Tying a Bow: Leaving Old Trauma Behind

Each morning, I lift the cheerful pillow with its red and yellow plaid  cover from the rocker chair and carry it to the bed. Just as I’m about to throw it onto the quilt, the tie slips out from where I’ve tucked it into the case the night before. I feel repulsed. Each night I tuck it in, and each day when I pick it up, the tie leaps out and I feel bad.

Why?  And why repeat this ritual day after day?

Because that’s what folks who have preverbal trauma do–react emotionally to sensation from unresolved experience of long ago. Sensations contact our nervous systems that is unconnected to anything that is actually happening. Then we respond to the stimulation, further disconnecting us from ourselves. It’s a totally weird life.

Thankfully, because I’ve come to understand my early trauma, I can figure out what is really going on. 

Mornings, when the tie slips from the pillow, I feel a vague anxiety–could my insides flop out of my belly and kill me? During my operation at one-month old, the surgeon sliced my belly and tummy muscles open, pulled the pylorus part of my stomach out of my body, and sliced the pylorus to relieve pressure on the food canal so nutrition could pass through. Then he tucked it back and sewed me up. (This operation was, btw, without anesthesia.)

My anxiety about the tie flopping out is also about my mother’s fear. The surgeon told her in the hospital discharge meeting that if my stitches broke, I would die; it was up to her, he assured her,  that this did not happen. Mom was completely freaked out that my belly would break open once I got home from the hospital. Her fear became mine. 

So mornings, when I thrust the tie back into the case, I take control. Damn it, I’m going to survive. No guts are gonna fall out of me!  A ritual of re-enactment has me in its grasp. Though once I realized the reason for this uncomfortable ritual, I changed it. I pulled out the other end of the tie and made a big bow, securing the loose ends. How satisfying to make that knot!

Now, each morning as I make my bed each day and set the pillow on the quilt, I note the lovely bow. And that’s how I rid myself of  anxiety based on old trauma. That’s how I became more real and more happy. That’s how I am becoming more me.


15 Responses to Tying a Bow: Leaving Old Trauma Behind

  1. Your website is the first to bring tears to my eyes and make me feel more deeply for the little baby I once was. I was operated on without anesthesia as a 6 week preemie for NEC which had caused a hole in my small intestines. I’m looking forward to reading more of your website. It seems rich with poetic healing. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad that my website is helpful. That little baby needs love and recognition and, I don’t know about you, but for me, I was angry at my baby-self for being sick when I was little and so I ran away from my baby-self until I was 22 years old. I’m back with her though. I’m so very sorry that you had to endure an operation like that as a 6-week preemie!! Unimaginable! Hard to believe you could survive such trauma. May you continue to find healing. Thank you so much for writing. Keep in touch when you get a chance.

  2. FYI, I’ve sent a request to the hospital which performed the operation to get conclusive proof that it was indeed done without anesthesia or what kind of pain modification they might have used. It is so horrible to imagine that I feel the need to find out for sure. And yet, I was operated on (pain killers or not) and then spent weeks in a cold incubator without the touch of any human (read MOTHER), lying there without pain medication.

    I’ll keep you posted about the medical records.

    Love to you.

  3. Again, I’m so very sorry to hear of your early situation. The fact that you were separated from your mom and then unable to be touched is so heartbreaking. I was not a preemie, nor was I in an incubator, but I was sent to a single room for recovery from my stomach operation where no one but the nurse and doctor were allowed to enter. My mother sat in the hallway next to the observation window looking in on me for about 10 days. 🙁

    About getting “conclusive proof,” sometimes medical records state that anesthesia was administered, but this statement can mean many things. In my case, anesthesia meant a paralytic drug that paralyzed my muscles so that I couldn’t fight back. A friend of mine who was operated on for pyloric stenosis as a new full-term baby read in his record that anesthesia was given, but then he actually managed to get through to an anesthesiologist who told him that he may have gotten very little, so that his pain was not managed appropriately. Anyway, you can see how it may be hard to find out what you were actually given but yes, do go after the information and let me know what you find out.

    • Interesting that they used the word “anesthesia” when in fact it wasn’t anesthesia at all. May I ask how you came to know that in your case anesthesia meant only the paralytic drug?

