Dear Dr. Mommy Makeover,
This week, in one of our local magazines, I came across a full page ad for your plastic surgery services. It was titled “The Mommy Makeover.” There was an idyllic picture of a woman in a bikini on a beach, holding hands with what one would assume would be her daughter. Being a mom, I was both intrigued and somewhat confused what a “Mommy Makeover” was. I’m guessing you know most moms have this reaction, and you bet on them reading the ad all the way through. What you might not realize is the other reactions your ad and words illicit. Let me try and talk you through this.
“Only plastic surgeons and moms understand the extent to which pregnancy changes a woman’s body.”
This is actually the first line of your article. Having a baby myself 16 months ago, I can guarantee you there is no one who really understands what pregnancy does to a woman’s body except a woman who has been pregnant. I’m guessing from your credentials that you have years of experience, and have worked on many women after their pregnancies. You have probably seen stretch marks, felt separated abdominal muscles with your hands and lifted loose skin.
But have you ever felt your baby kick inside of you? Have you ever experienced that first little flutter? That first bubble that tells you there is something growing inside of you? Something you and your partner created? Have you ever actually witnessed your own body growing in ways you didn’t know were possible? Have you ever felt those first pains of labor, and been more excited and more scared than you have ever been in your life, all at the same time? Have you ever had your water break, lost a mucous plus, pushed a baby out, been cut, massaged and stitched in your nether regions? Have you ever had to part with your baby the first time after delivery and felt a phantom pain because he/she wasn’t either inside of you or right next to you? You are a male doctor who is undeniably skilled at what you do, but your answer to each of these questions is “no”. Because of that, I have to say you do not know the full extent to which pregnancy changes a woman’s body.
“Unfortunately, although the woman can stay fit and slender, it doesn’t correct the real problems.”
The real problems? I might need clarification on this one, Dr. Mommy Makeover. I do have loose skin around my stomach, and I happen to have a bladder that doesn’t like to stay where it’s supposed to. Both are somewhat annoying, but I don’t think I have ever referred to them as my “real problems”. I have a beautiful baby girl who I love more than I thought possible. The “real problems” in the world are all too obvious to me now that I want to protect her with every fiber of my being. I wonder if I’m doing a good job, if I’m teaching her the right things, if I’m setting a good example, if she’ll be safe out there in that big, beautiful world. These are my “real” problems.
“What is really needed after one or more pregnancies is a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, and frequently a breast lift. The muscles and skin of the abdominal wall become stretched, frequently with severe stretch marks in the lower abdomen and around the belly button.”
Stretch marks were one of my fears when I first found out I was pregnant, and I did hours of research trying to find the best way to avoid them. What I discovered is that, while stretch marks are mostly determined by your genes, you can possibly help by keeping the skin hydrated and massaging it nightly. I massaged my belly every night, from the day I received the positive pregnancy test until the day I went into labor. For these twenty minutes, I simply stopped “going”. I closed my eyes, rubbed my belly with oil, and sang, talked and prayed for that baby. I stopped at every little bump I felt, trying to figure out if it was a head or a rump. I squeezed little feet tucked inside my stomach. My husband would talk to her and she never failed to respond with a gentle kick or punch. You would probably tell me I wasted my time, and I would concede that I have no idea if it helped the stretch marks. Instead, that precious time connected me to my baby in ways I couldn’t imagine.
“The breasts usually lose volume and become smaller, frequently with a change in shape due to the smaller size and stretching of the skin.”
You got me here, Dr. MM. I LOVED my pregnancy and nursing boobs. They were glorious. This is coming from a girl who normally rocks a large A or small B cup (on good days). I just stopped nursing two weeks ago and I was quickly reminded what small breasts I actually have. I mourned my cleavage and ability to overflow a B cup for a few days, no doubt. Then I THANKED my wonderful, A cup breasts. They fed and nourished a baby – a human being – for 16 months. They were bitten and pinched. They ached and leaked and cracked. They become sources of food and tools for soothing, and temporarily lost their role in the bedroom. But they also let me watch my baby fall asleep, curled up on my chest. They allowed me to see her first little smile, dreaming, while laying on my breast. They gave her solace when nothing else seemed to work. My little boobies, with their “lost volume” and “smaller size”, gave life to my sweet little baby. They should probably get an award.
“All effort is made to keep the scars as minimal as possible.”
I wanted a baby my entire life. For much of that time, I was told it could be very difficult, maybe impossible, for me to have a child. My husband and I ended up blessed with a very healthy and happy pregnancy. I then went through 43 hours of labor (36 hours of that natural), an epidural that only took on one side, four hours of pushing while the epidural wore off, and one final push with a vacuum and some expected tearing to deliver a healthy baby girl. I have a few lingering issues and pains to show for it, and one phenomenal, smart, joyful and radiating daughter. I am not sure I want you to remove or minimize my scars. They remind me of how much I wanted this child and what a miracle she is. They remind me of the moments of utter pain in the delivery room, when it was just my husband I, pushing through every single contraction, simply to wait for the next one. They remind me of the look in my husband’s eyes the second she appeared and he met his daughter. They remind me of the feeling of her heartbeat on my chest. They remind me how strong I can actually be. They remind me that my husband and I made a living, breathing person, and we are absolutely blessed to be in her presence every single day.
Yes I have bags under my eyes, but they show me that there is someone who needs me at night more than I need sleep. I pray that my sleep is constantly interrupted in life by calls of “Mom!” from the next room, and then calls over the phone saying, “Mom, I’m so nervous for my test tomorrow” and “Mom, he finally proposed!” and “Mom, I think I’m in labor.”
I have looser skin over my stomach than I did three years ago, but I want my daughter to see I love my body and am not ashamed of it or need to cover it up. I want her to be proud of her own body and see the beauty in all feminine shapes. I have less time to exercise, but my biceps are stronger and my legs more toned because I carry around this ball of energy and lift her to give her “kiss it all better boo-boo hugs”.
I have highlights in my hair from the sun beating down when I push the stroller, hoping she will fall asleep when missing her afternoon nap. I get spit up on, pooped on, drooled on. I have wrinkles and skin tags in places I don’t even want to talk about. I pee my pants a little bit every time I laugh – and thank goodness, I get to laugh A LOT. These are scars I think I might keep for a little while longer.
So Dr. MM, I appreciate the offer for a “mommy makeover”. I might come see you one day – I seriously did like those boobs. And there are many people – not just mommies – who might feel better about themselves if they did. More power to them. But I will not be coming to you for a “mommy makeover”.
You see, I’ve already been made over.
I’ve been made over by a beautiful baby girl sleeping in the room downstairs. The second she was a glimmer inside my belly, I was a new person. I was made over when I felt her kicking inside of me. I was made over when I felt my own strength when giving birth to her. I get made over every day I see her learn something new, every time she gives me a snotty nosed kiss, and every time I hear my husband reading bedtime stories in his “Miss Nelson” voice.
I am a MOM, and that is my makeover.