Flat belly, here I come.

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Hey RS community! I'm a 33-year old mom to four...

Hey RS community! I'm a 33-year old mom to four beautiful children, ages 13 - 3 (all delivered via c-section). I have been hiding my saggy, loose belly for well over a decade! A tummy tuck was always on the horizon, after baby #1 left me SOOOOO stretched out and with a significant apron following a c-section. Toward the end of my first pregnancy, my lower abdominal skin took on a very strange, watery texture. It never went away completely. I gained 40-60 lbs with each pregnancy, leaving me further stretched and saggy. My boobs and butt always got huge too, lol!

I have a natural hour-glass shape and a healthy amount of self-confidence. But my belly has always held me back! This summer I threw my hands in the air and said, "To hell with it!" I'm going to embrace this body and prove to myself (and anyone else, for that matter) that I can be proud and comfortable in a two-piece, even with a non-traditional bikini body. I bought some bikinis (HELLLLLLOOOOO! Most comfortable swimwear ever!) I'd always hidden behind "tankinis" since I'm so tall and normal swimwear cuts into my (lower everything) too much. The first day wearing a bikini at the beach was exhilarating. Just being able to feel the sun and wind on my belly was a spiritual experience! I have been on a mission to prove that anyone can be comfortable in their own skin, even with rolls, stretch marks, a "demented belly button" (as my pre-teen son told me mine was, haha! to which I responded smiling, "I didn't get this belly by myself-- you four DARLINGS helped!") :D

While I have embraced my body, flaws and all, I'm heartily looking forward to a full TT (possibly a MM too, but waiting until consultations with PS to make a decision about my breasts.) Though I could keep this skin and be comfortable with myself, it does hold me back during intimate moments. My husband has always been so supportive and complimentary to me in every phase of our marriage & childbearing years. He is supportive and happy about my decision, and looking forward to an even freer, more confident me! I've become skilled at camouflaging my belly and apron behind clothing, high-cut bottoms, spanx etc, but I'm so over all that. I'm ready to not look four months pregnant in anything remotely tight-fitting, too. It's my time now. :)

My expectations are pretty realistic. I'm most looking forward to losing the loose skin. I can keep some of the stretch marks... they don't bother me. I'm really hoping for a low scar, and drastically improved belly button. It was always small and a very deep "innie". Not sure what to expect, but I know I will love it more than what it currently is. I had pronounced diastis-recti (sp?) with each pregnancy (with my last one, I could pop the muscle in and out of place! Yuck!) I'm greatly looking forward to having all my inner muscles sewn back together, allowing me to see real results from working out. I'm not a regular exerciser, but I do enjoy light cardio and being active with my family. I hope having a TT will give me more dedication to a regular fitness routine.

I'll keep my profile updated with my journey! Thanks everyone for being a part of this community. It's already been a huge help to me.

Scheduled my surgery! AHHHHH! So excited (and nervous)

I had two consultations on the same day last week with two doctors who I felt would do an awesome job. I THINK this was wise to do because I wanted to get multiple opinions about my body. The only problem is that now I have more questions because these doctors had two very different possible outcomes.

The first doctor said I would need an extended tummy tuck (my scar would reach around my hips toward my back). Yikes! This is due to my curvy shape and amount of skin he'd take out. He also said that my belly button is on the higher side of average, which means my scar would need to be higher to reduce the chance of having a vertical scar to close the old naval opening (which is a bummer! I want a scar as low as possible). I'd have a 10% chance of that vertical scar happening, even with a higher horizontal incision. Overall I was impressed with the amount of time he spent talking to me about a TT. We discussed a breast augmentation but he warned me that without a breast lift, my implants would create a small gap between the base of my breasts and my chest wall. I decided on TT only. His staff was great too. Their office is only a 45 minute drive from my home.

The second doctor... I was kind of already set on him before my consultations. His website is FULL of information and before / after photos. This is so helpful for me because I can't. get. enough. info at this stage of the game. I assume the first doctor (because they are both HIGHLY rated on realself.com and google) has many happy patients as well, but it's a bummer that his website doesn't reflect that. It's part of the reason I am going with doctor #2... Dr. York Yates. He didn't think that my naval was too high, nor that I need an extended tummy tuck. He said my incision can be as low as I want it. He addressed all of my concerns with an almost casual air, like those things were no big deal and that I am a great candidate for a beautiful tummy tuck. :) Yay! We also discussed a breast augmentation without a lift. My goal is to have more fullness at the top. I'm happy with my symmetry and nipple height. He said my goal was totally achievable, and that an implant wouldn't cause my nipples to be lower (which was a concern of mine). He said my breasts would look more or less the same, just with more fullness at the top. I'm opting for just a TT with this surgery and may go back next year, or even five years from now if I do want implants in the future. I pretty happy with my breasts now and will see how I feel about everything after my TT.

