Abdominal Separation, Diastasis Recti & Surgery

Going to the grand opening of New Fantasyland brought a new outlook on life, but not in the way you might think. It helped me make a decision on what to do with my two umbilical hernias and abdominal separation. I’m having surgery to fix them all.

I debated for awhile on whether I should share this post. Once it is out there, it is out there, you know. But I decided to go ahead and do it because I hope there is one other woman I can help realize that her postpartum condition is rare. Sometimes, your case is extreme enough that, despite friends telling you their stories or a professional telling you to just exercise more, it is not going to work because you are dealing with something different.

It was my appearance at the New Fantasyland Ribbon Cutting and the Celebration show that did me in. You see, I stood for 2.5 hours. Just stood. Nothing else. Sore feet to be expected. Something that I could easily handle before this last pregnancy. Heck, I’ve run 7 marathons and have run for over 4 hours on my feet. Yet, after the show, as I started walking to find my family, I was doubled over in pain.

Without core support, the muscles that I called upon to, in essence, help me stand, were taxed. Not my feet or my back, as you would expect, but my stomach and abs (or the lack of the latter) were spasming. I had to sit out on several rides with my kids. It was then I realized I didn’t want to miss out on any other life moments, when I didn’t need to. This was the last straw. This was fixable, and I needed to fix it.

For those that follow this blog, you know I learned of this last fall. From then, until the time of the New Fantasyland opening, I began to train using running and other exercises to strengthen my core. Others had success in reducing the severity of their Diastasis Recti, and I was determined to try. Yet, a five mile run would leave me unable to exercise for a week because of the strain in put on my torso. Doing twenty Diastasis Recti focused core exercises would leave me vomiting because of the pressure on my un-protected internal organs. (Side note – do not do traditional abdominal exercises if you have Diastasis Recti. There are specialty ones to use.) My 15 years of health care experience working with nurses and doctors, and my certification as an aerobic instructor, gave me a perspective that only was confirmed when I went to New Fantasyland. This was not going to work because it was not the problem I had.

Abdominoplasty is a cosmetic operatio...

Note: This is NOT my stomach but a free photo from a stockphoto.

When I went to my pre-operation appointment, I once again shocked a new group of nurses and staff. I guess the severity of it is such that you don’t see to many of me. While the technical term for my surgery is an abdominoplasty (a tummy tuck), the reality, for my case, is that it is more abdominal reconstructive surgery. I don’t have a “Mom pooch”, or “the jowls of pregnancy”. I only wish I had the issue this anonymous woman in the picture has. It would make things a lot simpler. Instead, I have a five month pregnancy-like belly as a result of my internal organs protruding from my core.

At the surgery, they are not removing fat to flatten out my stomach. What they are going to do is take each layer of tissue and muscle and stitch them together, one by one, with tape, glue and mesh, and repair the holes too. Then, after a year of having my belly protruding from my core, once my innards are no longer outards, they will see if they need to remove any excess skin (the tummy tuck part.) So I am seeing a general surgeon who is also a plastic surgeon. I’m having abdominal reconstructive surgery with a tummy tuck possibility at the end. It’s kind of like when you have a C-Section and you wish they could do a tummy tuck too.

This is what I looked like at 8 months with a month to go. Looking back, I can see why so much damage was done!

 

The interesting thing to note, is they are concerned that the layers of my torso are so battered that they may not be able to give me my belly button back. To do so would weaken the area again and it is too much of a risk with my kind of case. I could be the belly button-less blogger, but I’ll keep that a secret.

 

 

 

My belly is still firm even at 7 months post-pregnancy because of my protruding internal organs.

 

As you can see from the various pictures, I didn’t have the rock hard abs of my pre-pregnancy self after I had my first son, but I had a flat-ish stomach. I did what I could with diet and exercise and was content with what I had. I could fit into jeans, though maybe a size bigger. I could wear my t-shirts, though I started to look for more flattering styles for my new body type. Yet, this time around, I’m not in a bigger pant size. I am still in maternity clothes. I’m not looking for flattering tops, I am looking for maternity tunics. I don’t sigh at my inability to wear a two-piece bathing suit. I sigh because I cannot play with my kids in certain ways or be in pain for days. My decision truly is based on the goal to make my lifestyle better, and I don’t mean looking good in skinny jeans (even the maternity kind.) It is the ability to lift objects, the ability to stand in a long line at the Magic Kingdom, and the ability to lift my son in the air or pick up my baby from the crib. Ok, and yes, the opportunity to stop having to shop in the maternity section!

It is easy to judge, but you could only understand what I face, and what the doctors see, if you saw me naked. (Sorry for that image but alias, it is true.) Maybe the pictures here show some of the story. I can only hope that the surgery is successful, in that I wake up from it and have a quick recovery of my umbilical hernia and diastasis recti. It is a risk I decided to take though, because the risks are 1%, but the inability to do a lot of things these past six months? 100%.

Friends, I am scared. But…it is time to put me back together again. Here’s more of the story

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Have you ever had surgery? Or a plastic surgery procedure? What were your fears? Were you happy you did it?

