As I write this, I am five days post mini abdominoplasty and breast re-shaping (tissue was removed and an implant was added so size stays the same, but shape and management of the breast tissue is improved).
Going into surgery was really intimidating. I struggled with the choice of this surgery, because of the recovery process, stigma, potential outcomes, my career and just adding to the overall process I had been through.
How can I express that I deeply love and appreciate my body but also want to (surgically) address a functional concern that happens to have an aesthetic byproduct? How can I emphasize that surgery is NOT the only way to correct or improve diastasis recti when there’s already so much fear and misunderstanding of this common condition? Will people still take me seriously, after all that I’ve shared and have created? This beautiful, imperfect core is what started it all!
I can't expect everyone to understand this kind of decision or to know my heart and particular process, simply by following me on social media. It is my hope to change the stigma this surgery has and broaden our messaging and perceptions to support women through their choices, circumstances and evolving chapters.
I have incredible support and professional resources that have helped guide this process, and I went into this surgery prepared, informed and with integrity. It’s a privilege to have that kind of insight, and a reminder of just how far things have come from the early days of Googling everything, feeling alone and trying to figure things out by myself. In many ways, I’ve become who I needed, and when I don’t know what to do, I know the person who can inform me. I hope this process helps clear the way for other women who may find themselves venturing to this end of the spectrum.
I was absolutely intimidated and afraid, but confident in my Doctor, decision and trust that my body and mind are resilient. If you are not familiar with my backstory, please start by reading this, as it will help connect many sentiments shared in this blog.
The day before surgery: Jared and I flew from LAX to Tucson, AZ where we would be meeting Dr. Jamie and her husband, Chris. We have become friends and closer colleagues through this process, and they were kind enough to let Jared and I stay at their back house during recovery week. When we arrived we did some grocery shopping at Whole Foods and got settled at the house. We enjoyed dinner that night with Jamie and Chris and it was good for me to be distracted and surrounded by positive, intelligent voices. We had pre-op conversations, photos and paperwork and prepared for the next morning.
Abdominoplasty surgery day, Friday, 2/1/19:
We arrived at the surgery center at 6 am for a 7:30 am procedure. Everyone was kind, but I was anxious and verging tears all morning. I got hooked up to the IV and hung out with Jared right up until it was time to get wheeled into the OR. I cried my anxiety tears when I said goodbye, but was reassured by Jamie, the nurses and the anesthesiologist the whole time. Within minutes, I was unconcious.
I woke up and felt tightness in my chest and abdomen. I was ok, surgery was over. My brain was trying to process my body. I made eye contact with the nurse and then Jamie came in. Within minutes, we started having nerdy conversations about the diastasis and mesh. I wanted to know everything, even if I was drugged up, and I wanted to know it like, RIGHT AWAY. She showed me pictures and then had Jared come in. If you want to read about the surgery and see some graphic photos, click here.
I recovered there for another hour or so and was back to the house by 1:00 pm. I was able to walk independently from the car to the back house and get situated in bed. I had a smoothie and focused on resting and hydrating. I called my mom who is watching the boys and it was so good to see their faces. It was also nice to read so many kind messages and texts. I felt good being up for short amounts of time and was able to eat a small, healthy dinner. I was happy to be able to go to the bathroom on my own and walk around for short amounts of time.
The first night I slept with a lot of pillows in bed, so that I was propped up and also had a couple pillows under my legs. Jared set his alarm to give me meds around 1 am, staying ahead of the pain. I needed a few position adjustments through the night and by 5 am my body needed to move. I was uncomfortable, but not miserable.
Saturday, the first day abdominoplasty recovery:
I took a walk around the backyard and fueled my body with a good breakfast and a ton of water. My goal was to hydrate and eat enough food to poop the following day. But then, of course, my period started because my body was in WTF mode and just had to add to the drama. We had a slow day, with Jamie checking in on me frequently, That night I slept better, still woke up to take meds, but was able to be a little more comfortable on my back.
Sunday, two days post abdominoplasty surgery:
Super Bowl Sunday! We hung out with Chris and Jamie and barbecued. I slept a lot and felt pretty swollen. The pain wasn't bad, but my mid back (all around my ribs) was super tight and felt locked up. Getting into an all fours position and just taking tension off of my back helped a lot. And yes, it was ok for *me* to "load" my abdominal wall like that. I met my goal of being able to poop (managing constipation is critical for core and pelvic health, so this felt like a great accomplishment!)
Monday, three days post abdominoplasty surgery:
This day was spent watching a lot of Netflix and catching up on some emails. I was standing and walking more, stretching (rocking on all fours, leaning up against the wall and retracting my shoulder blades and changing positions consistently - click here to see demos). Diverse movement is helping me acclimate to this ever-changing body. Hydrating and eating foods that are low sodium and healthy is my priority, especially because I was super swollen and bruised.
Tuesday, four days post abdominoplasty surgery:
I ventured out of the house and over to Whole Foods, mostly to just get out and see what "real life" felt like. I was hyper-conscious of no one bumping into me. I feel pretty self-sufficient with the basics, but far from ready to manage all of my normal activities of daily living. I came home and ate and fell asleep for 2 hours. I feel like an infant! The need for napping is almost uncontrollable and I’m not even a napper! I could stand up to about 85% upright, still super swollen and bruised though.
