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Finally, I Am Going to Get Rid of This Baby Damage! Tummy Tuck, Here We Go... -Milwaukee, WI

I have always wanted to get this baby damage...

I have always wanted to get this baby damage fixed--the stretch marks, the sagging, the basic flab. It's pretty depressing. After my first was born, I felt monstrous. I really didn't expect to feel that way--and honestly no one warned me just how much my body would change. I expected that my hips would "spread" even larger, and that my breasts would be droopier. But I really didn't know that my stomach would never recover. The multiple c-sections added to the lumpy look of my tummy under clothes, and the scar is somewhat like a stair step. After my third (like a YEAR after) a co-worker asked if I was expecting another. I said, "no, I'm not pregnant, just fat. Can't I just be fat?"

I love what my body has done for me. It's given me beautiful children, and I nursed all of them. It's been a real provider and a universe of it's own. But now that I'm done having kids, I'm finally going to get all this extra skin gone! I have the kids, I don't need this souvenir. It's been a tough decision. It's a lot of cash, and the recovery time is daunting. But I'd rather do this NOW and have this new stomach sooner rather than later.

My biggest concern is the recovery time. My Dr. explained to me that I would have NO LIFTING for about 4 weeks. This is terrifying because I have 3 kids, the youngest is under 2! We don't have a lot of help, and it's mostly just me and the kids. I know the first 2 weeks are going to be the hardest, and I'm bracing myself for it. No lifting the little one out of the crib, no diaper changes (well, that can't be so bad, right?), no picking up the baby. Yikes. I even tried to hire babysitting help, but somehow I can't get any!

I've already had some lipo done to prepare for the big procedure, and it helped a lot because I no longer look totally preggers. But that skin, that kangaroo pouch, is still there. I feel kind of light bulb shaped (upside down, you understand). So now, I'm going to jump in and get this finished! I imagine it's like a very intensive and medical "time-machine." Let's hope for the best!

One Week Countdown!

I have one week to go, and I'm sort of crazy nervous, mainly about the recovery. I hope that this next week goes smoothly. New Year's Eve is almost here, and then my real "new year" begins! I'm trying to calmly prepare, and keep my cool. I'm not broadcasting my surgery, so most friends don't know that I'll be out of commission for a while--which is actually okay, since most of my friends are all over the country. It does make it hard as far as support goes, though, because I can't call someone to come over and help with the kids. Also, most don't have kids, so they don't really understand why I'm so upset about the extras that the pregnancies have left me with. I do have some help for the first week, and am trying to import help for the second (hopefully!). Thanks to everyone on the realself site for your well wishes and support! For someone like me, this means a lot!

Tomorrow's the day!

It's January 1, the new year has begun, and I am up for my surgery tomorrow. I've been neglectful of my review/story because of the holidays, which rocked. I was able to entertain a steady throng of guests and had a lovely time, but it left little to no time for my mind to focus on my surgery (which I guess is good). And now, I'm exhausted and it's the night before my surgery. But I do have a moment to myself to catalog my thoughts and reply to the comments that you good folk have left.

I had a few blips with the surgical center at the last minute, which was pretty stressful, actually. They changed my appointment from 7:15 to 6:15, which might not be a big deal to those without kids, but now my husband has to bring all three of our children with us when he drops me off--no childcare that early, unfortunately. So that's a little stressful.

Then, when I went to pre-pay the center fee, I noticed that they had tacked on $500 extra dollars from the doctor's original invoice! This actually bothered me more than the appointment change, (which probably bothered my husband more than me). Luckily, on December 31 I was able to get them on the phone and they said that they would honor the doctor's invoice amount. YAY! Cause one more problem is a problem I don't need.

I have very mixed emotions right now. I'm incredibly worried about everything. I'm worried that my recovery will be impeded by responsibility, that my down time will effect my children negatively, that this is pointless vanity and that I am giving up a piece of my history by getting the baby damage gone. I know that second thoughts are normal. And I know that once I look down and DON'T see a flabby gut I'll be happy. It would be nice to have a stomach that does not touch my thigh when I sit, for Pete's sake. But here are my 11th hour ruminations.

And of course I'm worried that I am unprepared, which I just might be.

The first few days... It's not a cakewalk.

It's not a party over here.

So maybe I just underestimated the pain, but this has got to be the most painful thing that I have ever endured. Perhaps it's the type of medication I am on, but those who say that it's easier than a c-section--well, that's not been my experience at all!

