I’m 38 years old with two sons, ages 5 and 8. I had a full tummy tuck with flank liposuction and a vertical mastopexy with relatively small silicone implants for fullness and slight size boost.
At age 18 (in 1991), I weighed 130 pounds at 5’7”. This was the perfect weight for my frame, but I always had a little lower belly pooch. I wore a 34C at the time, but I always had to wear an underwire bra because my breasts didn’t keep their shape very well (genetics?). College and graduate school took their toll on me, and by the age of 28 (2001), I weighed 175 pounds and probably wore a 38C bra. I got pregnant and had a beautiful baby boy in 2002, and my postpartum weight was 185 pounds. I breastfed my son for two years, and then I got pregnant with my second baby. I had another beautiful baby boy at age 31 (in 2005), and I breastfed for another two years.
In 2007, when my boys were 4 and 1, my mother died. A few short months later, we moved across the country. That year was both good and bad, and my weight reflected it by fluctuating wildly. By the end of 2008, I weighed 205 pounds. In early 2009, I lost 60 pounds via diet and exercise, bottoming out at 145 pounds. Needless to say, four cumulative years of breastfeeding and a 60 pound weight loss left me with sagging, deflated breasts and a lot of loose skin on my stomach. I decided that if I could keep my weight down for a couple of years, I’d reward myself with a mommy makeover.
Sadly, my body did not want to stay at 145 pounds. Though I remained physically active, I began eating more, and my weight crept back up. Two years later, at the beginning of 2011, I was back up to 170 pounds. I began a more serious workout routine and began watching my food intake again. In four months, I had lost just a few pounds, but had gained some muscle as well. I had told myself I would only get the mommy makeover if I could keep the weight off, but it seemed nearly impossible to get back down to where I was. After much thought and discussion with my plastic surgeon, I decided to go ahead with the surgery. Although my husband is not a big fan of plastic surgery and insisted that he loved me the way I was, he reluctantly came on board with my decision.
I set my surgery date and had my ‘before’ pictures taken (a humiliating experience). I also bought some special surgery pants: gray velour elastic waist pants. Finally, I bought a 10 pound bag of bird seed on the recommendation of my PS. He said I would put it on my belly after surgery to keep the swelling down and for comfort.
The week before surgery, I was a bundle of nerves. I had my pain and nausea medications filled, and I identified our leather recliner in the living room as my sick bed. I covered it in sheets and piled blankets and pillows next to it. I set up my laptop within easy reach and even my son’s Nintendo DS to keep me occupied. My husband presented me with a large basket filled with various creature comforts: bottled water, magazines, chocolate, crackers, mints, Kleenex, and some other things, along with a sweet card. It was precious. I set it next to the recliner as well. The night before surgery, both the nurse and the anesthesiologist called me separately to explain exactly what would happen in the morning and let me ask any last minute questions. I then took a Xanax and went to bed.
Day of Surgery (Friday, May 6, 2011)
My husband and I arrived at the PS’s office (he has an ambulatory surgical center in his office) at 8:30 AM. We signed some various papers, and the anesthesiologist gave me clonidine to take orally. He said it would both relax me and lower my blood pressure or something. It worked. The surgeon came in, and I asked him if he had a good night’s sleep the night before. He smiled and said, “Nah, I drifted off around 5AM.” My husband laughed and responded, “I’m sure the amphetamines woke him right up this morning, don’t worry.” Ha ha. He began measuring me all over and drawing on me with a black Sharpie. Not some special medical surgical pen, but a Sharpie. When he mumbled that he wanted to take one of the measurements again just to be sure, I joked, “Measure twice, cut once!”
After the nurse gave me a pregnancy test just to make sure, I said goodbye to my husband and headed for the OR. It’s a long story, but he had to go out of town that day, so I literally hired someone to take me home from surgery and care for me and my children. She showed up sometime during surgery. Two nurses and the anesthesiologist walked me to the OR. When the anesthesiologist put the IV needle into my right hand, I moved a little and blew out the vein. Oops. He had to put it in the other hand. I told him to tell me when he was putting the propofol into the IV, and he said, “It’s already going in!” I think I remember one of the nurses telling me, “Night night!” That’s the last thing I remember.