      • Hi nyclucky, In all honesty, I don’t know that I was only given the paralytic. I know that as soon as I read these words in a surgical textbook–that babies were paralyzed rather than anesthetized due to fear of brain damage and due to the belief that babies didn’t feel pain–I knew in my bones that is what happened to me. It was a total intuitive understanding. I may have been given a bit of anesthesia, but I know it was not enough. The paralytic rang true because of many somatic experiences I’ve had which are too deep to go into briefly (of which I’ve written about in previous posts). I studied Middendorf Breathwork for many years and know that I learned to breathe in order to control the excruciating pain I was feeling. I’ve done drawings that have sprung from my unconscious decades ago, before I started researching all of this neuroscience and anesthesia information, in which I’m tied down or feeling restrained and unable to move. I’ve gone through experiences in which I reenacted my need for help and my crying out for it but getting none. There is lots of bodily and somatic and psychological evidence for what I understand, but not scientific or literal paperwork–all my records were destroyed long ago.

        From the many articles I’ve read and people who’ve commented on my blog, I learned about several people’s experiences of reading the words “anesthesia given” on their records where curare or the paralytic is considered “anesthesia.” More info I’m recalling is the fact that the surgeons often don’t know what the anesthesiologist gave. I believe if you study the Jill Lawson case, this was the situation. Jeffrey Lawson died as a result of a tie-off of an artery to the heart (PDA ligation) all done without anesthesia–an incision from the chest around to the back, a lifting of the ribs, and a cut and tie of an artery. He died as a result of shock–pain. Jeffrey’s mother’s activism and advocacy showed how docs kept it a secret from families that their children were not receiving adequate or ANY pain control or anesthesia during the surgeries. Her testimony on radio and TV shows and the work of Drs. Anand and Hickey made this issue pubic in around 1986 and that’s when the policies of hospitals began to change their anesthesia protocols.

        I hope this helps. Warm regards as always, Wendy

  4. Hi Wendy, I just received the medical records for my entire stay at Yale New Haven Hospital. They are showing that I was operated on twice. Once when I first arrived and a second time two months later. I have yet to really read and decipher all of the medical terms. I was kept at the hospital for almost 3 months. The reports say that both operations were performed with general anesthesia. The sleuthing continues…

    2 operations, both involving opening the abdomen! So glad I have a trauma therapist now.

    Thank you for reading my comments. My friends can’t relate, understandably, and I don’t want them to think I’m being morbid and ghoulish.


  5. Oh, sorry, it wasn’t a second invasive operation but the removal and closing of the opening which held the stoma bag. :/

  6. Gosh, NYClucky, why were you in the hospital for three months? And what year was your operation? for Pyloric Stenosis, right? I hope you get a doctor or medical professional to help you interpret the notes and records. Very important. Good for you for getting the records, for following through. I can’t wait to hear what you discover.

    Yes, I know what you mean about friends. Others don’t get it. And yes, we have each other we can go to and others who share these issues. Please keep me posted. I’m so happy for you that your records still exist and you got a hold of them.

  7. The records say I was in utero for 7 months. So, since I was a preemie, 2 pounds, born with a hole in my small intestines, I needed to be incubated. The operation was so invasive, that I can imagine that I needed to stay in the hospital for quite a while. I wasn’t gaining weight, even lost some at one point before I finally started gaining in the third month.

    It’s odd, but reading the almost daily status report of the medical has been healing even though it’s gruesome and painful . The doctors thought I had cystic fibrosis, but that was finally ruled out by the end of my stay in the hospital.

    Thanks again for your kind attention. I definitely want a medical doctor to interpret the operation record. Will follow up when I learn more.

  8. Hi Nyclucky, Wow, looks painful. Amazing you made it, for you were such a little guy upon arrival, being a preemie and all. So what kinds of procedures did the doctors order? And gosh, you were in the hospital for such a long time. And those were the days when avoiding germs at all costs was the norm, right? So could your parents visit? Could they touch you in the incubator? Yes, I can imagine that reading the medical notes would be healing because it affirms what you have sensed all along–that you had early torturous experiences that affected you in significant ways. Also, I have found that learning medical details helped me have compassion for myself and what I’d been through. My mom always said, “You don’t remember a thing. I’m the one who suffered.” She thought I was knocked out and would have no memory. Quite the contrary. But hey, she didn’t know. In any case, I’m glad you are finding healing in reading your records. I am so very happy for you. Keep me posted.

Leave a reply