Sexual Assault and Breastfeeding: The Unbreakable Bond- A Survivor Shares

As something I can do for Sexual Assault Awareness Month I’m helping Sexual Assault Survivors share their voice.  In telling their stories they are helping others that have been abused know they are not alone and those that have not been sexually abused come to grips with the reality of abuse.  In breaking the silence and removing the cloak of shame we can make a difference.  This guest post by Saila has some details related to sexual abuse and potential triggers related to sexual abuse and substance abuse.  This is a powerful story and I’m honored to share it with you.  A story of the journey from victim to survivor to empowered and making a difference.

I have been trying to write my submission for sexual assault awareness month for the last few days but have found that the veil of shame is sometimes too heavy to lift in order to start typing my experiences. But the thought that my experiences could inspire someone else compels me towards sharing this piece of myself.

I was molested as a young child by close family members. I started smoking weed at the age of 12 in an attempt to self medicate. At 12, I was raped by a 19 year old boy who I was buying weed from. I became completely detached from my body and did not feel I had any control over what happened to me. My childhood was completely over. Throughout my teens I dated much older people and was an easy target for abusive types to take advantage of. One abuser exposed me to heavier drugs and I became addicted to cocaine. I was able to completely hide not only the childhood abuse and rape, but also the drug use and self medicating from my parents. I eventually got myself into counseling, finished school and enlisted in the army. I am in a healthy relationship with my partner who I am completely in love with and feel like most of the issues from the past trauma are processed, though I do still suffer from some symptoms of PTSD including nightmares and flashbacks.

I tried unsuccessfully for 6 years before I became pregnant with my now 14 month old daughter. When I finally did become pregnant I was convinced the whole pregnancy that at any moment I would miscarry or something would go terribly wrong because my body just didn’t like co-operating with me. I felt like it had been betraying me my whole entire life. When I went into labour I was insistent on wearing a bra during delivery until the last possible moment as I was so ashamed of my body I didn’t want my breasts exposed unless absolutely necessary. When my daughter was born she spent 7 days in the NICU and as a result our nursing relationship was severely damaged. I had to use nipple shields in order for her to drink from me; basically the shields fooled the baby into believing she was drinking from a bottle as she would not latch to my nipples. I felt devastated to have a barrier between me and my precious infant.

I didn’t want to leave my house or go anywhere because I didn’t want anyone to even partially see my breast while I nursed her. I often felt myself tensing up and getting anxiety during nursing sessions if I felt any type of uterine contractions. My irrational brain would tell me that if I found breastfeeding in anyway a pleasurable experience that I was sick and twisted and abusing my daughter. These feelings hit their climax a couple of weeks into nursing when I was able to remove the nipple shields and the breast soreness subsided. I was miserable, short tempered and hated nursing. I felt like a horrible mother for not wanting to nurse my daughter.

I was able to connect with some great online resources and literally spent hours and hours reading other moms experiences with breastfeeding and eventually I began to feel empowered. As I began to see my daughter grow bigger and stronger I was so proud that my breasts had the power to nourish her. Each time she would get hurt and nurse for comfort I would feel so proud that my breasts have the power to stop her tears. Within a few months I was able to proudly nurse her where ever we went I felt no shame surrounding my body. I felt like my body was in harmony and working exactly the way it was supposed to for the first time in my life. My breasts are the key to this unbreakable bond I share with my daughter that no doubt will last a life time. I love being able to offer her a breast when she is thirsty, hungry, scared, tired or cranky and she can a take refuge and feel safe and protected with me. I never felt safe, so it means so much to me that I am able to give that to my child.

I mentioned that I became addicted to drugs at the hands of abusers. Unfortunately I will always consider myself an addict, even though I have been in recovery for a number of years now. Even still, I don’t think the cravings will ever completely stop. There is so much pain from the past, and it’s just habit now to want to numb out when things get difficult. But when the cravings do come, it’s so easy to quiet them because I know that I am nursing and would never do anything to harm my daughter. I plan on nursing for at least another year so I’m happy to know that I have such a powerful reason to not even allow myself to entertain the thought. I know that I will never use drugs again, but knowing that I am nursing my beautiful child just gives me one more reason.

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Comments

  1. This is a beautiful reminder that with education and time, we can overcome our demons. I pray for your continued healing and progress.

  2. Dear Saila you are stronger, braver, more inspiring, beautiful and admirable than you could ever imagine. Wishing you and your baby blessings upon blessings.

