Divorce. Bullies. Foster care. There are books for children on just about every tough subject these days. But mommy's plastic surgery?
A Florida plastic surgeon has written about just that in “My Beautiful Mommy,” a picture book due out April 28 that tries to calm the fears of kids with parents getting tummy tucks, breast enhancement procedures and nose jobs.
Dr. Michael Salzhauer said so many moms brought kids to their appointments that he was motivated to stock up on lollipops in his Bal Harbour, Fla., office. In “My Beautiful Mommy,” he explains mommy's recuperation, changing look and desire for plastic surgery.
"Many parents don't explain to their kids what's going on," said the father of four, with his fifth child on the way. "Children are very perceptive. You can't hide a major surgery from them. When mom goes down for two weeks after a tummy tuck it affects them."
Illustrations show a crook-nosed mom with loose tummy skin under her half shirt picking up her young daughter early from school one day and taking her to a strapping and handsome "Dr. Michael."
Mom explains she's going to have operations on her nose and tummy and may have to take it easy for a week or so. The girl asks if the operations will hurt, and mom replies, "Maybe a little," warning she'll look different after the bandages come off.
The girl asks: "Why are you going to look different?"
Mom responds: "Not just different, my dear — prettier!"
Big Tent Books in Savannah, Ga., is racing the book out after the Internet lit up Wednesday with word of its upcoming release. The initial 4,400 copies will be available for purchase only through the Web site of the company, which provides editorial and publishing services to picture book authors for fees.
Salzhauer acknowledges the subject matter may seem distasteful to some.
"There are people who are going to read this and say you're indoctrinating kids and idealizing beauty. That's not the intention of the book at all," he said. "The intention is to allow parents who are going through this process anyway to have a vehicle to explain it to their kids." Diane Kuplack understands.
At 37, Kuplack has six biological children under the age of 12, including 5-year-old twins, along with two older stepchildren from her husband Matt's first marriage. She said it was "nerve-racking" trying to decide what, if anything, to tell her children about the breast implant surgery she scheduled for Friday.
Kuplack, who lives in Weston, Fla., and is a patient of Salzhauer's, read the book to her children.
"The older ones loved it," she said. "We were nervous that if we didn't say anything at all that they would notice I look different when I came home. It really helped them understand because it explains everything so well. They didn't have any questions after that."
The book, told from the perspective of the grade school-age daughter, has the groggy mommy home from the hospital the day after her double surgery, sitting up in bed sipping chicken soup with grandma helping out. Soon mommy is out of bed but still not able to do any heavy lifting, so the girl and her big brother pitch in around the house.
At the breakfast table, the girl tells mommy how she's learning about butterflies at school and mommy laughs that her bandages make her feel like a cocoon.
Then the big day arrives — mommy's bandages are gone and illustrator Victor Guiza lights up the new and improved mommy with a sparkly princess pink background.
"Mommy, your eyes are sparkling like diamonds," the girl exclaims. "You're the most beautiful butterfly in the whole world."
Jerry Seltzer, general manager of Big Tent's parent company, Whimsical LLC, sees the obvious niche for “My Beautiful Mommy” in plastic surgeons' offices and among moms undergoing cosmetic procedures. He admits he initially wondered about the content.
"I thought, `Gee, mommy looked awfully good before the surgery.' But I felt confident because it was appropriate for the market," he said. "Women are out there getting the surgery."
Salzhauer said he performs about 200 tummy tucks and breast procedures a year, the bulk on mothers. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, representing most of the nation's board-certified surgeons in the specialty, reported nearly 348,000 breast augmentation procedures and 143,000 tummy tucks on women in 2007.
"My patients do worry about their children when they're going through this," Salzhauer said. "The book just goes toward trying to make the process as understandable as possible for the kids, so they can feel included and don't have to make things up in their minds on what's going on."