Thursday, April 17, 2008
On Mother’s Day, a children’s book called "My Beautiful Mommy" will be released. It explains to kids that they should be happy about Mommy's plastic surgery because she'll look more beautiful and feel better about herself.
Michael Salzhauer, MD, a Florida plastic surgeon, got the idea for his book when he noticed that women were coming to his office with kids in tow. He posits that mysterious doctor's visits can be frightening for children, especially when they see Mommy with bandages.
"With the tummy tucks, [the mothers] can't lift anything. They're in bed. The kids have questions," he says.
"My Beautiful Mommy" is aimed at kids aged four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants.
Before her surgery the mother explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better."
Um, yeah, okay. Children get new clothing regularly as they outgrow their old ones. Aren't they going to be just a tad suspicious that Mommy is pulling a fast one?
She comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.
The text doesn't mention the breast augmentation, but the illustrations intentionally show Mommy's breasts to be fuller and higher.
"I tried to skirt that issue in the text itself," says Salzhauer. "The breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old."
Gee, you think?
The book doesn't explain why the mother is redoing her nose post-pregnancy. Nonetheless, she reassures her little girl that the new nose won't just look "different, my dear—prettier!"
The younger the child, the more mysterious and scary the mother's absence, being out of commission, or looking like she's been beaten up will be. Small children think you go to a doctor because you're hurt or sick. Future pediatric visits could meet with some resistance when Mommy comes home resembling Mike Tyson's punching bag.
Despite the marketing nickname "mommy makeover" which sounds like a trip to a day spa, tummy-tuck-and-breast-implant combos are serious surgeries with potential complications that often require additional procedures.
With breast augmentation, the initial operation is unlikely to be the last. Implants may last 10 or more years, but according to the FDA they do not last a lifetime. About a quarter of all implant patients require another operation within five years due to problems like leaking, breast asymmetry and encapsulation of the implants.
Cosmetic surgery raises body image issues -- especially for daughters. Children may think their own body parts must need "fixing" too, especially if they look like their mothers. You have to wonder if they can grow up with any degree of self-confidence when they are given the insidious message that they are imperfect before they are even fully formed.
I am not against plastic surgery if it makes someone feel better about herself. I just wonder why our society so values physical perfection that the effects of giving birth to a child need to be erased. Our bodies are meant to be used and should be celebrated, not shamed, for enabling us to bring new life into the world.
Lest I be misunderstood, I also fully support anyone's right not to have children. But if we choose to do so, we need to accept that it may change our bodies because everything in life is a trade-off and expecting to look like Barbie forever is not only unrealistic, it can make us miserable. Which is frankly, stupid.
The good doctor should also make a t-shirt which says, "My Mommy got a shitload of plastic surgery and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."