There are approximately two things that get me through the day each day: coffee (duh), and the realization that while I am not perfect, I am still improving. There is a lot about my life that has changed since I had kids. On a daily basis I feel like I am failing in many, many ways. I'm too impatient, I drink too much coffee, I eat off my kids' plates too much, I don't even eat off my own, I spend too much money on their clothes while I live in workout leggings, and the list goes on and on. Lately I've been having a hard time taking care of myself physically because I'm struggling with my feelings toward my postpartum body. I've struggled to maintain a healthy weight after having four kids in six years, and lately I've been considering getting a tummy tuck.
I love to exercise and have discovered a passion/semi-addiction to weight lifting and I'm slowly learning to appreciate my body for being strong rather than skinny, but I still struggle with the fact that my stomach looks pregnant many, many months after my last delivery. So I've made a deal with myself: if I can't get my stomach down to a place where I feel secure and happy with, through exercise and lifestyle changes or a mindset of acceptance, I'll get a tummy tuck.
I've been diagnosed with diastasis recti (my abs separated during pregnancy) and while it's definitely part of the problem, I'm also starting to wonder if I am simply destined to never have a "perfect" stomach. On one hand, that is 100 percent totally and completely OK. So what if I don't have abs? So what if my stomach plops over my jeans when I sit down? So what, so what, so what? But I work hard on my body, and to go month after month without any change is not just frustrating — it's absolutely disheartening. I know life goes on, and I know that there is certainly nothing I can't achieve because my stomach does resemble a vintage washboard, unless maybe become a Victoria's Secret model, which TBH, was never on my list of Life Goals anyways. I still can't deny how I feel though.
I've been trying very hard to reconcile my struggles with my weight with my desire to realize for myself (and my daughters), that my worth is not in my weight, and that I am more than my desire to simply feel good in my own stretched-marked skin. So I've been, slowly but surely, changing my lifestyle. On this day exactly one year ago, I started exercising in an entirely new way for me, thanks to Jillian Michaels on YouTube. Her free videos were my first introduction to the concept of weight training for women, and all it took was one video for me to be permanently hooked.
I feel like I've been on a journey since then, learning how to challenge myself with weights, relearning what it means to be healthy, and focusing on being strong in order to feel like a new and improved version of myself. Because I am human, I get discouraged really, really easily. I tend to focus on the fact that even though I am showing progress in many other areas, like getting stronger by the day — something I can literally see when I add heavier weights to the squat bar — or even sometimes when I walk by the mirror and am surprise by the new "pop" to my butt, I'm not showing progress in the one area I want: my stomach.
I can't get dressed, walk in my own home, or have sex with my husband without constantly obsessing over the flaps of skin on my stomach.
Despite being able to run 10 miles or squat more than my body weight or just appreciate that I am able to move, a freedom not everyone enjoys, my stomach hasn't really changed that much since the day I gave birth to my fourth child. I still look six months pregnant. So I've made a deal with myself: if I am still not 100 percent comfortable in my body after I've put in 100 percent effort and after we've decided we're done having kids, I am going to get a tummy tuck.
I've thought long and hard about my decision, and I've been my own worst critic. From everything that we're told and taught to believe, getting a tummy tuck sounds incredibly selfish, but at the same time, I've also struggled through some real issues with my body. Not everyone has polyhydramnios (a stomach stretched to epic proportions), and I've dealt with the condition throughout my last two pregnancies. Even if I hadn't, every woman experiences pregnancy differently and every woman has the right to decide how she'll navigate her postpartum experience.
It has done everything I've asked and demanded of it — everything except this.
I don't think a tummy tuck would be selfish if it would improve my mental state and my happiness. Whether or not my happiness should rely on my physical appearance is another can of worms, but the fact is that I'm at a point where it's affecting my daily living. I can't get dressed, walk in my own home, or have sex with my husband without constantly obsessing over the flaps of skin on my stomach. I've recognized the very normal physiological changes that have happened to my body beyond the realm of my control. I birthed four children. I created life — four times. My stomach has stretched to the point that I am no longer to repair it on my own, so I don't think I'm remiss for looking to enlist the help of medical professionals.
I understand the risks involved, and beyond that, I understand the very likelihood that people may look at my choice as one made solely out of vanity. My greatest fear is that my kids will grow up without a mother simply because I wanted to look not pregnant anymore. But while abdominoplasty is a very serious surgery that's known for post-op complications, it does have a low risk of actually dying after surgery.
My problem is not hating my body or punishing it for not looking a certain way. I am incredibly proud of how far I have come and what my body is capable of. In my eyes, my body has done the purest form of magic. It's risen to the challenge of childbirth time and time and time (and time) again. It carried me down the aisle on my wedding day. It has held up babies and toddlers and kids. It's done silly dances to ward off a tantrum. It's carried two kids at the same time. It's changed diapers in the middle of the night. It's fought of illness after illness to keep me healthy for my children. It has done everything I've asked and demanded of it — everything except this.
I'm not trying to make my body into something it's not or forcing myself to adhere to an image of perfection that society has imposed on me. I look at my decision to pursue a tummy tuck as a sign of my own empowerment. I am doing what I want in order because it is something that feels good and true and authentic to me. It's taken me years to get to a place in my life where I can acknowledge my desire to look physically better and know full well that the root of wanting to do so has grown entirely within me. I'm not trying to impress my partner. I'm not trying to taunt my daughters with some fictional ideal of what constitutes a desirable body. I just want to make me happy. And frankly, I don't see any problem with that.