Today I am honored to post an anonymous guest piece by a brave mother who has decided to share her experience with her journey in healing from sexual abuse.
Healing Sexual Abuse through Birth and Breastfeeding
I have been wanting to write this post for some time now. Fear has been holding me back. Fear of what others might think of me. Fear of opening up. Fear of being exposed. But of the many lessons I have learned in the past three years, one of the most important ones is that these are not my skeletons. I do not have to feel ashamed for other peoples mistakes. I think of other women who may be struggling, hurting, feeling alone, and if I could help even one feel like they weren’t so alone it would be worth it.
Each of my three births changed me in a way I never had expected.
A little over four years ago I was pregnant with my first baby, sitting in an OB’s office filling out paper work. One of the questions made my heart start to race. “Have you ever been a victim of sexual abuse?” My pen lingered over the yes circle. I looked over at the nurse sitting at the computer. “What would she think of me if I told the truth?” I thought to myself. “What does it matter?”
It took me off guard. My whole life I had been ashamed of the fact that I had been sexually abused. I was ashamed of my body. I was ashamed of myself. I was broken. I remember opening up to a friend and having her shutter in disgust, telling me she didn’t want to hear anymore. And now I was expected just like that to hang my dirty laundry in front of a whole office staff? I wondered if they would still take me as a client. I quickly circled no and finished the rest of the questions.
After 24 hours of labor my nurse checked me and told me that I was complete. I was ready to meet my little boy. A few moments later my doctor walked in the room. I was leaning over the edge of the hospital bed and immediately flipped around. The hospital gown wasn’t doing a good job at covering my back side and I was suddenly very aware of it. I had heard other women say that when you are in labor you just don’t care who sees what. But I cared. I cared when I was pushing and there were 20 people in the room I didn’t know. I felt so exposed, I felt vulnerable, I felt afraid. I pushed with everything I had to get that moment over as quickly as possible. They placed my beautiful little boy on my chest and everyone disappeared from my consciousness. I was in complete euphoria. I counted his toes, I counted his fingers, I stared at his little lips searching for my breast. I quickly unbuttoned my gown and he started to nurse. For the first time in my life I was not ashamed of my body. Look what I did! Look what I was doing! This tiny little human looked up at me with the most pure love that exists.
I started to feel a bit of anxiety, thinking about how I was to be this small humans only source of nourishment, and how once again my body wasn’t mine.
I had thought to myself many times how one forgets about abuse. How a person moves on and doesn’t let it effect them anymore. Looking down at this little man, and feeling how much love I had for him the answer was clear, I found someone else to live for. I found a new purpose for your body. A purpose so pure, so perfect, a divine purpose.
16 months later I was filling out paperwork again. And there was that question. That question that gave me so much anxiety. This time I was going to deliver with midwives. I had a false sense of security with them. I felt like since they were women, and the birthing environment would be more intimate, I wouldn’t have to worry about the triggers I experienced with my first birth.
After 15 hours of labor I was almost complete. The only people in the room were my husband and the student midwife. I was feeling very calm, and relaxed. The student was checking me to feel how far along I was and for the first time in my labor I felt pain. The senior midwife walked in the room and the student informed her I had a cervical lip she was holding down for me. I felt violated. She was doing something to my body that was hurting me, and she did not have my permission. Why was I not informed about what was going on with my body. Soon the lip was gone and I pushed baby #2 out into the water, reaching down to pull him up to my chest. Pure love washed over me once again. The weeks that followed I recounted my birth over and over again in my mind. I was confused why I didn’t feel as good about my body. That little breach in informed consent was enough to make me feel like my body wasn’t my own.
12 months after that I was feeling out paper work again. I knew the question was coming this time. As a matter of fact, I had thought about it the second I found out I was pregnant again. I read the question while my husband was busy wrestling our other two boys. I took a deep breathe and circled yes. A weight was lifted off my shoulder. A weight that wasn’t mine. I thought my midwife would have all sorts of questions for me. But she didn’t have many. Just a few that I heard at every prenatal, and during my labor.
“MAY I touch your stomach?”
“MAY I feel for baby?”
“MAY I check you?”
Why did those words mean so much to me? It sent a very clear message, my body belonged to ME, and no one else had a right to touch it without my permission,
My third birth rocked my world. My third son was born 41 hours after my water broke. It was long, it was intense, and there were times I felt like my body was failing me. But I had many hands to lift me up. To encourage and inspire me. To remind me to trust my body, and my baby.
Once again I was getting ready to push. I was surrounded by people I trusted completely. I was not ashamed. I was not afraid. I did not feel vulnerable. I did not feel exposed.
I felt safe. I felt loved. I felt EMPOWERED.
Moments later I held my third baby boy in my arms. I didn’t know it was possible to love so much. To have my heart grow so much with each baby. As my heart grew I found more motivation to focus on the future instead of the past. My third birth healed me in a way I never thought was possible.
I was in control of my body. My body was amazing. My body was strong. My past is my past. It is not apart of me. My babies are a part of me. They are my future. A future where I am no longer ashamed of my body, because I know what it is capable of.