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/

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kathy's Story

I’m not a writer, so I will just start from the beginning. I am the youngest of three children, a brother and a sister. My mother’s third husband was the man who abused me and, later I found out, my sister. He adopted the three of us while we were living in Germany. I remember he used to take pictures of my sister and me when he was dating my mother. I think I was about six.

As far as I knew, he was my father. He was in the Air Force, so we moved a lot. We had moved to California, and it was there that the abuse started. I was about eight. I don’t remember a lot, just some fondling at first. He used to have Playboy Magazines around all the time. I don’t think Mom knew about them.

When I was about 11, we got transferred to Germany. The abuse got more frequent there. Then, when I was 14, we got transferred to Texas. The abuse really became bad there. There was so much going on with my brother and other things, that some of it is blurry. There was a lot of fondling, and he used to suck on my breasts a lot.

At that time, I was feeling so bad about myself that I started to drink, and do drugs, and hang around some shady characters. My sister got married when she was 18 to get out of the house. He used to blackmail me, saying he would tell my mother about things I did if I didn’t let him do stuff to me. He used to watch me put tampons in.

I had to go to the hospital because I had a staph infection in my left breast that had burst. The doctors said I was too young to have that, and assumed I was sexually active. I never said a word. I remember I used to pick at my breasts and make sores so he would leave me alone. It didn’t work.

My mother had to go into the hospital at one time, and I was in a panic because I had to stay at home with him, by myself. It was a feeling of sheer terror. I will never forget it. He would climb into bed with me, and do things. I used to drink beer before I went to school, and some dope, and did a lot of drugs. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I was abused every day, several times a day. I was scared when my sister got married, because I would be the only one with him.

I had sex for the first time at 15, and hated it, but I continued to have sex with a lot of men. I spent a little time in jail, a lot of time drunk and high. I hated myself and everybody else. I would hurt people on purpose.

My healing has been long and hard. My father was accused of molesting two of his other stepdaughters. I told my mother about it, and she somehow figured out he had done it to me. I had never said anything to her. I was about 23 at the time. She called the OSI of the Air Force and told them. Somehow I was convinced to testify against him, and was the only one. I was flown to a base in Kansas, and had a guard with me at all times. I had to tell eight men what he had done to me, in great detail. It was all coming back so fast; I had a breakdown. We won, but all that happened to him was he lost all eight stripes, benefits, and retirement. That was it! I was devastated!

I came back to Texas to try to get a grip on things. I saw two counselors. I was suicidal, and homicidal, at the time. I was so messed up. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I used to pray to God that when I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up.

I slowly became better and met Russell, who is now my husband. We have two daughters, aged 10 and 11. They are my life.

But it has been difficult for me. I was afraid to have children; because I was worried I might abuse them, which has not happened. I am over-protective at times. I watch every man that comes near them.

I became a Christian a few years ago, and went through a course, Covenant Healing. It has helped me a lot. I’m over the abuse itself, but the effects are never going to go away. I’m learning things at 38 that I should have learned at 8 or 10. I have had a hard time knowing what it’s like to be 9 or 10. I can’t relate to my girls that way. They don’t know about the abuse, but I will tell them sometime. I don’t know what is normal for a family. I guess a lot. I do know I don’t want to be like my mother, so I try hard not to be.

There are things I don’t know how to deal with. On Friday afternoon, the girls wanted their cousin to stay the night, but she was busy, and so were the other friends they called. They were bored, and acted like they lost their best friend. I didn’t know what to do! My first thought was that nobody liked them, that it was my fault. I didn’t know what to do. I felt so sorry for them.

The questions I have are so stupid, I feel. Like, what do I do when they have a problem at school? How am I supposed to act? How do I play with them? How do I relate?

When my oldest daughter had a problem with a boy at school, I didn’t know what to do. I called a friend. I thought I should go to his mother and confront her! But my friend told me what I should do. The solution was so easy, but I didn’t know it. What I’m saying is, it has affected me in the way I react, act, and solve situations. I don’t know what it was like to be a normal kid, so I don’t know how to handle it. I try my best, and think I am doing a fairly good job. I try to teach my girls to love themselves, be kind, and treat everyone they way they want to be treated. I believe I have broken the cycle of abuse in my family, and I believe they have a good life.

I’m growing up with them, learning what I should have learned. I have gone on with my life, and can enjoy it. My faith in God has really helped me. The abuse doesn’t control me like it once did. I control it, and the way it affects me. It will take a lot of pain, tears, anger, more pain, tears, and anger, patience, courage, and a strong will, and a lot of hope. But if I can make it, anybody can.

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