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One month ago I finally did something I had wanted to do for a very long time: I got a tummy tuck. I planned, underwent surgery, and recovered without telling many people and I wasn’t sure if I was going to talk about it or not. But when I asked my husband if he thought I should, he said, “You liked reading a ton of posts and found it really helpful learning about others’ experiences.” And he’s right, I did. So whether you’re considering a tummy tuck or you’re just plain curious, here’s my postpartum tummy tuck story.
What Is a Tummy Tuck Surgery?
A tummy tuck, also called an abdominoplasty, is primarily a cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin, stretch marks, and fat from your abdomen. A postpartum tummy tuck (though just referred to as a tummy tuck) does these same things, but can also repair pregnancy-related issues, such as diastasis recti or an umbilical hernia, resulting in a hip-to-hip scar.
This surgery requires a long recovery time and most women need 2-3 months before they can get back to their regular activities. Swelling can last up to 6 months and a numb feeling for up to a year.
The average price of a tummy tuck is $6,154, not including anesthesia or operating room costs. Because this is considered cosmetic, insurance companies generally do not cover this and most plastic surgery offices only accept cash.
As long as you maintain your weight and don’t have any more pregnancies, the results should last for the rest of your life.
Why I Wanted a Tummy Tuck
I’m proof that the myth “carrying boys like a basketball” is true. From the back, I didn’t look very pregnant. But then I’d turn around and it was all, “Whoop! There it is!” It looked like I stuck a big ball under my clothes.
I have a fairly small frame and carrying both my 8-pound boys resulted in diastasis recti (ab separation), loose skin, and for me, a postpartum umbilical hernia. At the 6-week check-up for my second child, I asked my doctor what could be done about my diastasis recti. She said, “The only real thing you could do is get a tummy tuck, but it’s really expensive and you’ll have a huge scar. You probably won’t want that.”
A little deflated (and not actually knowing how much it costs), I thought she was probably right and I couldn’t do anything about it. So I tried doing the exercises that are supposed to bring your ab muscles back together, but sadly, they didn’t work for me.
A year after having my second child, I consulted with a few plastic surgeons to see what could be done about my ab separation and hernia. They confirmed that I had ab separation of a 3-3.5 finger width (4 is considered severe) and that I’d be a good candidate for a tummy tuck.
Sure, you could say the plastic surgeons had ulterior motives, but both I consulted with said exercising would not fix what I had and that exercising would certainly not fix my hernia. I already knew this to be true and I liked having the confirmation from medical professionals.
Before we had our second boy, we knew our second child would be our last biological child, so I started researching and seriously considering a tummy tuck. The more I thought and prayed about it, the more excited I got.
Frankly, I really did not like my hernia. Postpartum hernias are generally harmless, but mine did cause discomfort and I had every medical reason to get it treated. I also didn’t like that it made my belly button permanently protrude.
I had to avoid wearing a lot of certain clothes because that, paired with my diastasis recti, still made me look pregnant, a year and a half past having my last baby. I’ve been working on getting healthy and toned and it was discouraging that my stomach would always look a little pregnant, no matter what I did.
Once I came to the conclusion that getting surgery to repair my hernia would be a good medical choice for me, it made sense to fix my abdominal muscles at the same time, and therefore, get the full tummy tuck.
Once I made up my mind to do the surgery (with full support and encouragement from my husband), I daydreamed about getting my ab muscles back together. For those that have diastasic recti, you know that it’s not just about physical appearance. It’s about the way you function and feel too.
During my workout classes, there were some exercises I just couldn’t physically do. It wasn’t that I needed to “dig deep” and push myself, my body would just crumple anytime I tried to do something like a plank for more than a few seconds. It’s like there were no muscles there to support me. Imagine that!
(And though I probably shouldn’t have done an ab exercise so soon, I confirmed my theory. 3.5 weeks after my tummy tuck I was able to hold a 30-second plank!)
Truly, I wanted a tummy tuck to repair my muscles and hernia. My main goal wasn’t for aesthetic purposes, but I won’t lie, knowing I’d get rid of my extra skin was a major benefit!
After deciding on a plastic surgeon, I put down a deposit and scheduled my surgery for early fall.
Day of Surgery
I felt a little anxious leading up to the surgery and the day of. I had no doubts about whether or not this is what I wanted to do, but you hear about the horror stories. Would I get botched? Would I even wake up? These were all things I wondered…
Once I got settled into my gown, hairnet, and IV, the plastic surgeon came in to mark me up and once again go over expectations and ask where I want the scar.
