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Healing Through Breastfeeding: A Sexual Abuse Survivor

By Badass Nikki Patrick

I was raised in a household where my body was not my own. From a very young age, I was used and abused in horrendous ways that make most people shudder to hear about. I was sexually and physically abused by the very person I was supposed to be able to trust and find comfort in, my father.

This isn’t a topic that is easy to talk about, but it is my hope that sharing my story about sexual abuse and its effect on my breastfeeding relationship that other women who have walked this journey will find comfort and strength in my story.

Growing up in an environment with sexual abuse teaches you many things about your body. It’s dirty. It’s an object. It’s for the use of others. It’s not under your control. My breasts became the object of someone else’s cruel torture, purely sexual, nothing more.

At the age of 18, I stood up, found my voice, and never looked back. I have never seen my “father” again, and I never will. The road to motherhood was paved with many roadblocks and stumbling points, but I made it.

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, breastfeeding her was the furthest thing from my realm of possibility.  I couldn’t imagine nourishing my child from my breasts, which I considered dirty because that is what I had been taught. Also, the idea of someone having on demand access to this private part of my body sent me back to being 8 years old and not able to say no. The idea horrified me and I decided that formula was the way for me.

I brought up my concerns to my OB and was basically brushed off. She seemed very uncomfortable, I’m sure the thought of a child being abused in such a manner is an uncomfortable topic. She told me that “breast is best” and she hoped I would “push past my own insecurities for my infant’s sake.” Because it’s that easy, right?

I slowly began to open up to other women, those who are survivors and some who are mothers themselves. I found a community of understanding. My concerns and fears were heard, validated, and in many cases, shared.

As the birth of my child neared, I experienced a wide range of emotions. I began to daydream about the idea of perhaps trying to nurse my child. I tried to reframe my thoughts, tried to ignore the voice inside me that told me “no.” It didn’t work. When I went in to have my daughter my plan was to use formula, I was totally comfortable with that plan.

Grace was born in the middle of the night after a long, hard labor. I was exhausted. They placed her tiny body on my chest, and something incredible happened. I can’t even really describe the moment with the intensity it deserves. No one in the room knew what was happening except me, and I’m grateful for that. She began to root, and crawl up towards my breast. Her mouth was open and ready and my heart began to accept the idea. She was going to latch on, and no part of my being wanted to stop her. My sweet daughter latched on, looked me deep in the eyes, and healed wounds that had been part of me for 29 years.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing, I experienced anxiety and even flashbacks, especially late in the night when most of the abuse occurred. I had to be very gentle with myself, and with her. I learned to balance both of our needs. There were times when she had to wait a minute while I brought myself back into the moment. I would rub her tiny feet or smell her delicious hair to remind myself that she is my daughter, not my past.

18 months later, I am still nursing her. And getting ready to embark on another nursing journey, this time with my son, due in January. In some ways this journey feels even more difficult, knowing he is male. But experience tells me I will be ok and he will find his own way to calm my soul.

It is my hope that by sharing this another survivor will read it and relate. You are not alone, your feelings are valid, and you have a choice now. Nursing has allowed me to view my body in a whole new light. It is not dirty, disgusting, or anyone’s property. It is amazing, able to sustain life, and beautiful. It is also mine, even my breasts. Breastfeeding is a choice I made, not exactly willingly, but a choice. Taking back my power over my body has been one of the most amazing parts of nursing for me.

 

Comments

  1. Thank you SO much for sharing this with me. How powerful. Breastfeeding has healed me in many ways.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Beautiful how a child so small can heal some of our largest wounds. I needed this story, thank you.

  3. Thank you

  4. I am also a survivor. Your story could easily be my own. I breastfed my son until he was 13 months – he weaned me ;( Best thing that ever happened to me….best feeling of re-owning myself. Thank you for sharing this and validating those feelings that consume us as survivors even still…and I’m 40.

  5. I am touched by your story and feel that even though I did not walk the same road as you it’s with an enormous amount of determination that one can overcome a horrible ordeal like that and even find courage to share it.I am glad you started healing after breastfeeding . .It is awesome how our body can healed itself if we allow it to do so. Thank you for sharing !!

    • Beautifully said Monica. I am in tears as I cannot fathom this poor woman’s past. What a remarkably beautiful journey… and one to embark on yet again! Congrats!

