Monday, December 28, 2015

Hosting Christmases

We hosted two Christmases a week after my surgery and I'm still in one peice. 

On Christmas Day, 8 days after my procedure, my in-laws came and brought a bountiful feast of food, presents, and love. The girls were thrilled to have 10 other people to bounce off of besides their exhausted parents. I sat for a majority of the day while directing people on where to find spoons, pots, towels, and other random items in our house. It was great.

The next day, 9 days after my procedure, my parents and my fake aunt and uncle brought the gift of food, presents, and love and the girls were once again thrilled to have 8 other people to bounce off of besides their exhausted parents. I sat a little more and didn't need to direct traffic because my mom knows where everything is. It was great. 

The next day, 10 days after my procedure, I sat for nearly the entire day while the family enjoyed a harvest of leftovers and shiny new toys. 

A nice top paired with yoga pants - a post-surgery staple. 
Hosting 2 celebrations while recovering was a great decision. Our families stepped right up and helped in any way they could. They even cleaned up after themselves which left the house in a better state than when they first arrived.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

New Clothes

Each new day comes with a little more comfort, a little less swelling, and a lot more gratitude.

Yesterday I went through my closet and tried on my favorite dresses. To my relief, 85% of them still fit after my surgery. I'm also now able to bring back some of my favorites that I wore before I was pregnant. Although my circumference shifted, my waist and hips didn't change so even some of the form fitting dresses can still work on my new body.  I'll need to buy some actual pants at some point. For now, I'm going to master the "dress, leggings, and boots" look for as long as possible.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Reflecting on 2015 and all of the blessings we've experienced brings a rush of gratitude to my heart. I turned 30 in February. My sweet girls turned 4 and 2. We paid off all of our school loans - which is an amazing accomplishment for my generation. That financial freedom allowed us to start this chapter of repairing and improving my body so I can improve my health.

2015 was also the year I lost my grandfather. He had several ailments including Lewy Body Dementia. It only took a year for his mind and health to deteriorate. He had the strength of an ox to the very end. My grandmother lost her husband of 53 years. She's currently in a care facility as she battles several ailments herself. Time is precious. Health is precious. They've taught me so much by example and I proudly carry their legacy through my children and traditions.

Here's to another year of gratitude.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Pain - Oxycodone > Tylenol

I was prescribed oxycodone for my pain and it worked really well. A little too well perhaps. I was high as a kite and was sleeping whenever I wasn't resting. However, my Rx only lasted 3 days at the rate I was told to take it. I then transitioned to Tylenol Extra Strength. The transition sucked.

For 2 days, I felt horrible and was horrible to be around. I was cranky, crying, confused, and just wanted to curl up into a ball if I had the ability to do so with the freaking drains in my body. I reached my breaking point and asked Jonathan to call my doctor because I was in tears. I was able to get a new prescription for Oxycodone but it had to be picked up in person because it's a powerful pain killer that is often abused or sold illegally.

My incredibly wonderful fantastic husband drove all the way to a giant parking garage 45 minutes away, walked into the office for a tiny piece of paper, went back to his car and drove back 45 minutes to a CVS, then we got it filled on the way to pick up the girls.  While he went, my mom came over and we watched several episodes of Veep and I tried my best to relax my 4 day old stitches using only Tylenol and ice water. I'm blessed to have great people in my life.

I resumed taking Oxycodone once every 5 hours as opposed to two every 4 hours as I was initially instructed. That dosage lasted for a week and it was great. I was able to relax and let myself heal. (This was also perfectly timed with us hosting two Christmases!!)

I'm now back on Tylenol and the transition was MUCH easier. I take 1,000 mg of Tylenol every 6-7 hours and it's just what I need.

Drugs are great when prescribed and used appropriately.

Post Op One Week

At today's appointment, my surgeon examined his work and was pleased with my healing. The nurse slowly removed the surgical tape (ow) and apologized after my every wince. I was most hesitant for this appointment because of getting drains removed. I heard I should bring ice packs to help numb the pain. When I told the doctor that I had packs, he told me I shouldn't ice it and that it won't hurt because "WHIP" It's already done." And he pulled out both (very long) tubes at once, mid sentence.  I had no idea they went all the way up passed my belly button. It was shocking but not painful.

He called me his poster child and said not to get run over before my one year post op when my photos are taken.

He then gave me his iPad with my before photos so I could hold it up next to my body and see the incredible difference that 7 pounds of skin and adipose can make. My chest is half of its size and my tummy no longer folds over like a deflated Peter Griffin. Wow.

