When I was twenty-six-years-old, I began exploring in a safe and open way–in therapy, writing, and artwork–what had happened to me as a baby threatened by pyloric stenosis and operated on in order to save my life. Lee Johnson, my therapist, was my life line. She was the first human being with whom I was capable of being honest about my emotions. I am so grateful that I found her. I used water colors in the above drawing. Could the three bars in my painting “Prisoner” be the three places that I was tied down for surgery–at my jaw, upper body, and hips?
Here is a later exploration in magic marker. The same three areas are emphasized. Its as if my body made a record of what happened. Even today, tension in my body corresponds to these areas. At twenty-six days old, the terror that I felt during the surgery must have been enormous, especially if I were not given anesthesia. (Those days, anesthesia was not a given as doctors were afraid it would hurt, even kill, the infant. Furthermore, doctors mistakenly believed that babies did not feel pain. See David B. Chamberlain’s article “Babies Don’t Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Medicine.”) I have had some challenging health issues with my jaw, my chest and upper back, and my hips and lower back. For example, was diagnosed with temporal mandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) in my early twenties, and I am currently dealing with a back, hip and knee issue. Knowing the root of my health problem helps me heal. When I notice I am holding my breath and locking my upper back, I release it saying I am protected. As I wrote about in my previous post, the affirmation I am willing to release this pattern within that has created this condition is also allowing me to let go of tension. I am learning that my body can be a place of comfort.
As a child, I felt distrust of my body, afraid it would do something to try to kill me again. Sounds irrational, doesn’t it? Yes, the psyche is not always a rational place, and my fears were never addressed. These feelings were buried deep down. Even if I’d had conscious access to them, I wouldn’t have told my parents. It was the ’50s: The seen but not heard epidemic of child rearing was raging. Besides, I was Miss Perfect, making up for all the trouble I caused as a newborn. Babies want and need acceptance and love, and my projectile vomiting, losing almost three pounds, and failing to thrive had already stressed my parents to the max. After my successful recovery from surgery, I set my vibration to the frequency of I’m fine! Worry no more! I was not fine, however, and as I grew up, emotional problems emerged.
Seems to me, babies need healing touch after surgery, and many parents need eduction in order to help their child heal, not only physically, but emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Programs to help parents cope, for those who are struggling, could make a huge impact on the recovery of the whole child and on the quality of life for the family. Even an informative brochure could impact the outcome. I’m looking forward to a new day in health care. Taking care of the whole infant is so important. Just because they are babies doesn’t mean they don’t know and sense and feel what’s going on. BABIES ARE SENTIENT BEINGS!! Let’s help them release tension and fear after difficult procedures and operations. Let’s help them find a way back to feeling safe in their bodies.