Welcome to the survivor moms speak out blog!

While practicing full-time as a community-based midwife, I had the opportunity to work with many women who were survivors, either of childhood sexual trauma, rape, or both. The experience of being their midwife, and witnessing their challenges and triumphs encouraged me to learn more about the effects of trauma on the body, and on the experience of childbearing specifically. So just as I felt "called" to practice midwifery, I felt "called" to shed light on issues that survivor moms face during the process of becoming a mother. That calling led me to begin the "Survivor Moms Speak Out" project. We surveyed many women who were both moms and survivors; and 81 of those women completed a narrative or contributed a poem for the book "Survivor Moms: Women's Stories of Birthing, Mothering, and Healing after Sexual Abuse."
Read more about the book, or order a copy, at http://www.midwiferytoday.com/books/survivormoms.asp.

Because of space constraints, not all of the narratives that women contributed to the book project were able to appear in full in the final version of the book. So I would like to take the opportunity to share some of the whole narratives in this blog, featuring a narrative at a time.
About reading survivor stories:
Although the stories are encouraging because they represent survivors’ triumphs over adversity, they can also to be hard to read, because of the intensity of the issues and events. I encourage you to check in with yourself while reading survivor stories, especially if you are a survivor of past trauma, and limit your exposure if you become “triggered”. Feeling triggered might take several different forms. You might start re-experiencing a past trauma you have had before, by not being able to stop thinking about it, or dreaming about, or just feeling like it is happening all over again. You may feel distress or have physical symptoms like feeling your heart race or sweating. If you start to experience these things, you may benefit from talking to someone who understands how trauma works and how to help you with post-traumatic symptoms.

To read more about trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder you can check out the National Center for PTSD website: http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/.

The Sidran Foundation offers an information and a referral resource on-line: http://www.sidran.org/

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tara's Story

I firmly believe that my faith has helped me in the healing process; it has made all of the difference in the world, because without God, I am nothing. This may at first seem as though I have zero self-confidence, but it is God Who makes me strong. There is no way on earth that I could have survived by myself the things that I went through as a child, and the things that I am going through now as an adult as a result. Only God could have given me the strength to endure. Many would ask, "Where was God when you were going through all of that?" I reply to that, "He was right next to me crying because someone that He created was being hurt by someone else that He created." God did not create the human race as robots. He gave each of us a free will. We have the right to choose what we do and do not do. Many of us, however, live as though we are alone. As though what we do has no effect on those around us. When we do anything, good or evil, it will have an effect on someone else. We do not always have a say in what happens to us in life. Sometimes we are hurt or suffer because we do foolish things. On the other hand, there are times that we suffer because of the thoughtlessness, selfishness, or sin of someone else. We can't control that. We live in this world, and there are many evil people in it, unfortunately. We do, however, have control over our reactions to what happens to us in life.

This is where my faith in God comes into the picture. I am a born-again Christian. I have a personal relationship with God. I don't just know ABOUT Him; I know HIM. He is my Father. I can go to Him at any time with anything and He understands. He will never turn me away, nor will He ever hurt me. I find in Him true love. He never disappoints me.

When I was fourteen years old I was molested several times by my stepfather. Compared to some of the things that you have read, my abuse was 'mild.' I don't say this to excuse the attacker or to downplay what happened, but in true thankfulness that it was not worse than it was. I know there are many women and girls who have lived through much worse, and my heart breaks for them. This put in me a fear and a mistrust, only I didn't really know it at the time. I had accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when I was only five, so I already had a relationship with Him when all of this was going on. I would pray for His help and protection. I learned ways of not being alone with my dad. Yet at the same time, I desperately needed someone who would take his place. The Lord provided that in my junior high teacher. I never told him what had happened. It never really occurred to me TO tell. But he took me under his wing, and he unknowingly became a surrogate father. I would go to him for advice about all kinds of things, and somehow I knew that he would understand. Of course, having four daughters of his own helped. I would talk to him about boys and school and home. Everything that daughters should be able to say to their dads. He helped me to realize that not all men are bad and
hurtful. There are good men in the world.

