Grab a cuppa, take a seat as this is a long one. I have put off writing this blog for a few months now as I was healing and didn’t know how to tackle it, there is just so much to say. When I first wrote about my hernia, Diastasis Recti and tummy tuck operation I was so nervous to how people would react, but I only had an out pouring of positivity, which was so nice to receive prior to major surgery.
You can read the last blog here, but I will recap.
Why undertake this surgery?
I had a hernia (where your muscles rip as well as connective tissues and your organs actually push through – can only be fixed with surgery) from carrying the twins. I had put off getting it fixed for years, but it was causing more and more pain so decided to lock the op in. It was at that appointment when I realised the cut they would be making would be the same region as a tummy tuck cut and that’s when I decided I would combine the two surgeries.
I had loose skin on the lower half of my stomach, right at the bottom by my hips it was starting to hang like a small fold over of skin or apron. I’m well aware that my skin was not the worst, I’ve seen far worse and I guess I was lucky in comparison. But that wasn’t what pained me the most…I had a serious muscle separation around my tummy button. I had worked bloody hard with my trainer Aaron and Stacy my physio, we closed my gap significantly above and below my belly button, but that thing is damn near impossible to close around the belly button. Mine was sizeable and we didn’t actually quite realise how big till my surgeon opened me up. After the surgery, he held his hands in the shape of a diamond to show how big it was. That was one of my main reasons for getting the tummy tuck, yes the loose skin sucks but I could’ve lived with that if need be. But I was bloody sick of looking pregnant still due to that Diastasis Recti, which meant my organs weren’t being held back properly, giving you a nice rounded stomach and also created lots of lower back pain due to the lack of strength in that area.
I hid it well under clothes, but the number of times I was asked if I was pregnant again was seriously upsetting. I still don’t understand why people ask you this? The amount of times I held back tears trying to laugh off the comment wasn’t cool and I was sick of it. Finding a pair of jeans that fit my slim legs and my sticky out tummy was so hard too. They would fit my legs but cut right in across my stomach, pushing my organs back and creating serious over hang. I definitely was/am holding a little bit of weight that shouldn’t be there, but before you think I should have worked harder in the gym and eaten even better I had this problem when I was much lighter too. I was seriously tiny post birth of the twins (thanks to puking 20 times a day my entire pregnancy) and I still had this bulge sticking out from my middle. If I wore anything tight I would be rocking serious spanx to hold that back in.
Ok enough rambling and justifying myself, why as women do we feel the need to do that? You came to this blog because you’re curious. I shouldn’t need to feel this anxiety that I need to explain myself away. Stop it Anna.
I’m breaking this down into categories as there is so much to cover so this should make it a bit easier to read.
I get asked this a lot, how much was surgery?
Usually, this surgery is very expensive, especially in Auckland. But because I had a hernia, which was covered by ACC, I was going under the knife anyway and that drastically changed the price of surgery as essentially almost half of it was being paid for. Handy, even if it was a painful thing to have the last 3 years. So all up I paid an extra $6000. I went with Winston McEwan in Hamilton for surgery for two reasons. He doesn’t charge like the Auckland plastic surgeons do. He is a lovely man who doesn’t like people escaping to Thailand etc for cosmetic surgery due to prices, so he try’s to keep his competitive so people can find it more affordable to have surgery in their own country and he works with ACC claims. Secondly, I had seen a few twin mums in my Facebook groups use him and have great results, so I was sold. I had to wait 3 months to even get a consultation, so in my mind, if he is that busy he must be good.
Did he live up to the hype and am I happy?
Hell yes! My surgery went really smoothly and I was shocked when I woke up and he told me how large my Diastasis Recti was, I was so relieved to have that dealt with and to be able to build back a strong core again! His cut was nice and low, really straight and super fine, just like my c section cut. I heal very slowly and the scar has gone purple now, but that’s normal in the healing process, but I expect that in a year it will be a faint slim line which is how my c-sec scar looked. Oh and yes if you had a c section scar that will be gone with the tummy tuck too. My surgery was a drain less tummy tuck and for that I’m grateful. I’ve seen pictures of those and they look painful having to cart around drains with you for sometimes over a month!
The only slight issue I have is my tummy button has shrunk, it was perfectly sized post surgery (and not a slit like I see in so many tummy tucks), but my scar tissue contracted and made it super tiny. I can only put a cotton tip in it, my little finger can’t get in. So he is going to fix that for me under local anesthetic at his practice in August.
I took terrible before photos, I only stood side on and the down lighting hides some fold in the skin but this is all I have to work with sorry. But you can see the extension of my stomach before hand was crazy, it sticks so far out and I swear that just me standing normally.