SO... I scheduled my surgery for December 13 with Dr. Yates. I'm so thrilled. I'm also a bit nervous because the first PS put into my mind some concerns about my body that I didn't have before. (high belly button, maybe needing a higher horizontal scar, needed an extended TT.) I probably should have only ever scheduled the one consultation since I was set on Dr. Yates in the first place, due to his website and before/afters. Now I'm worried that I'm going with the PS who is promising everything I want. I'm trying to trust, based on my gut instinct and his awesome reputation, that he can meet my expectations. I've already put $500 down toward my surgery so there is no going back. (I should point out that his office is nearly 90 minutes from my home and his surgery costs $1000 more than the first doc.) I'm happy with my decision. But this is such a big deal! Are these feelings normal??? My biggest fear is that I will somehow be disappointing with my results, or have regrets.

More before pics. Just over four weeks to go.

Low-rise pants have always been the enemy. Honestly I'm not sure if I will love them much more even after my surgery. But just for fun, here is a comparison that I hope to follow up with in a few months when my tummy looks the way I want it to.

Quick getaway with the hubby before all the holidays and my surgery

DH and I hopped on a plane and came to the beach for a two-night mini vacay. We've had SUCH a busy couple of months with extended family plans and other unexpected events (sister's wedding, friend's funeral, brother leaving for a two year service mission to Peru!) needless to say, quality time has been hard to come by. We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves, knowing things are only going to get crazier for a while. Here's a couple befores that I can have as motivation when I can work out again post-surgery!

Two weeks and counting...

Put on my PJs tonight and said "Ug!" Can't wait for this baggage to be gone! I'm honestly as exited for how my tummy will look with clothes on as without! Yay! It's starting to seem real. I keep telling myself I'm not nervous... ha! Mostly I'm excited. My new goal is to have all Christmas presents wrapped before I go in for surgery. I'm pretty sure I will not be up my usual 1am Christmas morning wrapping mania this year! I'll be 12 days post op on Christmas and I'm starting to question my scheduling and why I planned it this way… Oh well. I'm sure not everything will get finished in time. I bet the house will not be as clean as I want it to be. but I'm telling myself it's going to be just fine. My DH has a seasonal business so he will be around to help out quite a bit. I have a lot of family and friends nearby, my kids are old enough to help look after each other (and maybe even give momma a foot rub once in a while!) so come what may. I want to put all of my positive energy into having a safe, successful surgery and speedy recovery. I can't sweat the small stuff. So, for the next two weeks i'll keep preparing, and continue to imagine how I will look next spring. In the meantime, more "befores" Cheers and happy holidays, my friends!

More before

My belly is so lumpy. Can't wait to join the flat side. Hopefully it turns out as smooth as I hope!

Active wear

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Well friends, surgery is less than four days away! I can't believe it's really (almost) here. I've been looking forward to this for so long.

I went in for my preop appointment on Wednesday. Dr. Yates looked at my midsection and said, "oh your tummy tuck is going to be glorious!" To which I thought, hallelujah!
I looked at Dr Yates' profile again and was reminded as to why I chose him. His results are outstanding.

I've been RealSelf-binging for the past few days. I find I go in waves but lately I can't get enough of reviews and before and after pictures! I never, ever expected to get such wonderful, down to earth advice from a cosmetic surgery website community. Over the past few months, and the past week especially, I have read so many beautiful body-positive thoughts from incredible, beautiful, smart intelligent women. I've been inspired by all of your journeys, and all of your thoughts about loving ourselves, our whole selves, and not just focusing on what we consider to be our flaws.

I feel the need to keep reminding myself what my surgery goals are. I know my realistic expectations will absolutely be met! Flab gone, cute bellybutton, flat tummy, improved confidence, check check check! However I catch myself imagining my post-surgery self looking like a Barbie. BUT, I realize I need to keep in mind that the surgery is not going to fix my lower body cellulite (I have a lot!), my deflating boobs, my wide hips, gray hairs, wrinkles etc. and that's okay! I read a beautiful idea from the review of user BuhByeBelly in Calgary, AB: "You are the sum of your parts. You may have some parts that you don’t like as much as others… EVERYONE does… but you are the sum of all those parts, the good and the not-so-much. And, put together, you are pretty awesome and cut quite a pretty picture. How long will you try and attain perfection? When will you allow yourself to start appreciating and just live? Talk about hitting the nail on the head!" (Her whole review is just delightful; look her up)

My point is… This surgery is part of my journey; it's not a destination. Once I am fully recovered I know there is much I can do to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few more before pictures. My backside, as well as the classic bending over photos. :) You all are wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your journeys.

