Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tales of Plastic Surgery

I said earlier this year that 2012 would be “the year of skinny”. I started in January. I dieted and lost 15 pounds. I worked out incessantly and toned up a great deal all over. Almost all over. As it turns out, despite what the “all you need is diet and exercise” believers preach, I needed more. It was time to call in the experts.
Before I go into detail, I’m warning you that this is not pretty. It may be “TMI” to a lot of people. If you think you may feel that way, stop reading now. When I started this blog I said that I would be sharing things that were sometimes embarrassing to me in the hopes that maybe people would stop being so judgmental about the way others look. Not to mention that I feel like if we can laugh at our own expense, maybe we will stop trying to laugh at the expense of others. So that was the warning, folks. If you end up offended after this point, it’s a big, fat not my problem.
The genetics of childbearing have not been on my side. I’m not shirking responsibility for my hand in it, but if you really think about all the women you know you will realize that genetic predisposition plays a huge part in a lot of this. I know women who have had one child and never really bounced back despite their best efforts. I also know women who have had multiple children and still look like a 13 year old without so much as counting a calorie. The former cover up in modest mom-style swimsuits and sundresses on the beach each year (if it were up to us we probably would avoid the beach altogether, but what about the children?) while the latter put on string bikinis and sip margaritas while they pose with their children and post the pictures on Facebook. I’m a firm believer that despite your rockin’ body, there comes a time when modesty should render such things age-inappropriate, but that’s my opinion and it’s neither here nor there. The point is, sometimes you really don’t have a say in how you turn out looking after having kids. It is a scientifically proven fact that if you are predisposed to getting stretch marks that you can slather 10 gallons of cocoa-shea-almond-whale fat-butter-body-cream all over yourself during the course of pregnancy and all you’ll be doing is making yourself a slippery, ultra-moisturized, scented ball of hormones. If you’re going to get them, you’re going to get them. The good news? If you aren’t predisposed to getting them, you won’t. Women who don’t have them have often been heard saying what they did to prevent them. News flash, honey: All you did to prevent them was to be born to the right parents.
While we all may have slightly more control over the way our bodies morph after having children, in some cases it isn’t much. In my case, I had to have a c-section with my first child. While I managed to lose the pregnancy weight almost immediately, things never quite regained the level of elasticity they once had. I had a droopy tummy. I worked on it and learned to dress it in a way that was not as noticeable, but it never truly went back to being tight and flat. Over time I experienced several more pregnancies that did not result in children for us and one that even resulted in surgery. Over all that time, no matter how much diet and exercise I still had the droopy tummy. And what a small price to pay for such a beautiful gift! Then came the news that we would be having twins – a miracle to us! – but the toll it takes on the body is something to behold.  
The pregnancy went well by any standards and we were given two healthy six-pound babies. Anyone who knows anything about multiples pregnancies will tell you that the thought of all the horrific things that can go wrong is nothing short of terrifying each and every day until delivery. The last thing you’re thinking about is what your body will look like after. Once again, the weight was lost almost immediately. But the once droopy stomach was now a full-fledged deflated balloon.
I worked hard. I dieted. I exercised. I lost weight. I gained weight back. I ran. I walked. I lifted weights. I ran some more. Finally after two years I realized this was as good as it was going to get on its own.
In addition, I was now close to a G. No, I don’t mean I was becoming gangsta. I mean my bra. Was a size G. “G” as in GINORMOUS boobs. For real. Don’t start thinking all sorts of playboy fantasy images. There is nothing, and I mean nothing sexy about back aches and bras with straps wide enough to tow a small car. I had always been large-chested, but things had gotten out of hand. Weight loss was not changing this either. I exercised my pectoral muscles so they would have a better shot at remaining above my waist, but all that did was make them stick out further.
Since the twins were now at an age where they didn’t have to be lifted (sleeping in regular beds vs cribs, out of high chairs, able to get into the car on their own) I decided to get a consultation to see what sort of nightmare repairs would be. So here is the story of how 2012 truly became the year of skinny (or will soon):
Consultation –
Most plastic surgery offices are decorated beautifully and tastefully and this one was no exception. Even the exam rooms are aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. Until they tell you to strip down and put on the robe. So you do and you wait. And then they come in. With a camera. Like a telescopic lens camera that can take pictures of the rover on Mars. And you’re in a 10x6 room. This is all a necessary part of the consultation – rationally I understand that – but having never in 30 years been photographed naked (even when I was smokin’ hot in college) and now becoming a “before” picture is unnerving to say the least. (And really makes me wish I had taken some pics back then before I was the “before” picture!) The doctor discusses options. He lifts, tugs, pokes and prods. He shows you other before and after pictures (without a face, thank God!) and goes through the details like cost (think: used car), what you want the outcome to be (I’d like to not be a fat ass anymore, thank you), how the recovery is (one week! No big deal, right?), and when to schedule surgery (ASAP!). Overall it isn’t a terrible experience and very informative.
