’s bad — I didn’t ask questions. The teacher could have told us that Madelyn was ready to skip grades and go to high school next year, and I wouldn’t have known because all I could think about was “Don’t scratch your boob in front of the teacher. Don’t scratch your boob in front of the teacher. Don’t scratch your boob in front of the teacher.”

At dinner that night, I had a few more itchy spots and felt like a dog in the summer. Therefore, I was suddenly convinced I had fleas. Or bed bugs! We had just gotten back from New York after all. But then it dawned on me that Bryan and Princeton, the two men I sleep with nightly, were not itching.

Later that night, Bryan and I binged some TV and I couldn’t get comfy on the couch. My back was painful. It felt sore, like I needed a massage in only one area. By the time I got into bed, I was super annoyed by both the itching and the back pain that I barely slept a wink.

I went a whole other day and by Sunday, I noticed that the itchy areas were more pronounced spots that definitely looked like bug bites or hives. The welts were even bigger as the morning went on. I had scheduled a massage to take care of that sore spot on my back, but quickly canceled it so I could go to urgent care instead. I just didn’t feel right.

Despite feeling worse and worse, I had put off going to urgent care because I knew what the doc would say: “Here’s a prescription for hydrocortisone cream. Put it on. Voila!” and two copays later, I’d apply cream I already had in the cabinet that I’d forgotten about from the last two skin-related urgent care visits.

Also, P.S., why do these things always happen on the weekends?

So imagine my shock when the doctor announced I had shingles! She explained it to me, which I will now do here, because prior to this appointment, I thought shingles was a dirty old disease for geriatric folks. Now I am properly educated. So, shingles is in the same family as chicken pox. Anyone who’s had chicken pox, has shingles! After chicken pox, the virus settles in on a nerve and then goes to sleep. It lies dormant for a period of time… or even maybe forever (if you’re lucky!). But when immunocompromised or if there’s lots of stress, the virus unlocks itself from the nerve, goes crazy, and disturbs that entire line or panel on which that nerve lives.

I am glad to say that shingles is not contagious unless I rub my rash on a person who has either not had chicken pox ever or has not had the chicken pox vaccine (and that’s just ridiculous because who goes rubbing their rashes on infants?). And it would not transmit shingles; it would transmit chicken pox! It is not airborne like the cold or flu so you can’t get it by being in the same room as me. If you have shingles, you cannot give shingles to anyone. It’s more like a delayed party favor virus you give yourself. In my case… about 30 years after having chicken pox!

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done about shingles. I can take ibuprofen/acetaminophen for pain. And because I went to the doctor within 72 hours after spots appeared, I was eligible to take an antiviral, which is also prescribed for genital herpes. If you heard a lady at the Walgreen’s window speaking loudly to the pharmacist, “Thank you so much for my AHEM SHINGLES medication!” that was me.

The most awful part about shingles is that it’s a slow burn with no sign it’s going in the right direction. On Sunday, I was itchy and had some back pain, but it wasn’t anything horrific. Five days later, I can now barely stand up straight because it feels like both the Astros and the Dodgers are taking batting practice on my back. My few spots that looked like bug bites are now angry and bright red, multiplying in a band across my ribcage and side. I’m basically a walking lava lamp. It is absolute agony and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

The saddest part is that Bryan is out of town in San Francisco this week for work. He planned his trip so I could meet him on Friday and spend the weekend with our friends for his college roommate’s wedding. I also had big plans to see a couple other girlfriends who live in the city during the free non-wedding time. As each day went on with shingles, I kept trying to convince myself that I’d still go; we’d just take it easy and I’d travel lightly and I wouldn’t even dance that much. But late on Thursday, after keeling over in pain and also realizing there was no dress or bra or pair of shoes in my closet that I could force onto my body for the wedding, I waved my white flag, super reluctantly, and canceled my plane ticket. It was not an easy decision. If the shingles had stayed the same as they were the first day or two, I still think I could have made it. But even now, they are getting worse before they get better, and I’m pretty worthless. I moved in with my parents for the week because I can barely drive or get the girls dressed or lift Arielle. I’m just so sad to miss the weekend and celebrating our friend who was part of our wedding day. It’s really not fair and I don’t care how childish I appear as I cross my arms and scowl.

Fortunately, Bryan is staying in San Francisco and will go stag to the wedding to be with the gang and celebrate his buddy, and no matter how many pictures or videos he sends me, my FOMO game is strong and I am devastated to be away from all the fun.

Instead, my weekend looks like lots of cuddling up with painkillers as I try to get comfortable. I’ve heard many different ways this could finish up — 10 day or 30 days; open, oozy sores or dried up rash; tingly twinges of back pain to long term nerve damage. It runs the gamut, and I truly hate not knowing what the next course is on the shingles menu. If my antivirals are helping, well I’d hate to know how this would feel if I didn’t have meds.

I honestly didn’t know that anyone my age could have shingles. I feel so advanced and mature, like the next thing I get to enjoy is cataract surgery or a hip replacement. I’m just so glad that my kids will never know first hand about this horrible virus. Since they both had the chicken pox vaccine, they will never have chicken pox and shingles. Thank you, science, for coming through for our kids. If only I was young like them instead of a little old lady and with shingles. Maybe I’ll start playing BINGO. Or eating a steak dinner from Denny’s at 4 p.m. Just call me Gertrude.

She’s Bringing Sixy Back

It’s hard to believe that when BornFriedman started, Baby Girl Friedman was just a little blob of cells and now, just about six years later, she’s a blob of sass and smarts and talent and love and kindness and humor and beauty. And all of that is worth celebrating, so celebrate we did!

