I’m about to discuss the tummy tuck. I think I’ve been procrastinating. Nearly two years later and few people who know me even know about it – what I’m ashamed of I have no idea but part of me still is…Drazil holds the key to that info…and that’s another blog.
Real quick before I start - *sorry – just had a mini-aha-moment right then* - do any of you remember that I had to stop doing P90X after the first night of trying it because my abs are so tight from the tummy tuck that it hurts to pull/work them? I was telling my mom that. She actually said in a concerned, something is wrong, what have you done to yourself tone, “Will you ever heal, will you ever be able to do ab exercises?” WHY THE FARK DO I CARE? If I never have to do another ab exercise in my life – isn’t that like a little piece of heaven? Some plastic surgeons even brag that after they do your tummy tuck – you should never have to do a situp ever again. What ab exercises do – tighten ab muscles – is done through medical stitching. Why is it a bad thing that two years later my stomach is so tight I can’t do a situp? God help me – why can she think that means I’m not healed? Ugh.
Okay – first off – to the beginning. In October 2005, I had my last child. I knew I was done. I had gestational diabetes and let’s face it – I ate like I was carrying and feeding triplets and a monkey on my back. I told myself the whole time that the moment she was out – it was over – I was getting healthy. And I meant it. She came out – and I was on a diet starting that day. I topped the scales at 226. Pregnancy weight or not – it was fat and it was mine and it was unnecessary. I had high BP to boot….even after she was out and I was only 30. That was enough of that.
Fast forward to June 2008, about 2.5 years later and I weighed 153. Down 73 lbs. I had been in size 16s and now I was in size 5s. I felt great. I was running 5 miles a day – 6 days a week. I was at the top of my game. I was literally for the first time happy with my body – except for one thing. I had hanging skin. I was in denial for a while. For about 6 months I would stand in front of the mirror or sit in the tub and just grab handfuls of skin and try to see if that skin had lessened. And I’d work harder. I’d grab again – still there. Work harder, eat less. More pounds came off. At 153, I was small enough that there was no need to lose more and the skin remained. How could this be happening? Sweat and sacrifice and THIS is the payoff? I still can’t tuck in jeans or wear tight things around my waist? How is that fair? It’s such a cruel twist of fate – such a slap in the face and hard to wrap your head around it....but it remains.
I used to work with a man who had gastric bypass – he was over 500 lbs. He’s lost over 250 pounds and needs skin taken off his knees, thighs, stomach, arms, elbows, breasts, and back – nearly everywhere…and they told him it weighed 70 pounds. I never once thought I’d need the same thing. It never crossed my mind – I thought I wasn’t working hard enough. And then one day I heard a commercial for a plastic surgeon in my area. I went to her website and I saw pictures – and they could have been me. I had to see her.
I scheduled an appt and told a few people at work. They looked at me like I had two heads. I hid my piece of skin well – and so to most people who obviously didn’t see me naked – they thought I was crazy or overly vain. No matter – I went. I even knew from research I’d only need a mini-tuck instead of a full one. I told myself I wanted to go see her just so a professional would tell me I could never lose it on my own – that it was truly skin and not fat. I needed to hear that….though I suspected it. I told myself I’d never get a tummy tuck. I couldn’t afford it. Ever.
That surgeon took one look at me and said, “Wow – there’s no fat on you anywhere….and this piece of skin has to go.” She said my muscle tone was unbelievable and that I only needed a mini tuck. She said it was $5000.00. I left. For about 5 minutes I felt defeated. And then….
With every bone in my body I knew I’d be back. It was the end of the journey and I would never, never be happy without it gone. Ever. That skin was something I couldn’t live with – some might be able to – I could not. Years of sweat and leaving my family to work out and saying no and breaking down mental barriers and ugly duckling feelings and morphing into a new me – could not end with hanging skin. Not for me. Had I ever in my life done something just for me – for $5000 – for my mental health? Nope – but dammit it was time.