Pre-Op Appointment –
So I scheduled the surgery for October 15th. Two weeks prior you meet with the RN. This is the part where they know you’ve already paid for it and they tell you a more accurate version of the truth. Not that the doctor is dishonest, but they tend to leave out the details of the cutting and recovery that make the blood drain from your head during the consultation. I’m sure that’s out of consideration that they just inspected and photographed all your uglies. This is the part where you get the real details of the recovery. The timeline is still pretty much the same, but the reality of it is a bit more eye-opening. They tell you all the things you will need to get for after – what type of bra and ice packs and pain meds to get filled.
Surgery… D-Day –
Thankfully they gave me a Valium to take the morning of. I doubt that I would have shown up for the surgery without it. The surgery was to last five hours and no matter how many previous times I had been under anesthesia I had never been under for that long. It’s scary. I just kept thinking that if I died doing something elective like this I would be pissed.
So if you thought the consultation was fun, you’re gonna love this part. They literally take a marker and draw all over you. Just like on TV. I’m sure with me he felt like he was drawing all over a large topographical map. Not fun. After that you head over to the surgical suite and lights out!
On a side note, wouldn’t it be nice if the anesthesiologist was an overweight, middle-aged guy or perhaps a snaggle-toothed woman with chest hair? Instead I get a Christian Grey look-alike with an MD behind his name. Excuse me, but can you monitor my anesthesia from someplace that you can’t see all my fatness?
Recovery –
This is the part that’s crazy. They have now performed a breast reduction of massive proportions (from a G to a C), a full tummy tuck with reconstruction of the abdominal wall muscles (mine had apparently separated during pregnancy/childbirth), and some light lipo on the sides to even things out (this wasn’t what I signed up for, but I was told it was a necessary part of the tummy tuck procedure). This took the full five hours and I’ve now been dosed with Demerol and Flexeril (a muscle relaxer). I feel no pain, but very very dizzy. As soon as I’m awake they have me sit up in the bed and eat crackers. Saltine crackers. If you’ve ever been under, you know how dry your mouth is when you wake up. They gave me saltine crackers with nothing to drink. It was like eating glue. I finally got some diet coke (unfortunately they couldn’t put it in the IV directly) and was able to partially swallow the paste. At this point the nurse says it’s time to go home. Like to my house. In the car. Lady, I’m barely lucid and you want me to get up and walk to the car?! I remember telling her I wasn’t ready and I needed to rest more, but this chick was kicking me out the door! I know that’s protocol and it’s best for you to be up and moving about as soon as possible, but I was zapped! I don’t remember much after that. I managed to get in the car. I don’t remember the drive home or getting into bed. Apparently I ate a sandwich that night and got up assisted to pee, but I remember nothing. I even see that I texted a few people. Don’t remember.
I don’t remember much Tuesday either. God bless my amazing husband for handling things in my absence as well as being a nurse to me (who admittedly is not the easiest patient to care for). And thank God for the help of great friends who assisted with getting Camille to and from dance class, my mom and dad who helped with the kids, my grandparents who watched the kids during the operation and are helping out even now that I’m mostly back on my feet, even down to those friends who sent e-books and magazines – I love you all.
I remember a few parts of Wednesday – that was when I was able to shower. Showering included my poor husband putting an ice chest in the shower for me to sit on (I said I needed something to sit on when I could no longer stand and apparently he thought that was the most viable option?) and using the ribbon from the medal I received the previous Saturday in the Warrior Dash to hold the vessel from my drainage tube. Here’s where it gets nasty – they leave a piece of rubber tubing sewn into your body at the tummy tuck incision. Yep. At the end is a rubber bulb that looks like a grenade and fills with bloody goo leaking from your body. It stays in for a full week and has to be periodically emptied. You also have to wear this abdominal binder that has space-aged Velcro and takes two people to fasten. There’s a handy-dandy Velcro strip that loops through the bulb to hold it in place. So when you take a shower you aren’t wearing the binder, thus having so place to Velcro the bulb and trust me when I say, you do NOT want that thing getting tugged on. It will inevitably happen, but is not advisable. So I’m hunched over wearing the finishers medal from a 5k with my own goo hanging in a bubble from it sitting on an ice chest in the shower. You get the picture.
