What can I say? Some things just sound better on paper than they actually are in real life.
If I'm being honest, when I wrote that goal in February I really thought that I would be able to be back to "normal" (even if it was a new normal) by September. I didn't know anything about umbilical hernias or muscle separation and I figured my body looked like what most women's bodies would look like after having twins.
Now that I've had 7.5 months to recover and I'm a bit more educated about the realities of postpartum life, I'm happier with how I look in some ways and more frustrated with how I look in others.
How I'm Happier
Well for starters, I lost all of the weight. Go me. My postpartum shape isn't all that bad either. Everything, with the exception of my hips and my waistline, is right back to where it was before the babies were conceived. My hips are a bit wider so most of my dress pants pull horizontally in an unflattering way and my seriously skinny jeans only make it three quarters of the way back up my leg. In a lot of ways I look better than I thought I was going to once I realized my stomach was ruined.
How I'm More Frustrated
I cannot put in words how sad my belly button makes me. It sticks out and droops and is hooked. Even in loose shirts you can see it. Spanx help a little, but not a lot. I'm coming to accept my diastasis (for now) but it makes me very self conscious. It's hard to feel sexy - for myself, for my husband - with a beer belly.
I start BCP's for my first and final FET mid-September, with an anticipated transfer mid-October. We have discussed, but not yet decided, what we'll do if nothing survives the thaw or if the FET does not result in a pregnancy.
We will not do another fresh cycle (even limited fertility or SETs) because there are too many what ifs and we don't want to risk having more frozen embryos since it is our agreement as a couple that any embryo we create will be given a chance at life. Injectibles and Clomid cycles haven't worked for us in the past and it is my belief that the risk of multiples is higher with these types of ART than IVF. So this too is not an option.
Right now I feel like I am ready to be done trying to conceive if this cycle doesn't work. But I don't know how I'll feel if the cycle ends badly or results in nothing. So I'm reserving the right to change my mind.
One thing we did agree on is that if we do TTC on our own, we will only do so for a set amount of time and then move on. The liklihood of our infertility being cured by a single pregnancy is very slim, and I'm not willing to bang my head against a cement wall for too long.
Consultations and Next Steps
Exercise has done wonders for closing my muscle separation. I went from being able to fit my fist in between my abs, to only having a 3ish finger separation. Most of the exercise I've been doing is running and spinning. I, honestly, haven't focused much on the transverse abdominal work and I broke up with my PT after some of her comments.
So far I've consulted with a general surgeon specializing in hernia repair and a plastic surgeon. The general surgeon is able to laparoscopically sew together my ab muscles and repair/reattach my belly button. The post-surgery result would look something like this in terms of the size of the surgical holes and stitches.
However, the small holes would run vertically down my stomach (instead of horizontally) and I would have approximately 5-6 of them in total, plus a dime size opening for the laparoscope to the side of my belly button (as opposed to the top position in this image). My other option is to have a full tummy tuck.
Laparoscopy vs. Abdominoplasty
Both surgeries would repair my belly button and muscle separation. And both repairs (regardless of whether they are done by a general surgeon or a plastic surgeon) would be covered under our insurance, with a 10% coinsurance and the normal deductible fees. If I elected to do a tummy tuck, I would just pay for the extra OR time and surgeon's fees for skin removal.
Both surgeries have the exact same pain level and the exact same recovery time, since the part of a tummy tuck that is the real killer is stitching the abdominal muscles closed (not the removal of extra skin).
With one surgery I end up with a giant hip to hip scar. With the other surgery I get stuck with all of my extra skin, which could look a lot worse than it does now once the muscles are narrow and flat again. Neither surgery will fully remove my stretch marks since they go up to my rib cage.
I still don't know what makes more sense.
What I Look Like Now
Since I know you're mostly here for pictures, these were the last ones taken at 32 weeks postpartum.
As far as pregnancies go, mine was textbook perfect. I ran, swam and took spinning classes until I was 32 weeks pregnant, when I was put on bedrest for slight cervical funneling. I gained 47 pounds total. I didn't indulge in fun treats or fatty foods. I thought if I did everything "right" I'd be okay.
Nearly 8 months later, I'm both shocked and amazed at how much my body has accomplished and all of the ways it has changed. My stretched out, saggy, sad looking stomach held two babies inside of it for 38 weeks and 3 days. They both arrived in this world weighing over 6 pounds. I wouldn't trade that outcome for the flatest, smoothest stomach in the world.
But I'd be lying if I said I hadn't hoped that I'd be one of the lucky ones with full term babies AND a flat stomach.