By Liana Jacob
MEET THE MUM-OF-TWO who developed a condition during her first pregnancy that created a FOUR FINGER LONG GAP between the two sides of her ABS and a HERNIA that left her incontinent with SAGGY SKIN – giving her no choice but to get a TUMMY TUCK.
In 2013, content creator, Julieta Torres (30) from Bogota, Colombia, gave birth to her first son who is now five years old, and while she had a healthy pregnancy, she realised her body looked different.
After shedding her post-partum weight, she had a lot of extra skin, her belly button appeared deformed which turned out to be caused by a hernia and she still had a bump. When Julieta, who is now living in New York, USA, went to her doctor, they couldn’t explain what was happening; they told her that it happens to all first-time mothers and that surgery was the only option.
It turned out she had a medical condition called diastasis recti, a condition that causes a gap of roughly 2.7cm normally of the abdominal muscle, however, Julieta’s gap was around twice the size of three to four fingers in width. She decided to research about the condition and found some exercises that appeared to help. She didn’t even consider the tummy tuck surgery until she had her youngest son who is now two years old, in December 2016.
Due to how much her body had stretched from her first pregnancy, by this time she had lost all integrity in her abdominal muscles and her condition became worse.
She started having chronic back pain and incontinence and nothing she did eased the pain, so she began considering having the surgery and had a consultation with a surgeon.
She decided to have the surgery back in her home country and although the recovery process was hard and painful, she no longer has any back pain, her incontinence has improved, and she doesn’t have a hernia anymore.
With all she has experienced, she no longer feels insecure about her body and stretch marks and has decided to be grateful for them instead.
“After having my first son, I noticed my body was different than any other postpartum bodies I’d ever seen,” Julieta said.
“I had a healthy pregnancy and took care of my postpartum period – following the advice of exercising and eating healthy.
“I’d lost all the weight, but my body still looked different; I had a lot of extra skin, my belly button was deformed (I later learned I had a hernia) and I still had a bump.
“I asked my OG/GYN about it and I didn’t get any explanation. Only that it happened to all moms and that the only solution was surgery. I had a medical condition called diastasis recti.
“I researched about it and found some exercises that seemed to help. I didn’t consider surgery until after having my youngest.
“His pregnancy was hard; I’d lost all the integrity in my abdominal muscles and my situation got worse. I started having chronic back pain and incontinence, and nothing I did made a significant difference.
“I started considering surgery. The more I researched, the more I learned that even though it was ‘plastic surgery’, this procedure would repair the abdominal muscles, helping with back pain, incontinence, digestive issues and more.
“This is when I decided to have a consultation with a surgeon. I went back to my country, Colombia, because I knew I could get a great surgeon for a fraction of the cost here in the USA. I also have my family back there and they could help me during the recovery as my kids are still little.
“Today I’m seven months post-surgery; the recovery was hard and painful, but my back pain is almost gone, my incontinence got better and I don’t have a hernia.
“Even though this removes the sagging skin, I still have stretch marks all over my lower belly but I’m ok with that. As most women I’ve always had some insecurities, but I always loved my body and was happy with it.
“I’d never want to live without them, they show all my body went through to have my kids. There are so many women struggling with infertility and would give everything to have a baby.
“Last time someone asked if I was worried about my body during my last pregnancy. I wasn’t. I lost a baby between my two kids and it’s been the hardest season of my life. All I wanted was to have my rainbow baby in my arms.”
Julieta says that throughout her journey learning to love her body, she struggled to find other mothers who went through a similar thing, so she decided she would dedicate an Instagram page to documenting her journey to give other women hope.
She has since had an overwhelming response from other women with kids who have struggled with their post-partum body image.
“One thing I do have to mention is that since I’ve been skinny my whole life (genetics) I was not very conscious about keeping my body healthy until maybe a year before getting pregnant,” she said.
“Then after having my first and seeing the changes I went through, finding out what diastasis recti was, I started a journey to heal and love my body.
“Around the six-month mark I started getting stretch marks. First one, then two, then ten and by the end of my pregnancy I couldn’t count them anymore.
“My belly was full of them and I thought my skin was going to tear apart. At first, I thought it was just the skin but then after being several months postpartum and feeling something was not right. I discovered I had a hernia and an abdominal separation. I was internally stretched out too.
“When I first saw my postpartum body, I thought something was wrong with me. I’d never seen someone like me; you certainly don’t see a mum with a belly like mine on the cover of a magazine titled ‘how I got my body back’.
“I’d find relief by googling and searching for someone that looked like me. At least I felt less alone. One day I opened up about it on a post.
“The number of mums thanking me, telling me they thought they were the only ones made me remember how alone I used to feel. I decided I wanted to be that someone I needed so badly when I first saw my postpartum body.
“I’m thankful because I know there are other women struggling to have a baby; I never want to take that for granted. My body gave me my two kids and that little baby I never got to hold.
“A mum’s body is a walking miracle. Now after the hard recovery of my surgery, even more. I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt in my whole life.
“The comments and messages that always make me cry are those that tell me they finally found someone that looked like them or that they discovered they had diastasis recti thanks to one of my posts.
“There’s a lack of information about it for mums and I think it’s so important to know what our bodies got though internally. It’s not just the stretch marks, or extra skin.
“Also, after my abdominoplasty, I get a lot of women thanking me for being open about it. There are a lot of women that decide to have surgery but are afraid of the judgement.
“Surgery is not a bad thing; you can love your body and still want to change things about it, you can love your body and still want to work out, put make up on, colour your hair. The important thing is to always do it from a place of love and not hate.
“I’m thankful for my body and the journey I’ve been through; the big scar that goes from hip to hip and all the remaining stretch marks in my body are my battle scars.
“Whenever I look at them and not feel good about it, I change the narrative to gratefulness. So, I list all the good things that have come thanks to them; my kids, connection with other women and strength.
“I want other mums to know they’re not alone. I want them to know they can be loved and sexy despite the changes we go through and more importantly I want them to know that they don’t have to settle for a life of pain, incontinence and other issues just because they have kids. Find a physical and/or pelvic floor therapist, try that first, not everybody needs surgery.”
You can follow Julieta’s story at at @julietatorresd.