A diversity of feelings and attitudes

Ever since I started using the internet in 1997, I’ve been fascinated by the range of attitudes and emotions people have about the scars from surgery they could not remember because it was so early in their life story.  Clearly there are several reasons for this variety, and this blog site has explored several of these.

Here is what I think is a fairly representative sample of how survivors of infant surgery feel about their surgery and its mark on them.  I’m grateful to the writers for their sharing and honesty and have done some necessary editing; the references are available to an interested reader.

Many just hate their scar despite loving the gift of life –

I have a massive scar across my stomach that people gasp at whenever I take my shirt off, it’s about 10 cm long.  People are always like “Oh wow, what happened?”
I had a surgery done for pyloric stenosis when I was an infant, apparently the doc told my mom the scar would be a tiny little thing that I would never notice.  Boy, was he wrong.

I had the exact same thing when I was a baby now I have a freaking scar on my stomach and people always bother me about it.

I’m currently having laser treatment to minimise my scar; I have always been proud of it, but as I’ve got older I don’t like the look of it.  It is getting smaller and fading with every treatment, but a faded line will always be visible and I will always have a slight lump but then I think I will be more confident with the way I look.  Yes, it is for vanity.  My family and friends have always said they don’t really notice it, but you know how it is, you always notice your own imperfections.  And everyone has agreed if it makes me happy to go for it.

My husband felt this way because he had surgery for pyloric stenosis when he was two weeks old.  A tiny, tiny scar of less than an inch stretched over the years to be quite big, wide, and (frankly) pretty grizzly looking.  When we went to Dr. R. for a surgery consult with our son, my husband very boldly said, “I don’t want my son to look like this…” and lifted up his shirt for Dr. R. to see.  Dr. R. said simply, “That won’t happen.”  And it didn’t for several reasons.
First of all, my husband’s surgery was not a cosmetic surgery.  The surgeon was not thinking of minimal scarring; he was interested in saving my husband’s life.  Therefore, he didn’t utilize a stitching technique that minimizes scarring.  Secondly, the surgeon was lousy at stitching.  Well, not lousy, but not meticulous either.  Dr. R. said that the reason my husband’s scar looked as it did was a reflection of the surgeon, NOT the surgery.

Some hate their scar because of its appearance or effect on their daily life –

The iconic image of Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009). During her early career she would pose in a two-piece swimsuit, but at a certain stage she insisted on this photo which launched her to stardom. It covered a scar from "intestinal blockage surgery in early infancy".

I actually hate mine… I’m proud to have it in a way… as if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.  But it just makes me feel so uncomfortable in tight tops, as i have a li’l over hang on it.  I won’t wear bikinis.  In fact I don’t swim much because of it… yes, it’s vain… but in my eyes I feel disgusting with it.  So I completely understand why you would want to have it lasered away J

When I was a few weeks old I had to have emergency stomach surgery.  Don’t know what it’s called but there was something wrong with the pyloris (sic) – something like that.  I’m now 21 and the scar has grown with me: it’s about 5 cm long and sits 3 cm diagonally above my navel.  But I’m not sure about it now, seen from the side you can see the scar is being pulled in.  It’s also very hard, around it too, now and then I can feel jabs of pain too.  Does anyone know if I need to worry about this?  Or is there some cream I can use?  I don’t want to make a fool of myself asking the doctor.  Thanks.

I hate mine.  I tried out for a professional dance team and was told, “I really hate to see you go because your dancing is great but with all the modeling we do and two pieces we wear I can’t have a big scar on your stomach.”

I am 20 years old, female, and from a family where no one has ever had this anomaly before.
I was 3 months old by the time they figured out what was going on (this was, after all, 1981) and was left with a scar that doctors promised would be no more than an inch long by the time I was 8 years old.
12 years later it’s still there, horribly uneven, and almost 5 inches long.  I know how terrible it must be to have a sick baby (I have pictures of my dad, long hair and John Lennon-esque glasses, peering through the OR doors at me, eating ring dings and worrying).  But do your kids a favour and make sure the surgeon you choose knows her deal and treats your baby as if he/she were her own.

I have to admit that if there were any procedure that would be able to at least reduce the drastic appearance of my scar, I would do it in a heartbeat.  My scar is horizontal, right above my belly button, smack dab in the center of my abdomen, and very indented.  There are two incision spots or something (haha!) that makes them look like eyes above my belly button and my belly button being an open mouth.  This was how I used to divert attention from it as a child, but I am very self-conscious about it.  I just feel like I would be so much more confident in myself if the scar wasn’t so indented.  I just hate when I am wearing a shirt and it creases right in the indention of my scar and makes me look like I have a terrible pooch.  I was also wondering what complications can come of pregnancy?  And also (forgive me), how bad does it look after being so stretched out?