I woke up in a dimly lit recovery room, and someone said it was around 3:30. I wasn’t feeling any pain. I had the compression garment on with maxipad-like dressings sticking out of the top and bottom. I also had on a hideous looking granny bra, also stuffed with dressings, as well as my lucky surgery pants and the zip-up fleece jacket I brought. One of the nurses was bubbling over how happy I was going to be with my surgery and assured me that it looked really good. They took me to the bathroom to pee, and I remember the nurses talking to the girl who I hired to take care of me. From what I learned later, they were concerned about her being able to get me up the few steps into my house, because she is about half my size! The nurses ended up following her to my house and helping get me into the house and into my recliner. You get great service when you pay out of pocket! I don’t remember the car ride home at all.
I had to pee like every hour when I got home. My caretaker helped me to the bathroom a few times, and I could walk pretty easily shuffling my feet. She had to help me fold the recliner back up and then help pull me out of the chair every time, but I could get on and off the toilet by myself because I could hold onto the walls. I remember being very sleepy and otherwise very still for the rest of the day. I didn’t want to move a lot. I remember having to get used to breathing in the binder.
I had my first dose of 2 Vicodin just as I woke up from surgery, around 4PM. I took one nausea pill just in case I became sick, but I never did, so that was the only dose of that I took. By 6, I was complaining that my tummy was hurting and wanted to know if I could take another pain pill. I don’t know if the doctor had called or if I asked the caretaker to call him, but he said to go ahead and take one at 6 and the other one at 8 and then get back on the schedule of two every four hours. That worked fine. There was no pain in my breasts at all, by the way. Just in my tummy, like a soreness in the skin and muscle.
The drains were really gross. The little plastic clips that come on the grenade-like bulbs do NOT work well to attach it to your clothing. I put safety pins on the clips and attached them to my clothes that way. At first, I tried attaching them to the center of the waistband of my pants, but then in my drunken stupor I told the caretaker that they looked too much like testicles hanging down there, so I moved them. She was cracking up! The fluid that collects in there looks somewhat like cloudy kool-aid. She wrote down the measurements every few hours and then we’d squeeze them out into the toilet. Absolutely gross. I figured out later that they came out of my pubic area, and the PS had tied suture thread tightly around each drainage tube and then anchored them by sewing them into my skin! He told me later that if he didn’t do that, they’d just fall out. I didn’t have any drains in my breasts. I ate half a piece of pizza for dinner, made some short phone calls, and posted some brief facebook messages. My PS extraordinaire called me around 8:30 PM to see how I was doing, and I told him I had been peeing a lot. He said that he gave me some medication to help me pee because people have trouble urinating sometimes after surgery. I remember scolding him for working so late.
The caretaker tagged out with a friend of mine at 9PM. My friend who came to stay overnight with me and the kids set her alarm clock to give me my pain pills every four hours all night. What a sweetie! It turned out I had to urinate a lot during the night, and since she was sleeping upstairs, I just shuffled to the bathroom on my own. Once, she woke up because she heard me, and she ran downstairs to make sure I was okay. Despite keeping very still, hunching over, and shuffling when I walked, I was pretty ambulatory by myself, and that was the first night! It just kept getting better from there.
Day 2: Saturday, May 7
I had a little more energy today, although I did take some naps here and there. I was still a little groggy but was more “with it.” The pain was better, and as long as I was sitting still, I honestly did not feel any pain at all. Totally bearable. My husband came home that day, thank goodness. I was so relieved to see him. My five year old son was concerned about me and insisted on sleeping next to me in the recliner. That was not comfortable at all, and I was very guarded about the hip that was next to him. He was awfully cute though, holding my hands as I walked to the bathroom, offering me water every 5 minutes, and putting his little arm around my neck. He was so sweet!