I found the money. I remember being desperate enough to ask my mom for it – something I’d never done in my life. Of course that was a no. Didn’t matter – I found the money. I scheduled a pre-op and I was on my way. I dealt with the “you’re so lame” looks from my co-workers and knew they’d never understand. I told everyone I work with – and told no one in my life at home other than my siblings and parents. No one in my husband’s family knows to this day except his mother.
I had my mini-tummy tuck in June of 2008. Surgery was less than 3 hours. My surgeon had her own surgical suite so I stayed in her office and was sent home that same day. EVERY surgeon is different. A huge piece of advice is never go to a surgeon with their own suite who also doesn’t have rights at the nearest hospital. Check the credentials. Ask for patient’s names who’ve had what you are about to have. My surgeon had rights at the hospital connected to her building and was accredited. Some surgeons have you stay overnight – some do not. Just like with lap bands every surgeon has their own rules. Follow them. Period.
After a tummy tuck – 90% of surgeons have you wear a garment for sometimes weeks. This thing is Spanx on sterroids. It is a full body suit down to your knees and over your bra. You lose nearly two sizes when you put this thing on. Mine zipped and buttoned on the sides and was crotchless. You only take it off to shower. You pee and poo with it ON. It becomes your life….and when you take it off you feel naked and like you’re missing something. It helps stop swelling and keeps things tight and helps the skin reattach to the muscle.
Pain meds are pretty heavy the first few days and even after a week you’re still on them. I’m highly tolerant of pain but this was tough for me. It was much much worse than a c-section because of what they do when they are in there….they’re not just making a hole to cut a baby out. It might be outpatient surgery but it’s nothing to laugh at.
90% of surgeons also use drains (a tube with a small bag at the end). I had one (some have two) – inserted right above my lady part and yes I still have a small scar from it. My husband had to empty it and keep track of how much was in it each time. I had my drain for a week – some have them even longer…depending on how much is filling up in them. The thing with drains is this – if you don’t have them – that liquid and blood gather between your skin and muscle in your stomach and you get a seroma – which is literally a waterbed under your skin. You push on your stomach and it moves like when you put your finger into a waterbed. Creepy to say the least and harmless….but still good to avoid if you can. *Note - getting the drain out is WAY painful. That tube is in there a long way and she literally just grabs it and pulls it out! OUCH!
A tummy tuck is very invasive surgery. I have heard you can watch one being done on youtube but I never did that – too many people said it was very scary. I am an information whore but I drew the line there. I do know the surgeon lifts your skin from your muscle and pulls it back and then ties your muscles back together. Nearly all women’s muscles are separated and stretched out if they’ve had children or were obese. This part of the procedure is called muscle repair and should be included in every tummy tuck procedure. If it’s not – run! It’s not just about cutting off skin – it’s about repairing the loosened muscles under the skin. Most surgeons also do a little lipo to contour your shape while they are in there too…..this was included in my price. For some it’s extra. Because of the lipo and surgery itself you will be literally black and blue in spots when you come out.
It can take a long time for your stomach skin to reattach to your stomach muscles and if it’s not – fluids build up in between (the seroma). This happened to me numerous times – because right after surgery I could not rest as I should have due to a family natural disaster. If you lay flat it helps – but I couldn’t lay down at all. It’s nothing serious. I’d go in – she’d cut me open with a scalpel and push the fluid out onto a towel. No stitches or pain or anything but there was always enough liquid to soak up two towels. Had I still had drains it would have gone into them but drains aren’t real convenient to go back to work with.
Swelling is also a huge issue. My surgeon never told me about swelling but I knew about it from the message boards I followed. 99% of tummy tuckers experience it and the swelling can make you bigger than before you went in. Many many women cannot fit into pre-op clothes for a long time after surgery which as you can imagine can really screw with your head after you pay $5000. You go through a big period of regret and you wonder what you’ve done. I’m not going to sugarcoat this – the swelling is bad and can last for months. If I work my abs hard enough even now I can swell. Food and sodium affect it greatly and so does activity and everyone is different. For most recovery is long and hard. And I was in excellent shape and only had a mini.
