Fit 39 Year Old, Mother of Two, Tired of Looking Pregnant - Walnut Creek, CA

The Real Self community has helped me tremendously...

The Real Self community has helped me tremendously in my journey. So I wanted to pay forward and share my experience. Hopefully others will find useful. Although I am a little behind in documenting my journey, I did take notes and will try to incorporate as much as possible. I’ll also try and update going forward. Btw, sorry for the super long first post. Believe it or not, this is my edited version!

A little about me. I am 39 years old and have two beautiful daughters, ages 3 and 5. After a year plus of running 4-6 miles a day, 6 days a week and eating healthy, I lost about 25 pounds, going from 162 to 137 lbs. At 5’7” I’ve always been fairly fit (maintaining 132-135 lbs since high school) but after having two big babies (10 and 9 pounders) and gaining 80+ pounds per pregnancy, my body became unrecognizable. My size increased from S/2-4 to M-L/8, even after losing the initial baby weight and stabilizing at 162 pounds. The worst part about my body was that I looked pregnant all the time. I didn’t think much since I still had weight to lose and contributed the belly to poor diet and exercise. Fast forward one year, I’m down to almost pre-baby weight and instead of looking better, my belly seemed to protrude even more since the rest of my body has slimmed. I looked about four months pregnant… at least. I even spent hundreds of dollars on diastasis-type programs (Mutu Mama and one that required wearing a splint) and just didn’t see the results. It was super depressing. To be clear, I wasn’t looking to rock a bikini, walk the runway or look like my 20s self. I just wanted to feel comfortable wearing running clothes (without adjusting the bottom so that my belly wouldn’t hang out) and normal clothes that reflected my style and not what fit and hid my belly. At one point my mom gave me unsolicited advice to dress my age. Apparently I was looking way older since I wore baggier shirts and dresses. Haha. This is pretty funny considering my mom is probably the last person on earth to be giving fashion advice. Anyhow I started researching tummy tucks after reading about it while learning more about diastasis.

Physician selection. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty type A. LOL After deciding that I may need to do a tummy tuck, I turned my research to finding the right doctor. Tummy tuck results seem to produce very different aesthetics. From the belly button (round vs. coin slot) to the scarring and overall shape of the waistline. So from the massive list of doctors in the bay area, I narrowed my search to six doctors. The “six” were board certified in plastic surgery, went to top schools and had tummy tuck results that were similar to my desired results (round but not too round belly button, thin and low placed scar line, waist contouring that matched the rest of my body). After meeting all six doctors, the decision was fairly easy. Although Dr. Behmand had one of the higher quotes and was also the farthest away, I chose Dr. Behmand because he had the best and most number of beautiful patient results (IMO). I also felt that I would be safe in his hands. This is an elective procedure and with two young ones, my biggest fear was dying and not being there for them. Another reason I chose Dr. Behmand was for the drainless procedure which seemed to help others with recovery and scar results that came from less tension on the incision line. One bonus I didn’t anticipate with Dr. Behmand was his amazing staff. Ashley was by far the most responsive person I contacted and often went above and beyond to answer my many crazy questions and requests. So far, I can say that I highly recommend Dr. Behmand and his team.

Surgery day and first few days of recovery. On August 1st, I went in for my muscle repair, tummy tuck and lipo on the flanks. The surgery took four hours and I came out wearing a binder and not remembering much expect being given something to help me relax. I was super nauseous but didn’t feel much pain. The car ride and the first few days were a blur. I did take milk of magnesia and Ducolax as soon as I got home and luckily had bowel movement on day three post surgery. I also pushed myself to walk to the bathroom every 1-2 hours to decrease chances of getting PVT. Pain was manageable since my doctor used Exparel, which I highly recommend. I diligently took the prescribed pain meds the first two days, switched to extra strength Tylenol on days three and four, and completely dropped all pain medication by day five. I don’t know if it was the Exparel or my overall fitness level, but the pain and recovery were manageable. I also had the drainless tummy tuck, so not having drains to worry about allowed me to feel comfortable and move about fairly freely. My biggest challenge was probably back pain since I walked hunched the first week. A few Real Selfers recommended a walker, and that was a lifesaver especially the first three days. So to sum it up, I highly recommend the following for the first five days of recovery – walker, pillows (two behind head and two under knees), milk of magnesia/Ducolax, loose pjs and baby wipes since I was not supposed to shower till my first post-op appt which was eight days after surgery, protein shakes, protein bars and no salt saltine crackers.

