Unsung Heroes

Blog developed from previous Instagram posts about the impact of Child Sexual Abuse on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

I read an article recently by Gretchen Schmelzer called The Courage of Parenting with a History of Trauma.

There was a part that really stood out to me:

“If you had been physically disabled by a past trauma and chose to run a marathon—people would call you brave. But we don’t do that with emotional wounds. They are invisible and the parents who rise to the occasion—and parent with love and purpose—who give what they never got—they are unsung heroes.”

This is so true. Navigating parenthood as a survivor of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) can be an isolating experience and this starts at the very beginning. Nobody speaks about it. There is limited or no opportunity to bring conversations into antenatal appointments. There is no mention of trauma in parenting groups. We deal with the often highly triggering process of pregnancy and birth on our own, we might struggle with breastfeeding, to bond, or even have fears around gender – but we crack on because we have to.

The Last Taboo: Produced by Redzi Bernard and Phoebe McIndoe. A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4

Hurt People Hurt People goes round in our heads and we can’t risk our struggles being misunderstood as poor parenting. We want to be good parents. To break patterns, not be accused of causing further hurt. So we stay silent.

Here’s to all the CSA survivors doing their best to parent without the support they deserve. The ones doing their best to work it all out… to heal, to stop trauma passing to the next generation.

They are unsung heroes indeed.

my woman
I met twenty three years ago It was winter time at 10:10am I don’t remember the weather I know she made me a mother I know she turned me inside out I know my heart grew two sizes bigger I recall we smelled the same I know I said her name I know I made her a daughter I knew life would not remain the same

Sophie Olson
Poem inspired by a question posed by Clare Shaw on International Women’s Day, ‘who is your woman?’ ‘My daughter‘ – I answered. ‘Always and forever, my woman.’

After a fair amount of drama, after three hours stuck. After gentle coaxing, different positions, and not so gentle coaching. I stood, in the end and birthed my first child. She was born at home to a soundtrack of The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah (the neighbour’s music of choice to drown out my bellowing). The cord was too short to lift her to my chest. The blood loss was sudden and significant (more scary for those watching than for me) – I felt calm and felt myself drift. I thought I was dying but I wasn’t afraid anymore. There was loud ringing in my ears and I watched her propped on a shoulder, across the other side of the bedroom.

Give her back, were the words in my head.

I watched her lift her wobbly head to look in my direction.

Look at that! She’s a strong one,’ I heard someone say from a million miles away, before I passed out.

Hours later, or perhaps it was days – my baby and I lay alone and we listened to the radio. The Pearl Fishers Duet began to play. (It took me years to find out the name of the song). It was in the early hours of the morning. There was snow on the ground outside and it was too cold to sleep because the heating in our rented house wouldn’t go higher than eleven degrees. I remember how icy our fingers and noses were, but my baby and I were alright. I put her curled fists in mine and breathed warmth into her. We both wore hats in bed. Hers was orange.

We were still one.

Maybe it was blood loss. Perhaps it was the intense shock of birth as a CSA survivor, or maybe it was real – but I felt a sensation I can only describe as our souls separating.

It felt like a physical severing of one and by the end of the song we were two. We were mother and daughter and had different paths to follow.

I know it sounds strange but whatever it was – it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I went on to have three more children and didn’t experience this ‘separating’ with them, just with my first child. I have never heard anyone describe a similar experience.

I do know, life was never the same again.

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