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Thread: My belly was HUGE after 3 babies - but was 7,000 tummy tuck solution worth it?

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    Elite Member TheMoog's Avatar
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    Default My belly was HUGE after 3 babies - but was 7,000 tummy tuck solution worth it?

    My belly was HUGE after three babies - but was the 7,000 tummy tuck solution worth it?


    Like millions of women, Louise Atkinson, 43, carried the legacy of several pregnancies in the shape of slack stomach muscles and puckered stretch marks. But when, after five years of dieting, exercise and numerous sit-ups, she still looked pregnant, she finally plucked up the courage to have surgery.

    Louise, a writer, lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, Jonathan, 44, a graphic designer, and their three children, Florence, ten, Isaac, seven, and Gregory, five. Here, she tells her story.



    SUMMER 2007

    I was warned when I was expecting our last child that the body - particularly the waistline - struggles to recover after three pregnancies.


    And although my tummy was huge after I'd given birth, I was determined to prove everyone wrong.

    I love exercise and threw myself into a "snap your body back into shape" programme as soon as I could.

    However, after five years of healthy eating, long, regular runs, hour-long bike rides, weekly pilates and vigorous tennis sessions, my body is as fit as it is probably ever going to be.

    But, infuriatingly, my tummy still defies me.
    Scroll down for more ...
    Before and after: Louise Atkinson's figures is transformed



    The tissue that binds the main abdominal muscles has stretched beyond natural repair. I still look pregnant and it is very depressing.

    I always dress in baggy tops to cover the bulge, avoid being seen naked or in underwear (even by my husband) and brace myself for the "When's the baby due?" comments.

    My GP says my stomach muscles have herniated, but the NHS won't operate until the intestines pop through the weakened muscle wall. He says the problem - and risk - will exacerbate with age.

    My osteopath says my recurring back pain won't go while I have so little abdominal support.

    My private health insurance won't pay for childbirth-related problems. My only hope is a cosmetic surgeon.

    I trawl the internet and see that a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is my best bet. It's a big 90-minute operation. The surgeon cuts along the bikini line from hip to hip, lifts the skin, repairs the muscle (by sewing together the two long bands of abdominals with thick thread), pulls the skin back down and trims any excess, creating a new navel.

    It is a tried-and-tested procedure, but it is widely acknowledged to be the most painful of all cosmetic procedures, the most risky (in terms of complications such as haemorrhaging and thrombosis), and, at around 5,000 for the surgeon and 2,000 for the one or twonight hospital stay, one of the most expensive.

    That's why I've dithered about this for so many years. I regularly torture myself with thoughts of "is a flat tummy really worth the price of a new car?", "how can I be so selfish as to spend all our hard-earned holiday money?", and, of course, "operations are risky and this isn't a medical necessity".
    I've seen a surgeon twice over the years and both times stalled before booking the op. But this obsession is ruling my life. I'm 43. I want to be a fit and active role model to my kids, not living in fear of herniating every time I cough, hating my body.

    I do my research and target Dai Davies. He has a string of letters after his name, sits on all the cosmetic surgery committees, spent 20 years as a consultant plastic surgeon with the NHS and has been doing tummy tucks for 30 years.

    The bottom line is whether the result he can achieve will be worth - in my case - the risk and pain.

    To my delight, he assures me he can make a dramatic improvement and I walk away from his Harley Street consulting rooms full of hope that my life is about to change.

    ONE MONTH TO GO

    I'm having serious doubts. I keep reading stories of women who die under anaesthetic, or slip into a coma. The MRSA/C-diff scare is rife. Why on earth am I putting myself at peril just so I look nice?


    I see other women with their rolls and paunches and think: "That's normal, who am I to expect a flat tummy?"
    I've gone uncharacteristically secretive and tell no one but Jon of my plans. People are too inclined to ask: "What about the risks?", which wouldn't be helpful.

    Jon takes "before" photos and I see how ridiculous I look. I'm not asking to look like Kate Moss. I just want a tummy that falls in the line with the rest of my body.