A mini tuck means my belly button was not moved at all – all my work was below my belly button – I only had hanging skin under my belly button. Most people get a full tuck – and your belly button is totally taken out and the surgeon makes a new one. More healing time, more swelling and more chance for infection – especially if you smoke.
I saw my surgeon every 3 to 4 weeks for a complete year. I was happy to do that because it’s a pretty emotional roller coaster and she was very reassuring. The first few times I had fluid taken out. Another time I had lipo done on a spot that she didn’t think was flat enough. Lipo is crazy weird – a wand is under your skin and it just feels bizarre….so bizarre I almost passed out. Not painful but odd. Most of the time pain meds aren’t needed for any of this stuff after because your entire stomach is numb. Even 2 years out most of my stomach below my belly button is still numb. (good for getting my belly button pierced but feels odd otherwise) The feeling may or may not come back – it doesn’t bother me. Some people hate it.
I was cut along the same line as my c-sec scar – very low so that a bikini covers the scar. The incision is bigger – almost hip to hip. If you get a full tuck – the incision is the same horizontally BUT you also have a scar up from your belly button usually. My scar is barely visible but I scar well….many women aren’t fans of the scars when they are done.
There are tons of different types of tummy tucks – full is the one most get done….but the type of cut and such and what’s included are always different so be sure to ask. At 4 and 6 months and even a year out – what you see is NOT your final results. Patience is hugely important if you get this surgery. So many do no research and think in one month they’ll be flat as a pancake with six pack abs. A friend of mine had it done one month after me (she did NO research) and thought she’d come out with no more stretch marks and so today is very dissatisfied with her surgery. Are her abs tight and is her loose skin gone? Yes. Does she still have stretch marks? Yes. So she’s not happy because she had unrealistic expectations. You don’t get new skin. I still have stretch marks – less yes, but I have them. You have to have realistic expectations and patience.
Finally almost two years out I know what I see now is my result. I have fattier sides than I used to but that’s because once you have lipo fat normally won’t redeposit there – it goes to other new places and for me that’s my sides. I could lipo it out of there but the surgeon says it’s just not enough to go under for (though I disagree). I sometimes think my ubber abs stick out now but it could be that they always did but I was so focused on my hanging skin I never noticed. Again, I could lipo it but I’d have to be put under and it’s not worth it to me. You have to be careful about that. Right now if you have hanging stomach skin it may be the only thing you see and focus on. When that skin is gone if you choose to have a tuck – you may notice you now hate your arms or thighs or whatever. Most of the people I see do end up going back for thigh lift, butt lift, lipo everywhere, etc. That’s totally fine but that’s not for me. My hanging skin wasn’t my fault and was not a “normal” imperfection like my big muscular arms I got from my Dad you know?
Many women think they get a Ken doll area that is huge and have that lipo’d. My theory on that is that skin hung over it before – and now that it’s gone you see the area and you never did before so it seems bigger. I think mine is but I’m not about to lipo that.
I’m no expert. What I wrote here is my own experience and my own research from being heavily involved on a tummy tuck message board. Take it with a grain of salt. Again, I’m not going to say it’s easy like the breast reduction was – it’s a far cry from that. BUT my recovery was not what it should have been. My parents suffered a flood 8 days after my surgery and began living with me. I was up for 20 hour days in mud and stress and chaos and my surgeon wasn’t happy. Had I been able to lay down and rest – I wouldn’t have had seromas or maybe even needed lipo. I think I took 8 work days off. I know some women who take 2 months off. Again, I have a high pain tolerance and a desk job. You cannot lift over 15 lbs for quite a while so if you have young children you will probably need someone to help you. And of course – it’s surgery – there are complications and I have seen them and they aren’t pretty. Again, do your research.
This isn’t just a physical surgery – it’s mental too – just like the weight loss journey. You have to know you’re worthy of it and never look back…..because you are.
I hope that helped someone. Let me know if I forgot anything or if you have more questions.
P.S. I hate these pictures but they help tell the story. Some are graphic....beware.
Bruises from lipo and look at the size of my stomach. Probably 3 or 4x the size of when I went in. MAJOR swelling.
Little over 1.5 yrs out - still bumpy.
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