  6. So incredibly beautiful, Nikki! One of the most wonderful truths of the universe is that parenting our own children with love heals the wounds we received as children – and in this way, we raise ourselves as we raise our own children. My children, especially my third, who I am still nursing at 18 months, has brought me tremendous healing.
    Thank you SO very much for sharing.

  7. This is just so elegantly written. So pure and raw. Thank you for this sharing.

  8. I can’t even tell you… in my case the outright sexual assaults ceased at a young enough age that I was able to repress most of it. Which comes with its own pitfalls and problems when those experiences resurface. The feelings that my body was dirty, that it was not mine, that it was only for someone else to use, to decide if I was pretty, too fat, too thin, too plain, too made-up, too shy, too bold, too accepting, too melodramatic, too obedient, too defiant… you get the idea, that all never went away, I was just lacking explanation for much of it for a long time. Nursing my babies (on #2 now!) has been cathartic for me as well. My son turns 3 at the end of November and he just finished nursing to sleep in my arms. When I leave the bedroom, I’ll take my daughter from her daddy (a wonderful, gentle man who can read the “no” in my face and body and doesn’t wait for me to say it) and feed her to sleep as well.

    Rock on, mama.

  9. My story is similar to your own accept my sexual abuser was my half-sibling and my parents physically and emotionally abused me. When I became pregnant, I cut off off all contact with my entire family after they told me that they would not protect me from my half-sibling. Best decision. This entire motherhood journey has been healing. Yay for awesome supportive husbands that help heal too!

  10. So powerful. How courageous of you to share your story. How courageous of you to breastfeed when didn’t think it was possible. You are an inspiration. Reclaiming our bodies and fostering a safe environment with our children – 2 of the most fulfilling goals I can imagine. Thank you for speaking out. You and your baby girl have brought healing and hope that I am so grateful for.

  11. That was so beautiful. You are brave to share your story and your healing! God bless you and your little ones. You brought tears to my eyes !

  12. This was beautiful, I am so happy for you that everything came together that way and that you were able to heal. Thank you for sharing your story.

  13. Courtney Moore says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your heart so openly on this life event. I too was abuse though out my childhood. My 3rd child is 10 months old and I have struggled with those feelings with all 3 children and I have never voiced these feelings to anyone. I feel like this pin points for me the reason I struggle so much with milk supply because I never want to nurse and also feel like my babies have wanted to nurse to frequently with gave me yucky feelings. Thank you for your bravery.

  14. Such a beautiful heartwarming story. Thank you for surviving. Thank you for sharing.

  15. I’m sorry about your past. I’m glad that you’ve been able to heal through breastfeeding. Thank you for finding the courage to tell your story. Breastfeeding for me has been such a beautiful journey. 19 months and still nourishing my baby girl.

  16. Thank you so much for this! Breastfeeding didn’t work with my first even though I wanted to, and honestly I only wanted to because that was the “mom” thing. When my second was born she was a champ. For the first couple weeks of her life she was bottle fed breast milk. The first week was because she was in the ICN. After she came home it was a struggle. I didn’t realize my past abuse would be triggered by breastfeeding. But combined with PPD and lack of sleep my abuse finally slipped out of the dark box I had locked it in. At times I just wanted to rip her off of my chest and scream that she could not have it! I found ways to cope. I could not watch her nurse for the longest time, and sometimes still can’t. But we are pushing through, we’ve been 5 months exclusively nursing now, no bottles.

  17. Being Mum says:

    You are all so very very brave. I feel very humbled by your stories. We are a foster family and I was a breast feeding mum; this story has made me think, thank you x

  18. Annastasia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve never been able to put into words what breastfeeding my daughter has done for me.

  19. Wow. Just wow. I just realized I’m not alone I didn’t breast feed my oldest for these reasons. But have been successful with my second. We’ve made it one year now and it truly has healed some of those parts of me. I still jump & flinch at night if my husband touches or kisses me. hopefully some day I will get used to it. Thank you for sharing

  20. stephanie says:

    This brought me to tears. What a victory over abuse. I am amazed at your bravery sharing this, and what a missed opportunity for your OB. So many women, more than we know, have suffered some kind of sexual abuse in their life. So many of us refuse to work through it, or even acknowledge it, because than it would be real. So, we live with it, with these secrets interfering with our lives; our happy. Not only have you acknowledged this, not only are you working through it, but you are sharing your journey to help teach and inspire and free others to do the same. I can tell you, the innocence of your little boy, as he roots and latches will inspire even more healing.

