She said that all her life she had been plagued my self-doubts about her belly and she had finally decided to do something about it - have tummy tuck surgery. She had a mixture of feelings about it - chagrin that she was giving in to society's expectations that her body look a certain way, but also the feeling that she would actually feel better about her body and therefore about herself if she had the surgery. I told her I would be delighted to photograph her.
Here's a brief description of what tummy tuck surgery is for, taken from a plastic surgery website:
Also known as abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck removes excess fat and skin, and in most cases restores weakened or separated muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
Here's a more detailed description of the surgery, including recovery time, etc., if you're interested in learning much more: (It is from a website where they offer overseas surgeries for less money than you can get them in the US.
Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
A Tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty) is an operation to remove excess fat and skin from the tummy wall and sometimes also to tighten abdominal muscles to produce a smoother, flatter tummy.
Pricing for Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
Price Range for Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) in India ($): 2700 - 3300
Estimated UK Price for comparison ($): $7200
Percentage Saving India to UK: 58%
Description of Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
If a stomach has been stretched by pregnancy or weight gain, the abdomen often fails to return to its original shape after the end of the pregnancy or if the subject has then lost weight again. As the tissue has been stretched beyond its capacity to return to its previous state, these tissues can also fail to respond to exercise or diet programs. In this situation,a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty can provide a long-lasting solution a sagging profile.
An Abdominoplasty, also colloqially called a tummy tuck, is a relatively popular cosmetic procedure that is used to tighten overly stretched abdominal muscles and skin to achieve a smoother, flatter and tighter visual profile and physical appearance.
Some people suffer from either loose skin, carrying excess fat or flaccid stomach muscles in their abdomen/stomach area. Exercise helps to reduce the fat and firm up the muscles but the laxity, excessive skin and stretch marks may remain even with a strict exercise regime. This can be particularly pronounced after substantial weight loss.
General Benefits of Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty
A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, can tighten the abdominal muscles, as well as the sagging and excess skin and accumulated fatty tissues. After the procedure the abdomen be firmer and flatter, and the waist will be smaller as well.
The scale of improvement depends upon a combination of the extent of the tummy tuck surgery and the patient's general skin tone, body build, and healing process. Most people are very happy with the results, and report a better "body image" after the surgery.
How is the tummy tuck performed?
There are a number of different tummy tuck techniques available. The most common procedure is performed under a general anesthesia and is called the full tummy tuck. In the full tummy tuck, an incision is made across the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area and where possible also below the bikini line. Another incision is made near the belly button to free the surrounding skin, and the all of the skin is separated from the abdominal wall. Then the surgeon pulls the loose muscles from the left and the right sides and sutures them together. This both tightens the muscles to create a stronger abdominal wall and a smaller waist. Excess skin is removed, and a new opening is made for the belly button at the right position. The incisions are closed with sutures (stitches) and/or staples, and a gauze is placed over the incision area to protect it for the first few days.
Partial Abdominoplasty Information
If your only problem area is below the belly button, you may benefit from a less complex procedure called a partial abdominoplasty or partial tummy tuck, which can often be performed on an outpatient basis, under local anaesthetic, such as that used by dentists. Or, your surgeon may recommend either a partial or complete abdominoplasty done in conjunction with liposuction to remove fat deposits from the hips, for a better body contour. Sometimes liposuction alone offers the best results.
How long does the tummy tuck take?
A tummy tuck operation generally lasts between 2-5 hours, all depending on the extent of the work. A partial abdominoplasty takes only about 1 or 2 hours.
Do I have to stay in the hospital?
This depends on the extent of the repair. One or two overnight stays after the surgery are most common. If the area of repair is minimal, you may be able to go home the same day.
How much pain is there?
For the first few days after the tummy tuck, your abdomen will be swollen and you are likely to feel both pain and discomfort which is controlled by analgesic style medication. Depending on the extent of the surgery and the technique used, you may be released within a few hours or you may have to remain hospitalized for two to three days.
What can I expect after a tummy tuck?
Bed rest for two to three days is definitely required. While the patient is in bed, the legs should be bent at the hips to reduce the strain on the abdominal area where the tummy tuck has been performed. The patient will be provided with a firm abdominal binder to offer support to the tightened areas. The doctor will also give instructions for showering and changing dressings. Even if the patient may not be able to stand-up straight at first, they should start walking as soon as possible to make a good recovery.
The surface stitches will be removed after five to seven days, and then any deeper sutures, with ends that protrude through the skin, will come out after two to three weeks.
What is the recovery period like?
It may take you several weeks to feel completely back to normal. If you are in good physical condition, recovery will be much faster. Some people return to work after two weeks, while others take four weeks to recuperate.My friend's experience seems to have mirrored what is described above, though the descriptions of her discomfort were more vivid.
After about three days, you may begin to engage in light activities. At this moment, the gauze bandaging may be replaced by a new stronger abdominal supporter. Even if you’ve never really exercised before, you should begin a light exercise program to reduce swelling, to lower the chance of blood clots, and to generally improve muscle tone. However, more vigorous exercises, especially lifting, should wait until you can do it comfortably and your surgeon gives you permission.
Your scars may appear to get worse during the first few months, however this is normal. It may take up to a year before your scars flatten out and lighten in color. While they'll never disappear completely, these scars will be placed so that they’ll be covered by your clothes, including most bathing suits.
What is the long-term outcome like for most people?
As long as you keep your weight relatively constant, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and follow your surgeon’s instructions about how to resume physical activity, the long-term results from a tummy tuck are generally excellent.
The ideal candidate: In general, the best candidates for abdominoplasty are: 18 years of age or older. They will be mature enough to fully understand the procedure and its significance. In relatively good shape, except for the abdominal area They should not be not be pregnant or be planning to become pregnant in the future.
They should certainly not be severely overweight as a tummy tuck is not a weight reducing mechanism or technique. If they are planning to lose weight, they should consider doing this before they undergo a tummy tuck procedure.
In good health Wanting to improve their appearance and/or comfort
Realistic in their expectations.
Note: If you have scarring from previous abdominal surgery, your doctor may recommend against abdominoplasty or may caution you that scars could be unusually prominent. Alternatives: Strenuous exercise and weight loss alone will reduce the bulk of the abdominal wall and tighten the muscle tone; however, the stretched skin may not be able to contract without surgery. Ultrasonic liposuction has been touted as causing contraction of excess skin, but most often will not be effective enough to achieve results in patients who consider abdominoplasty.
A couple of weeks after she had the surgery, we arranged to meet at my studio for me to photograph her. She was still sore and definitely still healing. She said that the recovery had been much worse than she had expected and that she was very thankful for having people who could come over and take care of her at times. But overall she was feeling very happy and satisfied that she had had the surgery. She was almost giddy when she talked about how she felt about her "new" body. She said she realized maybe it wasn't the "politically correct" thing to do to have the surgery, but it really made her feel better about herself she she couldn't see the harm in it overall.
It was good to see how happy she was and how good she was feeling about herself. I wish we didn't have to cut into our bodies and take parts out in order to feel good about ourselves - that part I feel is messed up - but I'm really happy for her that she feels good about herself. That, of course, is the main thing.
I took a lot of photos of her that day, focusing primarily on her belly and the scar. She had also had a new "belly button" created where hers would have been. She said that some people elect to not have a new belly button at all - they leave their bellies completely blank. I think that would be visually confusing! We're so used to seeing belly buttons. I can't quite imagine not having one!
Here are the images I've drawn of her so far... (the second one is not yet complete, though I like it at this stage too.) They are both done in pastel.