I have a confession to make and I feel like I need to inform my readers of something that happens often but no one ever talks about: Plastic Surgery (or Cosmetic Surgery).
As many of you know, I had my first child at seventeen years old. As a teen, I had a fit and toned body and was always told that I've got great metabolism, and I would never gain weight. WRONG. My skin tone was tight and supple and wearing crop tops and binkinis were the norm for me and I'd never get stretch marks or loose skin. VERY WRONG. During my very first pregnancy, I didn't take care of myself or know how to be fit and healthy while pregnant. When you add genetics to that, it became apparent by my seventh month that I had major stretch marks. And once I gave full-term birth to my first child, I deflated within a few weeks back to my original pre-pregnancy weight. YAY! But when I looked down at my body, I was scarred by the stretch marks and loose skin on my breasts, stomach, hips, thighs – all over! My breasts had become smaller and deflated along with my stomach's sagging skin and still very red stretch marks. When you fast forward two years, I ended up becoming pregnant with my second child. That added more stretch marks than the first pregnancy.
Once my second child turned five years old, I decided I was mentally and physically prepared to get a “mommy makeover” and get my stomach fixed in Sugarland, Texas (this was where I was living at the time). I was twenty-four (24) years old and definitely did not plan on having any more children (or so I thought) and had the money saved, so why not? I researched five different plastic surgeons and narrowed it down to three. Then met each plastic surgeon individually to decide which one I felt most comfortable with. All the prices between the three were about the same, so it was a matter of who I felt most comfortable with. I asked all the questions I thought to ask from what I found during my Google search, and the doctor I chose (who will remain nameless) seemed to be the most experienced. What I thought was awesome about my plastic surgeon was that he was a featured surgeon on the past show Extreme Makeover (for rhinoplasty only – not a tummy tuck). I saw before and after pictures and they looked “okay”, but I had never done anything like this before to really know what to compare against.
Once I paid my surgery in full on my pre-operative consultation, the patient coordinator and plastic surgeon saw me one last time to answer any additional questions and handed me a piece of paper (my pre-op instructions) on what I could and could not do. Sadly, I did not think to read THAT piece of paper until a few days before surgery but thought I was invincible and nothing would happen to me.
Surgery day was nerve-wrecking. I get to the operating room assigned to me, and there are a bunch of people around a hospital bed with a giant light hovering over it. It kind of creeped me out, but I followed all of their instructions. The nursing staff made me change into a gown. Then the plastic surgeon came in and marked my body. Then the nursing staff brought a pan of red dye liquid and a sponge that smelled funny. And all I remember was them taking my gown off, rubbing all of this red dye liquid all over me and shivering because it was freezing cold and the liquid made me even colder. They told me the red dye was what they used during surgery to make sure the area was as sterile as possible. It was so cold, that I could feel my teeth chattering and I was shaking and kept telling them to please hurry because I was freezing cold. Once they were done, I lied down on the hospital bed and the anesthesiologist came, put a mask on me, and I fell right to sleep.
When I woke up, I remember feeling excruciating pain (childbirth doesn't even come close to this level of pain) and crying. The nurses kept asking me to rate my level of pain from 1-10. 10 was the most pain, and I kept screaming, “10! 10!”. They said they couldn't give me anything else, because they didn't want to over medicate me so I had to endure the pain, crying all the way home.
Once I got home and took my pain meds, everything felt a little better. I wasn't scheduled to see my plastic surgeon for another seven days, so I had to just be strong and suck it up. I remember the nausea set in once the anesthesia wore off and it was horrible. I remember family visiting me during my recovery and my cries of pain. I never felt and looked so helpless than at that time and moment in my life. The recovery process was a nightmare – I was surrounded by second hand smoke and it caused me to have “skin death” around my incision lines. I never stopped bleeding and when I went to the plastic surgeon for my seven day post-op, he told me I had an infection, skin death, and now that the incision had opened – necrosis. Seriously?! When they were cleaning out my dressings, I noticed there were three scars (instead of two). One was my belly button (which later I found out was NOT my belly button – it was just scar tissue the doctor created to make it look like a belly button), a vertical scar (up and down) below my belly button, and my hip bone to hip bone scar across. When I asked my plastic surgeon what the vertical scar was, he said it was my old belly button, because he couldn't stretch my skin all the way down. I thought that was odd, but in between all the other complications, I was just desperate to heal and be myself again.
It took over 2-months for me to heal. I had to go through more medication and see several specialists to heal my wounds and my final was when the plastic surgeon tried to close the gap left after all the treatments. The doctor's staff looked disgusted every time they had to change my dressings. I honestly felt like they were sick of seeing me every week. The gap opened again shortly after, and he said he could not do anything about it and to call him up for a revision surgery six months after. I let the open wound heal itself and never went back to him again. It turns out, my experience was very uncommon and others who have had abdominoplasty weren't that bad at all, because they chose a plastic surgeon with experience doing tummy tucks that made the process as easy as possible for them.
Since then, I've gone through a rough divorce and married someone else. We ended up with two more children totaling four children for me (all four were delivered naturally). Now that my fourth (and last) child had been born, I finally decided it was time to revisit plastic surgery. Since I was done having kids (for real this time) and I am 32 years old, I really wanted to fix what I feel like I've broken from my past. Seven years later, the scar is left thick and my stomach looks so bad, it's sometimes noticeable under fitted or tight clothes and bathing suits (Spanx really does miracles with smoothing you out under clothing). I really, REALLY want to fix this. I had a very long heart-to-heart conversation with my husband and he completely supported my decision and said he thought I was beautiful just the way I am, but also understood my lack of confidence in myself and my body. After careful planning, researching, and exploring, I was able to choose one very experienced plastic surgeon in Las Vegas who specializes in abdominoplasty that I felt was amazing and going to help me change my body and my life: Dr. Frank Stile from Esthetique Plastique.
Here are some take-aways that I've learned from my first experience that could ultimately help any of you interested in going through with plastic surgery:
1. Be sure the doctor is board certified by the ASPS (American Society of Plastic Surgeons)
2. Find out how long the operation(s) will be – the longer the surgery, the more risks could occur.
3. How many of the same operations(s) has the plastic surgeon done? Practice really does make perfect!
4. How do the before/after photos of past patients look? Is it what you want yours to look like?
5. Follow your pre-op instructions carefully at least two weeks before surgery
6. Preparation is a must. Don't take any of the doctor's orders lightly – especially when it comes to smoking or surrounding yourself in second hand smoke.
Now that I've chosen my plastic surgeon, you'll hear more about my experience during my consultation with Dr. Frank Stile. If you have any questions, please feel to post a comment below this post. I'd love to share my adventure with you and would appreciate your support as I go through this process AGAIN.