Tummy Surgery and Diastasis Recti Archive

Re-Birthday, Rebirth-day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

Basket Case

I’ll take “Unrelated, but related things” for $1000, Alex.

A Green Day song and how Alison is feeling.

What is a basket case?

ding ding ding!

I know, a very obscure reference, but underneath this set of Broadway show tunes ears is a 6th grade girl with a big crush on Billie Joe and useless knowledge about Green Day (Extra trivia: Sublime would become my next favorite band because that was what was necessary for cute junior high skaters to give me the time of day). So anyway, “Basket Case” is a song about Billie Joe’s panic attacks. And that’s basically what I’ve been experiencing all day. Where are my five Grammys and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction?

Oh, instead of those accolades, I get a new tummy. Totally fair.

Really, though, panic attacks all day. Bryan has been out of town this week so I’ve been trying to carry on like business as usual around here, but it’s kind of hard to do when you can’t help but count down every hour and say things to yourself like, “Three days from right this moment, I’ll probably be waking up and I better not be nauseous and puke and say embarrassing things.” I’ve also been tidying up the house and redecorating. It’s like I’m nesting, but instead of giving birth in the near future, I’m getting sliced and diced. In my experience, it’s sort of the same thing, actually.

We are on the final day or so of our upstairs remodel so that’s also been taking up a lot of brain space, which is mostly a good thing. That’s the rule, don’t you know: You remodel your house and then you remodel yourself. Naturally. But now that it’s nearing the end, it’s the signal to me that my surgery is next. At least we have two brand new bathrooms and a newly created upstairs laundry room, a great improvement from sharing space with spiders and crickets in the garage. The irony is that in a couple days, I won’t be able to stand up to brush my teeth at my new sink or wash clothes in the new laundry room.

The greatest tease of all is that I’ve been working for months on a leaner and stronger body. Today was my last day of Pilates with Maya until after the surgery. Now that I’m finally so much stronger than when I started to see her, my body is about to become super weakened. I know that working with her to prepare my body for surgery was the right thing, and I can’t wait for my six weeks to be up so I can resume workouts with her. Private Pilates classes two or three times per week made such a difference and I missed it on the days we didn’t meet. In addition to exercise, Maya has been a solid ear for talk therapy, a fountain of knowledge about how my body works — or, really, doesn’t work, and a wonderful cheerleader on this journey. We joked today that we’ve done everything we could and it’s out of our hands now, probably similar to how most of America felt after casting their votes last week. (Sorry, too soon?)

After my final session with Maya, I made her extend her lats or delts or whatever in order to take a selfie. Payback, man.

After my final session with Maya, I made her extend her lats or delts or whatever in order to take a selfie. Payback, man.

I left her studio around 11, got in the car, and cried. I cried because I’m scared. I also cried because I accomplished a goal I never thought I’d complete or even enjoy: consistent exercise and body change. I took before and after photos last week. The internet will not see them because the photos from July would turn all viewers to stone, sorrynotsorry, but the photos helped me realize that I’ve come a long way and, more importantly, how much I really do need this surgery. It’s clear I slimmed down in so many areas, but the belly remained the same: out, round, and pregnant-looking.

My wonderful friends have been so supportive because they know I am scared out of my mind. Last night, I should’ve gone to bed early to get rest (I never go to sleep early when Bryan is away), but my mind was racing and just as I was about to start looking at tummy tuck videos because I am masochistic like that, a wonderful new friend I’ve made from Madelyn’s school messaged me on Facebook to check on me and we ended up chatting for an hour and a half about all sorts of things. She saved me from a panic attack alone in my living room. And today, I talked to two friends, a nurse and a recent rockstar tummy tuck patient, and they attempted to talk me off a ledge as well. Last week, one of my best friends gave me a beautiful quartz crystal for optimal healing. I don’t know what I believe in, but I know it’s pretty, it feels smooth to hold and rub my fingers on when I get nervous, and the most warming part is that it was a gift from a true friend who cares. I am lucky that my friends continue to be there for me even though I sound like a psychotic person right now. I am looking forward to feeling calm and feeling the anxiety disappear once I’m on the other side of this nonsense.

Not going to lie: I like holding bling, and if it helps me heal, then I like it even more!

Not going to lie: I like holding bling, and if it helps me heal, then I like it even more!

The second time I cried today was when I picked up all of my prescriptions. I really played up the easily nauseated part during my pre-op appointment, so that won me three meds to combat nausea. Of course the real prize is the Percocet which I plan to swallow round the clock, inhale, inject, and rub all over me. Seriously, I am so not too proud to take pain medication.

I went through the pharmacy drive-thru (god bless you, Walgreens) and was so shaky when I paid for the prescriptions. My hand dropped the credit card between the seat and middle console and I stuttered badly when the tech asked for my address. She could tell I was so nervous about the surgery for which her magical bottles would aid in my recovery. She gave me sympathetic eyes and then I asked her to hold my hand on Friday morning. Sorry, Walgreens Tech Michelle, for being the crazy lady in the drive-thru tonight. I hope you at least had a good laugh about me in the break room because I’ve really lost my marbles and there’s nothing anyone can do but giggle about it. When I drove away, I cried because it all became real again.

More exciting than a Vegas buffet.

More exciting than a Vegas buffet.

I can’t truly articulate what it is I’m so afraid of. I know I’m not going to die. I know I’m going to love the result in six weeks. I know I’m going to feel so much more comfortable and active in order to keep up with my girls. I suppose I’m afraid of the pain, but I’m mostly afraid of the unknown. The unknown leads me to research and well, we all know we’re not supposed to Google anything, but why would I follow that rule?

