In case you missed the first part, go back here and read the beginning of Pam’s journey with Diastasis Recti. Pam has been amazing to share her journey here, and I truly appreciate reading her story! I hope you are inspired as you continue to read! Read other inspirational mamas stories here.
Disclosure: If you are concerned about possibly having diastasis, please speak with your doctor. This article is intended as a personal story and experience and by no means should be used in the place of medical and professional opinion and diagnosis.
Pam’ Journey with Diastasis Recti (Continued)
In 2015, my husband I decided finally that we wanted to have one more child. I knew that another pregnancy would re-open my muscle gap and make it worse. I knew that it could be painful and be an issue during the pregnancy. But we were happy to announce that I was pregnant in the fall of 2015. I was having a baby girl! Since my muscles were so weak, I showed very fast and I carried very big. I also had extra amniotic fluid for parts of my 3rd trimester. She was also transverse at times as well. I was having pelvic floor pain and back pain with this pregnancy. I had to wear a support brace that helped lessen the discomfort some. I then had to stop working at 36 weeks because I just couldn’t walk comfortably anymore. I knew that this pregnancy has really stretched my already stretched out muscles and skin.
My baby girl was born in May 2016 also by c section. Since at this point I knew my muscles and my body so well, I knew I had another big diastasis recti. Assessing myself a few weeks post partum, my gap felt 4 fingers wide again, and much deeper. Once I healed from my c section, I started to notice back pain and hip pain. The pelvic floor pain started around 6 months post partum too. I did not have pain like this after my first baby. Doing many everyday things truly became impossible without both immediate and lingering pain. I knew that I need to get back to PT and start the process for a surgery consult.
“Doing many everyday things truly became impossible without both immediate and lingering pain.”
My women’s health PT this go around was so incredibly helpful. While there was not too much that we did for my diastasis recti, my PT was able to help me manage the back, hip, and pelvic pain. I still felt weak and broken, but at least I wasn’t in as much pain each day. She is kind and understanding and so helpful. I am so glad that I saw her before surgery.
I started my surgery consult with a general surgeon at the same office that I went to after my son was born. I saw a different doctor, who specialized in hernia repair. After looking at me, he said that I don’t have an umbilical hernia, and I do have a large and deep diastasis recti. He said that at this point my linea alba (this tissue connects your ab muscles) was “obliterated”. And it would be like operating on a wet tissue. He took some pictures of my belly and brought my case to his organization of hernia surgeons for further guidance, with my approval. At my second consultation, he said (very nicely) that there was nothing that he could do for me. For him, I was not operable and not a candidate for surgery. He said that I would have to see a plastic surgeon, and he gave me the name of one who he’s worked with before to get insurance to cover a plastic surgery procedure. I left feeling even more broken, defeated and alone in this journey. But I knew that I needed to be fixed. At 34, I should not be having chronic pain like this, and I knew it would only get worse as I got older if I didn’t fix my body.
My initial appointment with the plastic surgeon went well. She spoke fast but understood what I needed and why. We started the process to try and get my insurance to cover it. From my view point, this was a medically necessary procedure, despite the fact that it was with a plastic surgeon. I could not function with my core as messed up as it was. In my mind, I was calling my procedure a “reconstruction of my abdominal wall”. I didn’t yet know that that is essentially what a tummy tuck is. And a tummy tuck was what I was getting. The surgeon explained that if she only fixed my abdominal wall, then I would have a “fanny pack” of extra skin that will forever hang over the waist of my pants. So we obviously had to include removing the extra skin too.
The surgeon’s office tried many ways to code this procedure to get it approved, but to no avail. They priced it out for what I would have to pay out of pocket and gave us the number. It was much lower than we thought (still not cheap!) but we could swing it. So we paid and set the surgery date for May 8th, 2017, when my baby girl would be 11 months old.
I was extremely nervous leading up to the procedure. This was major surgery. I was going to opened up wide and operated on. I could not even fathom what I would look or feel like afterward. I had been disappointed so many times trying to fix myself and I absolutely did not dare to even think about the results. I just didn’t want to be broken anymore. I was too focused on my worries, arranging for the time off from work, and trying to arrange care for my kids while I had an 8 week lift restriction.
“I was worse than most that they see. It made me feel validated that I was truly broken and that I was not “lazy” or “fat”.”
Despite my worries, the actual procedure went very well. It took 3 hours or so. At pre-op, she and her surgical resident came to mark up my belly. They both were amazed still at how my belly looked and were happy to be fixing it for me. For whatever reason, this helped me feel a lot better. I was worse than most that they see. It made me feel validated that I was truly broken and that I was not “lazy” or “fat”. My surgeon said that she had to do an extensive amount of work on my muscles, especially in the middle by my belly button. She had to cut out and reattach my belly button after removing the extra skin. My incision line is about 15” long, from hip to hip.
My surgery was a day procedure, which was surprising but ended up being fine. I didn’t really look at myself that first day, I was extremely tired! I had 2 drains and a binder around my belly. The binder will have to be worn at all times for the first 4 or so weeks, and then I can switch to a Spanx type support if I wanted for weeks 4-8. The 2 drains were removed at 2 days post op and 5 days post op respectively. The first few times that I saw my new body I didn’t even recognize myself. It felt like an out of body experience, to the point that it felt strange to even look at myself. Most of the skin on my belly is totally numb and my belly button is now shaped differently than it ever had been my entire life.
During the second week things improved though! I was starting to heal internally and externally a little bit. It was still going to be a long healing process, but my scar was not as gruesome/Frankenstein looking. And I was starting to be able to move a little bit normally. (I could finally sit to use the toilet without help! It’s the small things!)
“I look like ME. The old me. The not broken me. The strong me”
As I type this I am 16 days post op. I will return to work at 4 weeks post op (28 days). I will hopefully return to full normal activities by 8 weeks post op. I have to see how my healing goes with the surgeon. Right now I am healing well but a little slowly because of all the muscle work that I needed. And I am starting to love my body again. I’m wearing my binder all the time, except to shower. (It is under my dress in the picture.) My back, hip and pelvic pain are completely gone. And I look like ME. The old me. The not broken me. The strong me. The me with a normal shaped body. No more being broken and disfigured. No more looking pregnant. I am ME again. And I am so glad. So very very glad.
If you need to seek help for diastasis recti or any other pregnancy or post partum issue, please seek the professional advice of a doctor, midwife, or other health professional.