  3. Wow this is a very touching story. Thank you for being able to share this with us!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I too was a victim of sexual abuse, and share in many of the same emotions you have/do with breastfeeding. Now on with my 4th baby & tandem nursing him & his sister whom is 16mo older, I am at the same place emotionally where it is amazing what I am doing as their mom. You are very brave to share your story, it gives encouragement to so many. Thank you again!

  5. Thank you for sharing. Hearing from other abuse survivors made me more confident in my own ability to have a good nursing relationship with my baby despite abuse in my past. I’m happy to say I’m on my 2nd breastfed baby and my 1st still occassionally has some ‘mama mulk’.

  6. So often this subject is left out of the breastfeeding conversation. Thank you so much for sharing with us and doing such an amazing job helping to bring light to the subject and bringing it into the conversation. ((hug))

  7. Thank you for sharing! What an amazing story of triumph over tragedy. I hope your bond with your baby continues to grow.

  8. Jake Aryeh Marcus says:

    This is a common conversation among those who have been sexually abused but one that is difficult to have outside of that community. Thanks for posting it and thanks for writing it. Breastfeeding can be a huge step in the healing journey as can birth. Finding our bodies work and that we can own and operate them in safety helps us reclaim what was taken. For those of us abused by the people who were supposed to teach us how to love, bonding physically with our own children can break the cycle.

  9. your post was almost identical to my past with the exception that i started weed cocaine crystal meth at 20yrs old. my father molested me as a child, and i was in counceling prior to the birht of my son. helped me a lot but icouldnt help but to feel like i was molesting my son with my nipple in his mouth even though iknew better. thank you sooooo much for posting this bc it helped me to hear someone else state what i have felt is so healing when in the past all i heard was that i was crzy for feeling the way i did! i am proud to say that my 6 month old is exclus. breast fed and will be until he decides otherwise. and no drugs for 8 years. prayer and counseling helped me tremendously….again…thank you fo ryour story and God bless you! im so happy you have overcome your past too 🙂

  10. Beautiful, strong – you are a survivor and your daughter is lucky to have such a fighter for a mom!

  11. What a story. Congrats for finding your inner strength and for creating a wonderful family for yourself.
    This story and some of the comments really highlight why we should decriminalize drug abuse. So many people in the court system desperately need help and compassion, not punishment and social ostracization.

  12. Your story was so beautiful it moved me to tears. Thank you so much for sharing.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I am a doula for a young woman who has similar experiences. I showed her your story and she has expressed how validated she feels to know that she is not the only mother who is feeling out of touch with her body and has drawn strength from your words to persevere with her breastfeeding ourney! You are such an amazing woman and mother!

  14. your courageous truth telling both breaks my heart and has renewed my faith in the strength of humankind…Your baby is incredibly lucky to have such a committed mother. you send a powerful message that your baby will NOT be a further casualty of the abuse. there are no words to describe how proud I am of you for following your heart through this entire journey.

  15. Wow I am so glad to see this I was molested and raped as well ad here I am 10 years later and on my third pregnancy and I still sleep with a bra on. I left my bra on during both my diliverys and recoverys I wore a nursing bra and as much as I know my babies are getting the best when I nurse them I hate doing it in puplic cause I don’t want people to see my boobs I even cover up at home unless my husband are alone I don’t even like my husband seeing my boobs it has cause such an issue with me I actually gave up I supplemented with my first for 3 months before giving up and he was drinking more formula then breast milk and my second was strickly breast fed for 6 weeks before I gave up and I want so badly for my third to be fed longer and I know better then to think I was the only one with these issues and how I felt and what I thought I can’t believe I let my self believe I was alone so before my daughter is born I will be doing research and talking to my therapist so I can give her a better shot at sucessful breastfeeding. Thank you so much

    • Im glad that sharing my story has helped you to not feel so alone. You definitely are not alone!
      Try not to give up on your self. You have made it this far! You are incredibly strong and brave and self aware for even being able to link the previous abuse to the issues you are having with breastfeeding. A lot of less self aware women would just not even think of breastfeeding as an option.
      Its very empowering to overcome this bfing issues because it helps you to reclaim your body and not allow the abusers to have any lingering control over you.
      You are doing a great job!!! Keep it up girl!

  16. shelby vernon says:

    This story made me cry…her story is almost so similar to mine its crazy

  17. Awesome post. Great emotional story. Just want to say that all of you people just read it from start to end.

  18. thank you for sharing your strength.