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About Charlene DeLoach

As a Boston Mom Blogger in Massachusetts, Charlene DeLoach doesn't care about the megapixels on a smartphone. She only cares about whether it will survive being in the hands of her kids.

Comments

  1. Best of luck to you with this process….this is obviously not a decision to look good in skinny jeans, it’s a decision for your life, health, sanity and more! xoxox

  2. Oh Char, hugs! I have had surgery for a deviated septum, basically the inner part of my nose made it difficult for me to breathe for years. I still get horrendous allergies every morning. I’ve been following your story for awhile, cause I wonder sometimes if I have something like this too. 2 years after my third I don’t have a pooch, but a pretty strong 4 mos. belly. Sometimes when I lie down I’ll see/feel organs kind of protrude or pop close to the skin? Is that what it’s like? But, I don’t get the pain that you do, so it may just be my lazy butt needs more exercise. The surgery will go well, don’t you worry. It is about quality of life. Thanks for being so brave and sharing your story.

  3. Oh Charlene, your description of the way you felt at Fantasyland would have done me in too! I’ve recently started to exercise a bit more because I can’t keep up with my three.

    This decision that you’ve made sounds like the best one for you. I wish you well and a super speedy recovery. And if they can -a belly button too ;-) But that’s not too important. Your health and your sanity and your motherhood are the important things.

    Hugs.

  4. I know it must have been such a hard decision to make, but I’m so glad you’re getting the surgery. You deserve normalcy.

  5. Thanks Mama. It was agonizing but there was no other fix so here we go!

  6. Thanks Sharon. Social Media will be a great resource in the days after when I am stuck in bed!

  7. Thanks Isra! You should definitely ask someone. If there is no pain, that is good – but long term, who knows. Sometimes getting information is just as important!

  8. Thanks Kelly. There is a lot that went into this decision and my wardrobe was last on the list.

  9. Sharing this was so important for the many other women it will help. I know you’ve chosen the best surgeon possible and will make a quick and full recovery. I’m sure this isn’t an easy surgery, especially with 2 little kids to tend to. But you need to do it for you and your family.

    Sending good thoughts!

  10. I don’t know why anyone would judge you for making the right decision for you, regardless of the severity of your condition. Shame on them. I know skinny jeans aren’t your priority, but it would be OK even if they were. Anyway, I’m glad you’ve come to a decision you’re happy about, and I’m sorry that it took so much pain and struggle to get there. I know your family will be thrilled to have YOU back (and I don’t mean that in the physical sense). Make sure to take time off to recuperate!

  11. I think its a great idea! I don’t have this issue – but I will probably get a little cosmetic tuck after this last baby.

    My friend – who had twins and is a tiny little thing – is suffering from your condition as well. After one more kids she will be doing this as well.

    Cant wait to see the process.

  12. I am so glad you are taking bold steps to move forward. Personally I think whether for vanity or health noone ever needs to explain their decisions. I am sad however that you have been experiencing pain. That alone is a big reason to move ahead. Hoping for rapid mending my friend and you are in more thoughts than you realize

  13. Thanks so much Niri. I couldn’t agree more – everyone has decisions to make on various things and no one should ever judge. All in all, hoping this will result in a happier me. Happy Mom – Happy Family!

  14. I can’t wait to see your little one!

  15. I know exactly what you mean. Happy Mom = Happy Family! People mean well, but when you have to make a lot of sacrifices, you do doubt yourself on the way thinking that there must be another way. But sometimes the way you need to go, is one that may be in front of you after all. Some feel it must be nice to have a “tummy tuck”, but it more than that. Not just the medical stuff but a lot of sacrifices (not just $) to get there. It wasn’t a light decision to make.

  16. Muah – Thanks Sara

  17. I am so sorry you are so uncomfortable and glad there is surgery to get you back where you need to be. I had a corneal transplant at age 27 and it was one of the scariest things I’ve gone through. I had to have more eye surgery after that and have felt grateful for my vision ever since. Your health comes first. Stay strong.

  18. It sounds unquestionably like you’re making the right choice! I don’t believe anyone would minimize the necessity of this. I wish you the best through surgery and beyond. Imagine how changed and how much easier life will be after this gets repaired. Good luck, and hugs to you!

  19. I had surgery in 2010, and wrote about the situation before on my blog. I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since I went through it all. For the most part, I’ve been completely fine since the surgery. I had one pretty bad relapse that was healed with steroids, and since then I’ve gone to physical therapy, then started working out with a trainer, and now I work out on my own, all in hopes of strengthening my back. There are still things I’m scared to do (I don’t do a lot of bending or twisting), but seeing as I could barely walk before all this, clearly surgery was what I needed. This all had started five years earlier with a bad fall, and it kept escalating until I couldn’t walk. So, I think you’re completely doing the right thing to have the surgery and not put it off any longer. I missed out on so much, and your kids are so little, you need to be fully functional for them, even if you’re out of commission for a while. Wishing you all the best, and if I can answer anything, please let me know.

