In late 2009, Heidi Montag underwent 10 cosmetic procedures in one day—a radical decision the former MTV reality star would later come to regret. Without telling her friends or family, and with her husband Spencer Pratt's support, she asked Dr. Frank Ryan to give her a chin reduction, brow-lifts, ear pinnings, a second rhinoplasty and a second breast augmentation, among other enhancements. But the operations had nearly fatal complications, she tells PAPER.
"Spencer thought he lost me. I died for a minute. With that much surgery, I had to have 24-hour nurse care and Spencer didn't want to leave my side. I was at a recovery center and had Demerol to deal with the pain because it was so extreme," Heidi tells the magazine. At one point, she recalls, "My security guards called Spencer and told him, 'Heidi's heart stopped. She's not going to make it.' And I easily could've. Cutting yourself up isn't something I'd recommend, and Demerol isn't anything to play around with. That's how Michael Jackson died." Years later, Heidi had her size F breast implants removed and spoke candidly about mistakes she'd made. And, in hindsight, "A lot of positive things came out of that. I had to look at myself in the mirror every day healing, and be like, 'What did I do to myself? How did I get here? What is going on?' I basically had to hit that rock-bottom moment in my life, to realize what was important to me."
The cosmetic surgeries came at a crazy time in Heidi's life, when The Hills was one of MTV's most watched shows and she was constantly in the tabloids. "Things that Spencer and I were shamed for, like, 'Oh they're so cheesy and over-the-top'—now every A-list celebrity is doing, it's just on their Instagram," she says. "It's the exact same thing, and it's being seen by maybe even more people than what we had done. It's fascinating that that's accepted now, but it was cheesy and fame-whorey when we did it." Now that she's a mom to son Gunner Pratt, Heidi barely recognizes the person she once was, who risked her "own life for vanity." As for her son, Heidi admits, "I just want him to enjoy his life, and not live in his parents' mistakes or shadows."
At the height of The Hills' popularity, Heidi felt villainized for her relationship with Spencer—and the rift it had caused with her former roommate, Lauren Conrad. "There was a lot of Team Lauren. And it was just a different time when people took reality TV very seriously. They were invested in Lauren emotionally, because she had come from Laguna Beach and was the narrator for each episode. It was frustrating for me at the time—everyone just assuming I was this bad friend and bad person," Heidi says. "It was especially challenging when everyone was against my relationship [with Spencer]. The Hills machine was so powerful, and it was impossible to get over. The money definitely made it a little bit easier, but the repercussions were really hard."
Today, she says, "It's weird to think I was a person before Gunner."
Long before The Hills, she says, "I've always wanted a family. I've been with Spencer for 11 years now, so I told him, 'You had me alone for 10 straight years.' We have a great marriage, and it was the perfect time for us to move into this next chapter." Now that her dream has become a reality, she's savoring every moment—even the sleepless nights. "The most sleep I get is two hours—sometimes three. I'm usually up every hour with Gunner; it's really intense. Gunner's given me a whole new strength that I didn't know. I feel like I am stronger than I've ever been emotionally. At the end of the day, I'm his mom, and that's my main priority."