Aware parenting after infant surgery

At the age of just 3 years, children learn to use the word “Why?”

We humans are incurably curious, we want to understand what we see and hear.

Read this recent social media post by the mother of a pyloric stenosis child –

mum-dtr talk1My son was almost 9 weeks when he had his surgery.  It took them a long time to diagnose him; he will be 6 years old in a few weeks and his scar is about 3″ long.  He’s grown over the summer and has complained a lot about his tummy hurting.  That was part of the reason I joined the group so I could find out if other PS children experienced the same thing.  He also had a hernia repaired when he was 14 months old.  The scar bothers him when he gets asked what happened, but I tell him you were really sick and needed an operation to make you better.  Mommy loves your scar.  Then he smiles and laughs and forgets about the questions.

I wonder, what is your response to this post?  “What a lovely Mommy”?  “How nice”?

This was my response to this mother –

That interaction between you and your son reminds me so much of when I was his age!

My mother and I would have times like that, and my mum would use those exact same words.  But I never could never smile and forget to ask any more questions.  And when I asked more questions, the response was always, “We’ll talk about that sometime later” – but we never did.

150414-085And so from age 5 I increasingly felt embarrassed about the scar running down the middle of my belly, and whenever I asked the questions I had I felt fobbed off by pleasantries.  This deepened a then already real phobia that would trouble me for many years.

Today we know so much more and so I’m sure you’ll be sensitive to your son’s deeper personal feelings and be able to help him.  I still wish now that my mum (long passed on) had taken the initiative several times over my growing years –
1) showing she recognised my struggle instead of telling me off for showing any sign of it,
2) telling me about her part in and feelings about my first op in detail,
3) answering any questions I still had, and
4) discussing with me how I could work on my phobia.

Your son may grow up being very different from me, of course, but believe me, I’m far from alone in what I’ve just posted here!

2 thoughts on “Aware parenting after infant surgery

  1. Wendy

    What a fabulous post! What a powerful pic, Fred. I’m hoping that parents take your advice to heart. My gosh, kids need to know how to cope with what’s happened to them. Scars are potential sources of shame and fear and the #1-4 you offer are key. I have a scar from PS that’s about 3 inches long and it was ALWAYS a source of shame. While everyone’s story is different, it’s important to help children feel good about their scars because they can so easily be a source of deep dissatisfaction with one’s self. Body image is a super sensitive subject, especially now in this age of selfless, Instagram, zillions of pix, instant media coverage and accessibility to images from all over the world. A scar can be isolating, and we’ve got to help kids shape a positive identity from what’s happened to them.

    1. Fred Vanderbom Post author

      Wendy, I’m so grateful for your endorsement, and the more so because you have known my inner struggles and worked through your own. I remember your mother was the opposite of mine in the sense that she showed the trauma she’d suffered from your illness and surgery by saying too much, just as inappropriately and unhelpfully! What are the points you have learnt from your relationship with your mother?
      That generation has largely passed on and the challenge is now for us to do what we can to give the survivors of more recent infant surgery a better ride.
      Surgical attitudes and techniques having improved vastly, but body image is very largely a personal issue and remains that. For me that gnarly scar was a hate object, but the fear of not knowing how to deal with people’s questions was almost as painful.
      Thank you for all that you are doing through your blogging, other writing and speaking.


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