I have made it over the hump. Weeks 3, 4, and 5 have been a steady road of improvement. Swelling is down comparably. Life seems to be getting back to normal. I can pick up after the kids (really missed that one), get in and out of the car without thinking about it, sleep a little easier, and have returned to my safe haven, the gym. It has been a slow process with ups and downs. At times I feel like I have come so far and I feel so great, and others, I am so over it.
- I can stand up straight! For a while I had this terrible slouch that took so much effort to straighten out. Now I am able to stand with my shoulders back. My hips are still slightly tilted forward, and laying completely flat is difficult but still a great improvement.
- All incisions are closed. I was cleared to start using silicone cream for scar treatment. Whether or not it is working, I think is too soon to tell.
- Swelling is down. I had this massive block over my right hip that is finally gone. My pants are all way too big, and my “compression” workout apparel is not very compressing. So in hindsight, shopping while still swollen was a bad idea. But I am pretty excited that I can walk more than 5 steps without getting this incredible tight feeling in my entire torso.
- I love my belly button! When I was researching doctors and obsessing over what the outcome would look like, I saw so many different variations of belly buttons. I was starting to get nervous about it looking incredibly fake. It doesn’t and it is the cutest it has ever been. Some people don’t know this, but when you have a full abdominoplasty, they have to create a new one for you,hopefully using the original stalk. The skin that was originally near your belly button is either gone, or now somewhere near the incision line. Science and art CAN coexist!
- My confidence – It’s through the roof! I want to be careful with this one because I don’t want to send the message that plastic surgery will benefit your self-esteem. It is more often the opposite. What I mean by this is that I put in a lot of work to get to this point. I lost 90 pounds by the time I went in for surgery. I had spent about 2 years working on my mental health, my physical health, mental strength, and physical strength. And even though I had an AMAZING support system around me, recognizing my achievements and all my hard work, I saw BELLY. I saw that loose skin that I watched grow through adulthood and two pregnancies, watched the postpartum droop, and although it was much smaller after the weight loss, it was still there. A belly that I needed to cover up, that I was ashamed to have. It was a big reminder of my bad habits, which made me feel like I was fooling everyone and myself posing as an athlete in good health. But just as the weight loss alone could not boost my confidence enough, the surgery alone would not have boosted my confidence enough. In my specific case, no one else’s, it took both. Now I look in the mirror and literally burst into laughter. If anyone ever witnessed it they would be seriously concerned for my well being. I just don’t recognize that person at all and the realization that I am here is overwhelming. It used to be tears, now it’s laughter. I can’t explain it, so I’ll just leave it alone.
- Eating smaller portions is inevitable – On a lighter note, this girl who loves to eat, has been forced to keep portions under control. My usual workout routine allows me not to really think about this too much, but since I was basically immobile for weeks, bored, feeling lazy, right by the kitchen at all times, this was a nice boundary that kept me from getting out of control. Which brings me to the not so positive things.
- My mental health took a dip – I hit a dark period around 3-4 weeks. I hadn’t even thought about working out weeks 1 and 2. It would have been impossible. I missed the gym, and the people, and being in that environment. But walking was tough and the simplest tasks had me fatigued like no other. But as soon as I started to feel a little better, I started to feel like my fatigue and stationary routine was a routine I was choosing. I know LOGICALLY I wasn’t choosing to be lazy. But as I feared I might, I was resorting back to a former me that didn’t work out and take care of herself. I found myself snacking more. I was mistaking the physical fatigue for depression. I felt like I was giving up on myself even though I knew, this was temporary, this was a recovery period, this was necessary for my body to heal. It is amazing the tricks your mind can play and how you can be logical and yet feel irrational things. How did I come out of it? I took risks. I visited the gym, hoping to soak up some of that positivity that is always flying around. Huge help. That got me to start doing walks outside. Looking back at old pictures and reminding myself where I started. Blogging more, and opening up to my community about my story. That held me accountable. Now I was starting to think like the new me again, not that former person who didn’t see the value. By week 4 I was back to the gym 5 days a week. A very limited amount of movements at first, pushing myself a little too much. My surgeon would have disapproved most definitely. But because I worked so hard those last 2 years I am way more in tune with what I need, versus what is standard for most. I am not most people. I am me. I listened to my own body and decided that it was more important to get my mental health in check and be working towards a fitness goal again. I take it slow, I modify movements to keep my core isolated with the help of my coach, and it has brought me back. Sometimes others don’t know what’s best for us and we have to trust our own intuition. This was one of those times.
- Limited workouts suck – As mentioned above, I am more than thrilled to be back to my regular workout schedule. But the frustration with being unable to do things I had done all the time is REAL. I just want to move the way I know how to. My brain and my body are in two different places. And while most of the time I am just happy to be there, I get discouraged occasionally. It usually happens after a great day or two where I feel stronger, I don’t have pain, minimal swelling…and then suddenly I will have a setback. I will struggle with a movement or my abs get really tired and sore. I realize I have to slow down. And that is a huge struggle for me. My legs and arms just want to move and lift heavy weights. Run, jump, pull up and push up, squat – I basically just described the Murph workout. Who WANTS to do MURPH?? Me. I do. I am not adding in my positivity on this one because I am still struggling with this daily and I am going to sit in THIS SUCKS a little longer…and that’s okay. I’m allowed one.
- This compression garment situation – I have a love/hate relationship with the compression garments. I switch off between the full getup I bought from the doctor which extends from my knees to my shoulders, the original binder from the day of surgery just for my abdomen, and a really tight pair of shapewear. All depending on my activity and outfit. The full getup makes for an interesting look with shorts so I have to change it up being that it is August. I tried sleeping without it one night and that was a mistake. I must thrash around in my sleep because I woke up feeling like I just did 100 crunches. It is so uncomfortable, hot, and just not attractive. But I do feel better when I wear it. It really does help support my core and minimize swelling. And I cannot wait until I don’t need it anymore.
The surprising weird things
- The drastic change in swelling – I was expecting swelling. I wasn’t expecting swelling that increased my size significantly. Everything I read prior to surgery said that I wouldn’t change sizes. Not the case for me. My pre-op pants do not fit. Not even close. I have gone down at least a full size in jeans already, and the swelling is still there. Another example that everyone is different. I am a sweller, and I had more skin removed than others. It has become a bit expensive finding this out the hard way.
- I can see where my stomach is – Like the organ itself. After I eat there is a bulge in my upper abdomen. Very strange and probably a sign I am eating too much. But paleo tacos….
- I feel like I am wearing a compression garment even when I am not – My skin is still so tight that it feels like my body is in tight clothing ALL. THE. TIME. Comfy pants are useless to me right now.
- If I get injured during this process, it won’t be at the gym – No….it will be when I am climbing onto the tub to change the shower head, changing sheets in the kids room, slipping on the bath rug, turning around in the car to fix a seat belt, etc. The workouts are controlled and I am aware of my core. At home, I am a spastic, hot mess trying to survive. That’s where it gets really dangerous.
After 6 weeks of this slow, steady process I still think this was the best decision. I would 1000% go through all of it again. Not that I am trying to. It is hard, but there are harder things. Another two weeks and I will even have clearance from the surgeon to do all of the above things I am doing! HA! Then the fun really begins.