    ONE WEEK TO GO

    Terrified. Excited. Can't wait. Dreading it. Worried about the recovery, about not being able to walk properly or do very much (I've been warned not to lift anything heavier than a half-full kettle for two weeks). Anxiety dreams wake me up in a sweat every night.


    Jon is incredibly supportive. He says he knows this will make me more confident about my body. I suspect he's secretly hoping I'll spend more time in my underwear.

    VJ (VERY JUMPY) DAY

    Arrive at the West London Clinic and check into my luxurious private room. It cosy, comfortable, relaxed and not like being in hospital at all.


    Mr Davies comes in armed with a big felt-tip pen and draws all over my tummy.

    I assume the straight line between my breasts down to my pubic bone is so he can match both ends up when he's taken a large melon slice of skin out of the middle.

    There's a curved line above my old, distended navel that will form the top cut to be pulled down after the muscle repair.

    He warns me the scar can't be hidden in my bikini line because I don't have enough loose skin to stretch it down that far.
    <>As he leaves I ask, pathetically: "Will you make my tummy look fabulous?" He laughs, patting my distended, graffiti-covered belly: "I'll make it look a darn sight better than that."
    As I open my eyes in recovery after nearly two hours under the knife, I'm euphoric that I'm alive, and so glad I've finally had the operation.

    There's hardly any pain but an incredibly heavy feeling, as if one of the children is sitting astride me.

    My torso is swathed in thick bands of sticky plaster, and I've been squeezed into a beige not-very-elastic corset which is to be worn day and night for three weeks and day-time only for a further three weeks. It is extremely tight and uncomfortable.
    Emerging from my body below the scar are two thin, clear tubes that drain fluid from my abdomen. About a metre long, they are connected to pint-sized plastic suction bottles.

    My lower legs are swathed in padded blow-up stockings that rhythmically squeeze and release my calf muscles to prevent blood clots forming.

    There's hardly any pain and I drift in and out of sleep all day, woken only for ridiculously complex trips to the loo. I can only shuffle, bent double like an old lady. Every movement knocks the tubes and the open wounds where they enter my body weep great big drops of blood.

    I have no appetite, my throat is very sore from the breathing tube, and I'm too terrified to sneeze or cough or laugh, but lie smiling inanely with relief.

    Mr Davies comes to check on me and says he struggled to convert my old tummy button (which, he says was "the size of a saucer") to what he calls "a virgin's navel".

    He says - as an unexpected bonus - he removed 600g of fat from around my old navel. That's a small bag of sugar gone from my paunch. Bonus!

    As the morphine wears off the pain mounts. I am given strong painkillers and a sleeping pill but don't sleep much. It is incredibly uncomfortable.

    DAY TWO

    Jon comes to take me home and I change into a tight T-shirt. The transformation is obvious. Even though I'm stooped, you can clearly see my tummy is flat.


    I sit bravely in an armchair, receiving visitors, my drains draped artfully out of sight, but by night-time the pain is almost unbearable.

    I go to bed on the maximum dose painkillers, propped up on six pillows, an extra two under my knees, and wait for enough time to pass for me to be able to take more pills.

    DAY THREE

    This is tough. I feel absolutely dreadful and stay in bed all day.


    The pressure on my tummy is so intense I can't breathe properly and have to take shallow panting breaths. Coughing is out of the question and I live in mortal fear of a sneeze. I'm supposed to get up every hour to prevent clots in my legs, but I dread the thought.

    My back hurts from being slumped in bed, but when I stand my muscles ache from the strain of supporting the stoop. The raw flesh drain-holes have me constantly wincing.

    I sleep a lot and wait, wait, wait for this discomfort to pass. I just have to grit my teeth and get through this.

    DAY FOUR

    A good night's sleep at last. The pressure on my tummy has eased, but there is sharp pain where the stitches and muscle darning are.


    DAY FIVE

    A huge pain improvement and I cut right back to Paracetamol. There's just minimal tweaking when I move around. I'm tender between the muscles and along the big scar. The drains hurt the most.


