Wellness Wednesday #20: Surgery

buttonOnce upon a time, I had rockin’ abs. That’s what swimming competitively with cross-training for five years will do for you, heh. Then I got married, got pregnant, got stretchmarks, got loose skin, and got really, really messed up abs. And all the body-image issues that came with them.

True Confessions
I detest those articles that talk about “embracing” your stretchmarks from pregnancy, accepting them as the cost or “tiger stripes” from having a kid. I hate them because the pictures shown always include women with beautiful stomachs etched with a few cute little stretchmarks from place to place. They don’t show the ugly kinds of scaring. My kind of scaring. During my first pregnancy, I didn’t have a mark on me until around eight months, when suddenly every single centimeter of my abdomen was covered with little wiggles. Post-birth, I was left with jello for skin over a section of my body the size of a serving platter. With my second child, I developed eight sun-stripe scars upwards out of the mass of wiggle, some of them thicker than a centimeter. With my third, my lower pelvis scarred so badly that there was no unscarred skin, and it looked like I had been burned all the way across my lower belly. Additionally, my 10-lb-baby caused my abdominal muscles to separate and my skin to flop over and sag onto my legs.

I’m not going to show pictures here. This is too public a location. What I will say is that two years ago today, I underwent extensive abdominal surgery. This involved putting my stomach muscles back together – they’d been separated five whole inches – and the removal of 2.5-lbs of skin. I didn’t lose a lot of weight from the surgery, but it completely changed the shape of my body:

5 wks post op compare

before & after

ninja shirt compare

before & after

shirt compare wk 5

before and after

In It Was Me All Along, Andie Mitchell says:

Somehow, though, despite the visible scars, I felt more comfortable, more accepting of my body. There, in the mirror, was all that I’d worked for. I did it, I thought. Blemishes and all, it was earned, and it was mine. Removing the skin brought me closure. And I respected what remained.

IMG_5808This is how I felt when I was through all the pain and recovery from surgery. I weighed roughly the same, but I was wearing pants two sizes smaller. I could zip my wedding dress up for the first time in well over a decade. My skin was too scarred to see any abdominal definition, but I no longer cared. I loved those scars, and even the bit of loose, wiggly skin that remained. I went out and bought a bikini. I felt empowered and wonderful!

And I admit, one of the biggest reasons I’ve not felt nearly as bad about my body after regain is because of that surgery. I’m bigger than I have been in five years, but I still have my body shape, and there isn’t one huge part of me that I’m self-conscious about. I’m not confident every day or anything, but I have days when I am, and that’s a huge difference from before, when even at a healthy weight, I hid as much as I could because of my stomach.

So today, I celebrate. I may not be nearly as thin or healthy as I was right before or after that surgery, but I still love my stomach, and love what this surgery did for my body and my self-esteem. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

PS – I highly recommend Birthmarkings, a documentary about the post-birth body. This started my body-positivity journey several years ago. The last woman interviewed (around 16:48) was so close to how I looked post birth, and there are so very many different kinds of bodies and scarring represented throughout. It’s not a cute-tiger-stripes kind of deal. It’s amazing!

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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6 Responses to Wellness Wednesday #20: Surgery

  1. Meg says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on Birthmarkings, and for the strength and vulnerability you’re sharing with us! Wellness is definitely a journey, isn’t it? A long, hard one. I’m back on a healthy course after recommitting to a weight loss program and already see such a change in myself — physically, yes, but also mentally. The guilt surrounding food — eating too much of it; eating too little of it — can be enormous.

    Like

  2. Michelle says:

    Thank you for your honesty, as always! It is such an inspiration, if only because it removes the taboo nature of such discussions. We all need to feel comfortable discussing such topics.

    Like

  3. Shaina says:

    Such a lovely post!

    Not to bring up a topic you don’t love, but this was another thing that bothered me about Dietland: the fact that Plum was so, so discouraged from having her surgery. You can definitely argue that having surgery without acknowledging what that will actually do for you emotionally/personally is folly, and maybe that’s what she was doing, but again, it was painted with way too broad of a brush. Clearly, your surgery made you feel a hell of a lot better about yourself. It’s all about the nuance.

    I’m glad you’re feeling good!

    Like

    • Amanda says:

      I didn’t have weight loss surgery the way Plum was planning (I think? Am I remembering that correctly?) but I remember vividly the scene where the surgeon was drawing all over her and making her feel bad about the body-reparations she would “need” after losing weight, and that DID make me angry. Not everyone needs every surgery after weight loss – I didn’t need ANY, and I lost over 100 lbs! – and not everyone gets body-corrective surgery in order to look better. And the whole draw-on-the-body thing? They do that so they have guidelines during surgery to make sure they’re getting it right. When they did it to me, it didn’t feel invasive at all.

      Like

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