Surgery done!

Whew! Made it to the post-surgery side. Surgery day recap:

Dr. Yates came in with the sharpie and began marking me up. I wasn't planning on the lipo going so far around the back, but my Dr. is very thorough and a perfectionist. His goal is an all-around shapely look. I'm glad his eye catches things that I never brought up with him, like that cute but weird fatty bump above my crack. He said, whilst wielding the sharpie, "How do you feel about that little spot right there?" I told him I'd always thought it was a strange little bump. Dr. Yates said "well lets make it gone then." I turned to hubby and he was all smiles. Hubby told me later when I asked that he had noticed it before and thought with it gone I's have a nicer slope from back to rump.

The nurses brought me back to the OR room where they gave me the ugliest spray tan with iodine (then they washed it off). I was so nervous and excited and nervous. I couldn't stop chatting and making jokes to the sweet nurses as they prepped me right before surgery. They must have been relieved when the CRNA came in and put me under, lol! Nah they were all so nice.

Coming out of surgery was a little rough. It took around three hours, so I'm told. Somewhere between waking and full consciousness I must have scratched my poor eyeball, because it hurt so much all day! Honestly that was the worst part of day 1! Until I felt nauseous and dry heaved a few times later that night. Then THAT was the worst part. My drains are weird. So far hubby has taken care of them because I get super light headed if I try to empty them myself. I'm not sure if it's all in my head or what. But so far when I've tried to take care of them I've thrown up. Yikes. The nausea could also be the effect of the anesthesia wearing off, as I would frequently throw up for 24 hours after each of my four c-sections.

Day 2::: I still haven't taken my binder off yet but I did get a peek at my incision. Looks awesome! My mons is pretty puffy, and my back where I had lipo is sooooo tender. I've been tying to move around during the day but mostly I lay in the recliner. I'm sure that doesn't help with the soreness in my back hips. :(

I've tried skipping the Percocet dose twice now (still taking 800mg of Advil every 6 hours though) just to ease things on my GI tract. Milk of magnesia gave me what I wanted this morning so maybe I'll take another narcotic since things seem to be moving again down there.

Every little movement that involves tummy muscles or my incision burns, baby! I suppose that's normal considering what it's been through. Holding still doesn't hurt so I think things are on track for healing. Next goal: shower.

My hubby is taking fantastic care of me. Literally I've done nothing around the house or with the kids and he's been really sweet about it, even though he is suffering from back pain himself this week.

Oh, and before I took a break from the pain pills I showed my visiting brother-in-law my pre-op photos with marker drawn on my body. Pretty sure it was the worst day of his life. :'D

Well I'm off to catch up on my pain meds. Until next time!

So... it's supposed to hurt, right?

Because I'm so sore. All over.

Day 3, 5:00 am: I'm not in intense pain or experiencing anything that would cause me to feel alarm, but I am beginning to feel the gravity of how long the road to recovery will be. I hope it flies by!

I don't want to complain but man, my back hurts. I am getting so tired of sitting and sleeping in the recliner. My bed looks so amazing to me right now so I just stare at it all day feeling sorry for myself. Nah, I'm kidding. I get up and walk around, use the bathroom, watch movies, and then stare at my bed. So it's not the only thing I do. Also, I feel the need to yawn all the time. Maybe because I can't breathe deeply yet?

Last night I had a little emotional breakdown. The switches between laughter and hysterics are programmed very closely in my brain. We have an inside/outside dog who tries to linger in the house overnight. He drives me crazy when he wants to be let out at 3am, wandering the halls and jingling his collar like a prince. Before going to bed last night I tried to coax him out, but he was onto me. Tempting him with food usually works so I threw a handful of tortilla chips out in the garage, and being the dum dum he is he went right out. For tortilla chips! Something about the scenario struck me as so hilarious. I painfully giggled, clutching my walker and my tummy all the way back to our room to tell my husband while trying not to laugh. Hubby asked what was so funny. I told him my pathetic story, laughed some more and then burst into tears. I think it took him a minute to realize that I was crying, poor guy. All I really wanted in that moment was to curl up in the bed. But hello! I can barely put my feet up with help from my electric recliner chair without a twinge of pain. I very much doubt I will be getting on and off the bed anytime soon. I wiped my nose, let hubby prop me up in the recliner and settled in for sleep. A few more hysterical giggles escaped me as I thought, "I'm still more comfortable than the dog right now." (I do love our family pet, don't get me wrong. I'm just not quite myself these days. Besides he has a very comfortable dog bed by the garage door.)

