Tummy Tucks

Evolution doesn’t care. It just doesn’t. In nature, women were designed to have children—lots of them. Starting from when you reached puberty right up until you died…at the ripe old age of about 20. Yup, that was the world 10,000 years ago. So women never really got to see the ravages pregnancies wreaked upon them.  They were almost always pregnant.Fast forward to the Starbucks era, with women having just a couple of kids and hitting the tennis courts well into their 70s. Today, most women finish having their kids by their mid 30s, and that gives them plenty of time to think about their overstretched bellies.QUIZ: What Body Type Are You?In order to accommodate the developing fetus, your body adapts in some spectacular ways. Your joints loosen and your pelvis widens.  Your rectus muscles, you know—the ones that give you that “six-pack”—drift off to the sides like suspenders on a man who has gained weight. This takes the stretch off the oblique muscles on the sides of your belly and lets you sag forward, holding in your baby like an internal snugli. And as that little kid grows, so does your skin. But while the outer layer (epidermis) can easily keep up with the growth rate, your inner layer (dermis) can’t grow fast enough. And so it cracks, creating stretch marks. They start out red because they are inflamed, internal wounds. After 6 months or so, they settle down, giving you your lifelong tattoo classifying you as a veteran of mothering.As your kid enters eighth grade, when you finally have a chance to think about yourself, you survey the damage. Unless you’re Christie Brinkley, your belly pouches forward and your shoulders and buttocks lean back. You have poor posture and even a little low back pain. Your clothes just don’t fit right and your skin overhangs your Mons pubis right where you had that C-section. When you exercise, you yearn for the old days, when crunches were so much easier. And yes, it’s one-piece bathing suits now, hiding those stretch marks.MORE: Pregnancy and Your SkinIf you’re like the 150,000 women in America who have tummy tucks each year, you take the trip down to your neighborhood plastic surgeon to see what can be done to undo the damage.Tummy tucks are the cosmetic procedures with the most superlatives. The most involved, the most physical benefit and the most risky. And for many women, the most appreciated. Most tummy tucks are performed under general anesthesia in a hospital. Your doc will make an incision low on your belly, from hip to hip. Your old scars will be removed and the skin is lifted right up to the ribs, leaving your belly button right where it always was. The extra skin and fat are tossed out with the rest of the medical waste, and you might even have a little fat suctioned off of your flanks (can you say “love handles”?). Then those six-pack muscles will be corralled back to your midline, to a position not seen since your sweet sixteen. They’ll be sewn together with a type of stitch that will outlast your body by 500 or more years. Your belly button will be popped through the skin, and your tummy skin will be pulled down to meet your Mons. If planned correctly, you’ll get a youthful lift to your genitals as a bonus. A couple of drains are placed and a medieval binder is wrapped around your body. It’s been three hours on the operating table and now you’re shipped to the recovery room, en route to an overnight stay in the hospital.MORE: Guide To Your Cosmetic Surgery ConsultationHobble is the buzzword, at least for a few weeks. No sex, no sports, no work and not even lying on your belly for weeks. But somewhere around two months later, you’ll look at your belly, proclaim it’s time to shop for a bikini, and head towards the gym, where you’ll find renewed strength in not only your rectus muscles, but the obliques as well.You’ve had a tummy tuck, and thank goodness, you’ll never need another one. That is, unless an accident happens and another trip to the nursery is in your future.

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