It's a good day.

Tomorrow is Christmas!

5 days post op

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Post Op with surgeon

In all honesty, I don't remember this day at all. Amnesia is a side effect of the anesthesia wearing off. From what I've been told, the appointment went well and I was healing nicely. They removed and replaced my surgical tape, checked my vitals, and sent me on my way.

I wish I could write more but I just don't remember a thing. We're currently re-watching The Kingsman because we started watching it the day after my surgery and are now having to re-watch it.


Whew. What a day it was.

We arrived at 6:20 because it took us a bit to find the correct parking garage, the correct building, the correct floor, then the correct check-in desk. That hospital is massive.

I checked in, gave a sample for one last pregnancy check, they took my vitals, confirmed I wasn't pregnant, I answered more pre-op questions from the check-in nurse, met the anesthesiologist who asked me more questions, first nurse came back and fumbled to give me an IV in my hand (the WORST), another nurse came in to help, they asked a third because he had pushed it too far into my hand and it wasn't delivering fluids, so he pulled it out a bit and it started working. Oy.

My surgeon came by and did the official markings on my body on where incisions would be made! He left, nurses came back, 8:00 approached, I got into the hospital bed, they gave me my anesthesia, and I passed out before I even made it to the OR.

I woke up in a recovery bay completely hopped up on oxycodone. I felt discomfort but no pain. I fell asleep every 20 minutes or so and woke up again. I'm told that my doctor came to visit me. I'm told that we waited 2 hours or so before going home, I don't remember a thing.

I do remember being wheeled out to the car and having a hard time getting into it. Then I updated my Facebook surgery group and had a really hard time typing things correctly. It was like my body was drunk but my mind was sharp - really strange. We got home, my parents saw my shrunken body, I high fived the kids, then layed down for a few hours.

The meds were so strong that I have very little details beyond this. I barely remember my post-op appointment! But I do remember taking an after photo before going to bed and the smile on my face clearly shows how much of a space cadet I was.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How Much Does It Cost?

The question everyone wants to ask is "How much will it cost?"  Some people come right out and ask it while others start with the lead up, "Will insurance cover it?" (No, insurance will not cover my abdominoplasty or my reduction.)

My 2 procedures (Abdominoplasty and Mammoplasty) are covered by 3 separate payments:
  • $12,040 to the Plastic Surgeon
    • The Abdominoplasty is $7,480 and the Mammoplasty/Reduction is $5,700. By combining procedures, I save 20% off of the second procedure, reducing the reduction by $1,140 for a total of $4,560.  
  • $1,675.00 to the Anesthesiologists
  • $3,870.00 to the Hospital
  • Grand total: $17,585
You're most likely thinking, "WHAT?! That's a down payment on a house! That's my student loan! That's a sweet, used swagger wagon!" And you are correct. These procedures are investments, just like a down payment, student loan, or moderately used wheels. I'll be able to live a more active lifestyle and I'll finally be able to exercise regularly without pain. It will add to both the quality and quanitity of my life. It's the best investment I can make for myself and my family. Plus, I'll be able to see my feet without leaning over for the first time in over 15 years.

Little Mermaid feet ariel
Walking around on those, what do you call them?

Besides the cost of the procedures, there are also medications, special high-protein foods and supplements, supportive pillows, compression garnments, and of course new clothes.
  • Prescription medications with my insurance totaled $35. After they run out, I can continue medicating as necessary with tylenol. 
  • High Protein foods and supplements come in many forms.  I'll be using New Whey Liquid Protein, low sodium beef jerkey, greek yogurt, and lean meat. 
  • Support Pillow: I like this one here
  • The hospital will give me my first set of compression garnments and I've already purchased a few varieties from Amazon to see which ones I like the best. I'll let you know which ones work well. 

Even Ariel had transitional clothes.

I'll be in stretchy transitional clothes for the first months. I'll likely be able to keep about 30% of my current wardrobe, but it will fit differently so it may as well be new to me. I also have pre-pregancy items in storage that I'll be able to wear again.

The best parts of getting new clothes? 
  • All of my maternity pants will be gone - NO MORE BELLY PANELS!
  • All of my $80 bras will be gone!
  • All of my XXL, XL, and 14+ dresses will be given away or sold on eBay!
  • All of my M and L clothes will come out of hiding!
  • All of my skirts will be worn for the first time in 5 years! 
  • I'll be able to buy pants that zip!   

ariel new legs
To a new chapter!