Also, ya'll are right about drains being the worst. First day back from surgery my left drain site started bleeding lightly; I think it may have snagged on some clothing or my binder. Last night I got up to use the bathroom and my right drain site was damp. It too seems to have been bumped or pulled. I emailed my surgeon's nurse and she said not to worry. So, I'm not going to worry. But they are a nuisance.

I feel like I could go on and on complaining about how I feel or what is bothering me, but I'll save it. So many women have made it through this. Your stories are all inspirational and help me so much, especially when I start to worry or feel lonely.

Day 3, 10:30 am update:
I showered, hooray! It was easier than I thought. I'm feeling better and stronger since I wrote earlier today. Sitting in front of the mirror, taking off my binder and my bellybutton bandage was a huge thrill. OMG I love my belly button! I never really had one before, so I'm super happy with it! My incision looks good. I knew that I would still have stretch marks, so I hope they smooth out a bit once I can stand straight. But hey, I did have four kids so the marks are battle scars, of a sort. I'm thrilled with my results. I'm very glad I had Lipo done as well. I had no idea the Lipo would make such a big difference in my overall contour! I know it's still so early and I am prepared that I will swell more, have bumps in my recovery road, etc. But I'm really glad I did this.

Thanks for all your support. I sure appreciate all my real-self friends

Hoping everything is just fine...

I've been feeling more like myself each day. Yesterday I was up walking around quite a bit. I'm still hunched over a lot, which kills my back but I feel stronger. Evenings are the hardest pain-wise and emotionally. I just get worn out. My family is being so wonderful; I can't complain but i do look forward to getting back to my old routine.

Last night my left hip began feeling SO tender at the end of my incision. Under the incision tape it feels warm and a bit bumpy. I think I may have been wearing my binder too high as it wasn't covering the incision all the way. I've been more concerned about my drains not getting pulled on, so I haven't paid much attention to binder placement. I'm going to keep it adjusted low and firm.

I woke up this morning with the hip area hurting A LOT. Upon waking I took some Ibuprofen and iced the spot for 10 minutes. I was super careful wrapped the cooler in a cloth first. It felt great but I read how it's not good to put ice/heat near incisions as the skin may be numb, and it could cause skin death. Yikes! I don't want that. So no more ice.

So I really hope this issue is simply being caused by swelling. I hope it's not something like infection, hematoma, seroma, or any of the other issues I've been reading about. Hopefully taking Advil didn't thin my blood and cause an issue from sneezing or vomiting early post-op. I still have incision tape on so I can't get a good look at it. The picture doesn't really help but here is one anyway.

My incision is painful as well: though I'm not terribly concerned about the pain as I've been on only ibuprofen for the last 48 hours (no pain meds, they make me ill) Sometimes I go longer than 8 hours between Ibuprofen doses due to sleep or forgetfulness, which would obviously allow me to feel pain.

Along with everything else my three-year old has a very intense cold, so I'm washing my hands a ton and PRAYING I don't catch it!

I see my surgeon next week sometime when the drains are ready to come out. His office has been great to answer all the questions I've emailed them so far. I can't wait to see him and get reassurance that everything looks and is acting how it should. I'll email them about my hip and keep you posted as to the situation.

Okay Ladies now let's get in formation

I have had the song "Formation" stuck in my head for the entire past week! I'm not sure why exactly...It could be that I listened to Queen B's Lemonade album in the car on the morning of surgery to calm my nerves. It could also be that I see the phrase "okay ladies" on RealSelf a lot. Or maybe it's the "prove to me you got some coordination" line which keeps repeating itself in my mind: because it takes a hella lot of coordination to maneuver a walker around the kitchen just to pour a bowl of cereal, to get myself out of the bathroom, find a comfortable position to rest propped up with 15 pillows, and in general make it through week 1 of recovery. All hail Beyoncé for her super woman music!

I called my PS office yesterday and made an appointment to get my drains out tomorrow! Yay! Luckily they haven't been painful, just horribly annoying. I can't wait to see my PS and get his feedback on my tummy's progress.