The way that things were for me was not God's perfect will for my life, that I know. It was not his will that I had need to find a father figure. His will was for my own dad to do that. Since this was not the case, He lovingly provided someone to fill those shoes. And there were other men. When I went to Bible college, I had good professors who were godly men that loved God and their families. I could see that they too were what God expected men to be. I began to grow and flourish while there. However, I still was not aware of the scars that I bore because of the abuse. My abuse was not something that lasted over years. I was molested maybe five times. I am able to recall in vivid detail what took place. I remember finally telling my mom. So I thought that it was over. Although I can remember, it was not something that was always in my mind. I can remember, but I forget too, if that makes sense. God just helps me not to think about it.

While in Bible college, I met the man who is now my husband. We became friends his first year of college, and began dating three years after that. In November of 1996 we were married. There is nothing that I have kept from my husband. He knows all that has happened to me, and all that I have ever done. Our early-married life was great. We had no problems and were madly in love. However, after four months of marriage, I began having problems having orgasms. This was unusual. It had never been a problem for us. But because I still enjoyed sex, I didn't really think it was that big of a deal. After all, most women have problem with that some time or other. I became pregnant two months after that, and we waited happily for the baby to arrive. He was born in February 1998, and I loved motherhood. The birth experience itself made me feel powerful and womanly, and I was proud of my body. But a couple of months later I went to a ladies' retreat at the church I attended while in college, and one of the sessions was about abuse.

My husband and I were still having problems sexually, but I really didn't think it was because of the abuse. I didn't think about any of that when we were together. But during the retreat, my eyes were opened to what had really happened and how that now affected me. I cried for the first time about the abuse. I cried for the childhood that I had lost and the joy that I was missing in my marriage as a result. But this was the beginning of my time to heal.

That was two years ago now, and we now have another son. Both were conceived in times of passion in spite of the problems. Beautiful signs from God that life is still a gift. That there can be blessings in the pain. The first year, my husband and I almost never had sex. I began to relive things and even holding hands made me want to throw up. Anything that even whispered of sex repulsed me. It was a slow climb up. I was advised by a therapist who 'specializes' in sexual abuse to not have sex for as long as it took. But how do you tell a 23 year old newly married man that sex is off limits? She had been horribly abused as a child. I only spoke to her twice, and though I did not really agree, it aided the healing to speak aloud what had happened to me. I was not the guilty party. She also reinforced forgiveness, which is so important.

I know God wants me to forgive, and with his help I have. Some days I have to forgive all over again. It is an ongoing process. I was also not too keen on not having sex for the rest of my married life. I refused to accept that something that God had made to be a beautiful expression of love between a man and his wife could not be wonderful for us again. And so we began praying. And praying. And praying. I prayed that God would give me even the slightest desire or pleasure for and from my husband. I also had to accept that God commanded me in His Word to fulfill my husband’s needs. We may want to deny it, but men are sexual beings. And so I decided to be obedient to God and asked for Him to bless me as a result. Any time I felt the least bit turned on, I would pounce on my husband, because he was too afraid to hurt me. God blessed me with a wonderfully caring and patient husband. I could not have gotten through this without him. He put my need of NO sex before his need OF sex. There are not many men like him. Interestingly, it seemed that the more I talked about it, the more I began to heal.

To me, my faith in the Lord includes trusting that if I am obedient to Him, He will bless me. I was obedient in forgiving my attacker, and I was obedient in meeting the needs of my husband, physical or otherwise. We have in two years gone from no sex, to having very passionate sex. I believed God when He said that sex was beautiful. No one is going to steal that from my husband and me. We still have a ways to go. It seems that my libido rises and falls with my cycle, but this seems normal to me. I praise the Lord that now it is not a chore, nor is it repulsive, but is instead the beautiful act that God intended for it to be. If we do anything out of God's will, we will have problems. That is why sex in marriage is blessed. Sex outside of marriage always causes problems.

To learn more, order Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse

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