So, I’ve been sleeping — a lot. A deep, oxycodone-induced slumber that lasted for hours of oblivion at a time. Before you call child services, I have a confession I’m kind of proud to make: I got a tummy tuck. They call it “abdominoplasty.” I call it ten times more painful than my 2 c-sections.
(Before I get into the reasons why I chose to do this, let me tell you about the oxycodone-induced dreams: WILD. In one, I dreamt about decapitating a papier-mâché mache doll and finding vanilla pudding inside. Yum! Another involved finding and adopting a massive scorpion whilst trying to hide its existence from my family.)
So why am I proud to tell everyone about my surgical shortcut to leaner abs? First, I firmly believe it’s my right as a woman/mother/person (granted, of sufficient means) to reverse some of the less than desirable effects of birthing two children (via c-section, not that I’m sure that matters). Even when I was dedicated to an optimal, costly fitness regimen (a boring melange of obscenely sweaty spin classes, a punishing barre class with crap nineties music and circuit training classes where no one corrected my bad form and rendered me unable to climb or descend stairs on more than one occasion), I could not get rid of this stupid jelly roll of lower belly fat. It really limited my clothing options, not to mention my confidence parading around in a swim suit on beach vacations with the kiddos (which I did anyway, but not without egregious self-consciousness, which I tried my best to conceal). And even when I happened to lose a little weight, it just made said belly fat look less firm and more cottage cheesy.
And all the advanced scheduling required by these fitness classes stressed me out. Since I am the White House social secretary for my daughter and far prefer to spend quality time with those I love — or read a book — than workout, this lifestyle became a real onus. Most all these classes have fucked up velvet-rope style reservation systems (In NYC, you can call or go online at 7am and score a good dinner reservation a month in advance, or you can book a bike a week in advance with a celebrity spin teacher at Soul Cycle.). By 8am, most spots are filled and you are relegated to a bike in front of a screaming instructor du jour. Oh, and if your kid turns out to be sick that day and home from school, you are SOL and out $35.
I try NOT to blame everything that goes awry in my life on Donald Trump. (Nevertheless, she persisted). But I was owning this crazy fitness/shower/pick-up kids routine quite well last summer. Then, when the election became crazy-real and it was time to travel to Ohio to canvas for Hillary and watch morning news and CNN election coverage like a coke fiend, my fitness routine went kaputz. And all that toning and the miniscule belly fat I had gotten rid of, returned with a vengeance. Then came James Comey — not once but f-ing twice — and well you know the rest.
By the week after inauguration, I had gained 13 pounds, since my last annual check-up — plus, my dog had died 2 days before inauguration (I half-joked he refused to live a single day of a Trump presidency). I was up for a change. I talked to a couple plastic surgeons, settled on one that was half (yes, half) the price of the other and decided to tell anyone who would listen about my plans.
Here’s the thing: I truly believe women should and need to be more honest with each other. I feel this way about sharing my experience with postpartum depression, and I feel this way about sharing the byproducts of having kids that nobody seems to warn you about — lack of sleep, lost tempers, marital squabbles, and all the endless, useless guilt in between.
I found it so interesting that when I told friends I was planning on doing this procedure, not only did they all high-five me or give me a “good-for-you” shout out, but four of them came out of the plastic surgery woodwork and told me about their own experiences under the elective knife. (A few told me I didn’t need it, which was nice to hear but fell on deaf ears as they had never seen me naked.)
I just wish women didn’t wait until you were in the same boat as they once were to discuss the choices they made especially when it comes to our babies and bodies. We all struggle with both and can be of real help to one another, both in imparting wisdom and reducing loneliness and feelings of inadequacy. Sharing really is caring.
In fact, the only person I’ve wrestled with telling the whole truth to is my daughter Zoe. Having her grow up with a strong and healthy body image is a paramount parenting objective (especially having grown up with a shaky — sometimes tortuous — one myself.) I wanted to tell her the truth, the whole truth and nothing but, but after discussing with other moms, I decided to give her info on a need-t0-know basis.
Clearly she and my son could see mommy hobbling around with 2 watery burnt orange-filled drainage bags precariously hanging off an oversized cotton bandage tightly wound around her abdomen like an unfinished mummy. So I was compelled to tell her what I fully admit was a half, albeit technical truth: That mommy had a small umbilical hernia (true) and the doctor repaired muscle detachment that ensued from giving birth (true). The hitch being that neither are what convinced me to take the plastic plunge.
