Like many Boomer generation women - babies, buttered popcorn, and our old friend, gravity, have definitely taken a big toll on my abs and formerly taught tummy muscles. The profile that now appears when I turn sideways to my full-length mirror wouldn’t make it to the first roll call of a Body by Jake infomercial.
There is a solution, though - the tummy tuck – a slick little surgery that could give us all the tight bodied look of Lindsay Lohan. But – is it for you? In addition to the cost – which can range from $5,000 to $15,000 – it is not exactly a ‘slam-bam, you’re looking hot ma’am’ procedure.
One of our readers shares her tummy tuck experience, some advice to those considering the surgery, and her feelings on whether she would do it again:
"My body is in great shape for 51. But - after major abdominal surgery for endometriosis, two C-sections, and a hysterectomy—I was left with a hanging bag of flesh that I just couldn’t make peace with. I tried for two years after the hysterectomy to accept it - even calling it “my buddy” for awhile – but I just couldn’t be comfortable in my skin. That’s why I finally went for it: A tummy tuck.
For starters, it’s not a perfect science and there are no guarantees that you’ll be happy with the result. And – because payment up front is required - it can be a gamble.
The recovery was a long one and much, much worse than my hysterectomy. The part that was most painful was not the cut, but the procedure where they actually separate the skin from the muscle over the entire abdomen. After two months, I still can’t wear my jeans because of the pain from bruising that remains. There’s also an odd sensation of numbness. The nerves are damaged and, according to my surgeon, normal feeling will never fully return. I wasn’t aware of this until after I had the surgery, and it’s something to think about before taking the plunge. I do rub lotion on my abdomen daily to give those nerves lots of sensory input to help them repair.
Strangely, the worst pain after surgery was in my lower back. One post-surgery requirement was to walk bent over at the waist for two full weeks. That’s hard! Our spines are designed for us to walk upright. After the 14th day, I was allowed to gradually straighten up. But, it took me another week and a half to finally go back to a completely erect walk.
Since I had previously undergone those four major surgeries, I knew that general anesthesia could be a bad scene for me. After each surgery, I ended up vomiting uncontrollably for two days and there was nothing that would stop it—not even the anti-nausea IV. So I made sure to request that the tummy tuck be done under an epidural, instead. That was a good choice.
That part of my recovery went beautifully. No nausea at all. The only down side to the epidural was that my anesthesiologist admitted to have placed it one vertebrae too high; the result was that as they cut me down low, I was squirming. Can you imagine? I was feeling the whole thing! Thank goodness they had given me some kind of amnesia drug because I don’t remember a thing. But, that may be the reason my scar is uneven. I have this funny “W”-shaped scar. I like to think of it as an upside-down heart. So, if someone ever happens to see it from that angle (oh, my!) it may seem sort of - well, artistic.
The most unsightly result was one I wasn’t ready for. The scar over my left hipbone, is nice and flat. But, over the right hipbone, there’s a piece of skin sticking out called a “dog ear”. It’s really ugly! My surgeon will “fix” that free of charge in his office. It will be a shallow cut that should heal in a few weeks. But it will extend the scar another inch, which means it will show above my panty line. Maybe I’ll go hog wild and get a tattoo there - so that if I ever wear something low cut like a two-piece bathing suit - the scar will be covered with a lovely flower or hummingbird. Tattoos are not normally my thing, but neither is cosmetic surgery.
All of this said, it’s been two months since I was cut and I feel terrific. Now I can wear that sweater dress that I once refused to wear because it showed “ my buddy.” Naked is still something to get used to. The scar is purple, and my skin is pretty light. Tanning is a “no-no” because it will make the scar worse. They say over time (years?) the scar will turn white. I now wish I had done this a few years ago.
My bodywork friend, Ursula, told me to massage my scar like crazy. I started massaging it at three weeks with permission from my surgeon and it made a difference the very first time. Some of the puckers came right out immediately. Now I’m still massaging it daily, hoping to avoid adhesions.
If you’re thinking seriously about a tummy tuck, my advice is to look carefully at examples of the work done by any surgeon you’re considering. Think about anesthesia options. And, don’t expect perfection. When I look in the mirror naked (and I tend to do this a lot these days), what I see is far from perfect. But - believe it or not - I’m still glad I did it."