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 12, 2008

Trixie's Story

You can call me Trixie. I am a writer, born in the south, where I lived until the age of four years old. Dad was offered a better job with better wages, so off to the north we went, Michigan, so I really don’t remember those times in the south. I was told that Dad was more than happy to be moving from the south. That’s what my grandmother used to always say, it was more for me ‘cause I was born sickly and needed medical care.’

From the time of age four until the age of 13, my dad was molesting me. From the age of 15 to the age of 21, I was molested by my mother-aunt’s lovers, who were also very secretly involved in ritual abuse in the town where we lived. From the time of infancy to the time I left home, I was sexually abused, subject to tortuous ritual abuse.

I was just 12 years old and got pregnant by my dad. Being so young and not all that educated on sexuality at all, I didn’t even know that I was carrying my dad’s child, and if I did I wasn’t connected to myself. All I knew was that my stomach was growing bigger and bigger, my period ceased, and I had no one to turn to. Terrified and wanting my period to come, not wanting my mother-aunt to be angry with me, I tried very hard to give myself my own abortion. I got the idea from seeing a movie about women trying the same thing. I don’t remember the name; I just know that it made an impact on me. Not knowing that this was TV and people need to go to a doctor to have something like this done, all I knew was that I was terrified, and had to do something. I went into the bathroom with a coat hanger and stuck it up and down inside my vagina until I started to see blood. Thinking that I had gotten rid of what was growing inside of me, I felt scared, but I also felt a big relief, or so I thought. I really had not gotten rid of the baby at all. In a couple of months, I gave birth to my daughter. My mother-aunt had her delivered at home, she being a certified nurse.

I never had a chance to bond with the daughter I gave birth to. She was taken away from me right away. She was raised to believe that I was her sister. My mother-aunt raised her as if she gave birth to her. I wish she really had given birth to her because of the way she was conceived. I hated her. Raped by my dad, she had no chance of ever getting any love from me. She was born in 1967; I was only 12, just a child myself. I can say that she was a beautiful child, and I was so scared of her that every time she cried, I would disconnect from myself and it would be a new day.

By 1970, I was pregnant again. This one did not live. It was aborted by cult members, so once again there wasn’t any bonding.

Two years later, I gave birth to a son. Once again I tried to give myself my own abortion, but I failed. This baby was conceived by one of my mother-aunt’s lovers, and the baby boy was taken right away from me. To this day, I don’t know what happened to him. This pattern continued.

I did have one mishap, and that was I did have a miscarriage. To this day, I believe that was from the abortions I had. That was in 1978. I do have to say that deep in my heart I felt that I wasn’t ever to have children of my own.

My abuse started when I was four years old, and it ended the day I left home at the age of 21, carrying my mother-aunt’s lover’s baby. But this time I didn’t care. I had finally found someone who truly loved me, loved me enough to ask me to marry him. I never told anyone that I was pregnant again; for fear that they would take this baby too. I think that because I was getting married, I truly wanted to keep this baby, but my biggest fear was that I couldn’t let my husband know I was pregnant, because it wasn’t his, and I feared that he wouldn’t marry me. That is something I have carried with me for all of these years.

My daughter was born in December. My husband and I married in July, six months after she was born. He fell in love with her right away. Me, on the other hand, I was so scared. I knew not one thing about taking care of a baby. Since all of the other babies were taken away from me, I felt this one would be too. I remember in the delivery room, I watched what everyone was doing, and made sure that my baby girl was very close by, and that no harm came to her, but my doctor said that everything was just fine.

Back then, you gave birth, and the baby was cleaned, and you were cleaned. You rested in your room and the baby was put in the nursery so that the mother could get some rest. So, once again the baby was taken away until it was time to feed the child. Other than that, they did the rest. They did ask if you were going to breast feed or do the bottle. I chose the bottle.

The doctors informed me that I was carrying a tumor about the size of a grapefruit, and that they would have to do surgery right away. They did, and that meant more time in the hospital. That was a relief for me; because I had no idea how I was to care for this tiny creature that God had blessed me with.

Two weeks later, we were to go home and start our happy family. For the first week, all I could do was cry and cry. I never felt so depressed and alone, even though I wasn’t alone, at least not in the sense I was feeling. I couldn’t explain to anyone what I was feeling. One minute I wanted my baby; the next I couldn’t stand the sight of her. Or, the fear would come over me that she would be taken from me. I made a promise to myself that if I was to ever have a child, a daughter, I would never let her out of my sight, and no harm would come to her. That promise I kept. Just because I was treated so horrible and knew that I was never to be touched or love, I felt this was how I was to treat my daughter. I also knew that this couldn’t be right either.

My daughter was getting older. I was growing to love her more and more each day. What went with that love were also no boundaries and an over-protective mother who would never let her out of my sight. She would never have a spanking by me, and that would include my husband, or family members on my husband’s side.

By this time I had no contact with the family that raised me, and they had none with me. Just as I am sitting here writing this and thinking, trying so hard to forget my own childhood, and the bonding that I never had with my real mother or father. It’s been in the last year that I learned that the woman that raised me wasn’t my real mother at all, but my aunt. What I have been told is that my real mother couldn’t keep me. Being raised in the south, young girls that got pregnant had to be married so as not to bring shame on the family name, so my real mother was sent away to have me, and the old sister that was married was to raise me.

They both got more than they could handle, for I was born with a very rare disability, which I was told was a curse on my real mother, for what she had done.

So, having my baby daughter, I would have to say, was very hard, and the bonding was almost too overbearing for me to deal with. I know deep down in my heart that if I had been loved, and touched the natural way that mothers are supposed to have when they bring life into the world . . . but sometimes that can be hard when you have no one in your life to show you or tell you that this is the way it is to be done.

I am not saying that I was a bad mother, because I wasn’t. But I do feel that I could have been a much better mother if I had not had the kind of abuse that I had to experience, and someone to show me what to do. My daughter and I have somewhat of a relationship. We are not as close as I wish we could be, but one thing I can say is that I did the best that I knew how, and that’s okay.

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

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