I have to say that communication from my PS office has been stellar. I emailed Dr. Yates the day after my surgery with a slew of questions. His patient coordinator, Lindsay, replied right away with a phone call and answered everything. All week I've emailed a few questions every day and she has responded and reassured me through the whole process.

I feel like my healing is right on track where it should be. There are things in hindsight I wish I had done- like purchase or request an additional band of compression for my hips. The binder from my PS is short on me. It doesn't cover my incision and creeps up whenever I tighten it. I feel like it's pushed the swelling down so it bulges at my hips, especially the left side. I hope hope hope that the small bulge I have now is just swelling, and not a result of too little compression around my hips. Tall girls, it might be good to ask for or get an additional band you can snug around your hip/flank area. I'll see what the PS says tomorrow.

I'm not sure when the tape will come off my incision but I am so nervous/excited to see it.

Yesterday I had a moment while looking in the mirror- I just felt so HAPPY with my belly! Even with the freaky tubes coming out lol! I was looking at my profile with my frumpy clothes on, thinking how even with my tightest spanx, my belly was never this flat. And I'm still hunched over. Going in I knew a big part of my motivation for a TT was to improve how I look with clothes on as much as with them off. Even at my best I have looked 3-4 months pregnant for the past 13 years of my life.

As mrsB83 said, Doctors are not gods can't make things 100% perfect lol. Truth! I'm far from seeing my final results but already I'm so happy.

I love you all, my internet friends. Your comments, experiences and encouragement have been invaluable to me!! I will continue to update regularly. Hugs!!!

Progress = baby steps

Hey everyone! Just a quick update… I saw my PS yesterday and he removed both drains. Hooray! He said everything looks great and I will just keep getting better. I hope so! My biggest fear is having a major complication. I know they happen, and I know I would survive it, but i'm not sure if my hubby and family would!!However everything looks fine, so I have no tangible reason to fear. Just normal anxiety I suppose. C'mon, positive thoughts!

I'm really beginning to notice the swelling. I woke up around 5 AM with very puffy feet. I googled it of course, and I think I may have been wearing my binder too tight. I loosened it and my feet feel less puffy now, but still swollen. Evenings bring on the most belly swell. Managing recovery feels like a balancing act between resting, diet, compression, and... patience. There's so much I would love to do. I wish I could jump up and clean the house (or even just the kitchen). It's sad/funny how washing my hair is a realistic goal at this point. I tried to do a teensy job- wiping down counters- the night before last. It resulted in a lot of tears and venting to my hubby. I want to feel like myself again. I know this will all be worth it one day soon. So in the meantime, I'm just keeping my mind occupied and celebrating baby steps in my progress. Like standing up 3 degrees straighter today. Yay! Lol.

Cheers to you all... hope your holidays are wonderful!

So worn out and swollen!

I went to my parent's family party tonight. It started at 6 PM and ended at 11:30! That's how we roll. I had a lot of fun. I tried to take breaks and put my feet up as much as I could. But for the most part I sat on the couch and laughed with my siblings. It doesn't really hurt to laugh anymore, I just worry that I'm shaking things up too much inside. I *think* I have a lot of irrational fears!

I was much more active today than I have been since surgery. I washed and dried my hair (which is a big deal because I have a ton of it). Tip- I asked my hubby to bring in a white plastic patio chair and set it in the shower. This allowed me to sit while I scrubbed my scalp and shaved my pits. After that I did a load of laundry and made frosting for my moms traditional gingerbread house party. I swear to God I hate gingerbread houses sooooooo much. Bah humbug. It makes such a mess and is a humongous waste in my opinion. I guess everyone gets to have Holiday traditions that drive them crazy. This is mine. I'm not judging those who make them and love it. To each their own! :D

Anyhow, when I finally got home I hunch-walked to my recliner and plopped down. Like a puffed-up queen (literally, puffed up) I asked my husband to put socks on my feet, pillows under my legs, and blankets over my exhausted self. I vow to take it easier tomorrow!

I'd like to know how many other recovering tummy tuckers are feeling the strain this weekend. Are you swelling more than normal, or forcing yourself to stay relaxed? If so, how do you pull it off? Or, how are you coping with the additional stress the holidays add?

It's gonna be a fun summer.

Just over two weeks and feeling pretty good. My biggest hurdles are taking it easy, staying comfortable, and keeping my dang binder low enough to compress my hips. I still sleep in the recliner but have progressed to turning slightly to the side, lol. I can't go all night in my side as the pressure on my hips (maybe from the binder, not sure) wakes me up. I'm feeling more energetic and even made some delicious mini banana muffins this morning. (I got the recipe from another RealSelf user and they are fab!)