I want this next day to go fast and slow all at the same time. I get bursts of energy and bravery where I just want to go go go and get it over with! And then I get a dip in blood pressure where I just absolutely dread what’s to come. I’m not really in charge either way. The clock is ticking and the sun will rise twice more before it’s go time. I’ve got to just roll with the punches. But I just hope those punches aren’t too hard because, ouch!

It’s Almost Showtime

When I booked my little slice-and-dice back in July, November seemed like a super long way’s away. At my initial consults, both doctors I interviewed stressed that any weight loss I could do on my own would help in the success of the surgery and in my recovery. That’s all I needed to hear to finally keep that yo-yo from yo-yo-ing.

The day I booked the surgery, I started my second round of the Whole30 clean eating program. It’s supposed to be 30 days of making smart food choices and my main focus was avoiding grains and added sugar. I had already done a Whole30 and it was much easier the second time. After the 30 days were up, I just kept going. I’d treat myself very rarely and never let myself spiral out of control. I noticed a change in my body and felt great, too.

After a couple months of eating super clean and seeing the pounds drop, I realized that my surgery homework shouldn’t be just about weight loss. I needed to prepare my body, especially my muscles, for battle. So, I started Pilates with my friend Maya and for the first time ever, I thoroughly enjoyed working out. My clean eating and leaning and lengthening were working in concert, and my body began to change before my eyes. It seemed like each session with Maya promoted more progress.

As of this week, I’ve lost 20 pounds and feel really great about going into my surgery next week with this success. There have been so many times in my life — since as far back as being a teenager — that I tried to lose weight and maybe a few pounds here and there would actually drop off, but I’ve never experienced significant weight loss that improved how clothing fit, my energy levels, and body confidence. All this without the use of a diet pill or shake or MLM is pretty empowering.

And yet, it’s now, more than ever, that I know I need this surgery. Fat has melted off of my sides creating a slimmer waist, I’ve lost a few chins off my face, and my Bubbie arms don’t seem to hit me in the eye when I wave hello or goodbye. Still, I appear to look 4 to 6 months pregnant in my belly! My muscles protrude out because they are broken and out of place; there is no way I could have dieted or exercised my abdomen to match the rest of my body.

Meanwhile, back in Overthinking Land, while I’ve been proud of my weight loss accomplishments, I’d been losing sleep and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel due to nerves and great anxiety about the surgery and recovery. My last blog post touched on this — how scared out of my mind I’ve been to face this procedure. Going under anesthesia and being hacked to pieces have been a major stressor for me, causing me regular waves of panic and butterflies several times a day.

A friend saw my post and offered her services as a hypnotherapist. I was skeptical because I’ve never done anything like that before, but I was also open to teaching my brain how to man up and find the positives in the days to come. Hypnotherapy was nothing like I imagined it would be. We had a very honest and candid dialogue like any therapy session usually contains. We discussed all my issues — real and self-created — and delved into my fears and areas of happiness. Then came the hypnosis.

I remembered everything after it was over and I didn’t say anything embarrassing. The hypnosis was relaxing and quieted the noise that was muddying up my mind. She equipped me with tools to make happier and healthier associations with the surgery. Am I still nervous? Yes. And I think it would be weird if I wasn’t. But I am feeling a little more at peace as the day looms over me. I highly recommend hypnotherapy if you’re stuck on an issue that seems to be consuming you. Cinda Roffman in Westlake Village was a great help to me and I am thankful for her compassion and assistance.

So all this hard work, all this preparation for the big day that is almost a week away became even more real and expensive yesterday when I had my pre-op appointment with my surgeon. We went over the procedure again (it had been a year since my consult) and discussed what recovery would be like. He didn’t mince words about the fact that it would be hard (I might be “miserable” and “experience depression” for about two weeks and then it will all lift away once I start to notice improvement), and he wrote my prescriptions to fill in advance. Finally, he took out his fancy camera and photographed my belly for my official “Before” photos. I didn’t mean to, but my belly saw the camera and I intuitively sucked in. I look forward to a day — maybe in December or January — when I won’t have to suck in. Actually, I won’t be able to suck in!

preop1

And then the most painful part thus far — the cha-ching! It’s really so nauseating how much of the surgery is not covered by insurance (only about 20% of the surgery, anything related to my hernia, is considered a medical issue, which makes no sense because the diastasis recti is the cause of the hernia and that is considered cosmetic. Major eye roll.) And an hour after we arrived, we were good to go. So simple for such a built-up date in my life.

I will take the next week to prepare. I have to make sure I have all the after-care supplies, practice my sleeping positions with all the propped up pillows, organize the schedules for the girls, and handle last minute errands I won’t be able to make once I’m recovering. I am not accepting substitute teaching jobs and have one day left of work to teach my regular Monday art class. I’m trying to keep my schedule light so I can spend time with my girls and make sure that Bryan feels appreciated before I become super needy and worthless. In the meantime, I need to breathe and think of my happy place.

Any other last minute tips about going into a big surgery? Toss ’em at me. I am feeling receptive to advice and been-there-done-that nuggets of wisdom. Excited to be on the Flat Side of this journey, and I plan to get there without hiccups. No really, hiccups are actually going to hurt! So will laughing and sneezing. Nobody is allowed to tell me funny jokes or wear perfume around me as of November 18th!