Results so far. I took some pics the day before surgery, eight days post, 11 days post and three weeks post surgery. Can’t believe I’m sharing my pics but here they are... =) In terms of weight, I was determined not to step on a scale or even attempt to fit into pre-surgery clothes the first few weeks of recovery. I think I would have been depressed if I did since I am and still super swollen. So far I am extremely happy with my results. I still can’t believe I went through with the surgery and can’t believe my belly is gone, despite the crazy swelling.

Two weeks post-surgery: I felt pretty good, could walk almost 100% straight and some swelling did come down. I actually went shopping around the two week mark and almost cried when clothes fit and actually looked good. This was the first time I’ve felt like myself in the past five years. It’s like I’ve reclaimed my life and am remembering who I was before being a mom. I didn’t go down any sizes but clothes fit a lot better and more importantly, I didn’t have to pick the baggy, shapeless motherly/grandmotherly dress to hide my belly. I left the mall with two fitted dresses and felt so light, happy and free. A few tips for the first two weeks – I wore a cami under my binder at all times. This seemed to help the binder from riding up as much and I just felt more comfortable…. Could be more psychological. The other huge thing was finding out about the Embrace scar treatments. At my first post-op appointment, my dressing was changed and the doctor put steri strips on my incision. Just a few days later, I was getting blisters from the tape because of the swelling and my skin getting pulled. At this time I started doing some research online and found a few mentions on Real Self about Embrace. Long story short, the treatment seemed pretty effective (think it’s the only proven scar treatment?) and more importantly, allowed my incision to heal despite the swelling I was experiencing. So I contacted the doctor’s office and asked about my blisters and about Embrace. I was told to go ahead and remove the steri strips and replace with paper tape which needed to be removed before showering and reapplied after the shower. I also needed to apply polysporin on the blisters and then use the paper tape over the incision while also going around the blisters. This was a major pain in the a$$. I just didn’t have the time to spend an hour in the bathroom for showers and tape reapplication. Luckily this lasted for only a week because after the blisters healed, I went back to Dr. Behmand’s office to get my first Embrace dressing.

Three weeks post-surgery: I hate to admit it but I measure myself everyday to see if swelling has gone down. =) I’m still pretty swollen especially around the incision area but definitely feel like the mornings are kind of flatter. I tried a few of my pre-surgery jeans and although they fit, they seem pretty snug below the incision. At least I don’t have the dreaded muffin top but jeans are not comfortable for me right now. So my wardrobe will continue to be dresses for a while. Also I finally stepped on a scale and am surprisingly down 6 pounds pre-surgery. I am now 131 pounds. I’m guessing it’s from losing some muscle (not exercising) and just getting full faster. Not sure I would bank on keeping those 6 pounds off. So far the Embrace dressing is working out really well. I feel more secure, no tugging like I had with the paper tape, no more hour long showers and paper tape reapplication and more importantly, no more blisters! I’m also super curious to see how my scar will turn out. I am Asian and have been told from other doctors (in my six different consults) that Asian skin tends to heal poorly and has a higher chance of developing raised scars. Anyhow I’ll keep you guys posted on the scar results. It’s a two month process so I’ll take some before and after pics.

Ok, that’s it for my first post. I’ll try and update with pics every week. Btw, I don’t have a pic yet of my belly button since it’s covered with a dressing but I did get a peak at it at my first post-op and it looked cute and appropriately sized. Will update with a pic when available. Happy healing everyone!

updating with pics

Not sure what happened to my pics. Trying again.

Four weeks post op

I've added a few pics taken first thing in the morning exactly four weeks post op. I don't think week 4 is very different from week 3 but have noticed that swelling has increased over last week by the end of the day. Don't know if it's from increased activity since I am doing more household chores and am keeping two little ones busy till school starts, but my waist (the smallest part) and the area at the belly button goes up by 2 inches throughout the day!! Has anyone else experienced this extreme swelling? My whole belly area gets so swollen that I have a hard time walking straight and moving, and I honestly feel like I'm pregnant. I know this is temporary but it is a little depressing. My next doctor's appointment is next week so will ask and confirm that this is normal healing. Trying to push out the negative thoughts and fear that I may never be totally flat.

