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.