But contrary to what most, even I, used to think, wanting to fix something about your body — and being healthy or fortunate enough to have the ability to do it — is also a lesson in body love, in self-love. I am not trying to manipulate what G-d gave me. I am trying to get my best self back, mostly so I don’t have to waste so much time thinking about my old self: time I’d rather be reading, watching movies, and hanging out in a swimsuit on a beach with my family. I’m still totally imperfect, of course (jiggly arms, back fat blah blah), but now I’ll be able to shop online with greater ease — very time saving. (Hourglass-figured with big boobs, skinny legs and hanging belly fat are not quick-fits on the major clothing websites. I spent a fortune in both time and postage returning items that fit one part of my body but not others).
The most shocking aspect of the procedure was the recovery. Having had 2 c-sections, I went in thinking this would be a breeze: and the plastic surgeon did nothing to dissuade me of this false notion. Let me make this very clear: It is not a breeze. Yesterday was my two-week abdominoversary and I still can’t walk more than a couple of blocks, slightly bent forward, and without feeling anxious and tired and like my back is going to give out. Finally getting my 2nd drain out this morning helped me feel more alive — emancipated. (Spoiler alert: If you are easily nauseated, skip to the next paragraph.) The removal felt like someone was ripping out a tube planted 6 inches deep into my vagina, violently irritating the new skin developing around the base of the incision. Oh wait: that’s exactly what happened.
But apparently my open, no-worries approach had other undesirable side- effects. Known for his level of understatement, my husband Ben was on the toilet when my suitcase and I were rolling out the door surgery morning. I said goodbye through a bathroom door and received a strained “Okay, see you later” (maybe he was pushing?). I decided I would be five minutes late and wait for him to emerge for a proper goodbye. (I mean statistically very unlikely, but it could have been the last time I see him and this would be a shitty way to remember him, no pun intended).
Those five minutes got me thinking: Does he even know where I’m going? I know he knows it was surgery day but did he know what hospital or surgical center it was? Did he think he had to pick me up and, if so, at what time? So, the minute he emerged, we had the following conversation:
ME: “Do you know where I’m going?”
HIM: Yeah, you’re going for your tummy thing.
ME: But do you know WHERE I’m going to get this thing done?
ME: When were you expecting to hear from me next?
HIM (3 seconds of deep consideration): Ummm, 2 or 3 days? I thought it would all be in the email. (thus referring to an email I sent re: kids activities/meals in my absence, which he clearly hadn’t read and which had made no mention of my whereabouts, length of surgery, obvious need for a chaperone home after 6 hours under general anesthesia).
ME: I can’t believe you.
HIM: Tell me where you’re going.
ME: The elevator is here. I’m late. Work it out.
If you think this is a sign of a bad marriage it isn’t. It’s a sign of MY marriage. I was explaining this to the plastic surgeon as he prepped me for surgery to which he responded, “Positive thoughts. I need positive thoughts.” I forgot the doc and I weren’t old friends, because to me this was a funny, if admittedly infuriating, example of the difference between most men and women. Ben just assumed I had taken care of everything. That I had surely sent him an email with the secrets of the universe that would absolve him from making any inquiries or plans of his own.
If you think I sound entitled — which I realize, regrettably, I do — it gets worse: I decided a week before the surgery to do what all the Upper East Side women do when they got cosmetic work done, granted for different reasons (They do it to hide out from people they know). Worried I’d scare my kids shitless with my bloody tubes and zombie self, I booked myself into a hotel for one night — and hired a private nurse to help me pee and not bleed out. I thought it was worth it because I didn’t want to be an onus on Ben, forcing him to deal with both me and the kids that first, most uncomfortable night. He agreed.
Nevertheless, my location that day and night was a mystery to him, as was the expected length of procedure. So, when my friends and parents started texting and emailing him for updates, he did what any other oblivious husband would do: He casually texted said friends for answers so he could report back to my parents with some level of authority. A few were kind and/or amused enough to share them with me (and I share this with Ben’s permission). Note the timestamp on the text message on the left (read bottom-up) when my friend Cindy provided the name of my doctor and the timestamp when he reported back that I was “doing great”: Hmmm.
My parents frantically called and texted Ben throughout my longer-than-expected surgery for updates he couldn’t give. They sent me a text I would see 12 hours later explaining how worried they were, in which they expressed their frustration with Ben (who they love, faults and all, much like myself) with an understated “Oy Vey.” Anyway, all’s well that ends well — even Ben’s shit-list longevity (He’s proven an amazing caretaker and picked up a lot of my parental slack). So, let’s just hope it was all worth it.
(FUCK! I just sneezed.)