I am showering more regularly now, and when I do I like to keep my binder off for a few extra minutes while I try on clothes and bikinis. I'm excited to do toning and sculpting once I can work out. My lower half especially needs some attention. All in all though, I'm thrilled with my tummy despite the swelling. I wonder what everything will look like in three - four months. I imagine I'll look mostly the same, just slimmer and hopefully less bulgy on my hips. My belly button seems to be on the small side but that's okay, I still love it.

I love you all and don't know what I would have done without this support group to get me through!

My camera roll is full of nude selfies...

... but not the sexy kind, haha!

I'm approaching my 3-week milestone, and it definitely feels wonderful! I feel like I *could* increase my (house)work load, but let's be honest. I'm not in any hurry to exert myself. For one thing, it's just beautiful to notice the snow falling outside while I watch my favorite Netflix shows. For another, I don't want to make my swelling any worse than it is (not terrible, just annoying). Even though I feel strong, I know I'm only 21 days out from a major surgery. My body is still trying to heal, so it is my duty to help it as best I can! The last thing I want is a set-back in my recovery due to over-exertion. The housework can wait.

I have learned a few things about myself over the past few weeks. I have always needed TONS of information before making decisions. I'm a natural researcher. This proves to be a fantastic attribute when, say, planning a vacation or making a large purchase. However it tends to make me obsessive when I have a lot of time on my hands, or when I'm emotionally invested in the outcome of a situation. In the days following my surgery, I came up several questions each day I HAD to ask my surgeon. The patient coordinator emailed or called back every time with answers for me. I remember thinking, "Why don't they have a more comprehensive list of post-op instructions? The FULL PAGE they gave me is just not enough!" Looking back I realize the general instructions they gave me WERE enough. Everything else I worried about turned out to be totally normal. I also realize that every recovery is different, and that each patient has her (or his) own set of questions and it probably works best for their office to handle those scenarios case-by-case. My point is... try not to worry, dear friends. It works out. Trust in the skill of your doctor. I believe my end result will depend much more on his expertise during surgery, not if I switched from my binder to spanx a day early.

One thing I am very glad I've done is take lots of photos through the process. I have several from before my surgery, and about a hundred after. :D It's a good thing I have a password on my phone. My kids would die if they saw all my nakey, bruised, drain-tubed, taped, and hairy selfies. My WORST fear is accidentally posting one to Facebook! Haha! But all those pics have served a purpose. Last week I was obsessing about the shape and contour of my profile. I honestly was worried some sutures may have come undone in my upper-ab area (though there is no pain) When I'm swollen, it's the worst up there. I was getting ready to email my surgeon about it when I decided to check my photos. Sure enough, it was "full" even a few hours after surgery (before everything started swelling). It reminded me how my PS said I'd probably always have some fullness there. It's my anatomy. My rib cage is a bit more "round" than normal, which causes ribs to protrude a bit. I tell myself it will look like muscle definition once the swelling subsides. Ha! But honestly I've had more anxiety then I expected to. What would happen if I threw up after surgery? (I did, and I survived.) What if I sneezed too hard? Or laughed too much? What about my tape that's peeling up? My feet seem swollen too, is that normal? What if my drain is leaking a bit? Is it okay to have a cup of coffee? My binder doesn't fit and it's going to ruin my results! On and on. Guess what? I'm normal, and okay. And thank goodness for RealSelf because it helps calm me down when the panic sets it.

I didn't realize how emotionally invested I was in the outcome of this surgery until I had it. Everyone said it would be a roller-coaster and they were right. I've had multiple conversations with my hubby, seeking reassurance that no matter how it turned out, he would feel it was all worth it. (Which is my psyche's way of expressing fear that I might not feel it was all worth it. Of course it has been worth it.) But as self-assured as I've always believed myself to be, I sense I'm developing an obsession with my body. Maybe because my tummy was so obviously flawed, it was easy to shrug my shoulders at the pool and mentally say "Suck it!" to anyone who seemed to disapprove of my bare mid-section. It was far from perfect and I was okay with that! But now that I've spent all this time, money, and energy "fixing" it, suddenly it seems that I'm panicked at the thought of it not being "perfect". I spend way more time studying every angle than I ever did before. My emotions flux in waves. Hubby helps calm me down when I'm fretting over my stretch marks or swollen contour. He reminds me that I am still the same Amber. Most people didn't care then and they won't care now. Its about ME being happy with myself. And I am immensely happy. (But mostly in the mornings. Evening swell gets me bugged! ;) My point here is to empathize with those who are still going through the process of recovery. It's hard! And I totally get the stress and obsession. However, WORRY accomplishes very little, if anything at all. Most likely anything you are fretting over is going to turn out A-OK in the end.

