It’s not uncommon for my patients to experience different emotions as they consider plastic surgery. We call this the emotional roller coaster. This is true for most of my patients, but especially moms because of the inherent maternal instinct that may be at odds with a mother doing something for herself.
These feelings typically begin when a mother considers surgery, and can often derail her efforts to improve herself. The emotions can continue during the consultation and tend to intensify once the decision is made for surgery and a date chosen. This is the emotional roller coaster leaving the boarding station and slowly creaking up the first big hill of the ride. As the time for surgery draws near (you’re reaching the top of that first big hill), feelings intensify until the night before and morning of surgery. Many women feel they are at their breaking point here. During this time, they may think, “Why am I doing this surgery? I’ve got kids. I’ve got a husband I need to live for. What if something goes wrong? I’m doing all of this for vanity’s sake. I don’t need fuller breasts. I don’t need a flatter tummy. I don’t need this flab of skin cut off. This is just silly.”
Feeling anxious, guilty, and a little scared before an operation is perfectly natural. Second thoughts and doubts are normal. I encourage my patients to try to remember that they are doing this for them. They’ve sacrificed their body for their kids, and they deserve to get it back. It helps to be reminded that a Mommy Makeover is very, very safe. As I tell my patients, you’re much more likely to get into a car accident on the way to the hospital than you are to have any problems during or after the surgery.
ANOTHER RIDE ON THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER
The emotional roller coaster ride continues with the aftereffects of surgery. You’ve got your new body, and you’re ready to enjoy it, complete with the showers of compliments you will be hearing. But you might also be wondering, “How is my husband going to view me? I’m like a new person. Is this going to be good or bad?” For what it’s worth, I have not had a single husband complain about the changes I helped make in his wife. Many times, it can reinvigorate their intimacy because of the added confidence the surgery can provide.
In the early postoperative period, emotional mood swings and short-term depression (or unmasking of subclinical depression) are common. Often this will manifest itself as tiredness, crying spells, and feeling “just not yourself.” During the healing phase, you can go in a flash from being ecstatic about your surgery to crying hysterically for no apparent reason. Your emotional swings might remind you of when you were pregnant! As your surgeon, I can assure you this is perfectly natural—your emotions will soon return to normal.
But let’s take a minute to explore why this happens. Although it’s difficult to point to a single exact cause, many factors exist to build this emotional roller coaster. Surgery is a significant physical stress to your body, general anesthesia is used, narcotic pain medications are prescribed, and steroids may be used—all of which can throw off your hormone balances. Pain may interfere with sleeping and deplete your body’s reserves, leaving you feeling tired and worn down. I believe you heal more quickly when you are not in pain because your body devotes the resources to healing and not fighting pain, so I encourage use of the pain medications, at least in the first few days. However, the anesthesia and pain medications can also alter sleep patterns. As any mom remembers from the early times of her children’s lives, life becomes a lot more difficult when you are sleep deprived.
Most moms tend to be dynamic individuals, often “going” at all times. The elevated endorphins they are used to having from frequent workouts and high activity levels are reduced or nonexistent in the recovery phase, when Mom has to be uncharacteristically still. Many moms have difficulty in this unstructured healing time and get antsy to do something.
Stress has a huge role in how you deal with the postoperative period. We already mentioned the physical stress of surgery, but the mental stress of the impending surgery, and then waiting for the final outcome, play into your emotions as well.
Often with surgery, especially facial surgery, you may look worse before you look better. Seeing the swelling, bruising, and temporarily raised or reddened scars may leave Mom second-guessing why she voluntarily chose this. Anxiety works negatively in this situation. Anxiety about the results, about taking time for yourself, about being so behind in terms of your “job” as mom (the house is a mess, the kids are out of control, etc.), about being alone to fend for yourself if your husband has returned to work, about returning to your outside- the-house job sooner than you may feel ready for … the list can go on and on.
PUTTING THE BRAKES ON THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER
While these stressors are very real, the important thing to understand is that they can be minimized with a little planning and preparation. This emotional roller coaster often ends on its own, with just a little time.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Get outdoors—When able, try to spend a few minutes outside in the sunshine.
- Shower—Typically, a shower is allowed after two days. This goes a long way toward patients feeling themselves again.
- Eat healthy—Fruits, vegetables, and good protein intake speed recovery and provides your body with antioxidants to fight off stress.
- Enjoy friends—Surround yourself with positive people and avoid the negative ones.
- See your doctor—Schedule a visit to your plastic surgeon. Sometimes my words of encouragement can help alleviate the anxiety. Let me be your cheerleader.
- Use your computer responsibly—There’s a lot of junk health information on the Internet. Visit ASPS, ASAPS, or Real Self for some positive feedback and stories about plastic surgery.
Remember the time frame for healing from surgery. Many times, full results are not appreciated for a few months. Give your body the chance to heal before you second-guess your decisions.
When a mom chooses elective plastic surgery, she can also take an unwilling ride on the emotional roller coaster. By following the tips above, this ride can be controlled and mom can enjoy her overall experience and, more importantly, her results.
For more information about cosmetic surgery, including a mommy makeover, or to request a copy of Dr. Burgdorf’s Mom’s Choice Award winning book, The Mommy Makeover: Restoring Your Body After Childbirth, visit Music City Plastic Surgery or call 615-567-5716.