Day 3: Sunday, May 8
I began wondering what it looked like inside that granny bra and compression garment. I peeked inside the bra, but all I saw were steri-strips and what looked like maxi pads with dried blood on them. I pulled the top of the compression garment away from my skin, peered down and saw a bloody cavern that I assumed was my new belly button. I remembered thinking, wow, it’s really high up! I figured out later that it only seemed high because the old one had sagged down so much with my hanging belly! I saw something that looked like the bloody stump of my belly button, but it was dark inside the compression garment and I couldn’t really tell. I reached in there and touched it, and it moved independently of the surrounding stomach. I thought it was my belly button stalk and that he had forgotten to sew it back down! Turned out that it was a wadded up piece of gauze just stuck in there to protect it, and it had dried blood/fluid on it. Whew! Weird thing: when I touched the bottom half of my stomach, it still felt like I was touching the top half of my stomach, I assume because that skin used to be on the top half just a couple of days earlier.
Day 4: Monday
I began doing work from home on the laptop to keep busy and entertained. My mobility was a little better, although my back was killing me from hunching over and not using my abdominal muscles at all. I guess my lower back muscles had to compensate. I did spend most of the day in the recliner, getting up to go to the bathroom and just walk around. That night, I got uncomfortable with the little one in the recliner with me, so I went upstairs to lie down in my bed. I had to wake hubby up to get me back out of bed to go to the bathroom. When he pulled on my right arm, I developed a shooting pain in the area between my breast and armpit. It felt like it was on fire! I took my pain pills and whimpered until I fell back to sleep.
Day 5: Tuesday
Back to the recliner. I wasn’t ready yet for the bed. My hubby washed my hair in the kitchen sink for me, as I was not allowed to shower until the drains came out. I ventured out of the house for the first time – my son had a musical thingie at school. I wore big clothes to hide my drains and walked like an old lady. I felt very self-conscious about the drains, like one of them would fall out and gross everyone out! I started taking just one pain pill every four hours today instead of two.
Day 6: Wednesday
Holy swollen boobs! I lay there all day with a bag of frozen veggies on each boob and a 10 lb bag of bird seed on my belly. I also had my first follow up visit with the PS. He took my drains out! I also got my first look at my new belly. He said he was very pleased with the results so far. He also said the breast swelling would get better soon, but he advised me not to go bra shopping for three months. I found out he used 200 cc’s in the left breast and 250 in the right. That took me from a small C to a small D cup. I had him make them look as natural as possible, so I don’t have that high-up gravity-defying overly-fake look. It did not hurt when he took the drains out, but I dribbled fluid from the holes for a few hours. Gross. The good news was that I got to shower! It was great to be clean again, although it was hard to wash my own hair because of my limited arm mobility and the entire shower took a long time because I was still moving slowly and cautiously.
Day 7: Thursday
My first sneeze. I thought I was going to implode. Seriously, sneezing hurt! I felt it up and down in the middle of my belly where I imagine the abdominal muscle sutures are. I hobbled into Old Navy today looking for stretchy shorts and tried on a bathing suit top just to see. It looked great! I didn’t buy one though. I went to my son’s baseball game that evening, and although I was still walking hunched over, I was much more mobile. In fact, it felt better to stand and walk around than to sit on the hard bleachers. It was pretty humid that day, so I tried going without my binder just for the game, but my belly button started to hurt and I felt ‘naked’ or something without it, so I put it back on.
At one point, I was getting something out of my purse when a small card fell out onto the bleachers where a bunch of people were sitting. I picked it up and started reading it to see what it was, and to my horror it was a card with the serial numbers and info about my breast implants! I’m glad nobody noticed. I had left a message with my PS wanting to know if I could start straightening up tomorrow and if I could have a couple of drinks tomorrow night. He happened to call me back just after the card incident, so I told him the story. He thought it was funny. That night, went from bed to recliner and back to bed. I took my two pain pills before bed, but none during the night. I woke up sore the next morning, but Tylenol helped. I stopped the pain pills altogether that day and switched to just Tylenol.
Friday (1 week post-op):
Back to work for a couple of hours at the office. It took forever to get ready because it was hard to reach above my head, pick stuff up off the floor, and every movement is slow and calculated. I was self-conscious about my ginormous swollen boobs, but I did well! Although I was still walking like an old lady out of habit, I made an effort to start straightening up despite the strange stretching sensation in my belly. I went out with friends for the first time since surgery. By the way, I seemed to be getting a little more sensation back in my belly and breasts each day.
