The Journey to a Flatter Tummy - Seattle, WA

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I'm a 33 year old mother of three. I've been...

I'm a 33 year old mother of three. I've been married to my high school sweet heart for almost eleven years now. I had always had a flat stomach growing up, and after my first and second pregnancy, I flattened up pretty well. However, after the birth of my third, I knew something wasn't the same. I could tell after a few weeks of breast feeding, that my stomach wasn't changing, and when I went back for my six week check up, my OB confirmed that I had a separated abdominal muscles (Diastasis Recti).

I tried it all, I watched videos, with the pathetic towel wrapped around your waste and such. First of all, let me just say I'm fit. I work out anywhere from four to six times a week. I eat a healthy diet, I don't drink or smoke, and I don't have any other unhealthy habits. So for the most part the rest of my body looks great, just not my stomach!

I found clothes that concealed my belly okay, but whenever my posture wasn't quite right, and/or I was in a strange position while juggling my three kids I would be asked, "When are you expecting?" "Oh what beautiful children, and another on a way?" "Are you expecting?" "Madam you can't go through there is you are pregnant!" Overall, I have been asked thirty times! Many of whom felt awful for asking, one practically ran in fear. None the less, the thirtieth time was what made me set the date.

We visited with Dr. Salemy last fall. I was really happy with his before and after shots. I also felt at home with him. During our visit with him, he informed me that my separation was quite large. I have a seven inch separation between the abdominal walls and the vertical separation is quite long. It was good to find out too, that no matter what I did in diet and exercise would help me get this mess back together. I also found out that I have a herniated belly button. So he'll fix that as well. I just wanted to share my journey, that will be starting next Friday, wish me luck!

19 Days Post Op

First I must Say that my doctor is awesome. I have felt so taken care of and listened to by himself and his staff. My husband and I are so happy that we went along with Dr Salemy, even though it meant it was a two hour distance from our home. I ended up having a very huge separation, and my muscle lax was pretty big, but I'm very happy with the results. I also ended up having four hernias instead of just one, which explains so much of the pain and pronounced bulge of my old belly.

Some things I think are helpful to do and know about up to during and after the surgery:

