When you’re a little kid the Tooth Fairy is a very important lady. Gone are your baby teeth, and you are rewarded with bigger, better teeth and some cash under your pillow. When you’re a tween girl you wait for an even more important dream maker: The Boobie Fairy. Once she shows up you are rewarded with attention of 6th grade boys.
Alas, the Boobie Fairy never came to visit me. Or maybe she came, but was in a real rush to get somewhere else, and she said she’d be back later, but that never happened. Start going to a gym though and you’ll see that women have taken the matter into their own hands. There’s a whole lot of plastic bouncing around on those treadmills.
Pro-plastic surgery women always say the same thing, “I did it for me.” Anti-plastic surgery women like to say patronizing things like, “It’s so sad you’re influenced by the media and male-dominated society.” But I think those are the women who already have at least a C cup. October, 17, 2006. That was the day the Boobie Fairy finally returned to visit me, because I was pregnant. My husband, Henri, was still in denial about the reality of my gestation, until I woke up that morning and he discovered new playthings attached to my chest. But when I stopped nursing, the girls went away (boo hoo). Further evidence that God is a) a woman (surely a male deity would not remove said playthings) and b) She is just a little bit bitchy sometimes.
The Truth About Pregnancy
No one tells you the truth about what pregnancy does to your body. I went into it expecting a cute little belly bump followed by an even cuter little baby nine months later. The cute baby part was right (I had two cute babies actually, now ages 7 and 5,) but I was not even remotely prepared for all those My Body is a Science Project things no one told me about. Like my foot growing an entire shoe size, the joys of pregnancy constipation, or the cruel joke nursing plays on your unsuspecting ta-tas.
But the biggest shocker for me was a little thing called mom’s apron which is a euphemism for the loose, saggy skin that remains under some women’s midsection after having a baby. I am diametrically opposed to housework, so the very last thing I wanted was a permanent apron around my belly.
If you never had a baby but really, really want one, probably don’t look at this next picture. But if you had a baby, or lost a lot of weight, then you will probably recognize the formless hanging skin (sometimes with stretch marks as an added bonus) like in the picture on this post. (I would post the picture of my own saggy skin, but I don’t want to.)
Why, oh why, does this happen to so many women? Per WebMD, collagen is the protein that gives skin that plump look. Unfortunately, over time it breaks down, which is why we get wrinkles. Elastin is the protein that makes up the stretchy part of your skin that gives it form and shape (think “elastic”.) When a woman gets pregnant or a person gains weight, the skin is able to stretch to accommodate this, but after the baby is born and the weight is lost, it doesn’t always fully snap back into the same condition it was in prior to that.
Time may heal all wounds, but it won’t get rid of excess skin. It takes two years for extra skin to be reabsorbed into the body (remember what I said about your body being a science project?) but a lot of times this never fully happens either, depending on how much weight you gained/lost and your age. (This is why most of my mommy friends say things like, “my last pregnancy was the one that did me in.”)
If your stomach looks like an accordion, as mine did, you have three main options:
• Love the skin you are in.
• Non-surgical skin tightening.
• The “Mommy Special,” also called the “Mom Makeover” combines breast augmentation and a tummy tuck to give you a firmer leaner look, like you did before having kids.
Plastic Surgery and Figure Competitions
Many women just accept this body transformation as part of the business of baby making, but I felt acutely aware of my own mom’s apron, particularly since I took part in bodybuilding competitions where the posing suits are tiny and often times you are standing next to women ten years younger who have never given birth. Also, it seemed like 95% per cent of the women on stage were well endowed, if not by nature than by silicone. It’s hard to compete against those curvy statistics, but it can be done.