As I said before, this is an investment. I'm very thankful to be a position where I can even consider these procedures and have the opportunity to finance it. This is the start of a new chapter. I'm glad you all are here for the ride!

Pre-Op With The Hospital

I had a phone interview pre-op with my hospital last week. I frantically drove around to sponge off of a coffee house's wifi connection so I could have enough network reception to recieve the call. Because America.

Before the phone call, I completed my medical history on the online portal so that helped shorten the interview from 30 minutes to about 10.

The nurse was pleasantly reading from a script as she went over the same information I heard twice before. I'm to not eat after midnight the night before the procedure, I'm to shower with a special soap, no jewelry, I can wear nail polish (YAY!), I need someone to drive me home after the procedure (duh), I should arrive 2 hours prior to the procedure, I shouldn't shave my legs or underarms for a few days beforehand because it causes small abrasions on the skin that can become infected, and I need to listen to my body's signals during recovery.

She also asked me, "Do you snore? Probably not, you sound like a cutie." To which I replied, "I don't snore, but my husband does and he's rather cute." I'm still not sure how one's cuteness relates to snoring.

 3 more days!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pre-Op With My Plastic Surgeon

I had my pre-op with my plastic surgeon this week! My mom joined me at this appointment as both moral and financial support. Many things were accomplished:

paper gown
c'est chic
  • Final payment to the plastic surgeon's practice
  • Signing many consent forms on an iPad
  • Recieving pre-surgery instructions
  • Recieving post-surgery instructions
  • Taking the "before" photos
  • Recieving prescriptions
  • Recieving additional information

We first visited with the consultant who kindly accepted the large payment via credit card. We were then escorted to an examination room where I met with a nurse to review information and sign consent forms. When it came time to take the "before" photos, my mom politely excused herself to the waiting room while I donned the sexiest pair of paper undies you ever did see. It even came in a tube. Jealous? I then put on a large paper kimono to complete the look. #werk

The nurse returned with her iPad and a large black backdrop. She took 8 photos as I rotated for a full 360 view of my body from armpit to hip. The last photo was a mug shot so they could identify the body.

She left and I then waited in the cold exam room while the doctor was nextdoor talking to another patient about a facelift. (Not that I was eavesdropping or anything). As soon as I seriously considered putting my socks back on to combat the freezing floor, he came in to shake my hand and go over additional information. He offered to draw on me again and I replied, "Sure! Why not?" He made the markings of where incisions will be made, where repairs will be done, and how much skin will be removed. I asked if they'll weigh what's removed and he said yes - it will likely be around 10 pounds! (What is it with me and my history of surgically removing 10 pounds from my body every 2 years?)

He left, I took some headshot selfies in front of the black backdrop in my sexy paper kimono, then I got dressed.

I'm more excited than ever! It's gettin' real, y'all.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What is an Abdominoplasty?

I'm 19 days away from my Abdominoplasty! (Also known as an Extended Tummy Tuck)

As I discussed before, my procedure will fix three major abdominal concerns: my diastasis recti, umbilical hernia, and excess skin caused by my two 10 pound pregnancies.

This image gives 5 different graphics for a typical Abdominoplasty with a diastasis recti repair:

Typical Abdominoplasty or Extended Tummy Tuck
  1. The "before" photo with markings of where incisions will be made.
  2. The two flaps on the bottom right and left of the belly button are cut and lifted in order to reveal the abdominal muscles.
  3. The umbilical hernia and diastasis recti are repaired. The surgeon will literally sew my abdominal muscles back together. 
  4. The two flaps will be pulled down to the lateral incision, then removed completely (hooray!) 
  5. My new belly button will arrive safely in my new midsection. 
The surgeon will be able to use the same incision as my previous C-sections. I may also have an additional vertical incision to remove additional excess skin if necessary. The recovery will be very similar to my C-sections except I won't be nursing an infant or dealing with a roller coaster of post pardom hormones. 

19 days!!!

Pre-Op With My Regular Doctor

The first of my pre-op appointments is complete!

Before embarking on major surgery, my plastic surgeon needs to be sure I'm healthy enough for the procedure, anesthesia, and recovery. I've had two major surgeries before (both Cesarians) and I recovered well from both of them. I have great blood pressure, my BMI is a little high but still in a good range, and my family history didn't give any cause for concern. After the general questions and vitals, they took a urine sample and blood work up.

Feed me, Seymour.
I also got my flu shot. Because flu shots are awesome and important.

My next pre-op will be with my plastic surgeon on Tuesday! That's when we'll take all of the before photos and get my prescriptions for my pain meds.

