All survivors of infant surgery are strong. Infants who survived surgery in the pre-1987 days of no anesthesia are super strong. I know because I am one. And for so long, I thought of myself as weak.
I weighed four pounds when I was operated on in 1952 for pyloric stenosis, a stomach blockage. My mother said that I could have fit inside a shoe box. She said that I weighed as much as a bag of white rice on our pantry shelf. She said a lot of other things, too–disparaging things that made me believe I was a horrible, alien being. And my pediatrician didn’t help.
Just imagine. Starved down to four pounds. Separated from my mother and family at the hospital. Hydrated with IV fluids. Tied to the operating table. Intubated awake. Given a paralytic to prevent movement. Sliced in the gut without anesthesia–through skin, peritoneum (abdominal cavity), pylorus stomach muscle (I think those are the three.). Isolated for over a week in recovery with no or little pain control. How did I survive?
Super baby!! Despite being called weak, sick, worthless, I survived. Despite the torture, I survived. Despite the trauma, I survived. Yes, I was vulnerable, but I must have really wanted to live. No doctor or parent can make a baby live. They help, of course, but they can’t do it all. Agency resides within the organism–me! One could say that I was meant to be. It was my destiny, my purpose.
All of you survivors of infant surgery, anesthesia or not, you are strong! Your own sense of agency was key in determining the outcome of events. Just remember–no one can make you survive. You must want to. You wanted to survive. We are amazing!!