1. Over planning is a good thing!
2. Take notes during your pre-op appointment, don't feel silly asking lots of questions. Expect the doctor and nurses to give you A Lot of info (for your own good).
3. If you are far away, like we were, get a hotel reservation. Just do it. You will not feel like being in a car for hours, you just want to get to a bed.
4. Get the things you'll need prior to the surgery. I ordered (2) garments, (1) sports bra, and scar treatment stuff a few weeks prior. (The treatment can be ordered at a later date though).
5. Order more than one garment. You have to wear these 24/7, and if you are like me- a germaphobe- get more than one. You wear them when you go potty... you live in them for God sake! If you want to feel good, order extra! Be prepared, they are uncomfortable. I found it handy to have extra gauze squares and circular flat cotton facial wipes to add as padding when areas were swollen and sore from the zipper on either side of the incision. The discomfort only lasted about a week and a half though.
6. Everyone tells you, you'll be hunched over for weeks. Not so! They want you to start sitting up as much as you can, so you'll heal properly. Plus it feel better, because your muscles aren't be strained by not sitting up. I was sitting up pretty straight by one week, but I will admit I'm still trying to relax my shoulders.
7. The pumps, they're icky! I know I was going crazy the day prior having my last one pulled out. Just know they are necessary and are temporary! After having them come out, I found it better just to have gauze squares over them, then a band-aid. It was more comfortable, and I didn't have to deal with pulling a band-aid off.
8. Prepare to have comfortable clothes on. I wore yoga pants, and tank tops a ton. When going out and about, I found dresses were the easiest. They don't put any added weight to the incision. Plus, you are a little swollen afterwords, so your pants may not button as easily as they usually do. Plus the waist band on the incision, is a tad uncomfortable.
9. Foods: The day prior eat really lite. Lots of fiber all day long, so when the doctor operates he can sew the muscles back together as tight as possible. Have these things on hand for after the surgery- Oyster crackers, chicken broth, soft food for the first days, stool softener, laxative (don't over do it though). Banana's and peanuts are also really good to prevent nausea. I found this out the hard way. The urge to throw up after this surgery is immensely painful, so we Googled foods that help prevent nausea and these two came up. They worked like a charm!
10. Don't skip your pain meds, or other medicines that the doctor prescribed. You are better off feeling comfortable. However, they will encourage you to start coming off of the hard stuff earlier than you expect. I was surprised that just after four days they said that. I was okay with it, because I don't really like the stuff anyways, but still surprised. First of all one big and important reason they suggest this is.... Constipation! That's right I said it! Take stool softener right away, the day after the surgery and so on. If you do take a laxative, DON'T over do it! Cramps after abdominal surgery is TERRIBLE. Go for high fiber! Fiber one bars, Salad, prunes, and so on.
11. Walk: I was so happy to find out that I didn't have to sit around in bed. You are really encouraged to walk. At first, the day of, it's the matter of making it to the bed, sleep, wake, bathroom, rest/eat, sleep, bathroom, and sleep. The next day walk the length of a hall way once a few times a day, along with your walks to the bathroom, and to eat. Then you gradually increase the times you walk a long area multiple times a day. You don't want to over do, because you want to bounce back. The nurse said that people typically feel better by a couple of weeks, the people who overdo typically feel better in three. I found this to be true.
12. Things to think about arranging prior to surgery to help with the stress: (1) Have a friend/family/or hire someone to help with cleaning (once a week or every other week). My hubby was stellar at keeping up the house and dishes. I would sit on the couch and fold laundry. My seven year old is now helping me carry the hamper to the bed or couch so I can fold it. They (7, 4, and 2 year old) help to pick up things from the ground for me. I love my little fam! (2) If you can have meals brought to you... bonus! If they ask you what your family like, just be mindful of needing some fiber. I ended up getting things with tons of carbs. Even though I love pasta and bread, I also hated the fact that I couldn't work out. So I appreciated the meals that were lighter. We got so much food that my hubby was actually looking forward to our traditional lighter foods. However, all of the meals were so appreciated and helpful. (3) Depending on the time of year, get things for big events prior to the surgery. I can't stress enough that you need to take it easy and not rush your recovery. Mine is prior to school, so I purchased a lot of the school supplies before. I also planned a ton of fun activities prior, it was a whirl wind summer but worth it. Now with only five weeks of summer vacation left, I have tons of crafts ready to do and home school activities. Where I could sit and supervise. It has paid off! I imagine if you had a holiday, birthday, or other big event ~ try to get as much prepped or purchase prior.
13: Be easy on yourself, you just had surgery. This is easier said then done... I know, I've been there. Now I'm mostly feeling sore in my back where he did a little lipo in the flanks. He has suggested massage to help with that area. It is also weird getting used to where my skin is at now. It's like pointing at a spot on the map where England used to be, but now it's south of Spain. I'm wondering how long it will be till I get used to that.
14: Using the rest room: Right after, you may need help getting up and down, due to the stuff you were given during the surgery. Also, you may be a bit wobbly. By day two, you should be able to get up and down by yourself. Use your legs!
15: Watch your balance: Nothing hurts more than catching yourself from falling, because your core automatically tries to correct things. So watch where you are going, go slow, ease yourself into bed, be aware how far the back of your chair, pillow, and so on is behind you so you don't over strain. The first couple of showers, have someone within earshot distance, encase you get light headed or need help.
16: Pillows: They are your best friend. I found I didn't have enough, and I imagine it's different for everyone. The first two weeks, you are sleeping at a fairly inclined position with pillows under your knees. They are comfortable to take in the car as well. I'm still sleeping with three under my back, a neck pillow and a euro pillow under my knees at night... and I'm nearly three weeks. I think this is the part I'm most frustrated with. I loath sleeping on my back, and having to do so every night all night, by morning I'm incredible soar.
17. Showering: You don't shower until the doctor okays it. I would really suggest that you put a plastic chair or stool, if you don't have a spot to sit. At first you feel pretty exhausted. Try to have everything you'll need to get ready afterwords by a chair so you don't have to keep getting up. An absorbent robe can really help a lot, since the process is slow. It get better after a week.
18: Changing you bandages: This is hard one for me. The first and second time I pulled the tape off it was fine. The third time however, I pulled a stitch... Which I about passed out, and I'm typically not a queasy person. For some reason dealing with the bandages makes me a bit buggy! I'm getting better though. I would suggest to sit and breath slowly while dealing with them. Take your time.
19. Managing kids: I talked about my surgery about a week prior to my pre-op appointment. When we came home the kids were told by daddy to be very careful. I showed the kids my incision, with tape covering it up after the pumps were out (about 10 days later). That helped to remind them to be careful around my tummy.
20. Excitement: Seeing the huge difference is probably the best part of your day every day!