It's getting real, y'all.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How do you fix Diastasis Recti?

When someone asks, "What is diastasis recti?" I usually respond with a very simplified version of, "it's when your abdominal muscles separate to make room for a baby but don't fully come back together again."

(If you'd like to learn from a more legitimate source, the Mayo Clinic has a concise description of diastasis recti that doesn't advertise a product. (Please be aware that when you type any medical condition into a search engine, the top results will usually show inaccurate or sales-based information. SEO (search engine optimization) often favors the sites that are advertising a product that will magically correct your condition.)

This is a simple visual representation of diastasis recti: 
Diastasis Recti

After delivering my first child via Caesarian, I began to exercise as soon as I could. Even though the rest of my body was becoming toned and "bouncing back", my stomach seemed to look more pregnant. I finally heard about diastasis recti and realized I was doing exercises that made me look even more pregnant because my core wasn't able to engage properly. My stomach muscles were becoming stronger but the connective tissue that brings them together was still separated. The smaller the rest of my body was, the larger my pooch looked. Not cool.

38 weeks pregnant | 1 year post pardom

"Did you try binding?" 
Yes. I used several Belly Bandits after my final pregnancy.  I started with an extra large and got down to a medium within 2 months. It helped me recover from my C-section quicker and helped me avoid the awful back pain I had after my first C-section. Although it was helpful, it didn't "cure" my diastasis recti. 

"Did you try wraps?"  
Yes. They made my skin feel silky smooth, but it did nothing for my muscles or excess skin. To be fair, they aren't meant to help with muscles or excess skin in the first place. 

"Did you try yoga?"
Yes. It helped me build my back and leg muscles, but I wasn't able to fully use my core because my abdominal muscles remained separated. There are some exercises and poses to engage traverse abs that I think helped.

"I heard about this thing called the tupler method. Did you try it?" "I heard about someone that just walked everyday for a year and she looks great now. She had twins and you can't even tell! Have you tried just walking?" "Could you just stop eating dairy?" "Are you sure you're not pregnant again?" 

I tried every non-surgical approach I could find on the internet. Most women with a smaller separation can see some correction with one or more of these alternatives. Unfortunately, my extreme separation can only be repaired with surgery. My abdominal separation was 4 fingers wide at its worst. I got it down to 3 fingers wide with some of these non-surgical approaches. Its frustrating that surgery is my only option, but I'm grateful I can have other needed procedures completed at the same time.

"Wait, what other procedures are you having done?" 
My large pregnancies not only led to my diastasis recti, they also led to my umbilical hernia and excess skin. Thankfully, all three of these conditions can be repaired in one procedure: an abdominoplasty.  

This is a "before and after" of a patient with diastasis recti and umbilical hernia.

This is a "before and after" of a patient with diastasis recti and umbilical hernia.
"Is diastasis recti repair covered by insurance?" 
Sometimes. My particular procedure is not. 

"But a hernia sounds serious. Are you sure insurance won't cover it?"
It's a bit more complicated than that. Because all three procedures are included in my abdominoplasty, I'm paying one big price instead of divvying it out among the different procedures. If I had the hernia repair covered by insurance, it would be a separate procedure by a different doctor within my general practice. A separate procedure also means I'd have to take additional time off of work. In the end, it saves us time and money to include the hernia repair within this procedure. 

"How much is this all going to cost?"
Here's a breakdown of all of the costs I'll be facing. We're essentially paying 3 groups of people: the plastic surgeon's practice, the hospital, and the anesthesiologist's practice. I'm also purchasing special bras and stomach bindings for my recovery, medications, new clothes, supportive back pillows, etc.

I'm less than a month away from my abdominoplasty.  Words can't express how excited I am to finally have this "shell" corrected and removed. 

Let's do this.

With this elective surgery comes a surge of emotions: relief, guilt, anxiety, and joy to name a few. I will literally have a huge weight lifted. 

It's overwhelming.

My body does not adequetly represent who I am. I feel trapped inside of a backwards tortiose shell. I know I'm beautiful. My beauty isn't measured in pounds or compression garnments. My beauty is measured in my heart and mind. My beauty is in Christ. I  know I'm beautiful. Now my body will have the chance to better reflect my heart and mind.

The weight I carry will be lifted so I walk taller. 

The weight I carry will be lifted so I can live longer. 
The weight I carry will be lifted so I can dance without pain. 
The weight I carry will be lifted so I can run alongside my children. 
The wait to remove the shell is over. 

It's overwhelming. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful.
Let's do this.