The pain on day one was excruciating. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin, and the pain meds didn't seem to make a dent. I even considered that I had taken them wrong. Did I take the wrong thing? Nope.

Sleep has been difficult, and my doctor told me at my first post op (Jan 3) that I was to be sleeping in a chair, not in bed. But I can't do it, I can't sleep. So I've been propped up under my knees/legs and back into a somewhat "V" position in order to try to get some sleep in bed. The Dr has me worried to death about popping a stitch, and says that the bed is the worst place for me to be. But I don't have a recliner, so here we are.

I did get to see the flat stomach, but through the lens of pain I was not very excited. I felt more like Frankenstein looking at the stitches which were big and black and somewhat puckered and unattractive--resembling the interior of sewn leather, the part that does not face the outside world. It was also a bit sunken in and uneven, not really flat. I'm sure that it will get better, but the pain is making it difficult to work through.

I go back on Monday (4 days post-op), and I hope that by then I'll be feeling more positive and better. I know that there are ups and downs to this process, but holy smoke, this has been pretty awful. Staying positive is pretty hard when your whole body is enveloped in searing pain.

It seems like the reviews that have pain pumps have an easier time of it. With so much pain, it's hard to sleep, and healing takes longer.

On a side note, I didn't get the chance to photograph my gut in the surgical center as I had planned because they immediately took my personal belongings away. I also have lost some earrings which were pretty expensive and sentimental because I got them as a kid and almost never take them out. Please, flat stomach, be worth it.

Another thought, about using the toilet and the kindness of others.

Well, folks. Got my period today. My doc said to just "slip" a pad in the compression garment. Ha ha. "Slip" This thing has me locked up like Fort Knox. Ain't no slipping, ever. Yet here I am! Drains? Menstruation? Pain? No baths! Well thank the Lord that I'm not also nauseated.

However, I do want to give big props to my doc's medical assistants. I can't tell you how kind and supportive Amy, one of 3 of the nurses who regularly attend patients, was during my first post-op yesterday. She helped me use the toilet also, which is a HUGE task when you have a compression garment on. Her compassion and patience really helped at a time when the pain was simply overwhelming and all I felt was pain. I like everyone in the office, but yesterday Amy earned a huge gold star in my book. She made me crackers and peanut butter and held my hand when I was at a really low point. Again, compassion in action made all the difference.

And after a little distance from the worst of the pain, I can appreciate it even more.

Feeling irritable, maybe a little blue.... But on the bright side,

On the bright side, the unbearable pain has subsided. Unfortunately, it's been replaced with a sort of stabbing pain from the drains. Either that or now I'm just finally noticing it.

I know that pain changes people. And so does medication. I'm trying my best to stay as positive as possible and not get too negative about my situation.

I think also that caring for the kids has taken it's toll on my husband, who seems to be functioning at a limited capacity. This is not a surprise, but in my current state I'm less tolerant.

I've cut down on the pain meds because my doc said that I need to be off of them by today. I'm not yet off them completely--I don't know when that will happen. I'm still somewhat uncomfortable, and the pain meds are about the only thing that is getting me to sleep a bit. Originally I was taking one pill every 4 hours. Now I'm taking a half pill, and hopefully I can stretch it to 6 hours.

What's bothering me most right now is the mess. The mess of having drainage (the drains aren't working properly and it's seeping out everywhere), the mess of having my period and the mess that every time I try to use the bathroom it's a major production like "Free Willy." Or more appropriately, "Elephant Drop". Anyway both involve multiple man-power and pulleys. I'm just so sick of tape and cloth and hooks and tubes and fluid.

But Monday is coming. And Monday, maybe, can bring a little relief. My doc is the one who has to redress my bandages and look at the handiwork. I'm really looking forward to clean garments.

There's a new ache in town, and it's back aches!

It's a Wednesday morning, I've lost all track of time and I'm not sure if I'm considered day 6 or 7 post op...

My doctor visit on Monday went well. Much better than the Friday visit, in no small part to the reduction in pain. I am back again TODAY for another follow up, and I'm told I should be walking into the doctor's office on my own, no wheelchair or assistance. Hmmmm.

On Friday, with my eyes less blurred by pain, I was able to better assess my new stomach. It is indeed flat. My belly button is tiny! I hope that once the binder and compression garment are off that most of the stretch marks are gone, as well. It's hard to tell at this point. The stitches also looked less hideous, but still somewhat resemble the hideous crocked smile of a scarecrow.

Ready for TMI?