Last year, her Dodgers party at our house was a — hit! — but I actually kept my promise and scaled down for her sixth birthday party. And by “scaled down,” I mean I outsourced the venue and activity (I love you, Protégé Performing Arts), prepared zero food (I love you too, Stonefire), and kept the guest list to her favorite gal pals for a super girly and twirly dance studio party.

While I’ve always been a glutton for punishment with making a zillion decorations and party favors and food, I’m so glad I left it up to the pros since our uniquely busy summer schedule left me little to no prep time for this year’s party. I did a few artsy projects like painting mason jars for center pieces and my annual banner to hang over the food table, but it dawned on me why I felt so rested and bright-eyed on the day of this party: easy party!

Madelyn has been taking tap and ballet at Kelly Salvatore’s dance studio in North Ranch, Protégé Performing Arts, for the three seasons it’s been open. We love Miss Kelly, not just because she’s a personal friend of ours, but also because she’s the Pied Piper of children and has the most wonderful disposition with all of her students. I don’t know how she does it with such ease! Madelyn loves going to dance class once a week because Miss Kelly makes her feel so loved while still teaching her the foundations. I was so excited to share Miss Kelly with Madelyn’s friends at her party!

The girls got started with a little free dancing and stretching. Madelyn did an amazing job introducing her friends to each other since they all came from various parts of her life. I was super impressed with how she mingled with everyone and made sure they all felt included. That’s difficult for adults to do, let alone first-graders, so I was really proud of her!

I loved watching Madelyn and her friends dance together as if they’d all known each other for years. Grown-ups could learn a thing or two from kids about letting loose, letting go, and tearin’ down those walls.

Miss Kelly cleverly set up a dance “obstacle course” — OLYMPICS 2028!!!!!!! — and the girls had to do certain moves at each spot along the way, ending with a cheer to the tune of “MADELYN IS SIX!” or something like that, accompanied by a passionate pom-pom shake. They did a great job learning the directions and waiting their turns. It was too cute and all the girls were amazing!

And then there was a Hula Hoop game. Twelve little girls Hula Hooping is very loud. Lots of beads sloshing around and hollow plastic bouncing and tumbling all over wood floor. But those girls sure do love to work those hips. Shakira would be proud.

They also learned a little hip hop combo to “My Shot” from … any guesses? HAM wait for it (haha) ILTON! Six-year-old booty shaking might be the best thing ever invented. When the show opens at the Pantages here in Hollywood this week, I think there are definitely some understudy contenders from Madelyn’s birthday party guests.

Perhaps the most entertaining portion of Madelyn’s party was her own little sister. Arielle was living her best life for that 90 minutes of time on the dance floor. Everything she did, she did with the most fierce determination. When it came time to stretch, she was totally nose to the toes; nose to the floor, even. When it was time to shake her tush, she almost pulled a TSwift and shook it off. ALL OFF. And she committed to her balloon. All the kids got to dance with a balloon tied to their wrists, but Arielle and her balloon were intertwined in the greatest love affair of all. They danced together like they were Fred and Ginger or like they were aiming toward the Mirrorball Trophy. Arielle and that pink balloon: I’ve never seen a purer joy.

They worked up an appetite so the dancers — and patient parents! — were fed. Stonefire (read: breadsticks) turns every party into a rager. We’ve been eating left overs for 24 hours. I am very pleased with my choice to cater in this lunch!

And using a kids party as an excuse to order a half pan of mac n cheese was my most brilliant idea. Kids parties every weekend???

Back in the dance room, the girls got in line for a little stroll down the cat walk, practicing their best strut and some awesome poses. These girls loved the mirror and the mirror loved them right back. I’m not sure Madelyn will be tackling Fashion Week any time soon or ever, but in that moment, she was such a super model, she could’ve married Tom Brady right then and there.

The grand finale was a dance choreographed by Madelyn (she’s really good at step-touches and hip sways) as well as a break down to “Can’t Stop The Feeling” because… Justin.

Even with all the dancing love, nothing transitions a bunch of girls into the final activity more than the word “CUPCAKES.” Madelyn’s friends gathered around her to sing the birthday anthem and she made her own speech after she blew out her candles! Usually, I say something to the guests, but our big six-year-old is enough of a Chatty Maddie and budding toastmaster that I thought she might want to share her own words. In her speech, she announced her love for all of her best and favorite friends surrounding her and how glad she was to see everyone together and “mixed.” And then she thanked the grown ups. Eddie Haskell or sweet girl: take your pick… but it was one more proud feather in my cap.

The girls took a group photo and then began to trickle away with hugs and goodbyes. With all the rush of hosting a birthday party, we crammed in a family photo before we left, which was a feat because, well, Arielle wanted off her feet. She partied so hard, by the end, she resembled a college girl… the day after. If her speech was better, she would’ve asked me to drive her to the nearest dirty burrito shack. That girl.

We had the best time at Madelyn’s sixth birthday. This little big one is so full of life and pizzazz, it was so appropriate for us to celebrate her with dance and expression! Her big day is actually Wednesday, August 9th, but we will be making her feel special for this whole birthday week. More surprises are in store for her throughout the rest of August, and selfishly, the surprises are just as great for me because I love seeing her face light up. There’s no greater delight than watching Madelyn as she dances through life.

  1. Mimi
    8/11/2017 9:58 PM

    HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY TO YOU, MADELYN!!! You have such nice friends and it was a fantastic party! I love how you were such a great hostess making sure everyone was having a great time. I think Arielle had the best time too and never seemed to get tired from all the dancing. I can’t wait for the special birthday surprise outing I have planned for us next week. 🙂
    I love you very much!
    Mimi

  2. Linda SMith
    8/8/2017 9:45 AM

    That was an amazing blog….lucky Madelyn
    .

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.

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!