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” http://www.nocirc.org/symposia/second/chamberlain.html)
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.