Oh and in case you're wondering I am wearing the same swim bottom for the pics so that I can track progress on weekly basis. :)

4.5 weeks post op - belly button reveal

I wasn't planning to update till the 5 week mark but wanted to share first pics of the belly button! :) Think it looks really good/cute. Slightly oval shaped with minimal visible scarring. I do have to insert an ear plug into the belly button for a few months to help make it deeper since I didn't have enough fat... yes, very shocking considering my before pics. Think my fat was isolated in the love handles. lol Not sure how I feel about the ear plug yet, feels a little strange sometimes, especially towards the end of the day. I wonder if it's because I'm more swollen and the belly button is pushed inwards? Either way, I'm wearing it if it means better results. haha. Anyone else use ear plugs for helping shape the belly button? Does it work?

7 weeks PO

Not much change to report since 4.5 weeks PO. I'm still a little swollen in the morning, especially around the incision. Above the incision line I have this small muffin top created from the swelling but my doctor said it will go away with time and that I might not see my final result till 6 months out. Not sure if you can see in the pics, but I do have a larger bulge on my left side (love handles). Again not going to worry about it for a few more months...

The biggest news to share is that I finally started running again. Who-hoo!! I took it pretty easy at 6 weeks PO. Kept to 2 miles every other day at a 11 min/mile pace. I may push it a little more this week but am being super careful about listening to my body. It's strangely peaceful and relaxing to start running again. I just feel stronger, healthier and happier after a run. Really looking forward to seeing whether a stronger core can help me run faster. =)

I also added a pic of my scar with the Embrace dressing. I'm about a month into using Embrace and so far I think it's working. Before I started Embrace, I had a few spots along the incision that were raised... and during my last dressing change at 6 weeks PO, I noticed that the entire incision line was flat and thin. The pic makes the incision look a little more red b/c of the reflection from the dressing but I'll try to update with a close up of the incision without the dressing at my next change.

12 weeks PO

These past two weeks have been full of ups and downs. Swelling is very real. At around week 10, I definitely got a little bigger from the belly button down. I took a pic with a dress I was planning to wear to a nice dinner and immediately took it off b/c I felt like I looked pregnant. It was super depressing b/c I didn't expect swelling to be this significant at 10 weeks PO. Even in the morning, I still looked pretty swollen.

My weight has stabilized at 133-135 lbs (so a few pounds under pre-surgery) and I have been running again 6 days a week, 4-6 miles a day. My times are still a bit slower than pre-surgery but I am not too worried, just focused on staying healthy and fit. At week 10, my waist (the thinnest part) was about 28-29" and around the belly button was about 31-32". Just when I started to think the swollen belly look was my final result, my swelling seemed to go down a bit... finally at week 12. My waist (the thinnest part) went down to 27.5" and around the belly button down to 30.5". The belly (belly button down) still gets bigger throughout the day but at least in the morning and even after my runs, my belly is fairly flat.

Scar update. My scar looks really really good. I finished the 8 week treatment and the incision is thin and flat at 10.5 weeks PO. The color is still red but honestly if this is my scar this early on, it's going to look pretty amazing in six months as the color fades. The best part of Embrace was the ease of it all. I didn't have to remove the dressing for 10 days and it was easy to put on and remove. Compared to paper tape where I had to remove daily (before showering) and then reapplied post shower, Embrace was a life saver. I also started running again at 6 weeks PO and the dressing stayed on even on my longer 6 mile runs, several times a week!!
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon

After deciding that I may need to do a tummy tuck, I turned my research to finding the right doctor. Tummy tuck results seem to produce very different aesthetics. From the belly button (round vs. coin slot) to the scarring and overall shape of the waistline. So from the massive list of doctors in the bay area, I narrowed my search to six doctors. The “six” were board certified in plastic surgery, went to top schools and had tummy tuck results that were similar to my desired results (round but not too round belly button, thin and low placed scar line, waist contouring that matched the rest of my body). After meeting all six doctors (yes I am a very thorough person =)), the decision was fairly easy. Although Dr. Behmand had one of the higher quotes and was also the farthest away, I chose Dr. Behmand because he had the best and most number of beautiful patient results (IMO). I also felt that I would be safe in his hands. This is an elective procedure and with two young ones, my biggest fear was dying and not being there for them. Another reason I chose Dr. Behmand was for the drainless procedure which seemed to help others with recovery and scar results that came from less tension on the incision line. One bonus I didn’t anticipate with Dr. Behmand was his amazing staff. Ashley was by far the most responsive person I contacted and often went above and beyond to answer my many crazy questions and requests. So far I am loving my results and would highly recommend Dr. Behmand and his team.

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
4 out of 5 stars Wait times
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