The Redo Power of EMDR

“Nice and soft,” my pediatrician proclaimed after palpating my two-year-old belly as I lay naked on the exam table.  Once again he could not find that solid stone, the pyloric ‘tumor’ or ‘swelling’ of the pyloric muscle, that shortly after birth, had stopped my stomach from working. “Could she have problems down the road, say when she’s fifty?” my mother asked. “I don’t think so. We’ll keep checking, of course.” To many, this conversation may seem benign, but for me, the one whose body they were referring to, danger took root.

At any point, I could be in trouble, I understood. At any time, I could be stricken, close to death, feeling unbearable pain. The ‘tumor’ might return. I don’t recall thinking these thoughts. I do recall panicking. I do remember tensing up, my breath and mind freezing. I do recall alarm bells going off in my head and a thousand unformed questions battling one another. Emotionally, I lifted off the planet, helpless, alone, and afraid for my life. Emotionally, I got stuck. When would it be back?, I worried.

In EDMR therapy sixty-four years later, those questions about what I’d heard as a child were still emotionally alive. As the wand whipped back and forth, I found myself back on the exam table but this time, in a reflective mode, not actually in the experience itself. A nurturing, older self stood next to toddler-me, my mother absent. Toddler-me to nurturer: “So my body could attack me again? Could I end up in the hospital?  Could I die?  So I need to be hyper-aware as to whether it’s come back?” My hands shot up to my throat. “Will I be intubated again?” These thoughts and emotions rapid- fired out of me as the wand swung left and right. The nurturer, that more adult part of me, answered with equanimity and grace: “Don’t worry. You are fine. You won’t be sick again. The operation fixed you. You are free!”

Then, as the wand continued metronoming, I was my child-self in kindergarten, running without hesitation to play in the doll house and next, to the sand box, unburdened, without that constant cautiousness and dread I’d always felt–without the fear of death weighing on my shoulders. I was light and happy, gravitating toward whatever stirred my fancy–fleet and spontaneous. Happy!  EMDR  interrupted that terror that the early conversation between my mother and the doctor and the consequent unasked questions spawned. A new neuronal brain loop formed, sparking movement toward a new way of being in the world. Such is the power of EMDR to undo and redo! The power of EMDR to heal.

–by Wendy Patrice Williams

Long-term hazards

When your baby had infant pyloric stenosis (“PS”), the surgery marked the end of a difficult time for you and your newborn treasure… Right?

If that’s true of you as parents or you as the baby, you belong to the truly blessed ones – at least in this respect!

Patient & doctor01Most doctors and websites tell the parents that there are no long-term problems after PS and its surgery (pyloromyotomy).  Only a minority of the websites I have seen are a little more careful, assuring us that “most” babies will have no more problems.  None go into detail about that “most”.

In 20 years of trawling the web I have yet to find Continue reading “Long-term hazards”

“No brain – no pain” That’s insane!

Confused09Can a baby remember trauma experienced in her or his first years?

In times past the answer was an immediate and insistent “No”.

Before about 1990 it was commonly believed that because virtually nobody can recall and describe any event from early childhood, let alone early infancy, be it happy or troubling, a baby makes and keeps no record of anything before what we can later recall and express in words.

This of course sounded very reassuring and comforting!

  • The serious mistakes some parents make when a baby is very young – hey!  “They leave no memory, no record, no damage.”
  • Family, life and health dramas which a little one survives – “No need to worry about it affecting baby.”
  • Separation from mother, adoption, foster relationships – “None of this will affect let alone harm a little one.”
  • Will we have our baby son circumcised “so he looks like his dad”?  “Go ahead, I’m fine, no worries!”
  • My baby needs life-saving surgery but anesthetising a baby is risky – “Just go ahead, she won’t really suffer.”
  • A baby’s screams (obviously from extreme pain) under the knife upsets a young theatre nurse – “Hey, he won’t remember anything.”

Continue reading ““No brain – no pain” That’s insane!”

Launching Our PS Awareness Blog

Pyloric Stenosis (PS) treatment has come a long way since my surgery for this condition in 1952. In the old days, babies were isolated after the operation, no family visiting. No nice clear plastic surgical tubing brought oxygen and fluids to the baby; the “hoses were black, an inch thick, and so numerous, I could hardly see you,” my mother told me. And my scar was formidable, like a crazy TV antenna, which grew bigger with time.

Today, rocking chairs in neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs, are often made available for family visits. The surgical tubing is light-weight and clear, adhesive strips with cartoon images  holding them in place. And the scar?  Smaller, given the possibility of having a laparoscopic pyloromyotomy versus an open procedure for which the incision, hence the scar, would be bigger. Even so, the scar from the open method or Ramstedt’s surgery of today is far more cosmetic than an earlier one. Finally, baby is typically released after one or two days as opposed to ten days to two weeks! Continue reading “Launching Our PS Awareness Blog”

To Be or Not Be …….. Grateful

Written by Wendy Patrice Williams on November 2, 2016

As adult survivors of infant surgery without anesthesia, it’s difficult to be angry about what happened to us early on. We feel grateful for having been helped and saved, and we should. The surgeons, the nurses, the staff, our parents, and families leaned in and lent a hand. We survived because of them. What’s not to be grateful for? Continue reading “To Be or Not Be …….. Grateful”

After infant surgery – untangling the emotional baggage

Shmool Roey 1612Last December my wife and I welcomed a friend and film-maker from the US.  I worked with him on a documentary he is making on a subject of common interest to all of us – the effects of infant surgery done when it was widely believed (esp. pre-1990) in the medical world that babies don’t feel or remember pain.  Yikes!  Yes, really.

My friend has interviewed several of us who had infant surgery in the “dark ages” and he is now recording interviews with several professionals who have written about or provide therapy for people affected by pre-conscious but unremembered (“somatic memory”) trauma.
We hope the result will be available Continue reading “After infant surgery – untangling the emotional baggage”