Trackstopper Trigger: Of Bathing Suits and Babies


Walking down the aisle of a toy store in the children’s clothing section, I was stopped in my tracks. On an outfit intended for a baby boy (my colored-pencil rendition to the left) who would be dressed to look like a football was a set of stitches that was almost a mirror image of my pyloric stenosis scar from my babyhood!  It was as if my secret were on display for all the world to see. My heart rate quickened and I felt disoriented and confused. I literally held onto the clothes rack as I processed my feelings.

When I was a girl, my scar from my surgery at 26 days old was my dirty secret. It’s what made me different, weird, and shamed. Only my family knew what was on my belly and for that I was relieved. I lived in fear that others would see it and judge me. I was damaged goods, so-to-speak. Marked for life. Worthless. Unlovable.

Summers, my black tank bathing suit was my friend in all this (see below). It knew my secret and was my buddy in keeping it. My scar was almost directly beneath the three round, white, clown-like buttons placed vertically on the front of the suit. It was like a magic trick: The buttons marked the location of my scar but only the suit, my family, and I knew the scar was there. Together, the suit and I fooled everyone–a kid’s way of coping with trauma.


I felt protected by this bathing suit, for it had no straps that could come loose and expose my secret. It was stretchy and dependable. In this way, the suit was my armor. I felt safe. Perhaps most importantly, I felt not so alone. I had a friend who shared my troubles.

Many times in my tomboy childhood, the stitches on a football reminded me of my scar. As a sick baby, I had been a deflated football, four pounds down from 6 pounds 7 ounces at the time of the surgery. In surgery, I was pumped up again and stitched. Other images I related to my scar were trussed turkeys at Thanksgiving, centipedes, crooked antennas on roofs, and the wires at the tops of telephone poles.

In the toy store aisle, I felt again what I had as a child–terror over the possibility of being outed, my scar revealed. Fortunately as I held onto the clothes rack, I understood that the old trauma was being triggered. I knew the connection between my immobility and my early feelings about my surgery. I gathered myself, allowing breath to calmly fill my belly, legs, and feet. I regained my presence, promising to write about my experience later, and went on to buy the baby outfits that I had come for.

Though triggers are frightening, they are teachers. Through them, we understand ourselves. We discover where we still need to heal. And we go where we are led to find more freedom from trauma–to become more of who we are, and have always been, at our core.















3 Responses to Trackstopper Trigger: Of Bathing Suits and Babies

  1. Wendy, this post and its images really hit the mark for me, as you would well realize. I read it while in Europe and was so sorry that I couldn’t respond immediately, but this post didn’t let me go. A few days later I saw my own “scar image” on (of all places) a circus tent: I’ll post my photo of it.
    Once again you have described very beautifully and powerfully some of the deep emotions only too familiar to many of us who have been through infant surgery. Like your mom, mine also made me a special swimsuit to enable me to cover up the evidence of having been “damaged goods” – in may case, their son with an interesting story that was sometimes shared with others while my questions were fobbed off.
    Unlike you and other scar-siblings of mine, I was a boy and the time came when I had to begin the long and painful journey of coming to terms with my gnarled belly being a visible part of my persona.
    I handled this very badly for many years and like you my whole experience with infant pyloric stenosis and early surgery have damaged me. But also like you, I have learnt from the triggers you mention and from discovery, sharing and emotional growth.
    And so we grow through our personal pain.

  2. Thank you, Fred. Can’t wait to see your photo post of your “scar image”! For sure, I knew you’d connect. The scars on our bellies wrought havoc with us, didn’t they, and with many, many survivors of infant surgery, pyloric stenosis and other surgeries, as well. Why a scar has to be such a shame-making mark is beyond me. I mean, my gosh, why couldn’t our scars have been treated with pride? Scars are a mark of resilience, suffering, and triumph over death. We are valiant, not “damaged goods.” But here we are with our legacies from a mishandled infant surgery aftermath. Thank you for being my buddy in all things PS and otherwise. Having a scar buddy has been, and continues to be, instrumental to my healing. Scar buddies unite!

  3. Thanks, Fred, for shouting out my blog in your post. We are reaching people on this issue slowly but surely. I spoke at length with someone recently who had found my blog and needed info. So very important!!

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