    DAY SIX

    Back to the West London Clinic to have the drains removed. It is a brutal process. I'm expecting a few inches of tube to slide out, but as the nurse tugs I feel pulling and pain and 2ft of perforated tubing emerges from where it's been stretched up one side of my abdomen, across the middle and down the other side - all under the skin. It is a horrid experience.


    Next the huge sheets of sticky plaster are roughly ripped off, providing an unexpected and painful bikini wax. And there, in the middle of my now flat belly, is a tightly puckered belly button, bristling with blue stitches.

    The scar is huge. It stretches in a 16in-long wobbly curve from above one hipbone right round to the other.

    It looks gruesome. The dissolvable stitches on the main scar appear to have done that, and a thin line of tape holds the two edges together.

    DAY SEVEN

    Friends take me out for lunch and I choose figure-hugging clothes. In the mirror I see a slim woman. This is the body I worked so hard for all these years.


    But the outing is too much and my tummy becomes very swollen. It feels tight, distended and uncomfortable and I'm worried it might be filling up with infection or fluid or blood.

    I panic and phone the hospital. They say I should be sitting with my feet up to help the swelling subside, and going for short walks to keep the fluid moving. If I don't, the scar won't heal.

    Standing for any length of time is very uncomfortable. As pressure builds up, it feels as if the wound will burst.

    DAY NINE

    The swelling is subsiding. Sneezing is still agony, but I can drive again.


    THREE WEEKS

    First night without the corset. I expect relief, but feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Without the support everything shifts slightly and areas of my tummy feel tender and bruised.


    When I see myself in the mirror I can't stop staring. I have a flat, hard tummy and - for the first time I can remember - a waist.

    I had only let myself imagine a result that would look better in clothes. I didn't ever believe I'd look this good naked.

    FOUR WEEKS

    The swelling is going down and I need a whole new wardrobe. I've lost 4in from my waist (33in to 29in), 7in at the point of my navel (38in to 31in) and 2in off my hips (35in to 33in).


    I throw out a huge pile of big fleeces and baggy T shirts (size 16-18) and stock up on tight tops (size 14). My bra size is down from 34in to 32in (albeit a G cup). I'm back in my jeans and, with no muffin-top overhang, they look so much better.

    FIVE WEEKS

    I was told to expect a six-week recovery, but I'm back to full-on sport (I'm not going to waste all this hard work by putting on any weight) and manage a hard game of tennis and a 12-mile bike ride with no problem at all.


    When people ask what's happened to me, I say I've had a hernia repair. Which is true. Tummy tuck is such a loaded expression. To many people it says cop-out and easy weight loss, and it bundles me in with the body fascist American culture of physical perfection.

    I do feel a nagging sense of guilt that my perfect tummy was so quickly achieved, and that I've ended up with a body not just repaired, but better than the one I had before.

    Jon has thrown himself into an exercise programme partly, he says, because when we're together he doesn't want people to think I'm out with my father.

    But I feel guilty he's having to work so hard while my transformation was so quick. I know I could not have made these changes through diet and exercise alone, but it's tricky.

    Plenty of people who could slim down naturally say they "envy" my new-found shape. Their envy invariably turns to shock when I show them the size of my scar.

    I don't advocate cosmetic surgery. I haven't become addicted, and I'm not lined up for a boob reduction or a brow lift.
    My distended belly was my "thing", and it had grown out of all proportion in my mind. But now it's gone, and I don't ever want to see it again. It is nice to see my toes.


    My belly was HUGE after three babies - but was the 7,000 tummy tuck solution worth it? | the Daily Mail
    Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid - Francis Bacon

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    Elite Member yanna's Avatar
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    Good for her! The pain sounds awful, though. I think I'll just never have children.

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    Elite Member MsDark's Avatar
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    Not everyone ends up with muscle separation that extreme. Known enough women with more than one kid and a naturally flat tummy to know that this woman was just particularly unlucky.

