Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Very Uncomfortable Subject

“One in four, one in three, or one in five? Who knows the actual frequency of childhood sexual abuse in our society? All we really know is that it is shockingly common, meaning that many women in midwifery or obstetric practice or in a childbirth education class are burdened with the psychosocial after effects of victimization”.

“Surprisingly, with all the sexual connotations of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, virtually nothing is published in the social science or medical literature on the possible effects of childhood sexual abuse on later childrearing. Even mental health publications have failed to address this grave issue. Eating disorders, chronic pelvic pain, severe premenstrual syndrome, sexual dysfunction, various phobias and other psychosomatic disorders are known to be associated with childhood sexual abuse, but what about disorders in childrearing?”

(Simkin, 1992, 2006)

So what is the relevance for women who are seeking support, advice and information about how to deliver? This fact that so many women ( and men ) have had to suffer in silence is perpetuated in the doctor's office, childbirth class and in society in general. We are reluctant to ask about this taboo so common, it seems, in society. We are even more reluctant to admit.

I have found over the years that it is easy to accommodate single- family new moms and same sex new moms, adopting new moms and all kinds of non- traditional new families. But I have never encountered a woman ( or man ) who has asked specifically for guidance about how to comfortably and securely prepare for childbirth and child rearing when dealing with a history that makes this experience overwhelmingly cause for fear and abhorrence.

There have to be safe havens where people can openly admit to their deepest shames. Because that is precisely what this horrendous act is interpreted as and therefore unspoken. There is nothing that should be unspoken when confiding in the providers who administer care and instruction. But you must admit and you must ask.

If there is ever a time to confess; it is now. Please ask for special attention. Take that risk and know that in the confidential mandates of our professions, we are obligated to your privacy and safety and that we may be the professionals who can get you the support that you need. There are reasons to ask for a private, individualized childbirth, lactation, parenting class and they should be available to anyone who desires/ needs this service.

Confide in your providers. Permission is automatically granted without bias or judgement. The responsibility starts with you. The result will be compassion and concern. And a plan that takes your unique needs into consideration, with your input and worries put into place.

Starting your family affords you a new beginning. In every sense of the word. However, it does take a village. And there is no shame in that. Your hopes and dreams for parenthood are noble. But you do not know how to accomplish these goals; none of us do. And where there are special considerations, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Ask for help.