Ever since I can remember, probably beginning during kindergarten or the early elementary school years, I became very “aware” of the size of my belly.
At Saturday morning ballet class, for instance, we posed our toes in positions one through six. And one of the most enduringly vivid pictures in my mind is that that while my legs and arms were quite long and thin, I saw my belly as big. Dressed in leotards and tights and holding onto the barre, I already envied the flatter tummies of my peers.
As I grew older and entered adolescence, negative self-image only intensified. From the media of that era (the mid -70s) my role models were the svelte stars of “The Brady Bunch,” “The Partridge Family,” and Ginger on “Gilligan’s Island.” Later, my dream was to be shaped like one of the “Charlie’s Angels.”
I think every boy I knew had the Farrah Fawcett red bikini photo hanging in his bedroom. But I would have been equally as thrilled to just have the shape of Jaclyn Smith or Kate Jackson. Any Angel would do.
Also during that stage in my life, “designer jeans” were introduced. How I longed for my parents to buy me a pair from brands like Sasson, Jordache, Sergio Valente (with lime green stitching) or Gloria Vanderbilt. There was only one problem: I was a size 28 in 7th grade—and the flat tummy set all wore size 25 back then. After finally receiving a pair for my 12th birthday, I still did not feel as good in my designer jeans as I had hoped.
Fast forward 40 years, I am now a 52-year-old mom of three wonderful children (two sons and a daughter). A month ago, I noticed a bulge in my groin. Thanks to the internet, I quickly diagnosed myself as having a femoral hernia. Within the week, I consulted with two general surgeons. Yes, I did indeed have a femoral hernia and I required surgery to repair it.
So later that mid-June evening, a brilliant idea entered my mind. I thought it to be a novel concept, never before heard of. However, after turning to Google once again, I learned that my insight was pretty common: Why not have a tummy tuck and hernia operation at the same time?
It was possible! Not only would I get the flat tummy I desired my entire life, but I would receive a nice discount on having two procedures simultaneously. And since I was facing a hernia repair recovery, I wouldn’t even notice the pain following the tummy tuck. I’d be unable to distinguish which is which—the same narcotics would provide relief to my entire abdomen.
My general surgeon referred me to a board-certified plastic surgeon, with whom he has previously partnered on such combo surgeries. After learning that I was an excellent candidate and would surely have fantastic results, my surgery was scheduled for this July 26. A few inches of skin removal, muscle repair from the separation caused by delivering three full-term babies along with a little bit of liposuction thrown in—all a piece of cake. Sure, there’d be a the separate incision to push my intestine back in, but I would finally have a tight tummy.
I decided I was OK with a scar from hip to hip, some loss of nerve sensation and not being able to stand up straight for months. I thought I’d be happy to wear a binding garment 24 hours a day for the next six months. I have been waiting for this my entire life.
Wrong. Instead of signing right up, pre-admission testing and lab study results told me that I’m much too anemic to be put under general anesthesia. And my hernia is not the type that can be fixed laparoscopically.
After shedding tears, I woke up and snapped out of feeling sorry for myself. I recognized what is most important in life. What in the world was I thinking? And how did I allow myself to fall into societal standards that dictated arbitrary characteristics of attractiveness?
I’m actually embarrassed now that I even entertained the idea of a tummy tuck. Being a mom of a 16-year-old daughter and a teacher of high-school students, I always strive to help those around me feel confident in their own skin. But, yet while I can dish it out to others, I never applied my words and thoughts to my own well-being.
In one day, I felt every emotion from anticipation and excitement to anger and disappointment to finally strength and acceptance. My “almost tummy tuck” has been a great learning experience and one that will help me to continue to grow and help others.
People of all ages, shapes, colors and sizes are fabulous just the way they are. I’m going to try to remember that from now on—and apply it to myself.