I’ve read in the past things about “body memories” — that your body “remembers” things done to it, even if you were asleep, knocked out, unconscious, anesthetized, too young, etc. Various people use this when talking about things done to babies (including circumcision, brisk rubbing with a rough towel right after birth, etc.), or when people have a visceral reaction when talking about surgery which they don’t remember — things like that. I didn’t really believe it, but thought it possible. Maybe.
Now, I’m not so sure.
I recently wrote a post about a typical C-section from the nurse’s perspective, which was a discussion on another blog’s post inspired by an anonymous commenter who had written that she was horrified to find that towards the end of the surgery, that her legs were put into a frog-leg position, with many people milling about the room, and the doctor and a few other people looking between her legs.
In writing that post, I’d read and re-read the L&D nurse’s post as well as the anonymous commenter’s post several times, and was fine. But when I started to think about the woman being so numb that she didn’t even know what position her legs were in, I felt — and feel, right now as I’m writing this — as if I’m about to have a panic attack, or am feeling a bit claustrophobic. I’ve never had a panic attack, so I’m just assuming this is what it would feel like to have one — shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and a vague sense of panic somewhere in my mind or chest. Not that she was in a vulnerable position with a half-dozen strangers looking at her vagina (not that I would like that, but I can think about that without getting that reaction, although she had personal issues with vulnerability). No, I feel panicky when I think about being numb from the chest down, and if I couldn’t see my body, I couldn’t know what they were doing to me, or whether I was frog-legged, spread-eagle, or having my legs amputated.
I have no memory of anything that would make this feeling make sense, but it’s possible that my body remembers something that my mind can’t recall. I was born with ventricular septal defect, diagnosed with “failure to thrive” at my 6-week checkup, taken to a cardiologist the next day and diagnosed with VSD, and operated on when I was about 3 months old and again when I was about 3 years old. The first surgery was to let me live long enough so that they could do the second surgery, but I assume that by now they would be able to just do one operation — technology is amazing! Anyway, I don’t remember either surgery, although I do remember bits and pieces of being in the hospital when I was 3. I had yearly checkups until I was 8 or so, and had to go back to the hospital for those. I don’t hate hospitals (although I don’t want to give birth there); in fact, there is part of me that feels at home in hospitals — but to tell the truth, when they made hospitals look all warm and fuzzy, I liked them less, which I can only assume is because my first strong impression of hospitals was favorable, and they were much more institutional in appearance back then.
But is it possible that my body remembers being immobilized and operated on? I’m beginning to think so. And now, I will stop thinking and reminiscing and pondering, because this is actually a very uncomfortable post for me, and I’ve felt a tightness in my chest the whole time I’ve been typing this. I guess it’s a good thing I’m a fast typist! 🙂 As this post fades away from my thoughts, so too does the tightness from my chest. Weird.