But here's another warning that no one mentioned to me prior to the surgery. We all knew that drains would be required. But where, exactly, are those drains? Well, your privates. You read right, those intrepid ones who come after me. The drains are basically placed on your newly shaved mons pubis. Besides being weird looking, it poses a problem when using the toilet. If, like me, you need to actually open your legs to wipe you will find that they may pull and create discomfort. Or worse. Leakage.

Leakage? Yes, you might leak fluid, which looks yellowish/red, down your legs and onto your lovely white thigh-high compression socks.

But the biggest pain in my a** right now is the pain in my back. My BACK!?!?! Because I have been in basically two positions (hunched over walking or reclining while sitting/laying), my back is on fire with ache. And it's not just my lower back, which you might expect. It's the upper back! So here's the pattern: lower back pain while walking, upper back pain while laying/sleeping.

Some yoga would sure help. But that's for later as I don't want to stretch out my newly flattened stomach.

I'm off the narcotic pain meds, and have been since about day 3/4. Not real happy about that, but these are doctor's orders. Pretty hard to sleep, though, with the back pain.

I also still need help with using the toilet, which means that my husband is on potty duty. But luckily my period is at it's end so things are made easier in comparison.

Because I cannot bathe properly until the drains are out, I have been using baby wipes and washing in the sink. I apply deodorant, wash my face, and apply make-up. I have not yet washed my hair and surprisingly it's maintained the look of an only slightly dirty head. I feel pretty good about this, but I really want to bathe. This may be contributing to my depression. It comes and goes. I also think that not being able to pick up my baby is making me weepy. I sort of side-hug him, but that's a poor replacement.

Hope this review helps some of you out there! And once again, THANK YOU to all of you in the Realself community who keep sending me good vibes and positive thoughts. I really love reading what you all write, and I love communicating with those who are going through it, too. You're great, ladies.

Observations from My First Week of Convalescence

Amazingly, the first week has past, and I have reached my TT one week anniversary. It has been harrowing! I plan on celebrating yet another follow-up with my plastic surgeon with a list of concerns and aches. And maybe, just maybe, someday soon I’ll get to see in a MIRROR what this new body looks like!

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen it, but only from looking down. It is a muuuuch better view that my previous look, which was basically a fat stomach, like a soft pillow upholstered in the center by a plunged in belly button. This pillow of flesh, from my purview, hid my lady parts unless I was craning down to view them. If I were to suck in my gut, it only exaggerated the extra skin under my belly button. Glamorous, eh? Yeah, well, thus the abdominalplasty.

Another comrade on Realself mentioned that this journey is an emotional roller coaster. YES. Yes, that’s right. I never wondered, “why did I do this?” but I have worried, “what if something that I’ve done will ruin this?!?” My doc took me off narcotic meds at post-op day 3, and that meant that the pain of not moving as well as the operation itself caught up with me quick. Today, one week after my procedure, it is discovered that the pain in my right side may be a pulled muscle in my abdomen! And let’s hope that’s it, because a busted stitch is much worse and I will cry my eyes out if somehow living my life ruined all this work.

The roller coaster itself can be quite fun when you are at the top. Because I’m a freelancer, and also need to earn a living, I actually began working again a few days ago. CRAZY, RIGHT?! Nothing too high impact, but I actually found doing work to be a little therapeutic. I’m saying a *little* work. I’m a writer and an artist, so I have a few projects that are going to come due in February that need tending. I felt witty and bright, if not pretty, and this little jaunt into the workforce gave me a boost of self-confidence. Until….

The searing back pain. Somehow, balancing out the pain in the front of my lower torso, the pain in the back of my upper torso is headed for the win. I literally could not lay down against my back. At all. I walked around, and sat straight up (against doc’s orders, by the way) all night long. My family greeted me in the morning, well rested and unaware that overnight I had become feral with pain.
So what got me through?

Not pain meds, I’ll tell you that much. Tylenol ain’t gonna make a dent in that action. What worked? My husband finally agreed to massage my back for literally 2 hours. NO JOKE. Not many men are known for their back rub prowess. My husband is of the typical variety that will rub my back for about 2 minutes before saying his hand is sore. It was an act of God. He indulgently massaged my aches, all the while our 3 kids ripped up our house and blared cartoons on the TV. This changed me from evil to good again, and life continued.

I’ve made a lot of comments throughout the week, and thought I’d share a few on my review for safekeeping. In fact, I've plagiarized myself at some points:

•LAUNDRY: No one will have clean socks/pants/underwear etc. Your socks will end up in someone else’s drawn. Your laundry will become a fun riddle for when you are well again and feel like channeling Nancy Drew as you organize the remains of your family’s wardrobe.

