Tuck It Up, Buttercup

After five children, my body had literally taken a beating. As a five-foot-two-inch person, I had gained and lost hundreds of pounds during and after each pregnancy over a span of 13 years. I was 100 lbs heavier than pre-any children. That’s right: two weeks after having twins, I guessed this was now my body from here on out. Having had babies before, I knew that there would be weight loss and that I wouldn’t always wear my maternity clothes, no matter how comfortable they were. I looked at my “new” body and thought….okay….I’ll accept that. After 30 years on Earth, countless pounds lost, and millions of outfits hated, I was finally content with me. I finally liked myself, and I said, “Okay, I’ll run with this.”

It had never occurred to me at any point in my life that I was enough. I was constantly trying to figure out where I fit in, trying to belong, trying to be like other people. I dyed my hair, got tattoos and piercings, flattened my hair (which, by the way, I did with an iron. On a towel. On the floor. Like a shirt iron.Go ahead and imagine it…I’ll wait).

I tried to fit in with the crowd. Blend. And blend I did. I made connections and friendships and acknowledged that I was like everyone else. I lied to the people around me I was trying to blend in with, and I lied to myself. I was good at it. I convinced myself I was who I portrayed. I continued to blend in until I was literally unseen. When I had my daughter, I finally realized I was blending in in all the wrong ways.

One day, an old friend found me on Facebook and started a conversation with me. I’ll never forget that day, because it truly changed my life. I’m sure he probably doesn’t know he impacted the rest of my forever with one question: “But, Natalie, is this what you want?” Well, damn! I never even thought of what I wanted. I was doing everything I did because I wanted to fit in. I asked myself, why fit in when you can stand out?

Is this what you want?

I quickly (and I mean quickly) made huge choices and decisions. I hurt people’s feelings and crushed people’s dreams when I decided the box I put myself in wasn’t what I wanted. I vowed to no longer settle for being a fraction of myself just to please others. I take no pride in the fact that my decision to steer my ship in the direction I wanted hurt others. It brings me zero joy to say out loud that I broke hearts and hurt people by choosing myself.

What I do draw great strength from is that I made the decision I was going to be ME and never let anyone hinder that, even if it meant people may get hurt in the process. I was very young at the time, so I hadn’t a clue how to start making my life mine, but I knew two things:

  1. I needed to show my daughter that you have to be genuine and true.
  2. I needed to figure out who I was without someone else telling me.

Design is this crazy thing. It’s not just pillows on a couch or the wallpaper you choose. It’s a plan carved out for you. It’s messy, tiring, and hard to figure out your design in this world. But if you can’t be authentic and genuine, then you’re just a pair of jeans on a shelf on a wall of identical jeans.

When I had my tummy tuck, it took great strength and courage. I had a hernia and had carried the weight of nearly ten pounds of additional skin from the stretch of my belly during pregnancy. Repairing the hernia was my initial reason for an appointment with a general surgeon, but he told me that with the skin hanging so low, it would likely repeat my hernia unless I had abdominoplasty. Since I’ve worked in the OR (operating room), I knew that he was probably right. I was actually excited because I had always wanted a tummy tuck, and now this guy (Dr.) told me I needed one.

Did that make the decision to change my body any easier? No. After 32 years of hating my body, I had found a great peace in my stretch marks, my cellulite, and even in the extra 50 pounds. Obviously, a tummy tuck would only remove skin, so it wouldn’t transform me entirely, but it was still something that would change me. A me I was finally okay with. A me I finally loved.

I did it. I had a tummy tuck. I let a very good plastic surgeon correct my hernia and then remove six pounds of skin from my body. Although my stomach is flatter and I love not having pain or having to lift a flap of skin while showering, I am still in love with the me I found those years ago.

I ask myself that question often, and you should too. Is this what you want? Don’t settle for being half of yourself. Don’t fit inside of a box because you think that’s what other people want for you. For me, the tummy tuck was a huge change. I didn’t try some diet trend or weight-loss secret before my surgery. I walked in to surgery that morning the same weight I was when I walked in for my consult before deciding to have surgery.

Now, I’ve never been happier. Happy that I made a choice for me, to make my quality of life better. My bikini body still has stretch marks and wrinkles and cellulite, and I love every inch of it because it’s mine. It’s me, and I have never loved me more…flat tummy or not.

Be safe, be great, be you!

Reality Changing Observations:

1. What do you want your design to be?

2. How can you love yourself more?

3. What lies do you tell yourself that you can stop telling today?

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