If you fall into the category of full acceptance of your body, my compliments to you! And if you have a mom’s apron and want to compete in bikini and figure competitions, here is some advice from Dave Goodin, IFBB Pro Bodybuilder and promoter of one of the largest natural bodybuilding competitions in Texas, the Texas Shredder:
“I always recommend that my clients take fish oil to help their skin from the inside out. After you shower, use a good moisturizer like Almond Oil. When you’re posing, the trick I tell my clients is to elongate your torso so it stretches the skin. You do this by sticking out your chest and arching your back to create an S-curve. I’ve seen both women with loose stomach skin and women with surgical scars win shows; if you have the best overall physique, you have the best physique.”
From experience, I can attest to the S-curve trick working to hiding that loose skin during the figure judging, but when you stand up straight off stage, whoop there it is again. And it really bugged me that when I did a push up my chest would go up but the skin from my stomach was still hanging out on the floor. Which brings us to option #2.
A non-surgical possibility is skin tightening, which uses laser beams to boost collagen production over three weekly procedures. The average cost for this is approximately $1,500. The downside is that it hurts and is only minimally effective if you have a lot of wobby skin. Sadly, this method was not successful for me.
Let me be clear here: Pregnancy, while difficult, is also the most incredible experience a woman can go through, and my kids are my greatest accomplishment, but that didn’t mean I wanted to have slack skin on my belly for the rest of my life as a reminder of the experience! My thought was, ‘the baby’s moved out of my womb and into the world, so the mom’s apron can exit my body as well.’ So I opted for surgery.
Apparently I wasn’t alone in my desire to have this procedure done. According to Staci Hix-Hernandez, MD, a plastic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgeon, mom, and fitness enthusiast, the mommy makeover is definitely on an upward trend, especially for bikini and figure competitors.
“These are typically women very dedicated to fitness and transforming their bodies. After all that hard work it can very disheartening to fall short. In many cases it not because of a lack of hard work, but because other influences kept them reaching their goal, be it prior surgery, pregnancy, extreme weight loss or a variety of other issues. That’s where I come in. I see women in a huge age range, anywhere from early 20’s to 70’s, struggling with concerns regarding their beasts and or abdomen.”
What Will People Think?
I wasn’t expecting to hear that women in their 70’s were still dealing with body issues. I will totally confess to worrying about what people would say about me for getting this done for my 40th birthday gift to myself. I pictured the scene at church, being encircled by angelic looking people with sad, sad faces saying aloud, “Dear Jesus, please pray for Lisa and her vanity issues.” And what would I say to my mom and kids? I almost talked myself into just doing nothing and resigning myself to the fact that I would be annoyed every time I stepped in the shower for the rest of my life.
But then I considered that you can’t live your life trying to please other people; you have to do what’s right for you. Plus I viewed complaining as a waste of time, and if you have the ability to fix something, then stop complaining and take action.
Here’s The Real Deal
I was only going to get the tummy tuck ($8,400) but when I found out there was a discount for doing the breast procedure at the same time (for a grand total of $10,700) and that this could be paid for over the course of 18 months through financing, I was like, “You had me at financing.”
It’s not the right choice for everyone, and there are risks involved, as with any surgery. It’s important to interview several board certified surgeons and it helps to get referrals from satisfied patients.
The procedure itself was about four hours at a hospital in out-patient surgery. As explained by Dr. Hix-Hernandez, “The healing process is a fairly set phenomenon, however lack of smoking, exercise and proper nutrition definitely helps. I do feel that a fit physique does help when recovering from the initial pain from surgery. These patients typically return to regular activity much faster.”
For me, the first week of recovery was the hardest. I had to drain the wound every few hours, which was pretty gross, and it hurt my stomach when I walked. Also, I had to explain to my kids that I wouldn’t be able to pick them up while I was healing. By the end of the week I was moving fairly normally and three weeks later I was allowed to do moderate exercise again.
Overall, I’m thrilled with the results. Don’t get me wrong: my stomach does not look like it did at 25, even with the surgery. I now have a thin scar that stretches from hip to hip, but at least my stomach no longer looks like a shar pei dog, which gives me a lot more confidence when I compete on stage or take my kids to the beach.