I needed new press shots taken so thought I would chuck on a crop top and tights to take a few after shots. It feels so good to feel confident to wear a crop top. This was the results of that but you can’t really see how flat my tummy is as I’m not standing fully side on.
So here is the raw before and after shots for you. The difference I think is easy 10 cms of projection. You can also see the side of my scar, these are just taken from my phone standing in a natural position. With the after I’m standing the same as the before, no sucking in. The difference I think is easy 10 cms of projection. You can also see the side of my scar, a thin purple line that I imagine will fade to nothing like my c section scar.
I want to point out quickly that doing this surgery meant that I didn’t love myself or my body more. Yes I feel more CONFIDENT now, not to mention am not suffering from pain from my hernia and lower back issues. But I still love myself the same. I love what my body produced, two babies at the same time! Which brings me to my next point.
Stretch marks. You will notice I haven’t really spoken about getting rid of stretch marks. They are the reason why you are left with baggy skin but they didn’t actually really bother me on their own. Tiger stripes as a lot of people refer to them are the result of carrying two babies at one time, my perfect two baby nuggets. Stretch marks may not be pretty but it’s hard not to accept them when without them I wouldn’t have the boys. Some mums are lucky and don’t get a single one, I have a twin friend whose belly was much larger than mine and she doesn’t have any. I think that comes down to genetics. Since they only get rid of the skin from your tummy button down, I kept all my stretch marks above it, which are now below. Weird right! I’m glad those are still there as they are a reminder of how lucky I was to conceive these little miracles and carry them safely into this world. I know a lot of people who would kill to be able t do the same thing. So I have no shame in those little silver marks…It is funny recognising them from where they used to be and now getting used to their new location on my belly.
I’ve been asked not about scars, mine goes from hip to hip but only the front part of my hip. I have seen them wrap further round so I am glad it’s slightly shorter than that. It’s also low that my underwear covers it and mid rise bikinis. My tiniest bottoms show it but only sitting under it by a few mm’s, so I think as it fades I will be able to wear them again. I have a tiny 1 cm vertical scar in the middle where my old belly button would have been and he couldn’t quite pull down that part enough. But it will fade like the rest and doesn’t bother me either. Scars come hand in hand with this surgery so you have got to be ready to live with them. Sadly I see a lot of people come out with rather wonky, or all over the place scars so I’m lucky mine is as good as scars come. To help lighten the scar I’m using long Scarway strips I bought on Amazon and so far so good.
I have to mention swelling as this is something I didn’t think about too much pre surgery. But swelling after this type of surgery is to be expected and not just minor swelling! Sometimes I felt like a square sausage from the fluid build up over my abdomenBasically when your skin is cut like that and moved down, all the lymphatic drainage systems in our abdomen is severed. They do re-connect but that can take anywhere from 6-12 months depending on the person. What does that mean? Well, I am still holding a lot of fluid over my tummy, it’s kind of soft to touch and is much worse at the end of the day or after a tough workout. I had to give myself a reality check when I started to feel “soft” and I thought I was starting to carry fat around my middle. But then I look at photos right after surgery and I can see the definition across my abs before the swelling set in and I know once all this swelling goes I will be back to that. I won’t show those photos as there is a lot of blood and I can barely stand up straight, so you will just have to believe me. My friend who has had this surgery said it looked it’s best from a year onwards. Basically, this aprocess and you have to go with the flow. My tummy looks bloody good and I was so happy. It’s a million times better and actually flat, I can’t believe I can wear jeans with no muffin tops now! It feels amazing being able to wear high waisted jeans too, haven’t been able to do that in 3 years! I have even worn a skin tight dress, without Spanx and felt so confident! Gosh having that flat tummy is what does it for me. Not missing the are you pregnant comments too!
I stayed in the private hospital for the night and so glad I did, I vomit after sedation so there was a lot of puking which was so so sore and I needed to have my dressings changed as being sick made me bleed. I’m so glad it was nurses helping me with that rather than Jay. Recovery from this is no joke, you will need support and help with little ones if you have them. I personally couldn’t even stand fully straight till 3 weeks post op! I was like an old lady walking around bent at my waist. I didn’t do anything other than get up to go to the loo for the first two weeks. Hours upon hours of Netflix was watched. In an ideal world, it would be good to have someone home with you for 5-7 days post op to help with retrieving medicines, cooking your food and generally looking after you. Jay was on full daddy duty with the boys for about 2-3 weeks too as even though I started to feel better I still couldn’t stand straight so couldn’t really get up and about to do things for them. I was very conscious of not doing anything I shouldn’t either it’s such a big surgery it would be a waste to do something silly like lift the kids when I’m not supposed to and ruin my stitches etc. I stuck to the surgeon’s rules of not lifting the boys for 6 weeks too, it was tough but they are old enough that I could explain to them that mummy has a big operation and was very sore. They would come sit on my lap on the couch for cuddles but were great at not expecting me to lift them. I was driving by week 4 and they would climb up into their car seats too which was great. If you have babies it may be a bit tougher with that aspect, although they would be lighter so I would ask your surgeon what they think would be possible for your case. Some people don’t have a Diastasis Recti so just have their skin removed which may mean they can lift earlier.