I'm sure I'm forgetting some tips. I meant to do this earlier, but the energy wasn't there at first, and my office chair wasn't all that comfortable. I'll try to get some pics up tomorrow!

Before and 19 Day After Pictures

Sorry for the delay on these. I took the before, the night before. Bye bye Pooch! I'm still swollen at the incision area at the 19 day pictures.

27 day Post-Op

I'll make this quick, since not much has happened. My incision is doing pretty well. Only the middle part of the incision is healing a little bit stubbornly. I talked to Dr. Salemy when I had concerns last week, and he had told me that was fairly common, since that area gets the least blood flow. He had suggested it to be washed with warm water and soap and then be exposed to air to help it dry out. This made it a million times better. The gauze you see is where that little spot it, since I don't feel quite ready to cover it with tape. My muscles were very stretched from my three deliveries, so I'm hoping that when I finally start working out, that will help with the bump that is still there. Even though I know I was told that a big part of that bump is from swelling still.

Advice or observations at this point:
Continue to move around
Take it slow and don't over do
Remove tape only twice a week
Sleeping on sides is now possible
Pain medication is not necessary anymore
More mobile, but still pretty tired by evening
Sneezing and coughing don't hurt so much anymore

Four weeks out

Well, I got to tell you, the start of the third week I was really starting to feel like I was back to my old self. The same goes for today, if not more so! Life has picked up again, which of course it has to. There are days I'm wiped out, but I've got to say, that I would probably feel the same had I not had the surgery, so ultimately I think I'm back to myself. Last weekend we went to see waterfalls, and I was able to walk the trails, and was fine. I took it easy, but felt great about the whole thing. I also have been to the river, berry picking, starting to can, doing back to school shopping, and I'm holding up just fine. What a turning point. My incision is almost all healed up. I'm just waiting on the middle point to still heal up a little bit, but it's not bothering me. I can move now without the muscles hurting.

Advice or observations at this point:
Don't be afraid to step it up and walk more
Get out and about, but rest when tired
Sleeping is more comfortable
The garment will drive you crazy, but you only have one more week
Sneezing and coughing are only a little uncomfortable
Swelling is down quite a bit
Starting to get antsy to work out!

I know it's been a while! I've been busy, busy, Busy!!!

There is not much to say, other then that I feel incredible. Back, shoulders, and neck pain are all gone. I really think that fixing my abdomen was so worth it! Not having my tummy not supported has meant a lot less pain, as well as let me be able to do more physically. I love how it looks. I always thought that I wouldn't ever wear a bikini again, and after this, I think I could get away with it. I do have a little bit of pinched sides, but I will have that fixed next month at no charge. I can exercise more easily, and I love my body! So I am so happy. Dr Salemy was nice enough to give me some updated shots, so I'll attach those! If you are thinking about it, and have the means to do so, it's SO worth it!
Seattle Plastic Surgeon

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
5 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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