The road to parenthood is a sacred life passage for all to go through it, filled with unforgettable joys, intense trials, and so many surprises! The need for support along the journey is often under-acknowledged in our culture, and therefore largely unmet. The messages expectant and new parents receive have the potential to lead to a happy, empowering journey, or one where their fears and negative images can overtake a time that should be full of love and wonder.
For the survivor of sexual abuse, any number of physical sensations, social interactions or emotional experiences could come as a sudden shock. Or maybe they could serve to “validate” the painful, damaging messages you’ve received over the years, which may have even morphed into your own critical, self-loathing voice. It could come at any stage: anywhere from pre-conception, through pregnancy, birth and/or breastfeeding. And it could manifest in any number of ways, as the many physical sensations, emotions and interactions with medical professionals (“authority figures”) raise ghosts from the past, or even trigger anxiety or panic attacks.
And too often, the needs of survivors go unrecognized, leaving them without support when they’re likely to need it most. In this series of blogs posts, we’ll be delving into how the road to parenthood can be affected by a woman’s history of abuse, and how she may experience:
*Pre-conception, as fertility challenges that may result from prior infection or scarring, or maybe even worse, “unexplained” infertility that leaves you confused, even less trusting of your body’s wisdom – and that critical, self-loathing voice? Oh my – it’s even meaner and louder than ever;
*Pregnancy, as any number of physical symptoms and sensations can trigger anxiety or panic associated with being “out of control”;
*Labor and birth, when that “out of control” anxiety ramps up to a whole new level as the power of labor and birth takes on a life of its own – a challenge for ALL women – but for survivors of sexual abuse, can take you to unhealed places you may have thought you’d worked through, or maybe you’d even “forgotten” about…but your body tells a different story.
*Postpartum and breastfeeding, a time that can be challenging for any woman – and for the sexual abuse survivor, it can result in intense, even dangerous, postpartum mood disorders, flashbacks, paranoia and hyper-vigilance for your baby’s safety.
“It” could be any or all of the above: Unwelcome intrusions, ALL, into the most sacred season of a woman’s or couple’s life.
OR…with awareness, compassion, competence, and the right support, this sacred season can serve as a powerfully healing time, when a woman reclaims her bodily sovereignty, personal power, and her right to experience the full range of power and pleasure inherent in conceiving, gestating, giving birth and feeding her precious baby at her own breast.
I’m Anita Butler, owner of Sacred Season MotherCare. I’ve been working with women in the childbearing season since 1992, having attended over 250 births, prepared many hundreds to give birth calmly, safely and gently with HypnoBirthing, served scores of families as a postpartum doula, and consulted with thousands as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Working so “up close and personal” with so many women brings the horrifying statistics to life: Somewhere between 25% and 40% – some even claim 60% – of adult women have been sexually abused some time during childhood or more recently. Most of the time, the abuser was someone she should have been able to trust (father or father figure, brother, cousin, neighbor, etc.), who taught her so many cruel “life lessons:” that she can’t trust her own perceptions, because someone she knew – maybe loved and trusted – violated that love and trust, and may have even threatened her or someone else she loved if she “talked;” she may have learned to expect physical and/or emotional pain with intimacy; her power to establish her own personal boundaries was likely decimated; she may have learned that her emotional and physical survival depend on her acquiescence – or any number of other, equally damaging “life lessons.” She very well may have painfully ambiguous feelings about motherhood, part of herself deeply desiring to be a mother, while at the same time terrified at the thought, doubting her ability to raise a child or keep a child safe.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
My calling and passion – the thing I cannot NOT do – is to empower women during this transformational time in their life, so their journey into motherhood is characterized by confidence, wisdom and grace.
My mission in this series of blog posts is to preemptively diffuse a potentially anxiety-provoking experience, if you haven’t yet gotten to the point in your life where you want to start a family. And if you HAVE already entered this season of life, and were shocked or dismayed to find that the experience you dreamed of was hijacked by your body’s cellular memories or your own unhealed emotions, you’ll find validation here: that there’s nothing “wrong” with you. And that your journey into motherhood is calling you into deeper healing, stronger intuition, and renewed (or possibly “brand new”) self-compassion and unconditional love.
I’m a seasoned teacher, doula, hypnotherapist and lactation consultant. But even though I’ve worked with hundreds of abuse survivors in real life, I still learn from these amazing women, who continue to inspire and humble me! My “mission” in these blog posts is to share what I’ve learned so far in a way that honors the journey of so many, and that by doing so, you will benefit.
I do hope you’ll come along, as we delve – however imperfectly – into the various ways a survivor might experience conception/fertility challenges, pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding: the possible triggers and the physical and emotional scars or unhealed wounds. Most importantly, I want you to see…no, I want you to KNOW IN YOUR BONES how this life journey can serve your highest good – and that of your family. I want you to see how you can take the healing work you’ve done in your head and in your heart, bring it into your body, and back again, coming full circle, making you even stronger, more confident, more joyful, and more loving than ever before.
I can’t wait till we’re together again.
Much love – Anita