Saturday, August 16, 2014

Phase 3 - Nip Tuck

Hello my friends!  Scary to think that I haven't updated this in nearly a year!  But I recently received a message from my dietician that people are actually READING this blog still, which is amazing to me.  I am glad that they find it helpful as they begin their bariatric surgery journeys!

I myself am enduring phase 3 of this process.  Phase 1, surgery & honeymoon period.  Phase 2, maintenance.  Phase 3, mommy makeover/nip tuck.  That's right... I said nip tuck.  As in, free me from the chains of my chunk... saggy skin!

I successfully kept off 85% of my weightloss the past 3.5 years.  Was it ideal? No.  I would have loved to have stayed teeny tiny and in perfect shape, but frankly, life happened and working out became less of a priority.  Then more of a priority.  Then less.  It has ebbed and flowed.  Same with my eating.  At some points I am really vigilant. Others, not so much.  It kind of all came out in the wash.  I feel like I was at my least fit/heaviest a couple months ago... you can see it most in my face I think.  Here I am with my love this past Father's Day:

But the one thing that you really cannot escape after bariatric surgery is saggy skin.  I personally, have been extremely blessed.  My skin on my arms is only slightly saggy, and actually I have pretty good muscle tone. I haven't been working out prior to this pic, but check out my guns!  And oddly enough this picture was taken AFTER the Father's Day pic above, so I must have lost a little? I really don't know!  I guess there's kind of a muscle up there??

I also have lax skin on my thighs, and of course on my tummy.  My thighs... yeah it bothers me, but frankly the thought of a thigh lift is totally unappealing and it's not THAT bad (you will see below), but my stomach has bothered me pretty much forever... fat and thin.  My belly button is a super innie, and after losing weight it frowned.  And then there's the stretch marks (thanks son!  He had excess amniotic fluid so I was ENORMOUS!), and the saggy skin... it was just really bad.  So I knew prior to my sleeve surgery, a tummy tuck was in order.  And after surgery it wasn't just a tummy tuck I wanted. I wanted boobs again too.... mine had turned into sad saggy nothings. 

So that guy in the picture up there... he's pretty amazing.  He supports me and loves me regardless of my weight, but he also was determined to make it possible for me to have my "mommy makeover" as the plastic surgeons call it.  I kept bringing it up and he finally said, "Go get a consultation already!".  So I did.  And after meeting with two different surgeons, I chose one who I felt confident had not only aesthetics at heart, but also my health and safety.  Because... you certainly can't show off a tummy tuck in a coffin.

The surgeon I chose is Dr. Samuel Pearl, based in Mountain View, CA.  He is amazing.  His staff... also amazing.  I have his head RN's cell number.  She babysat me after surgery on a day Brian had to work about an hour away.  They are THAT caring and THAT above and beyond.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So in case you are wondering a mommy makeover is a tummy tuck and boob job in tandem.  Perfect!  Exactly what I wanted.  Except the extent of a tummy tuck that I needed, along with lipo suction of my flanks and hips, and muscle repair of my abs... that's major.  And my boobs.. when I say they are sad and saggy... yeah.  So saggy that I can't just get a normal breast implant. I need a lift, and then a fill.  All of that combined, Dr. Pearl determined unsafe and therefore I had to decide what was more important... shrinking my lower half and cutting off all the nasty skin.  Or getting perky boobs.  I can always wear a padded bra for now, so I went the tummy tuck route.

Here are my before pictures at 157ish lbs (I fluctuate a lot throughout the month):

As you can see.... not so cute without the clothes on.  And you can see in my upper, inner thighs that skin is fairly lax.  The only thing that would fix that is a thigh lift, so I'm just gonna pretend it's not there :)  But basically if you look at me straight on, you can see that I am very tiny throughout the upper body.  Dr. Pearl informed me that my upper abs were actually in great shape and that the only looseness I had up there was truly skin.  Not fat.  That was very nice to hear!  He also said he could tell I work out, which again, nice to hear!  He could tell that I have always carried my weight in my hips and oddly enough he said he could tell that based on the size of my calves which have always been really big.  Not fat, just big and muscular.  Kind of an interesting fact!