My three-week appointment is tomorrow (crossing my fingers the weather holds up... we've had a foot of snow in the past couple of days!) The tape comes off and I get to see my full incision. Yay! I've seen the ends a little as the tape has started peeling up. I'm so excited! I am SO pleased my surgeon gave me a little extra lipo on that fat pad above my bum. I wanted lipo to my flanks because it seems to be standard with tummy tucks nowadays. I didn't realize what a huge difference it would make for my curves! My butt looks so much better, even though nothing is different about it. It was getting rid of the extra cushion above it and on my hips that makes it look... perkier? Can't wait to do squats and REALLY see some bootay.

There are things that still bug me about my body, but I'm working hard mentally to be happy with them. I know that diet and exercise will play a big role in the next few months (and decades, really!) in me being happy with other "problem" areas. This feels like a fresh start to the next chapter of my life. I'm motivated and excited to work with my new shape and reach my full physical potential!

Cheers and happy new years to you all.

Tape off!

My 3 week post-op appointment was yesterday but the weather was iffy. I worried about driving 90 minutes through a snow storm so I called my PS office. They said I could remove the tape myself and send them photos (apparently there were several cancellations due to the weather.)

Drumroll... I took the tape off, and wow. I have to admit that I was a little shocked at how my incision looks. For the first time since surgery I thought, "What did I do to my body?!" I wasn't upset, or disappointed. Just surprised. It's a big scar! I knew it would be, but somehow seeing it on myself made it very REAL. A few hours after removing the tape, my skin became very red where the tape was. My PS says it's just irritation from the tape (which doesn't surprise me; I'm sensitive to medical adhesives) Besides the redness, I think it looks fairly normal for a TT incision and will continue to heal over time. Can't we just fast forward to summer already??


I've been watching New Girl and now I want bangs.

However I think I'll wait a few more months before I make a life-altering commitment of that magnitude. Maybe for my two-month anniversary? Don't hold me to it though, as I haven't had bangs since junior high school. It wasn't a positive experience. Regardless, they are so darling on Zooey.

Belly talk. I have a very full upper ab area. From what I've gathered on RealSelf, it's quite common. It may be residual fat. It could be normal swelling. Probably some combination of both. I emailed my PS some photos and these questions:

"Hi Dr. Yates, I have a question about my upper abs. The area is very full and rounded. It's worse at night but always there, even in the mornings. Do you think my profile view will ever be flat? Or will I always have fullness due to anatomy of my rounded rib cage? I realize I'm still swelling a lot... could there be an abnormal accumulation of fluid? Or does this look normal (for me)? Thanks for your feedback!"

This is how he responded:
"We'll have to give it time to see how much better it can get. I'm sure it's not a fluid accumulation it looks more internal. This internal fullness is common and generally improves."

I love his straight-forward honesty. :D Guess I'll have to wait and see!

I admit to standing sideways in front of the mirror and finding creative ways to suck in, hold my breath, push in the bulge, etc, to get an idea of how flat I would look without it. It's a dangerous game. What I SHOULD be doing is making side-by-sides of my profile "before" and "after", then ask myself how I feel! Ha! Take that, voice of dissatisfaction. Anyway. What a process this is!

Onto my scar. It's looking better every day! I'm going to begin applying scar cream as soon as it arrives. My PS has a special formula made at a pharmacy down south. It better be damn special at $160 for a large tube! Hopefully it lasts at least three months, as he recommends using it for six months if I can. It has silicone among other things and counter-acts tension somehow. I'll let you know how it goes, of course.

Speaking of scars, how many of you massage yours in one way or another? How about lymphatic massages on your tummy? I've read a little and am curious as to how many ladies practice it. If you do, was it doctor recommended or just something you discovered? And have you noticed improvements by massaging?

Hugs, my peeps.

Still thinking about bangs...

But I may hold off for a while. I have naturally curly hair that frizzes easily. I've been envisioning a near-future, super romantic bikini clad trip to some beautiful beach location with hubby, but the whole fantasy is blown by humidity-kinked bangs. Haha! So there's my hair update that I know you were all just DYING to hear about lol. Not.

Anyway, here's a couple photo updates. I'm using the scar treatment and I think it's helping. Pleats are smoothing out too.