•BATHING: Not taking a bath or having the therapeutic effects of warm water on my body has been a hardship. It's been a week now. Baths are my go to move for almost all stress.

I’ve been bathing via “French bath” as another reviewer put it. Which is to say, I’ve been using rubbing alcohol on my underarms to kill bacteria, then washrags and baby wipes on my visible body parts. I’m trying to stay sane. Surprisingly, I’m not that disgusting. Using baby wipes regularly in “delicate” areas keeps you fresh—despite having started my period post-op!

•HAIR: Washing your hair in the kitchen sink is not that bad when you have help. My hair looked okay, much to my surprise, up to 6 days after by TT with no actual wash. I keep reminding myself that women in the 60s would get their hair “dressed” once a week at the hair dresser and wear sleep caps to bed, so what’s one week to me? This retro-style consolation didn’t work much.

I “freshened it up” twice with dry shampoo before doc follow ups—I bought the cheapest Dove brand dry shampoo because I’d never tried it before. A word of warning for girls with curly or “ethnic” hair types. Weirdly, the dry shampoo makes it straighter and more wig like. To date, I have still YET to take a bath, which leads me to this next fun fact…

•DRAINS: My drains are still in. I must be the only one who reaches this mark and still has drainage. If I’m lucky, I get to have them removed Monday, possibly Tuesday (today is Friday). I’ve been given orders to move as little as possible until that time. I have been instructed NOT to shower while the drains are in, and so my “French baths” continue.

•MEASUREMENT: In pounds or inches. These are the things that make me crazy if I allow them to. I’ve read some seriously impressive posts about doctors telling their patients that they have removed 15 lbs of fat and skin. Woowza!

Ladies, I have not lost any weight. Not. Any. Not after lipo, not after the TT. When I jump on the scale, it's the SAME. I have decided that it's "water" or whatever, but in my heart I suspect that the surgery is just rearranging my fatness, and I have made peace with that. If I look rockin' and still come in over my ideal weight, so be it. And measurements? I think my thighs and butt are actually BIGGER than before, probably from the swelling and duress of saying good-bye to its flab friends on my abdomen. Don't be hasty with the numbers. Time will tell for all of us.

•BOREDOM: Oh, you guys, the boredom. It's making me stupid. While I was medicated I couldn't really read books, my eyes would not agree. I'm out of the fog, now, but even so it's hard to concentrate sometimes. Last night in a fit of sleeplessness I ended up watching CNN and a guy literally peed snow it was so cold. And this was on the news at like 3 a.m. Why? I'm not sure why ANYONE would pee outside when it's a polar vortex, but apparently it turns to snow when you do that. Disgusting, but that ended up occupying my thoughts for about 10 minutes. The rest of the news was so depressing that a pee break was actually welcome!

Before surgery, I imagined that I would have time while recovering to pain my fingernails and surf the net. But mostly, I have been preoccupied with pain, sleeplessness, and the fact that it takes a thousand times longer to do anything I need to do than I thought that it would. I tried to watch a funny video clip that a friend posted on Facebook, and had to stop because I thought I would bust a stitch. I guess being happy will have to wait.

•COMPRESSION GARMENTS: I’ve noticed some pretty hot stuff CGs on many other Realself buddies. They look pretty hardcore and awesome. I like the ones that have all the zippers—someone had one that had a zipper that wrapped all the way up creating a “butt crack”! Those must look awesome under clothes.

Mine looks like a girdle, the kind that hooks at the crotch. When you open it at the crotch, you can pull it fully up and away, which makes having your period a lot easier. It has boning in the sides and front, which is nice, because it holds the binder into place and does not crease. I actually like these because they are easier to pee and use the bathroom with. I’ve tried the horrible “gusset” opening CG garments when I had my lipo—they open in two tight flaps like a sort of fake labia majora—and you end up peeing all over yourself as you two handed hold them open while hovering over the toilet. Not something my ab muscles would tolerate at this point, anyway. My CG was recommended by my surgeon and is super cheap, too. Cupid model 5065--$12 at Walmart, and comes in sizes S to 2X. I am proud to say, I am actually wearing an S. I am also picking up the model that has thigh compression to try that out (although it does not come in size small)—it’s $14!