So, within 3 months of my consult, I had a tummy tuck.  And I will be the first to raise my hand and tell you that I had NO idea what the hell I was getting into!!!! And neither did Brian.   

Surgery went extremely well.  It took much longer than expected... around 7 hours.  But I made sure to get the extra injection of pain meds and was sent home to recover.  Umm.... I won't go into too much detail but the gist of it was:  I was dying.  And Brian had to help me with EVERYTHING.  I mean EVERYTHING.  Talk about a humbling, and humiliating experience.  Not to mention the pain and suffering!!!!  I was black and blue from my ribs to my knees. And for some reason I swelled up like a balloon on my lower half.  I seriously have never been that swollen... even nine months pregnant and fat to begin with.  NOT CUTE.  And so incredibly painful!  I ended up getting hour long foot massages to try to get the fluid moving.
Apparently this kind of swelling is not normal so I was given water pills to deflate.  I went back to drinking tons of water and G2 Gatorade and I peed out over 20lbs in 5 days! HOLY SMOKES!!!!

The one thing I will say that I found so weird was that with this surgery a) the recovery is insane and long and miserable (I am almost 6 weeks out now and still not 100%), and b) it was very emotional.  I felt like I had not only unknowingly put myself through all of this pain and suffering, but everyone around me too.  I didn't see my kids for almost 2 weeks (praise Jesus for my parents and kind friends for taking them because there was NO way I could have watched them), Brian was having to go to work and come home throughout the day in ADDITION to doing everything for me.  And for what?!!! For me to have a flat stomach that people might see 4-5 times a year???  I felt stupid, and vain, and like all that money was just a selfish waste.  I cried pretty much every day for those first two weeks.  

And then the cloud lifted and I realized that this was part of closing my chapter of the "fat" me.  It wasn't just vanity.  It was an inner struggle that I have been dealing with.  I was essentially healing "Scars" of being overweight for so many years, and embracing the fact that I am not any more.  I am a new me, inside and out.  And dammit, I deserve to feel good about myself naked.  I cannot tell you enough how important Brian was in this internal discovery process.  He never once berated me for being "stupid" for having this surgery and complaining afterwards.  He just consistently reassured me that I would be happy with the results, and that I could get through it.  He also consistently praised me for being a strong woman and told me how proud he was of me for making it through.  And the one thing that I am so thankful for aside from the physical results, was that this surgery took our relationship to a whole new level.  I trust him literally with my life.

So... I bet you want to see my results, right????  Well... here ya go!  This picture was taken about 3 weeks after surgery, so my stomach is still quite swollen as are my hips and thighs. My scar looks crooked because of the swelling on one side, but I assure you, it is very symmetrical now.  And check out my belly button!!!!  It's a circle!!!

Here are more recent ones.... I splurged on this $8 bikini to cheer myself up.  This is about 4.5 weeks out.
 You can see from the side that my tummy is stilll swollen.  I call it my "baby".
But from the front... lookin good!!!! My saddle bags, I can see a much bigger difference (despite that dreaded inner thigh skin) and my stomach.. omg.  From the front it looks AMAZING.  And Dr. Pearl did an awesome job placing my scar below my bikini line :)  The top is a little big, but part 2 of phase 3 is coming this winter... boobs!

I hope this update was informative for whoever reads this.  I still to this day maintain that my sleeve was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I would recommend it to anyone.  In a heartbeat.  I would recommend Dr. Cirangle and his team to anyone.  And now, I can add Dr. Pearl to the dream-maker surgeon list.  I have been so blessed to have these people enter my life and change it for the better.  Things just keep looking up.  And a gratuitous picture of the little people that keep me in check:

They keep it real, because first and foremost, I answer to "Mom".  In Benji's words when he saw me after my tummy tuck (2 weeks later mind you!!) "Mom, it looks like you have a baby in there!".  Thanks kid ; )  Way to keep me humble :P