Getting comfy after surgery at home is important, you need the right set up! Sitting with your legs up and sleeping with them at an angle is the most comfortable position as straightening out is near impossible. Things that made sitting around for weeks at a time easier for me was having an electric lift chair. I hired it for about $180 for two weeks and I had planned on sleeping in it too. It was so good as it would slowly lift you up to a standing position which meant no straining your core – a no go after it has been sewn back up – to haul yourself out of a chair. I slept in it the first night but I still found it uncomfortable, and knew sleeping in bed would be tough as ours is very high and I’d need a million pillows to prop my upper body up and my knees. The answer was back to the hire company to get an electric hospital bed. This may sound extreme but it was $150 for two weeks and so so so so so comfortable. I slept in the living room on it for two weeks and slept really well with minimal pain. I would highly recommend getting one if you are going to do this. You can ditch the chair and just get the bed as it can serve both purposes if you only want one ugly accessory in your living room.
It was definitely painful, I kept bloody sneezing and that was the worst! It was like fire down the middle of my abdomen, this was from all the stitches closing my muscle gap. It hurt to tense them even slightly, let alone sneezing or coughing! The tightness of my skin didn’t really hurt, it’s just the muscles in your lower back that hurt from being strained as you can’t stand straight for a while. Although 3 months on my tummy still feels tight if I do a full stretch or lay on my tummy, I also think that because my abs that have been sewn up feel tight still. I wouldn’t compare it to the pain of a c-section as I found that only had me down and out for a few days versus weeks. Your incision area is also dumb as the nerves have been cut, it’s still numb now but the feeling is slowly coming back. It almost feels like someone is touching me through really thick clothes. It’s quite bizarre. I also was only taking panadol and ibuprofen from day 2, so you aren’t on heavy pain meds here like they tend to give the patients in America. Talking about America, I was on a lot of tummy tuck forums and most of the people were from the states, I would check them out but take what they say with a grain of salt. Their doctors seem to majorly drug them up pre and post op, girls were taking valium to stop muscle twitches, sleepers for night and opiates for pain for what seemed like weeks! That won’t be your experience in NZ.
The biggest pain in the ass post surgery? Compression garments! I was instructed to wear mine for 8 weeks and I hated them. The original ones went from my knees to under my boobs and had a giant hole from your front to back to go toilet out off! It was so weird sitting on a toilet to go but feeling like you had clothes still on. Bizarre! Talking about relieving yourself, for the first 12 hours after surgery I couldn’t wee! I had just watched a Keeping Up With The Kardashians ep where Kim had surgery on her downstairs operation and had to wear a catheter for 2 weeks as she couldn’t wee! I was paranoid that was going to be me. I sat in the bathroom with my hand under a running tap urging myself to tinkle, it took about 4 goes of sitting there for 30 minutes to get it going! He said that the tightening of the muscles around my bladder meant that it could take awhile for it to “let go”. Charming.
I was cleared for working out at the 8 week mark, so I have been back into it for 4 weeks now and gosh I missed it. I definitely put on a little bit of weight from sitting on my arse and not being able to move my body like I’m used too, not to mention I went to see my brother in America for 2 weeks and ate and drank to my hearts content on American beer and way too many amazing dinners out. But I’m still super happy with how I look. I think a misconception about this surgery is that it is a weight loss surgery or that it will make you “skinny”, My stomach is much slimmer due to a whack of skin being taken and my core tightening up, bringing back those organs to their rightful place, but I’m still curvy like I was before hand. Your skin is just being tightened and will showcase even more that type of body shape you have hidden under it. That is unless you do a whole lot of Lipo at the same time, as that is what will remove fat and change your shape.
I hope I answered all your questions, please do ask them below if I missed anything out.
To wrap up I’m stoked I did it and looking forward to seeing how my results progress as they will really start to show from 6-12 months. Since I’m moving to the Mount there will no doubt be a lot of bikini shots over summer! On that note, where do I buy great bikinis from?