•DRAINS. AGAIN. At their most productive in the earliest days after my operation, the drainage went renegade and leaked from the source right down on to my sexy thigh-high compression socks. The more you move, the more you drain! The color does change, and the drainage fluctuates wildly. The color is anywhere from thin red to weird yellowy orange (like a UTI or maybe if you take to many vitamins before you pee). Don't worry if the drainage seems too red to begin with. It lightens. It changes.

The drains are good, but they are soooooo annoying. When I first saw them it reminded me of an old movie where someone has a bomb strapped to their chest—the tear-drop shaped drains looked like detonators! Little fluid filled grenades! My left drain was stagnant for a day while the right was working overtime, and it was determined that there was a clog in the drain somewhere. I worked the clog out myself by pulling on the tubing while NOT pulling against its insertion point, which I have mentioned before is plugged straight into my newly shaved mons pubis (no one warned me my vagina would be so involved in this process). Once the clot reached the point of connection between the tube and the grenade shaped drain, I had to carefully cut the tube with scissors that I had soaked in isopropyl alcohol, cut out the blockage and reattach the tube. I did this *carefully* and kept the tube pinched tight the entire time so that extra air would not enter. Then the drain worked fine again!

•CLOTHES: Maternity clothes are fun again! I am going to LOVE to shop my closet for clothes that I have managed to keep and not wear after all these kids and multiple c-sections. Don’t get me wrong, I really want to fit in my pants and not have them look like mom jeans. However, I am here to sing the praises of maternity pajamas. They are the PERFECT recovery clothes for this process. They hide drains, are loose and stretchy, and seems to be the most forgiving thing on the planet. I am so glad I didn’t freak out and dump all these at the salvation army like I planned to. I have new respect and appreciation for the Motherhood Maternity brand, and I feel less likely to curse their high prices.

I haven’t had a lot of time to myself to keep this review fresh, but I hope that this entry helps someone, anyone. Or at least entertains those of us who are currently healing and preparing for our new, badassed selves.

I wish I could share photos, but I’m in a constant state of being bound in a binder and secured in a CG. My doc has pics, and hopefully I can get a few of those, soon. One last thought. One week later, my scar is looking great—it’s long, but it’s getting flatter and it’s all taped up. Pretty cool.

On the Subject of Gas and Poo...

I pilfered what I'd written in the January comments to include it here, somewhat edited:

I've read a couple of comments about this, so I have a recommendation. Gas? Take GasX. It worked for me.

On the subject of BM: Also, the generic Milk of Magnesia is terrible tasting, like a rancid schnaps or something. But take 3 teaspoons and it works. I had terrible issues with that after my first c-section. I thought I'd pass out and die on the toilet, Elvis style. But the Phillips MOM works well. I didn't have to go stronger. And it worked fast, unlike the more gentle miralax. Hope that helps some of you! Don't over do it! And remember, not going for the first 3 days or so is uncomfortable, but normal. You're in recovery, so don't strain, you know?

Drains, Depression and the Lack of Bathing are Taxing Me

I call tomorrow a.m. and report, over the phone, my amount of drainage. This will hopefully give some insight on when I get my drains out. I still have both drains, and they are still producing some fluid.

Because my drains are still in, I have not yet truly showered or bathed. I'm not allowed to shower with the drains in because of the risk of infection at the drain site.

Not being able to take baths will be hard enough, because it's one of the simple pleasures that I truly enjoy in life. But not even being able to shower is making me feel very depressed. How am I supposed to greet the world each day when I have no idea about my hygiene? This "French bathing" stuff is for the birds. Am I just too sensitive?

I have survived a 10 days post-op that included getting my period, blinding back pain, leaking drain sites, limited narcotics and bowel movements. But somehow what's breaking me is the inability to bathe. And I want to cry. I'm still wearing the thigh-high compression socks that they sent me home in 10 days ago.

Thank god I've been changing my underwear and pajamas.

I have yet to even wear real clothes because of these ******* drains and their tubing and apparatus.

In lighter news, I have spent the majority of the weekend pretty much laying still. Carol, the doctor's assistant, said the less active I am, the more likely I would be to get my drains out this coming week. And it is true. The less I move the less fluid drains. So that's something, right?

Also, even though I have STILL yet to really see the results of the procedure in a mirror, they look pretty good under the compression garments and the binder. Like a fetish doll, or something--thin waist and round hips.
Dr. Lorelle Kramer

Very personable, Dr. Kramer approaches her patients with honest criticism and thoughtful experience. She is very thorough, and I trust her experience and insight. She and her staff are very supportive, and being women and mothers themselves, they really understand patients who come to them not out of vanity, but out of desire to feel more comfortable in their skin.

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