Time keeps a slippin'...

Six weeks really does feel like a milestone! There have been moments in the past week or so when I have actually FORGOTTEN that I had this procedure! A few hours would go by and then suddenly I'd think, "Oh my Gosh, I haven't thought about my muscles/incision/belly button/swelling/dog ears/sore back/tummy tuck for at least 120 minutes straight!" That's progress, people! ;) ;) Because honestly, I wasn't expecting the emotional burden this surgery placed on my mind. I've handled it fairly well, but it was eye-opening to go through it and realize how much I was invested in the outcome. There have been times when I've questioned if it was worth it. I've thought, my new belly button is cute, but is it $10k cute? However when I was finally able to button a pair of low-rider jeans earlier this week I thought, "Alright!! This is what I have been waiting for! This is what I wanted." It is feeling more "worth" it by the day. And then I swell again and can't button said jeans the next day. Haha! This process. Aye yai yai. :D At least I know I'm not alone!

Progress pics. I really am happy with my results. My left side has always been...less satisfactory than my right. I was afraid of getting a dog ear and it looks like I did. I see mg PS at three months, so I'll hear then what he suggests for getting rid of it. He reassured me before surgery that if I did get one, it'd be a simple in-office procedure to fix. Fingers crossed, because the contour of that side kinda bugs. Luckily it is easily camouflaged under panties, but it was sorta the point to not need to hide anymore. AmIright? ;)

Healing. In my experience, the pain hasn't been that troublesome. Last week I did have a lot of muscle "burning" sensations, but it's mostly gone now and I think it was the nerves waking up. If I pull or twist a certain way I'm likely to feel it, but it keeps getting better. My biggest challenge was finding comfort physically (sleeping, resting) as well as emotional comfort. I worried about EVERYTHING and emailed my surgeon's often frequently with questions. Happily they treated me with care and respect, answering everything immediately and reassuring me that my concerns were normal and would resolve. They were right. Take lots of photos for yourself; it will help when you are fretting about one thing or another to go back and check if it was there all along. RealSelf has been a huge source of support for me. I recommend anyone going through this process create a profile. Do or don't post photos here, that's up to you. But do get in touch with other people who are having surgery around the same time. It kept me sane to read others' experiences, comment on them, share our gripes and concerns, and receive feedback on my own progress / set backs. (Hint: if you want people to comment on your updates, go comment on theirs. ;)

Everyone makes their list of essentials, here is mine:

Caring adult for first 48-72 hours: I was pretty helpless (though I could wipe myself haha!) but emptying my drains made me so nauseated. I was able to take care of them on day three, but needed help before that. I couldn't get comfortable without assistance propping pillows under my knees, refilling my water, and just needed a lot of emotional comfort and support.

Walker: helped me get out of the recliner and get moving the first few days! It was a lifesaver when moving from the bedroom to the kitchen and made me feel more independent.

Heating pad: it really did relieve back tension.

Milk of magnesia or smooth move tea: Ladies, having had 4 previous stomach surgeries (c-sections), take it from me: STOOL SOFTENERS DO SQUAT for relieving the constipation that is in store for you if you don't manage it properly. (Or should I say they DON'T do squat?? Lol!!) If you reach day 3 or 4 and haven't made a poopie yet, help yer bowels out and take a gentle laxative. Start with a small dose but don't let that shit get backed up. Or you will suffer. (Of course, check with your PS for acceptable forms of laxative but don't rely solely on those good-for-nothin' stool softeners.)

OTC pain meds: (ibuprofen, or tylenol) Everyone is different but having had experience with previous surgeries, I found out that ibuprofen works just fine by day three to manage pain. Don't be a hero and quit your narcotics too early if you need them. But I have found I bounce back sooner when I am able to go without.

Peppermint oil - I threw up couple times the first day; it's my normal reaction to anethesia. Smelling peppermint helped calm the queasiness I experienced and helped me breathe through dizziness.

Throw pillows- I loved propping myself up under my knees, elbows, one for my ipad...

I set up a corner of my room with my recliner, near my nightstand, and stocked it with anything and everything I thought I might need. Eyeglass cleaning cloth. Cell phone / iPad charger (used a power strip for multiple plugs). Laptop in case I felt like working on our family videos. (Nope, never felt like it haha!) Essential oil diffuser. Lip balm. Cough drops. Breath mints. I wish I had more healthy snacks near by, but my mom brought me some when I asked her. :)

That's all I can think of for now. Peace out, babes.
york yates

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