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I found my tribe!

I’m looking at a photo gallery of babies who are recovering from pyloric stenosis (ps), the condition for which I was operated on at 26-days-old. I love them all! When I first received these pictures from a friend, I was in shock. My god, here are tens of babies who’ve undergone ps surgery. No longer was this population (3-5 babies in every thousand) so abstract. Here are the color photos of the babies in front of me!

Of course, these babies’ experiences were drastically different from those like myself, operated on decades ago. Then, babies were isolated from family and their contact with the medical staff limited. As a ps friend told me recently, infection was a great concern when we were operated on, him in the 1940’s and me in 1952. My mother stood vigil in a hospital hallway, watching me in my oxygen-tented crib through a window in the wall. Also, the technology was more primitive: “Thick black tubes ran in and out of very opening!” is the way my mother described it. And babies were hospitalized for longer stays.

Though technology has made ps surgery less traumatic, my photo gallery babies are still going through a hard time–some are crying and others simply look lost. At least they have the consolation of family. In several pictures, parents hold babies, clear IV tubing and all. One woman is feeding her baby a bottle and another seems to be burping her little one on her shoulder.

One baby, who I’ve especially bonded with, bears a raggedy, raw transverse incision mid-center of the abdomen, the area surrounding it swollen purple and red. Another baby that I identify with has a haunted look. The photo is a full-face shot, eyes wide, eyebrows raised as in shocked surprise. Lines worry this infant’s brow.

A photo of me at 3-months-old shows me as a small white ghost tucked into the corner of a huge armchair. My eyes are two large dark buttons. It’s spooky to see this photo and try to connect with the fact that the baby is me. The earliest photo I have of me smiling was taken when I was 6-months-old. Years ago, I asked my mother if she had any earlier pictures of me smiling. She replied simply, “None. Nothing to smile about.”

I carry this recently acquired photo gallery of babies wherever I go. I have finally found my tribe! I felt a similar reaction this summer at the Writing the Medical Experience Workshop at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. There, doctors, nurses, caregivers, patients, former patients, able and differently-abled folks came together as writers who chronicle medical experiences–the healers, the healed, the healing. My new baby tribe is a tad bit closer to my heart.

The photos of these babies have brought me to a new level of acceptance of myself. I fit into society more wholly than ever before, belonging to the tens of thousands of adults and children have survived surgery for pyloric stenosis. I am happy we made it through to the other side of illness and happy to have found a group with whom to identify so entirely. I have spent much of my life feeling different; my scar testifies to my strangeness. Until I found a ps buddy recently through my blog, I had never met or talked to anyone self-identified as someone who’d experienced this early condition. Now I not only have someone to talk to about how our lives have been impacted by infant surgery, but I have a gallery of baby photos with which to identify. Everything has changed. Yes to my photo gallery of ps babies and yes to blogs!

0 Responses to I found my tribe!

  1. Wendy, this is yr old friend, Susie “Grain.” Sorry it took me so long to get to yr blog, but here I am! I’m struck by how beautifully written and reflexive your postings are. It’s a rare talent to be able to write about painful experiences in a way that is also inspiring. I’ve known you a long time and I know how far along you are in your healing process and how committed you are to it. I’m so glad your words are out in the blogosphere! I’m so glad that you’re finding your tribe and kindred spirits to share the healing of this terrible early experience with. I totally agree: yes to blogs!

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