Sure, there are moral quandaries, pain, and a financial hurdle between me and tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), but do I have to spend the rest of my life with a muffin top?
My abdomen spills out over the top of my jeans despite the exercises I'm doing (and despite the precautions I've taken due to my abdominal separation). I'm down to a size 6, and the pregnancy weight is receding from the rest of my body. But this potbelly shows no signs of shrinking—the skin alone creates an impressive muffin top no matter what I do.
And, unfortunately, you can't exercise your way back to a flat stomach.
"Once the rectus muscles move laterally to the side, they have no mechanical ability to come back together. It's a kinetic fact. The only way to move them is surgically," says Grant Stevens, MD, the medical director of Marina Plastic Surgery Associates.
He coined the term "Mommy Makeover" to describe the combination boob job-tummy tuck he performs on postpartum women. In addition to breast surgery (this can include a breast reduction or augmentation and may include a breast lift), the Dr. Stevens' Mommy Makeover includes an abdominoplasty.
"Abdominoplasty is the removal of skin, the removal of fat, and the tightening of the abdominal musculature," he explained. The surgery reestablishes the abdominal wall, removes skin that accommodated the spread, and removes fat through liposuction.
As Dr. Stevens described how the muscles are sewn together in an internal "girdle" to flatten the belly, I began dreaming of donning a bikini once again, and wearing fashionable pants—not just the high rise "Mom Jeans" that hide my gut.
So I visited a local surgeon, Dr. Eric Mariotti. Once we finished discussing my imminently deflating breasts, I showed him my belly.
He wrote down his observations: "(Erica's) abdomen reveals changes consistent with her prior three pregnancies. She also has a rather impressive umbilical hernia. She has a loss of skin elasticity in the mid abdomen and overall decreased tone of the rectus muscles of the mid and lower abdomen… (her) skin hangs over (the C-section scar) to some degree."
Yep, that's me.
Next Page: I can see my kneecaps! [ pagebreak ]
To show me what I could expect from a tummy tuck, Dr. Mariotti knelt in front of me and gently pushed my abdomen back toward my spine. It looked amazing! I could not only see my feet, I could see my kneecaps. Suddenly the notion of post-surgical pain and a hip to hip scar wasn't all that daunting to me—two C-sections have already left my lower belly with a Mona Lisa smile.
Then he told me about the pain—and the drains. Not only would I need a pain pump—a little catheter that releases novacaine along the stitches for three days, but I would come out of surgery with three drains to "suck out the swelling fluid." As he demonstrated how I would empty the drains myself, squeezing the plastic bulb, I felt much less sure about the procedure.
I consulted a local mom, Jennifer W, who had a tummy tuck with Dr. Mariotti, and she described her own recovery: "It felt like I did a million sit ups. It's much harder to get around, plus you have drainage tubes! Good times!"
When I told her I was freaked out about those drainage tubes, she told me, "It's more gross the thought and idea of having to drain them, but honestly it's not that bad. The end result of the tummy tuck is worth it!"
It's definitely alluring—the idea of somehow re-creating my pre-baby body.
But for the time being, I've learned that I shouldn't have the surgery—at least not yet. I need to be sure that I'm done having children. Though abdominoplasty won't interfere with conception, growth and delivery of a child, according to Dr. Stevens, the effects of the surgery would be somewhat negated by yet another expansion of my abdomen.
And are we done having children? Stay tuned.