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, September 30, 2008

Rebecca’s Story

Do you remember the day Elvis died? I’ll never forget it. I was nine years old. My rapist was 22. I knew him from the neighborhood. That afternoon I ran into him, and he told me that his cat had given birth to kittens. Did I want to see them?

Nine-year-olds can be too trusting. Elvis was dead, and so was my innocence.

He said that I had teased him. I didn’t understand. I thought teasing was what I did to my little sister. He threatened that same little sister if I told anyone.

“Steve” had a cold-water flat apartment. After he raped me, I remember walking downstairs to the community bathroom. I found a white washcloth and tried to clean myself. I scrubbed my skin raw. There was so much blood. I left the washcloth in the sink. It would never be white again.

“Steve” moved out the next day. Now, no one would ever believe me, even if I did tell.

I kept my mouth shut for years. I was 12 before I knew that there were names for what had happened to me. Rape. Child molestation.

By then, I had learned a lot. Suspicion, mistrust. I was a master at shutting down, and being “dead” inside. My secret had eaten away at me.

As a teenager, I learned that by using my body, I held power and control over men.

Eighteen years later, my husband and I were expecting our first child. I was thrilled, but also secretly terrified. I was losing control over the body that I had spent so many years learning to control. I was terrified of ripping during childbirth. The thought of an episiotomy gave me panic attacks. Please, God, don’t let anyone cut me there. The dark places in my head had convinced me that my child would be born “damaged.” All my “badness” would finally be shown to the world.

My son, and then 15 months later, my daughter, was born perfectly healthy. They were big, beautiful, perfect babies. God didn’t hate me. He had blessed me. All my shame, inhibitions, mistrusts, my fears... they were gone.

I held my newborn son, and put him to my breast. My body, the one that I had always thought so horrible, had given birth. Now it would sustain the life of my child. There are no words to explain the depth of that feeling.

Almost five years have passed. I have high self-esteem. I am a confident woman. I love myself. I give all the credit of my emotional healing and well being to the birth and breastfeeding of my babies.

Ten years ago, I would never have believed that I could do these wonderful things. I was so wrong.


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

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