Mommy Makeover and Kids

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Beth Longware Duff, Medical Editor

Beth Longware Duff is an experienced writer and reporter whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines. Her health and medical writing credits include nationally distributed videos for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and she is the recipient of numerous awards including an American Cancer Society Media Award and a New England Press Association Award for Health Reporting. She holds a degree in Communications from Ithaca College.


May 07 2008

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Mommy makeover explained for children

So, you've decided to take the plunge and have a little cosmetic surgery done – good for you! No doubt you've been busy researching your procedure, consulting with plastic surgeons, and rearranging your schedule to accommodate the surgery and recovery. Perhaps you've even shared your plans with family and close friends. If you have young children, however, you may be stymied about how to broach the subject with them and answer their inevitable questions.

Enter Michael Salzhauer, MD, and his new book, "My Beautiful Mommy" (Big Tent Books, 2008). Written to be read to 4- to 7-year-olds, it's the story of a mother who explains her upcoming makeover that includes tummy tuck, breast implants, and rhinoplasty to her little girl. Dr. Salzhauer, a board-certified plastic surgeon from Bal Harbour, FL, says he based the tale on his own experience as a rhinoplasty (cosmetic nose surgery) patient and on his many female patients who often arrive at the office with offspring in tow.

"Parents generally tend to go into this denial thing," he told Newsweek magazine on the topic of having the "plastic surgery talk" with their children. "They just try to ignore the kids' questions completely."

That's also been the experience of Jean Loftus, MD, author of "The Smart Woman's Guide to Plastic Surgery", second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2007), who says the majority of her female cosmetic surgery patients choose not to tell their children about their procedure in advance.

"Parents do not want to promote cosmetic surgery in the minds of their children," Dr. Loftus explains. "They fear that doing so will drive their children to become more self-critical and pursue cosmetic surgery for themselves at a much earlier age than the parents."

But silence isn't golden when it comes to children and their perception of surgery of any type, let alone the triple whammy known as the mommy makeover (substitute breast lift for the fictional mommy's nose job and you've got it.) On the book's website, mybeautifulmommy.com, Dr. Salzhauer points out what every parent already knows: children don't miss much.

"It is nearly impossible to hide a plastic surgery transformation from your children," writes the father of four with one on the way. "They may ask themselves questions such as ‘Why is Mommy going to the doctor? Is Mommy sick?' If these questions are not addressed, the child will often imagine fantastical scenarios to fill in the gaps of information they are lacking."

And if you think the potential audience for this book is limited, think again. In 2007, women between the ages of 20 and 39 (prime candidates for mommy makeovers) accounted for close to 230,000 breast augmentation procedures (mammoplasty), 66,000 tummy tucks (abdominoplasty), and almost 49,000 breast lifts (mastopexy) in the United States; another 158,000 underwent rhinoplasties, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Numbers in the first three categories were up over 2006, while rhinoplasty declined slightly.

The book doesn't actually mention breast enhancement per se, although it's definitely noticeable when Mommy returns home from the hospital with a bandage on her nose and around her waist. Dr. Salzhauer admits to skirting that particular issue, noting that while the tummy "lends itself to an easy explanation to the children . . . the breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old."

Reaction to "My Beautiful Mommy" during its advance promotion was mostly critical, with many people bashing the idea of casting cosmetic surgery in a good light to children. While it may not be an appropriate addition to the kids' lit shelf in many homes, "My Beautiful Mommy" might come in handy for parents who are looking for a way to explain a very personal subject to their youngsters.