Journey’s End: The Final Pastels

I’ve been sharing the series of pastel drawings I made that jumpstarted my writing the memoir manuscript Autobiography of a Sea Creature, in which I uncovered the impact of my infant surgery for pyloric stenosis (PS), a life-threatening blockage between the stomach and the small intestine. Please see previous posts for the progression so far. 

The surgery interrupted my breath pattern. As a baby, I tried to control pain by holding my breath or breathing shallowly, for when the diaphragm expands, it presses internal organs. Holding my breath became an unconscious pattern, my natural breath subverted. 







In the pastel above, I drift without grounding. As a baby in recovery for over ten days, I was only touched by nurses who administered medical care. They were not allowed to pick me up or comfort me. Germ theory ruled the day–only necessary contact. Besides, back then the tubes were thick and heavy. No hugs. No visits by Mom or Dad.

The operation was a success. My abdomen had been opened and my pyloric muscle cut to expand the passageway so food could get through. A part of me had died though. In the pastel above, I am a dead insect lying in a coffin. My agency had been stripped and my connection with others severed. In researching the PS operation for my memoir, I learned that I was probably given a paralytic and therefore conscious for the surgery. Back in 1952, medicine actually believed babies didn’t feel pain. Moreover, I may not have received pain medication in recovery. Life was hell. (Read Dr. Chamberlain’s essay “Babies Don’t Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Western Medicine”

As a teen-ager and young adult, I was depressed and, at times, suicidal. I had PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, from the early trauma but didn’t know it. 

Through pastels, I was able to create a platform from which to dive into and write about my early experience. I began to tell the story from my point-of-view and not regurgitate what I’d been told by others. Without these drawings, would I have been able to write the story? And so, I began the journey of healing through writing.

Here’s one of the pastels, titled Hugged by the Universe, that I drew after finishing the memoir manuscript: 

This pastel speaks for itself. Thank you for taking this journey with me.



































2 Responses to Journey’s End: The Final Pastels

  1. The pastels you have shared in these last few posts, dear Wendy, are expressive of the brutal surgery you underwent when less than a month old, and the life-affecting emotions they have left with you. Thank you for explaining the way in which creating these drawings helped prepare you to write your autobiography and start blogging.
    Impressionist drawings communicate less well with me than other media, but I certainly get the message you convey and explain in these stark images! Well done and thank you!

  2. Thank you for your supportive and loving words. Yes, These images shook something loose from my brain so that I could start to confront the reality of what I’d lived through. The images were a bridge between preverbal experience and the verbalization of the experience as an adult. I’m not a neurologist so I don’t exactly understand, but I sure am grateful. And grateful for your comment and affirmation, dear Fred.

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