Ropes: Second Pastel Exploring My Infant Surgery

In my second pastel, I confronted the ropes strangling my body. These were actual areas of tension where it felt as though ropes or bands were strapped across my chest and under my breasts. In the pastel is a rough outline of my torso in black and the bands in red.

In researching my operation for pyloric stenosis, a stomach blockage, I learned that babies were ‘anesthetized’ with a drug that paralyzed and did not kill pain. In the medical world, anesthesia for babies has always been complicated. The reasons were threefold; first, it was believed that babies did not feel pain and second, that the anesthesia in and of itself might kill or cause damage. Furthermore, at least in 1952 when I was operated on, there was a lack of trained pediatric anesthesiologists to administer the drugs. Pediatrics was a new specialty, a specialty that garnered a lot of pushback. After all, weren’t babies just little adults? And so the field of pediatric anesthesiology was also suspect. In any case, I was horrified to learn that many babies were subject to torture.

Was I given a paralytic?  If not, was the pain-killing anesthesia I might have been given enough? Did the ropes of tension strangling my body mark places where I had been tied down for surgery? Had I fought against the restraints? I do not know. I do know that I had to confront the tension in order to go forward with my goal of writing about my early surgery. I had to acknowledge and honor my constriction: I was cut into at one month old and my body had registered complaint. Listen, this pastel told me. Listen.  

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