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/

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lisa's Story

I am a survivor of both childhood sexual abuse and Rape as a young adult, but I am so much more than that. I am a woman, a mother, a wife, and a daughter. I am a soul. I have had many experiences in my life, some of which have been incredibly painful, some of which have been amazingly joyous. I have experienced love and hate, acceptance and rejection, protection and violation and so much more; so much that words escape me. As I write this, I ask myself, “What can I share? What can I offer?”

I can tell you that I have been on a healing journey for a longtime. Some of my healing has been specific to recovering from sexual abuse. Most of my healing has been about discovering me. My journey has been about seeking, and so, it has been a necessary and an important part of my process to move beyond the labeling of "survivor". Sure, I have had to admit and face the fact that I have been violated sexually. And in doing so I have learned that violation has many forms and presents in the subtlest of ways. Violation is self-hate, self-abuse, criticism, betrayal, deception, manipulation, judgment, cruelty, hostility, and all the places in my soul that I have separated from. I have learned that it doesn't t really matter, in the long run, what form violation takes, whether it is blatant or subtle, violation impacts the spirit regardless. It is the spirit, along with the wounded child, that needs attention and healing. It is through connection to my spirit that I have found healing.

My journey has been a journey to find myself, to become whole again, to reclaim all the parts of me that I either denied, cast aside, or was just unconscious of. It has been a journey to reclaim who I am in all my flaws and divinity and to learn to like that person. It has been a journey of self-discovery through self-responsibility - a process of looking at all the experiences I have had, both painful and joyous, and seeing the choices I have made and the intentions I have held, then seeing how I have created these experiences and finding the reasons for doing so. It has not been easy. It is not easy or pleasant to look at a painful experience and ask- "For what reason did I bring that into my life?” It is incredibly challenging to look at a person who has been cruel and unloving and ask - " What in me brings that person's hate or cruelty to me?” But these are questions that have been instrumental for me because they have been freeing. They have taken me away from being a victim and maintaining a position as a victim, and brought me back to myself.

A main part of my journey back to wholeness has been my work with a spiritual helper. Doing my healing through a spiritual path has broadened my perspective about everything and shaken up my perspective about everything. I have learned about spiritual law (self-responsibility, brotherhood/sisterhood, cause and effect), when in my life I am aligned with spiritual law, when I am disconnected, and what manifests. Some of the most intense work I have done is with a woman in Toronto, named Sagewalker.

She has offered a transformative process called, “Stages of Initiation, Divine Sexuality,” which focuses on one's expression of sexuality, to see where one is connected and disconnected from God. My personal work with Sage has been so helpful. I actually feel that I am reclaiming who I am. I actually feel that I am disconnecting more and more from those places in me that were drawn to, attached to, and connected to abuse. She has helped me to see the gifts in the challenges and helped me to honor and hold sacred the lessons that life brings to me. She has helped me to have compassion and love for myself.

When I think of myself as a mother, it is very clear that motherhood has been instrumental in my healing. The challenges and blessing that I have experienced as a mother are not only a part of my larger journey back to wholeness. They are also clearly related to my recovery from sexual abuse. When I contemplate how motherhood relates to my recovery from sexual abuse, I immediately think about the birth of my first child, my son. Before his actual birth, I still had the association of sex as violation. After he was born, I was able to see and feel the connection between sex/intercourse and life. I remember thinking to myself, " So this is what sex is meant for." It was as if the violation of rape dissolved once my son emerged from my body. It was so incredible and so freeing. It was amazing how immediate the letting go process was once I had a different association. I feel so grateful for that experience. Now that he is older, six and a half, I am aware of how important it is for me to teach him how to honor someone's boundaries and how to respect the word “NO.” I often ask myself how to teach him these important life lessons without tainting it with my own wounds or projecting my perpetrator onto him.

The issues and challenges that come up for me with my daughter are totally different than those with my son. I am acutely aware of how people respond to her. I have an overwhelming need to protect her and keep her safe physically. I want to insure that she likes her body, that she not experience shame about her sexuality or femininity. I wish for her to experience herself in a way that I did not experience as a child and that I am still seeking to experience as an adult. I also ask myself how I can bring my gifts and wisdom to her and show the world to her through the woman's eyes, rather than through the wounds.

One thing for sure about having kids, they bring up so much. Just when I thought I had it all figured out and all worked through, my kids remind me that I am still healing, and that my journey continues.

Today, as I reflect on my words to you, I have faith that I can heal and find the pleasure and self-love that I have been seeking for so long. I wish each and every one of you the best as you continue your own healing.

No comments: