On May 25th, 2018, I went “under the knife.”
I willingly let someone cut me open, mess around a bit, and put me back together. I had “a little work done.” I had “a nip and a tuck,” to use all the Hollywood clichés. The next two questions I get following that admission have been the same:
“What did you have done?” and “Why?”
I’ve decided to answer in blog form, because that’s how we writers like to answer questions about our lives—in writing.
The first question, “What did you have done?” is easily answered. I had a mini-abdominoplasty. What does that giant, SAT word mean? Well, put down your lunch, or dinner, or snack, and let’s proceed with a rather grotesque medical description. Essentially, my plastic surgeon, who came highly recommended and looks like an Indian version of Tag from the ’90s sitcom Friends, cut an incision very low on my belly. The location and size are very much the same as the incision made in most c-section deliveries, only this one did not cut through the muscle. Then, using fancy medical tools, Doctor “Tag” separated all the skin, fat, and other superficial tissue from the top of the incision all the way up to the bottom of my breast bone. This exposes all of the abdominal muscles. He then put a corset stitch starting at the top of the abs all the way to the bottom and cinched them together, just like cinching, well, a corset. Think about Rose and her mom from that scene in Titanic where she’s tightening Rose’s corset. For some women, pregnancy may cause permanent “diastasis,” or separation, of the abdominal muscles. This stitch pulls them back together. The fancy term for the corset stitch is “Muscle Plication.” After stitching the muscles, Doctor “Tag” pulled all the extra, loose, wrinkly skin caused by four pregnancies down past the original incision, removed it, and sewed me back together. Those are the gory details. I would include some images here, but most are copyrighted. If you Google “mini-abdominoplasty” or “muscle plication” you can see some graphics. Warning…the graphics can be…graphic.
The second question, “Why would you choose to have that done?’ is more complicated. But I’ve always been a tad complicated, so let’s back up 16 years to 2002. I had just gotten married, and I was only 21 years old. At 21, my body had finally reached its adult size and shape. We like to think that adolescence is over at some point in high school, but really, our bodies continue to grow and change until we are about 21. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, “Finding Yourself is Sooo Cliché,” I was also working through some personal, body-acceptance issues at 21. Essentially, I had an adult body I was relatively okay with for not even two years. Then, at barely 23, I had a baby. She was a perfectly planned, beautiful little girl. Over the next 9 years, I had 3 more babies. One is my rainbow boy. One is my baby boy who can melt my heart no matter how much trouble he gets into. And one was a glorious surprise. They are all cherished, incredible little miracles. They have made me and Frankie into a family of six and made us both better people. But, physically, with the emotion of it all removed, the process wrecked my abdomen. I carried them all like oversized basketballs—low and in the front.
Here are some shots of me pregnant with all four babies:
The rest of me, although not perfect, doesn’t really look like I’ve had babies. Even my chest fared pretty well. I was lucky in that way. But my stomach is very much “the room where it happened.” I was left with what pretty much any woman who’s carried a child is familiar with: loose, stretch-marked skin that no amount of exercise or weight loss will get rid of. I also, due to pregnancy complications, had 4 laparoscopic procedures that further disfigured my belly button and that general area.
In spite of having worsening osteoarthritis, I can do three miles on the elliptical. I can lift my weight in the aerial silks. I have abs. But to see them, I have to weigh 105 lbs. That is the weight I dropped down to in order to get rid of the “pooch” left by extra skin and diastasis of my abs to fit into my “Lord of Light” spandex butterfly costume.
That is how much I weighed in this photo in order not to have a “pooch” in this dress that I love.
And, really, that’s not a healthy weight for me.
So why does the “pooch” matter so much to me?
Partially, because I’m a dancer. I think the line of the body is beautiful, and that is what dance is about. Dance is about strength and line and fluidity of movement. It’s not about the size of the dancer, it’s about the strength and musicality and communication through movement. It’s about what the body, at its best, can do. It’s one of the reasons I don’t believe in making dancers dance in tent dresses. The human body is beautiful, powerful, and not obscene in the movement of dance. And all dancers want to look and feel their best.
Most people, really, want to look and feel their best. Again, as I mentioned in my last blog post, we all express ourselves through clothes or makeup, accessories or tattoos to show who we are and to feel good about ourselves. That means different things to different people. What makes me feel good about me might not matter one bit to how you feel about you. And that is ok. I make the intentional choice every day to see the beauty in every person I know and to respect every person’s right to feel beautiful in their own way.
So what went into my decision to go “under the knife?”
First, was it for me? Or anyone else? It is absolutely for me. I want to feel good in my dance costumes. In the bathing suits I prefer to wear. In my own skin. I want to weigh 10 lbs more and still feel good in that dress. I want to work out and actually see the definition in the abs I know I have. My wonderful husband has never once even implied I should change my post-baby body. This was for me.
Do I think everyone should “fix” their body after babies? No. I don’t even think you should have to cover it up. I think you should do what makes you feel confident. Wear what makes you feel beautiful. Not one of us is perfect. Even if we choose to “fix” things about ourselves, we will never be perfect.
If I wasn’t able to have this done, would I still be okay with myself? Yes. I stopped wearing bathing suits that cover my abdomen three years ago. I don’t HAVE to have this done to love who I am. This is just a bonus.
Finally, are my expectations realistic? Yes. My abdomen is never going to look 21 again. My skin is 37. My muscles are 37. No surgeon can remove every stretch mark I have. My belly button will never be perfect again. But I can expect to feel more confident in this body I have.
So on May 25, 2018, I officially closed the book on my childbearing years and let Doctor “Tag” remove some of my battle scars. I still wear them on my heart…just not on my abdomen.
And it was right, for me.
*If anyone is interested in knowing more specifics about the procedure and recovery, I would be happy to chat privately.