The pain of sexual abuse is a topic many people don't often connect to childbirth, but there are profound implications for a woman that has endured this type of abuse. She may be approaching childbirth with great fear and trepidation because of something painful that took place in her past. She may be absolutely terrified of the pain she is likely to feel in the most private areas of her body and mind or she may have very real fears about being totally exposed in front of others that she barely knows. As I surveyed women, this topic came up as did the worry about having a doctor who would be "gruff," harsh, or insensitive with them. (I'm thankful I never had this at any of my births, but I have heard other stories from women who sadly did not have the same experience.)
Childbirth is a profoundly intimate time, which is one reason why I am always so honored to have the opportunity to serve women at their births. But in cases where a woman has endured sexual trauma, my role as doula is even more crucial.
If you are reading this and you relate to this topic, I'm so deeply sorry. My heart aches for you and what you have gone through. Here are a few things that I hope and pray will help you as you prepare to deliver your baby.
First, and I think most importantly, seek professional counseling, but only from someone that specializes in sexual abuse and trauma. Seek out recommendations. Make sure you check on insurance to know how much they will cover and how many sessions are included in the coverage. A good counselor will walk you through some dark rooms of your past that may have been locked for a long time, or perhaps you may have even thrown away the key a long time ago. He or she will take your hand, and together you will unlock the door, walk into the room and begin to bring those painful memories to light again. This will not be easy. It will take courage. But I promise you, healing will come if you do the hard work of unpacking your feelings and talking through the pain and fears that you may have kept pent up inside for a very long time. This is an important step in your journey (maybe the first one you've ever taken) toward healing that pain. The pain never will completely go away, and you will never forget, but healing is possible with the right help and support.
Next, you may find that reading "When Survivors Give Birth" by Penny Simkin will be very helpful. There are other books like this, but this one truly helps women understand the triggers that pregnancy and childbirth can bring up in a survivor.
Finally, consider the following factors when preparing for the birth:
If this post has resonated with you personally, it is my sincere hope that it has been helpful to you. I wish this topic didn't have a place in our world, but sadly, it does, and far too many people have been affected in this way.
Please feel free to send me a private message via my facebook page (Happi Birth, Doula). I would love to continue the conversation with you. As always...
Thanks for reading!
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time her husband and three boys.