I also got the drain out that night and OMG it felt so good to not have it. While it didn't hurt to have it, it was just annoying. Getting it removed did not hurt and I was so relieved. I slept great - a lot flatter and on my sides for longer periods of time.
Wednesday, five days post abdominoplasty surgery:
I took a shower and felt really good. Pain was minimal and I'm spreading meds out a little longer... not completely weaning off, but just trying to get more feedback on what my body needs. I was moving and standing up very well, and getting more self-sufficient. My abdomen was yellow and my boobs were very swollen with significant side boob bruising. It was the first day I did not nap. I spent time lounging around and trying to embrace the down time,
Thursday, six days post abdominoplasty surgery:
I could stand upright, but I couldn’t stay there for too long. It was an increased activity day. I ventured out of the house to go to Chris and Jamie’s office and then out to lunch with them. My energy felt good overall (another no nap day), but I’m getting a little anxious about going back to reality (home, kids, responsibilities and routines - even with help). This has been such a great way to truly let my mind and body recover, because I have a hard time surrendering to this kind of down time. I hope I can still have boundaries when I return home, but also keep progressing forward without overdoing it or my ego taking over.
Friday, one week post abdominoplasty surgery!!!
The few areas that have a couple stitches in will come out today, the steri strips will be taken off and the scar treatment will be applied. I can’t wait for Jamie to give me the rundown on this next process. The scar treatment will be worn for at least two months, basically all day every day. We will wrap up this nine day adventure with dinner out with Chris and Jamie. I am so grateful for their kind hearts and incredible hospitality. Having this kind of care and assurance has made all of the difference in my mental health, which I feel has assisted with my physical recovery during these vulnerable days.
As of today and under the supervision of Dr. Jamie, I’m down to taking one dose of pain medication in the morning, and one in the evening, as I slowly wean off the heavy pain killers I’ve been taking.
It is a privilege to have a colleague and friend like Jamie to care for me during such an overwhelming time in my life. She is the surgeon I wish everyone could have...there’s a reason I left the land of plastic surgery (Southern California, where I live and where I consulted with a few top surgeons) and flew to Tucson, AZ for her care and skill. She is worth the travel and I know a lot of good will come from our complementary work and this experience together because she gets me, what I do, what I want and is also driven to help female athletes. It’s been awesome to learn from one another this week.
It’s our goal to improve the messaging and “game plan” for athletes and women in general who want/need to have this surgery without shame, fear and feelings of failure. Surgery is an option- regardless of a woman’s reason. We need coaches, physical therapists and other women to broaden their spectrum of understanding if the goal is to support holistic women’s health. It’s my goal to eventually create a trustworthy resource that can help guide women and practitioners through this process so it’s less intimidating than it has been for me. Ya know, become who you needed. AGAIN.
We fly out suuuuper early on Saturday morning to return to the kids. My mom and stepdad have been such troopers, taking care of the boys while we were gone. It’s a privilege to have their support, and I know it’s not an easy job, ha! They live out of state now, so it’s hard to take on that kind of different responsibility, but they did it - school, Cade’s jiu-jitsu, Chance’s doctor appt, etc! The hustle is real and we’ll be thrown right back into soon!
Themes that have been essential to prioritize this week:
- Sleeping - naps and adequate resting time
- Medication - staying ahead of the pain meds, also supplementing with arnica and turmeric
- Hydration - a lot of water through the day, kombucha and bubble water
- Adequate Nutrition (combating constipation, anti-inflammatory) mostly “paleo” foods + oatmeal and brown rice
- Bathroom habits - peeing frequently, pooping frequently (I was diligent about NOT getting constipated) and that’s critical when healing from this kind of surgery when taking pelvic health into account
- Movement - changing positions every hour or so, walking, standing, retracting shoulder blades against a wall or chair, rocking on all fours, etc
- Breathing - connecting and integrating to movements (standing up, sitting down, bending over, etc.)
- Comfortable clothing: front zip sports bra, loose sweat pants, baggy shirts
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY ABDOMINOPLASTY RECOVERY
I don’t want to get ahead of myself in this healing process, so I plan to take things slow and as planned, even if I feel better than expected. I attribute a “better than expected” (so far) recovery to the experience and education I have as a coach, in depth understanding/application of core and pelvic floor pressure management/tendencies, a solid baseline of athleticism and mindset I had worked to improve over the years. If I had gone into this hating my body and desperately wanting to change it, this surgery would never “fix” that. Loving and appreciating your body regardless of what it looks like and can do is a process that comes from within. I feel grateful for my body through all its changes and for all the education I have received from learning to trust it through these different chapters. This “transformation” is really just a continuing evolution in a body that will keep changing, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to make fully informed decisions on behalf of my body, needs and life.
I feel I should offer a disclaimer. This has been MY experience with this surgery and the recovery process, and I’ve been so grateful to work with Dr. Jamie and have her direct supervision over so much of this process. If you choose to have this surgery, your recovery may be very different. Your recovery process should be supervised by your personal doctor/surgeon, and this blog post no way is a substitute to this medical advice.
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