They try to make it as low as possible, but I had the option of it being curved or straight on the ends of my thighs. “Do you want to wear low-rise jeans or a high-rise bikini?”, she asked me.
I knew after this surgery I would have the important things fixed, but she did let me know not all my stretch marks would be gone and that I may have a vertical incision near my belly button because of my frame. That was fine with me.
The anesthesiologist came into the room to tell me what the process was going to be like. After going to the bathroom one last time, they walked me to the surgical room and I got on the bed.
The nurse started preparing things and I didn’t even feel or see the anesthesiologist do anything, but I remember thinking in my head and was just about to ask out loud, “Should I already be feeling a little funny?”
But I never got the words out, because right then I fell asleep.
About 3 1/2 hours later, I opened my eyes and had that disoriented mental questioning of, “Wait a second. Where am I? What’s going on?”
I saw the nurse walking in front of me, putting things away, and then I remembered I was in the recovery room. The first thing I asked the nurse is where Titus was. She informed me that he’s been notified and he’s on his way. “He must be a good hubby”, she said. Once she said this, I had a sudden memory of crying and saying his name a lot haha. I felt my eyes. Yep, they were damp.
As I was coming to, I remember feeling very disoriented but also making sure I ask the nurse all the important questions: “How do I look?” Did I lose inches?”
I do remember thanking her for caring for me. So hey, I wasn’t totally vain. 😉
I couldn’t feel much of what happened. Until I coughed. That was probably one of the most painful things I had to do.
Still half fuzzy, Titus came to pick me up and bring me home.
Between the pain and napping, the first several days were a blur. Yes, the pain was pretty intense and it made sleeping very difficult, but it was all manageable.
I had a drain to collect extra fluids and that was probably one of the most annoying things of it all. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wear it long. Though I could get into more of the nitty-gritty of recovery, overall, I’m so thankful that my recovery process was altogether a dream (as far as extensive surgeries go).
Even the plastic surgeon and nurse were surprised by how well I was feeling. I was too! I don’t know if it’s because I’m young, live a healthy lifestyle, followed the instructions, or all of it combined, but recovery went way better than I thought it would.
I had read so many posts about people being in extreme pain and taking 4 weeks off work and I wondered how that was going to work with my two kids. Of course, everyone is different, but I spent a solid week recovering from bed (besides getting up to walk around, use the bathroom, etc) while my husband took off work and managed the kids and household.
After the first week was up, I was back to my normal routine with my kids. Now, at week 4, I feel about 85% normal. Though I’m getting back to exercise, I can’t overwork my ab muscles or I’ll have pain.
But on the day-to-day, I don’t have pain as much as I have a weird tingling sensation in my stomach and some discomfort if I twist my body or try to do too much.
I’m not trying to overdo it, but a normal routine is certainly doable and sometimes I forget I had the surgery until I look at my stomach. Which brings me to…
Before and After | Final Thoughts
My stomach is not “perfect” and I still have some stretch marks. I also have a small vertical incision coming off my horizontal scar. This is because my body did not have enough loose skin to stretch.
I’ve started scar therapy (i.e, silicone strips, massaging), but yes, the hip-to-hip scar is pretty intense. It honestly doesn’t bother me and Titus thinks it’s cool. This scar can generally be covered by underwear, but I picked the “high-rise swimsuit” scar option (like ordering off a menu haha), so mine is slightly higher on the edges.
But because my main goal was not aesthetics (even though it’s an amazing night and day difference), I can confidently say I am 150% glad I did the surgery! I would do it again in a heartbeat and I’m glad I did it now, instead of waiting until my kids were older. There’s not a thing I would change, honestly. I even like having some stretch marks because it reminds me of carrying my babies.
My results are only going to get better as swelling decreases, but the change was immediate. Certain clothes don’t make me look pregnant anymore, and as I mentioned earlier, I can already start to feel my core strength again.
As I continue to heal, I can’t wait to do ab exercises again and be a healthy, fit mom. I know a postpartum tummy tuck is not for everyone, but I hope my story shed some light on this surgery and maybe even took away some of the stigmas that a tummy tuck is vain and selfish.
But even if surgery is not the route for you, there are plenty of things you can do to feel your best!
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