The Post-Baby Question No Mother Should Ever Ask

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

I’ve been seeing a plastic surgeon but it’s not what you think. I have a pretty bad keloid on my upper arm — from a mole-removal scar — so I decided to see a plastic surgeon for cortisone injections. The guy, who's local and takes my insurance, gave me three simple shots, and now the keloid is almost gone. Recently I had my last visit, and just as the doc was wrapping up, I decided to take advantage of my co-pay and get his opinion on a different area of my body that’s been nagging at me. But even as the words formed in my mouth, I knew it was a mistake...

"Do you ever do anything for stretch marks?" I asked. "I just had my third and final baby, and my stomach got pretty abused by all the pregnancies."

I was honestly (and perhaps naively) thinking maybe he had a fancy cream he could sell me, or some other non-invasive, non-insulting solution. No such luck. He told me to stand up and lift my shirt. “I just had a baby six months ago, so I still have some work to do,” I reminded him as he examined my loose abs. My gut (no pun intended) reaction was to suck in, which I did, but it was no use. Gravity was working against me. Plus, he kept laughing, nicely, saying, "Stop sucking in!" He agreed the stretch marks were quite noticeable, and then he started drawing all over my stomach with a white grease pencil. But instead of telling me how to get rid of the little lines, he told me what I really need is… liposuction. And a mini tummy tuck. I started laughing. He starting circling pockets of fat.

He pulled and poked at my belly while explaining how simple laser lipo is. But I'd still need to stretch the skin, so he suggested a nip here and a tuck there and, voila! Though it would never look perfect, he said. Stretch marks on post-baby bellies are a bitch. I reminded him (again) that it had only been six months since I’d given birth, that I still had some weight to lose, that I'd just started working out again. That I am not interested in perfection. I know the stretch marks will never be gone-gone, but they’ll certainly fade as time — and the workouts — go on. He dismissed my ramblings by telling me that stretch marks are genetic and that there’s really not much you can do about them — other than a four-hour, $10,000 surgery, of course. He also said I could watch him perform an edited-down version of said surgery on YouTube. I said, “Great, I’ll check it out.” But that was a lie. Nothing against people who nip and tuck, but I can say confidently that it’s not for me.

Before the doctor left the room, he looked at the rest of me — seeing if he could make any more pricey suggestions, I’m guessing — before nodding and saying, “Your butt is fine.” My butt IS fine. And I like my arms (particularly sans keloid) and my legs and my back and, while I do still have a little belly, I know it will eventually flatten it out. I am a work-in-progress, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve been making lately. I had a baby six months ago for crying out loud! (Have I mentioned that yet?)

Lesson learned: Don’t point out flaws — perceived or otherwise — to a plastic surgeon. Because it’s his job to try to improve you. A supermodel could walk in there and he’d whip out his grease pencil.
I’m just thankful my little consultation didn’t take place a few months ago, when I was still sleep-deprived and hormonal. It could have gotten ugly (i.e. I would have cried instead of laughed). I’m in a good place these days, stretch marks and all. Still, as I walked out of his office, head held high, stomach sucked in, I thought two things: "I need a good ab routine, stat!" and "Thank God I didn’t show him my boobs."