A reassuring reality check after many, many years –

For the past 66 years I have thought that I was the only person in the world other than my brother that had such an ugly looking scar on my stomach.  When I complained to my mother she would just say that I should just be grateful to be alive, as prior to my elder brother being born with P S (he is 13 years older than me and his scar looked like it was done with a chain saw) the babies just used to die of starvation.
Now having come across this site and seen how many other people have the same scar, I feel quite normal.

Finally, six very positive comments –

Hi, my name is A….  I went through gastroschesis when I was a baby!
I am 14 now, and my life is wonderful!!!  I used to be made fun of when I went swimming, because of the scar on my stomach; I always wore one pieces, but now all I wear is 2 pieces.  You get over it, and now I don’t care what people think about me!  My mom always told me that “it doesn’t matter if people make fun of me, you’ll always have a story to tell !”
For all of the women having a baby with gastroschesis, and for all the kids that have had it, I am praying for you, and I know God will take care of you !!!

I used to have a fair bit of trouble with it because I felt that you could see it through my clothes.  So if I was wearing a tight top I always saw myself having and indented line on my belly.  Luckily, I’ve been able to accept it completely and nobody has reacted to it in a silly way.  I do still think sometimes, I wish I had a normal tight flat belly, but there are so many things in the world that are a lot worse, so I don’t lie awake at night thinking about my scar!

I have a set of scars from surgery I had when I was an infant.  I was born with Hirschsprung’s disease, a birth defect of the colon and rectum.  When I was two weeks old, I had a colostomy which I had until I was two years and had grown strong enough for the corrective surgery.  My digestive system now functions normally but I have several scars; one from just left of my navel and down to the pubic bone and another just to the left of this one where the colostomy was.  I also have a scar on each ankle from the IVs that were put in there.
For the longest time as I was growing up, I was very self-conscious about the scars.  I was rarely without a shirt.  Around the age of thirteen, I decided I was tired of the self-consciousness and spent almost the entire summer shirtless.  I got more than one sunburn to show for it!
It took me thirteen years to come to terms with my scars and to accept them as part and parcel of who I am, and this is a very nice place to be.  It just can be very hard getting to this place.
Growing up I had a small circle of very good friends and at this point they had all seen my scars.  Upon seeing the scars for the first time they all asked the inevitable “What happened?” and I would tell them.  After that initial question, none of my friends ever mentioned it again!  They moved past it so why couldn’t I?  Plus I was really tired of literally calling attention to myself by being the only guy swimming with a t-shirt on!  Kind of a positive application of perceived peer pressure, I guess.

To all the mothers who are having children with gastroschesis, I want you to know they will make it!  I am 20 years old, I was born with the condition and have been living the life of any normal college kid.  Growing up with this condition it determined me to go into medicine.  I have my Certified Nursing Assistant license, and am going to college to be a commercial pilot.  I was told I would never fly due to my scars, told I would never have a girlfriend, told I would not make it past 12.  Well, there is hope, I am not afraid to show my scar off to women, I am flying airplanes every day, I am 20 now, way past 12.  Mothers, there is hope for your child, they will overcome anything.  Tell them every day to never hide the scar.  When I was a little kid, I told people it was my battle scar from a shark, or now I say it’s a war wound from Iraq.  Any story your kids can tell to make them comfortable with it works.

All that remains is a large scar above my belly button that has grown along with me my entire life.  I have never thought of it as ugly or abnormal, it has always been there, a part of me.  People that have seen it have always thought it was neat.  I remember getting my belly button pierced when I was 16, and the technician thought my scar was so cool – but I had honestly forgotten it was even there!

My scar doesn’t bother me.  I’ve had it all my life, so I feel it’s part of me.  Other people can’t see it.  I only get a few reactions sometimes, at the beach or the swimming pool.  When I’m walking along the beach I often see people looking at my stomach.  But I don’t mind that, my stomach looks a bit different from normal bellies, but it’s part of me.  If people I know stare at it for a while I just start talking about how I got that scar.  Little kids sometimes say, “That girl’s got a line on her stomach!”  I think that’s rather cute.

1 thought on “A diversity of feelings and attitudes

  1. Wendy

    Fabulous!!! The range of human response is fascinating! Anyone who has a significant scar from infant surgery will be able to resonate with one of the examples of testimony that you shared. Thank you!


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