    I wonder if she had really big babies? Also, how soon she started doing any type of exercises? My mom practically drilled it into my head that I'd better be doing crunches or something ASAP if I wanted any sort of abdominal tone. In her opinion there's some sort of time window after which you're probably gonna be stuck with separation or slackness that's just about impossible to do anything about. Not sure if mom's 100% correct on this (I think some of it has to do with genes, some with how big you get when pregnant, or how big how soon) but we're talking about a woman who did mini-crunches in her bed as soon as a day after each of us was born, and I have to admit, she had a fairly flat belly pretty soon after with each of us, and looked as good as ever by the time we were all small kids.

    This operation and recovery sounds heinous. But she does look better. If I had hips that small to go with a belly like that I probably would have done it too. She's got some huge-ass boobs.
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    Elite Member crumpet's Avatar
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    Gee, it was certainly an improvement. That first pic is birth control for me in itself. If that sounds vain, it's because I am. I guess it's because I really don't want a baby. Maybe if I really, really wanted one badly I wouldn't care about the toll on my body.

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    Super Moderator Tati's Avatar
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    I second everything MrsDark said, except for the first-hand stuff obviously. In this lady's case I think the surgery was a completely reasonable choice, and I also know that not all women will experience muscle slackness quite this extreme. I don't think she should feel guilty at all though, she obviously worked hard for a long time to try to shift her tummy naturally. I can see how it would be very frustrating.
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    Elite Member darksithbunny's Avatar
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    Mine is not quite like that but almost Good for her. I just wish insurance companies would start paying for this surgery. I mean I couldn't even pass a mandatory physical fitness test until I get my stomach muscles fixed. But lordy, lordy, Viagra is a must and insurance pays for that.

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    Elite Member o0Amber0o's Avatar
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    A woman that I worked with at one of my banks branches had to have this procedure done. Her and her husband owned a self storage facility and when they sold it she was able to afford the surgery. She gave me this long drawn out story about how everything was herniated and stuff and how I guess people were talking about it (this is in a really tiny hick town where everyone knows everyone else's business). Anyway she says the only thing that she regrets sometimes is that she spent so much money on that and not her children and she said it was A LOT of pain.

    She's in perfect condition now, she's the picture of health (runs everyday and really well) but I feel bad that she has to feel insecure about the procedure because of what other people say and because she didn't spend the money on her children. Is it so horrible for a mother to be happy?
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    Elite Member TheONe's Avatar
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    It was worth it...it's not like she cheated on anything...she worked her butt off and surgery was necessary to see her full results.

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    Elite Member nwgirl's Avatar
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    Good for her. Whatever makes you happy.
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    From what I understand, for some pregnant women, the muscle sheath can completely tear. When you look at their stomach, you'll see two "sides" of their abs where the muscles no longer meet. Even if you had a flat stomach prior to pregnancy, it can happen.

    I feel for this woman. She busted her butt for 5 years and still had that. It's what I'm afraid of right now. I've lost 24 pounds but I have NO muscle tone in my stomach. I have this pouch, flap-like thing going on and I hate it. If I suck my abs in my belly button goes up about 3 inches! Clearly I needed to do some work before and after having my son. I'm just starting to work exercise into my routines so hopefully I can have a semblance of flat stomach. I don't care about the stretch marks or having a little bit of fat. I just can't stand having to lift my stomach.

    It does make me angry that you have to wait until a situation is harmful before the insurance company is willing to cover it. Having the intestines break through the wall? Yikes!
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    Elite Member crumpet's Avatar
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    Is it so horrible for a mother to be happy? Absolutely not, but many women have been brainwashed into thinking that good mother=mother who spends every waking second obsessing over her kids to the point that she has no time or energy (much less money) to care about her appearance. It's all bs. She absolutely deserved to spend this money on herself. It's not like mom is out getting a new boob job while junior has no coat in January.

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    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Anybody who'd make this woman feel guilty needs to STFU and die. She looks tons better now-she looks so much better after, it's not even funny.

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    Gold Member alcohol the honey's Avatar
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    Great improvement. She looks a lot better.
    I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep.
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    Elite Member Karistiona's Avatar
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    Wow she looks amazing now, it's really one of those situations where surgery seems to be completely justified. The recovery sounds really awful though, don't think I could do that.
    I smile because I have no idea what's going on

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    Great boobs.

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