  20. You have considered this very carefully, placing your health as the priority and making a choice that you will be best for you and your family. Wishing you a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.

  21. Good luck with your surgery! Sending strength, courage, and quick healing your way.

  22. Charlene – GOOD LUCK – I will be praying for a speedy recovery for you !!

  23. I’ll be thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way!

  24. Last year, once my third child was 18 months old, I made a very similar decision. it was a long and difficult struggle to be “okay” with the decision. My pre-surgery condition sounds very similar to yours as well. I finally accepted that the severity of my condition was simply not normal and I was too young (35), fit, athletic (I am also a distance runner) to live the rest of my life with so many unnecessary restrictions. I had surgery in March 2012. It was the best decision I have ever made. It was a process to recover but it was an investment in the rest of my life, and therefore completely worth it. I felt strongly that insurance should be covering the surgery but it would not do so. Regardless, in the end, this was a necessary procedure and I knew it, even if they didn’t. Quit judging yourself and do what you know is right for you. Good luck.

  25. Wow! I had no idea when I saw you last!! Don’t even think twice about sharing your experience!! Just get well soon and CONGRATS for taking charge of yourself!! Get well soon. =)

  26. This story sounds (and looks) exactly like mine. I get asked all the time if I am pregnant still (7 month old baby and 2 year old)..herniated belly button also, pain when I move certain ways…its really not a pleasant feeling, but doctors keep telling me that it is not covered by health care because its a “cosmetic surgery”. I dont understand whats cosmetic about it when I am in pain…mentally and physically..anyways thank you for the blog post..it was a good read

  27. Charlene says:

    I feel your pain Becky! And I’ve started advocating my state legislature to have this covered. Luckily for me, I found a doctor that was willing to work with my insurance company to cover some of the costs – like the hernia repair etc. Which helped cut down what I had to pay out of pocket by a lot! I still had to come up with the funds for the rest but we squirreled away money from coupons, eating in, not shopping for somethings. (I hadn’t had a hair cut in a year.) And it added up fast. It may be worth approaching family for a loan – that sort of thing. I hope you find the right answer for you!!

  28. Hi Charlene
    I just had a ‘divarication and hernia repair’ 3 weeks ago (after the birth of 2 children) and still recovering. I went with a general surgeon, the cut was 15cm down the middle of my abs and lost my belly button in the process. I can’t post a pic otherwise I would so you can see it. I wished I had seen these posts while doing my research and not sure if I’ve done the right thing. The top part doesn’t look right it still bulges out and where the cut starts there is a sharp pain if I touch or press it. I’m giving it a few more weeks to see how things progress but I didn’t realise how long it takes to recover or to get back to an active life. I start work on Monday, not sure how that’s going to go either… Best of luck with the continual recovery process

  29. Charlene DeLoach says:

    Alex
    I lost my belly button too! Not fun but I had a lot of sharp pain too. At one point in my recovery, the pain was so bad it hurt to breathe and I’ll admit I was screaming my head off. I had to be as still as possible while my Mom gave me extra strength tylenol and I waited it out. So glad I don’t have to repeat that. Definitely wait a month to see how you are going. As long as you see progress you are good but it takes a long time to recover. Hang in there!

  30. Hi I’m one week post op with my umbilical and diastasis recti surgery after giving birth to my second baby 3.5 months ago. Got my drain removed yesterday and I’m in more pain even though I’m walking around (can’t sit still with my 3 month old) … Just real concerned with my swelling around my belly….I’m looking bigger then before my surgery. I cNt bend my back backwards and just concerned with the swelling. I’m meeting the surgeon next week but wanted to know if anyone got lots of swelling and how long is it normal for??

  31. Charlene DeLoach says:

    I was swollen for a good six months. I saw a picture of myself recently in June, 5 months post surgery, and I still had a ‘belly’ due to swelling. Needless to say, the belly was so much less than pre-surgery! But I finally saw full results last October, 9 months later. Everyone heals differently too, so take it slow, keep in touch with your doctor, and many hugs.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] who has run seven marathons and is probably in better shape than most people on the planet, has to get abdominal surgery because of a rare condition caused by her last pregnancy. I can’t even imagine how much this [...]

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  4. [...] had a tattoo. The word, “Had” being the correct verb. Due to my abdominal surgery, it went [...]

  5. [...] Hungry Girl hunt because I was asked to do a review about the product. (Imagine me, recovering from abdominal reconstructive surgery shuffling through various Walgreens stores. Though it was convenient since I often had to pick [...]

  6. [...] a result of my abdominal reconstructive surgery, I had to take lot of pills. Everything from arnica and anti-nausea to vicodin and vitamins. So [...]

  7. [...] has been a week since my surgery and it has [...]

  8. [...] people have read my previous posts about how the decisions I had to make to have the operation, the struggles, the fear, and the surgery recovery. Yet, I haven’t written a post about how I am doing now. So, [...]

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  10. […] was a crappy year: My surgery, her death, my son’s diagnosis, my blogging (and blogging ‘friends’) reality […]

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