Feeling great! I started doing some things such as unloading the dishwasher, but I let my hubby put the dishes into the upper cabinets because it hurt a bit to reach up. I still had the pain in the right side of my chest between my breast and armpit, but it was not bad unless I tried to reach up. I think I pulled it a bit when my husband tried to help me out of bed that night. I still couldn’t use my stomach muscles, and bending over to pick things up was still difficult.
I started having some itching in random places, probably because I began getting more sensation back. Still numb in a 3” wide area below my belly button down to the incision, and also in my nipples and bottom half of boobs. I noticed what looked like NEW stretch marks on my breasts today. Although I didn’t feel swollen, I noticed that when I pressed down on my stomach, it felt like there was fluid squishing around just underneath the skin. I figured it was a slight seroma and would discuss it with the PS at my next follow-up.
Definitely riding the euphoria wave now that I’m standing up straighter and loving my new body, even though I wear the compression garment and have swollen breasts.
Tuesday, May 17
I got my belly button stitches out. The PS also took off all my steri tape and replaced it on all the incisions. He drained off 60 cc of fluid from my belly with a HUGE needle. Luckily, he inserted the needle below my belly button where I was still completely numb and I didn’t feel it at all. He told me to continue to wear the compression garment 24/7 for three weeks total, and then 12 hours a day for two weeks after that. He gave me the okay to take it off for brief periods of time if needed, and he also said I could take my kids to the pool and get in the water very briefly if needed. He didn’t want me in there for long though. I noticed that night that a tiny bit of fluid was weeping out of the belly button suture holes. Yucky.
My breasts have stayed swollen, and he insists that this will go down within a month. It feels like I’m engorged with milk and need to find a baby to nurse! Seriously, they’re like rocks. It’s not unbearable, though.
Thursday, May 19
Went bathing suit shopping! Since I’m still around 10 pounds overweight, and since I still have an unacceptable level of inner thigh fat, I looked for a more conservative swimsuit. My OLD bathing suit is a one-piece, underwire, tummy-cinching Miracle suit. It was the only kind of bathing suit I could wear without giving away my sagging breasts and flabby stomach. My NEW bathing suit is a full-coverage triangle top with swim shorts. BARE BELLY! I think I’ll be able to get away with a more traditional looking bikini bottom once I lose another 15-20 pounds, but for now I’m very happy with my new bathing suit and can’t wait to go to the pool! I still have a little visible liposuction bruise on one side, and my belly button is still a bit red and swollen, but I don’t care.
WORTH. EVERY. PENNY.
Seriously… if you’ve been thinking about this for a long time, run, don’t walk, and interview plastic surgeons. Check their credentials, of course, seek patient reviews, but first and foremost, trust your gut. If you feel at all uneasy about the surgeon, go elsewhere. It is so important that you feel comfortable with and trust the person you are hiring to cut your body open and rearrange things permanently!
Friday, May 20
What was gearing up to be a really great two week surgery anniversary ended up to be a backslide: my belly button split open! I was half awake this morning, doing a little stretch, and I felt a pop in my belly. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but when I got in the shower and looked down, I noticed that the left side of my belly button where it attaches to my stomach was wide open. Fluid was draining out of it. It wasn’t bleeding, and it didn’t hurt, but it was definitely open wide. I called the PS, who was out of town, but I went in anyway to have his nurse look at it. She said he probably will not sew it back together and that it will most likely have to just stay open and heal from the inside out. She also said that it is not as bad as it looks, that it just opened on the surface and that there are sutures deeper inside that will keep my belly button where it is. She just taped gauze on it and told me that I can’t exercise or go in the pool like I had planned to do. I have had to change the gauze a few times today because of the fluid leakage, and it’s pretty sore now. I’m bummed! Maybe I was feeling so great that I was doing too much and putting strain on it – putting dishes up into high cabinets, carrying laundry baskets, etc. I’ll see the PS on Monday. Will update.
Get this done in the cooler months! You will be miserable wearing a compression garment in the summer. Seriously.