Survivor Moms: After the Birth
Hi! Mickey Sperlich here, sitting in for Jan’s blog one more time. I was sharing with you about the forthcoming book “Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse.” In addition to the chapters on “Life before Motherhood”, “Pregnancy”, and “Labor & Birth”, we’ve included chapters on “Postpartum & Breastfeeding”, “Mothering & Attachment”, and “Healing & Survivorship”. Like I mentioned before, what the survivor moms who contributed to this book had to say about their lives as mothers went far beyond the experience of pregnancy and birth. Indeed, as I’m sure many of you have either experienced or shared with your clients, getting the baby born, difficult as that can be sometimes, in the final analysis turns out to be the easy part! Until those babes come out with detailed, easy-to-follow instruction manuals, we are on our own when it comes to figuring out how to parent! For any woman, making the transition to motherhood can be complicated. For moms who are also survivors of sexual abuse, further challenges can present.
Our postpartum and breastfeeding chapter is devoted to helping survivor moms figure out their immediate and practical needs during the postpartum period. These needs include processing their birth, especially if it was experienced as traumatic or triggering, learning the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, and figuring out how to get the practical, daily help they will need in place and working. We look at what supports are available for women, including peers, community, and therapy, and how a survivor mom can go about figuring out trustworthy individuals with which to share her burdens. The vast majority of the moms who contributed to this book had the desire to breastfeed, yet it was very challenging for many of the moms. We address the specific needs a survivor might have around breastfeeding, and offer expert advice for clinicians who assist moms.
Becoming attached to your child may seem like the most natural thing...unless you have had a disordered attachment yourself, and have had no good role modeling for what healthy relationships look like. In the Mothering & Attachment chapter, moms share their struggles with their relationships with their children, and their fears about keeping them safe from harm. They share the challenges of trying to be a good mother and at the same time create time and reserve energy to care for their own mental health. They worry about becoming abusers themselves (though most do not) and how to go about breaking the cycle of violence that has been passed down to them. And they report joyous moments which make motherhood a significant part of their healing journey.
The last chapter of our book is all about what survivors have to say about their healing journeys in general, and different aspects of survivorship. They talk about their relationships with family and friends, and therapies that have proved to be most helpful to them. They offer advice about what good therapy looks like. We share further advice from respected therapists who work with survivors about what to look for in a therapeutic relationship, and some common issues that arise for survivors who are in therapy. Women tell us about how being a volunteer, or an activist, or a caregiver to other women, is an important part of their healing journey. And above all, the women offer many words of encouragement to their sisters on the journey who are struggling, underscoring one of the most important messages that all survivors need to hear: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Many others share your struggle. Many women have experienced the most horrible kinds of abuse have become caring and competent mothers who raise their children in loving, safe homes, and do everything they can to end the cycle of violence. With help, everything is possible.
I have been so honored to learn from these women’s stories, and I am so excited to FINALLY get a chance to share their stories with all of you. I hope that you will read this book and learn from these women’s lives. And I hope that you will find healing in your own life. Thank you so much, Jan, and thank you so much, everybody at Midwifery Today and Motherbaby Press, for facilitating this sharing. I look forward to seeing everyone at the Hope & Healing conference in May!