After meditation today, these questions came to me: Who were those nurses who took care of me during my health crisis as an infant? What were their thoughts and prayers as they cared for me? What could they tell me now about my infant self that would help me understand my challenges? Had they seen me grimace in pain?
I wondered these things because I am working with a numbness in my face that I think is related to the pain I felt either before, during, or after my infant surgery. I became aware of it this summer when the cranio-sacral therapist was treating my concussion. In trying to ease my tempero-mandibular discomfort (jaw pain), which had worsened after hitting my head ice-skating, he suggested I do some facial muscle repetitions. These exercises involved lifting my lip on the right into a kind of snarl and releasing it and then doing the same on the left. Trouble is, I could not execute this move on the left because my face was actually numb. What was the reason? I don’t think it had anything to do with my head injury. It felt like a very old problem.
During the surgery, was my head tied down and secured to the operating table in a weird way? Did the numbness start then? Maybe I was intubated for the surgery (a tube inserted into my airway), and the technology pressed uncomfortably against my face. In meditation the other day, I was given the image of a man’s profile. His face was smooth and radiated health, but in front of and just above his right ear near his temple, the skin was pulled so horribly tight, it was alarming to look at. It was as if one side of the man’s face was pinched together from all directions, twisted, and then stitched into place. The tense lines radiating out from the pinched skin pointed to an unbearable tension, but the man’s countenance was calm.
So today in meditation, I did some Middendorf breathwork in order to bring life into my face. I allowed breath into the restricted area and immediately felt the whole top of my head lift, like a lid from a pressure cooker. What relief! I decided to follow the restricted breath to see what I could learn and found my self biting down, grimacing. As a baby, my face must have screwed up in pain. Maybe my breath was pinched off to this facial area as I restricted the air that would have expanded my diaphragm and pressed against my stomach. Normally, breath massages our organs in a good way, providing movement in a rhythmic dance, but for a baby with a stomach blockage and then a surgery, this harmony was not possible.
After the meditation, I was thinking about those nurses because they witnessed my struggle. (My mother was relegated to sitting in the hallway and could only watch me through a window.) They saw my face when my skin was punctured by an I.V. before surgery. They observed me as I lay day after day recovering in my hospital crib under the oxygen tent. How I wish I could ask them some questions now. Once I pressed my mother to think about what my face looked like among “all those tubes coming in and out of every opening,” as she put it. She looked down, bringing her chin close to her chest, closed her eyes, and concentrated for several minutes–a behavior uncharacteristic of my mother. Finally she looked up with a serious expression and said: “Your eyes were closed.”