  21. DorothyK says:

    I grew up in a mentally/physically/emotionally abusive household where I was just beaten into believing that my body was dirty, shameful, and unworthy. When it came time to give birth to my first child, these thoughts in the back of my mind actually stalled my labor, but when our son was born, I felt empowered and free. It’s so amazing how powerful birth can make us feel, and I’m glad to hear that you’re working through the healing process.

  22. Thank you for sharing this, Nikki!

  23. Thank you!

  24. aye. a mother’s instinct is so primal, so sensitive. you are awesome, so much love to you for making peace in the name of your children.

  25. I was a midwife for a woman who suffered extreme physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of her father from the age of 4 to 18, so much so that this woman disassociated with any kind of physical contact. Because of this, this mother had no memories of the event that lead to the conception of her baby years later, other than she was in no fit mental state to give consent. She too thought formula feeding would cause her the least issues, but also found healing in the touch of her precious and so helpless baby. For her, she said it was a conscious choice to recognise her body could do important things for her baby, and to reprogram the way she thought of her breasts. She went on to have another baby, and breastfed both for over 18 months each.
    Thank you for sharing your story to inspire other mums xxx

  26. Thank you for sharing your beautiful, healing journey. This was so so touching. So happy for you that you were able to find comfort in nursing your daughter.

  27. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story! I am survivor of domestic and sexual abuse and I have been breast feeding my daugher since the day she was born, much to my abuser’s dismay. He made a comment today about how I’m going to “dry up sooner or later” to my 2 year old daughter and I was horrified! It was a good reminder how hurtful he can be… So, I hugged my daughter tighter, whispered a prayer and kissed her good bye for the day since she was going with him for a visit… Prayers to you for continued healing! And congratulations on your accomplishments in breast feeding so far! Your babies are lucky to have you as their mom!

    • Thank you for sharing your story! All I could think was WOW that you still have to interact with your abuser. Praying that your daughter is safe with this person.

  28. What an absolutely beautiful and inspiering story! It is an amazing feeling when you nurse your baby for the first time and gaze back at them! Thank you for sharing your experience, you truly are a survivor #brave x

  29. Ania Tamas says:

    Just wated to say that are a beautiful person inside and outside . Your story it a story of strength and love .
    I really hope that everything when well with your baby boy . I have 3 kids and I still nurse my 9 months old baby boy and sometimes my 2 year old girl .
    I don`t have a similar past not even close but breasthfeeding was and still is a special time for me.
    But I want you to remember something – your boby is so special and so great that it was able to give life and to give the perfect nurishment for that baby to grow. You body is so great that it knows what to do in order to comfort the baby when it sad or needs a hug . And even greater that from the moment you see your baby you love that little perfect life . And the best part is that it is all yours .
    Thank you for your story and I do hope that breastfeeding will help many more moms out there ,

  30. mary anna says:

    Thank you for sharing! I am proud of you and awed that you found your way with the help of bonding with Grace. In my experience of being a nurse in OB, staff feel sorry for you, with a history of assault and being exhausted after laboring all night. Frequently they ask if you want to “hold” your baby. I can only imagine “not now” is a reasonable answer at that time. If encouraged that your baby needs to transition to life outside on your chest, more people might share your powerful experience. I believe we as nurses need to understand the power of this first hour bonding. Baby Friendly hospitals and soon all hospitals will be placing infants on their mother immediately after birth. This helps infant transition into the world outside with continued support of mom as well as mom transition from pregnancy to enjoying the hormones available to change both of their lives. Your story is a perfect example why we all need to encourage moms and infants to relax and take TIME. Time to discover, bond, latch and heal

  31. I went through sexual abuse as a child and reading your story reminded me of my son. I was so nervous but everything turned out OK. Thank you for sharing your story.

  32. Ashley Kennedy says:

    Thank you for your bravery to share your story. Your bravery, perseverance, and courage are admirable and inspiring.

  33. Katherine says:

    Thank you for sharing, as a survivor I was scared I wouldn’t want to feed my son but once he was on my chest it happened so naturally and it’s been so healing.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Healing Through Breastfeeding: A Sexual Abuse Survivor by Nikki Patrick […]

  2. […] Το διαβάσαμε στο: http://www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com/healing-through-breastfeeding-a-sexual-abuse-survivor/ […]

  3. […] A few months ago I wrote a blog for The Badass Breastfeeder about my experience with breastfeeding after sexual abuse. The response was incredible, and I realized that many people could relate to my story, my words, my struggles, and my triumphs. You can read that blog here Healing Through Breastfeeding.  […]

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