There’s good news and bad news (or at least, thought-provoking news).
The good news…
The only people who know I had surgery at 10 days are my family and the relatively small group of people (must fellow pyloric stenosis badge wearers) with whom I’ve networked.
Infant surgery has not, I’m grateful to say, made me dysfunctional, abusive, or chronically depressed. For my 65+ years I have been able to live as full, rich and productive a life as anyone with the benefits I’ve had: a happy and stable home, a warm-hearted, caring and fairly balanced form of the Christian faith, and a long, peace-filled and peace-sharing marriage with a very compatible partner, my beloved Helen.
In earlier blogs (31 January, 4 February and 26 March 2011) I have written about the clear symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with which I have struggled ever since I reached the age of being aware of my having had surgery I could not remember. For probably several reasons, my PTSD, although real, has not been as severe as that suffered by some.
As is true of many health conditions and character traits, they cover a wide spectrum. It seems from my reading and networking that some people who have had infant surgery have no after-effects, or at least none they care to mention. These are probably those who have great self-confidence and a large ego, let’s say, the car salesmen and politicians of our world?
In the middle are the many who hate their scar, especially during the years of becoming self-aware and teenage identity struggles. But many don’t care enough to even find out how they got their scar, others tell the world they’d forgotten they had it until asked by child at the beach or a doctor giving them a medical check-up! Aww, yeah? Are you real?
At the other end of the spectrum are the people like me. Over the years I have come to recognise that many aspects of my person may well have been caused or aggravated by my surgery and the related treatment: my personal and social insecurities, my deep self-consciousness, my complex relationship with my mother, my long avoidance of certain aspects of school and social life, a deeply felt fear and mistrust of doctors, my deeply private life of investigating my surgery and scar and self-harming, my obsessiveness and my high sensitivity to stress. I also believe that my mental, social and motor-skills may have been affected by the malnutrition and/or various traumatic experiences arising from my disorder and its surgical correction.
It’s with much relief that I have come to realise that I’ve been spared some of the things others mention: e.g., flashbacks, tension in the jaw, neck and back, shallow breathing, depression and suicidal episodes. I also feel very thankful that despite the PTSD and various developmental problems, I have still been able to live and work as I have.
Of course, the symptoms I mention here are not unique to people who have had infant trauma, and they could be linked with my genes, other conditions or other personal life experiences, but I’m pretty sure that by far the most obvious connection is with my early surgery.
Having worked in a caring capacity with people through most of my life, I well know there are many people who wish and pray to God that they might go to sleep and never wake up again. But isn’t it wonderful that the ability to say a big “Yes!” to the life we’ve been given is so strong? I’m deeply grateful that despite the sometimes embarrassingly public and often painfully lonely distress I’ve had because of my surgery as a little baby, I still belong very much to the life-affirming survivors!