In addition to that grossness, the lipo punctures leak and ooze for the first few days so you have to lay on a puppy pad (yes the things you put on the floor for the dogs to piss on). I doubt they are called that, but that’s what it is. And you get to wear a super-stylish cotton sports bra around the clock.
The entire ordeal was painful. By Thursday I decided I wanted to get off the painkillers so I started to wean. Demerol is not a fun drug to stop taking. I also decided I couldn’t bear to look at the four walls of my bedroom anymore. I sat on the couch for a while but even that wore me out and required a nap after a few hours. I wasn’t feeling myself until the weekend and even then nowhere near 100%.
Follow-Up –
Monday I went for my post-op appointment. They removed the dreaded drainage tube!!! I almost passed out thinking about how that was going to happen knowing the searing pain I experienced when the thing was accidentally pulled on. Turns out, it hurts when it gets pulled because it’s stitched into your skin. When the stitch is clipped, it slides right out. All 18 inches of it. Imagine how that feels inside your body being snaked out – it’s odd to say the least. And finally I no longer have to wear the abdominal binder! I’m going to be fitted for a “compression garment”. Apparently, when all that fat gets zapped and messed with it liquefies and re-congeals later (appetizing, I know) and the garment gives it a shape to take when it does. If you don’t wear this compression garment for 6 weeks, you end up a lumpy bumpy mess. Well after the hell I’ve been through, I’m not taking that chance and surely it can’t be that bad, right……right?
Wrong. You know how when you buy a pair of Spanx and you open the box and pull it out and it looks to be about the size of a newborn onesie? And you check again to be sure you got the correct corresponding letter to your measurements. And you did. And you check again. But it’s right. So you make sure your skin is dry (because let’s face it, the slightest bit of moisture renders the entire process impossible) and wrestle around on the floor yanking and pulling and rolling and you start to sweat and OMG I’m sweating and they’re sticking to my skin and and and voila! They’re on and you look slimmer and trimmer and you get down on your knees to praise Jesus that there is a hole sewn in for you to pee from because you know in the deepest part of your soul that if you pull them down to potty you will NEVER get them back on again. Ever. And then you add a prayer: Dear Lord, Baby Jesus, looking so sweet in your little manger, please please please don’t let me have to go #2. Because if I do, the jig is up. And without these Spanx, the dress won’t zip. And then you curse the person whose wedding you are required to Spanx-up to attend and go on your merry way. You know about all that? Good. Now imagine that times 10. To the 10th power. Times the square root of infinity. Because a compression garment…..makes those itty bitty Spanx….look like sweatpants you lounge in on your day off.
And you’re sore and tender and you’ve got an incision from hip to hip. So there will be no wrestling on the floor to get these bad boys on. And you realize they have a hole sized so that you can do ALL your business without removing them. And you know….shit just got real.
So you do the only thing you can. You sit on the ice chest in your shower and cry. Then you dry your eyes (and your body – twice) and you call your loving spouse and you beg him to help you get into it. And it takes a little blood, a lot of sweat, and a few tears, but you get in. And realize you have to pee, so you go and because of your inexperience manage to piss all over the damn thing, requiring you to take it off, hand wash it and start all.over.again.
I’m better at expelling my bodily fluids now and have been accident free for a while. We’ve even gotten the art of putting them on and taking them off down to a smaller scale ordeal (though I am still unable to get into them unassisted).
All in all, things are slowly but surely getting better. I’ve been able to drive the kids to school and activities and even went to Target yesterday. I’m still achy and sore, but every day is better than the last. Do I regret going through all of this? Not at all. I regret being nervous about telling people what I was doing. So many people judge and say “Why are you so vain?”, but while I am sure vanity was involved, this was not something that couldn’t be categorized as a quality of life issue. I am certain that I will be able to run more comfortably, dress more easily and actually buy the size I need, not the one two sizes larger because it’s the only thing my boobs and excess skin will fit into, and enjoy my time with my kids more because I’m not trying to avoid a camera. Those who will judge will do so regardless of what I write here. Hell, I’m guilty of it myself when I see someone who gets plastic surgery who I don’t feel really “needs” it. But that’s wrong. Who am I to say who needs what? I have had so many people say they didn’t think I was large enough for a breast reduction and were blown away when I told them I was a G. The thing is, I learned to hide it well so who knows what that other person looks or feels like underneath their clothes.
I do know one thing: this has given me even more motivation to continue what I was doing before because I know now I will actually be able to see the fruits of my labor. It was disheartening to exercise so hard before and not ever really see much happening because of the damage done to my abdomen. And it was painful to run with breasts so large. In any event, I’ll feel better.
So there it is – all the gory details. Take from it what you will. I’ll try to update as the circumstances of recovery change!