Pregnancy as a Survivor

I use Grammarly’s online proofreader because English is hard enough to master when you’re not pregnant. Seriously, forget trying to remember grammar rules when you’re hosting a fetus.

But in all seriousness, although I feel as though I’m generally incapable of remembering even the most basic of things (and my midwife tells me it’s just going to get worse!) I am excited that all the preparation I’ve done to enter the “parenthood club” is not going to waste.

That said, there is one thing that I didn’t exactly put a lot of thought into preparing for before pregnancy, and that is how pregnancy could effect me as a survivor of sexual assault. Once I realized that those experiences could have a very serious impact on my experience I sprung into action, trying to find any resources I could on dealing with these two experiences. Much to my surprise, there really isn’t anything out there.  So I decided the best course of action would be to just write about my own experiences in the hopes that someone else finds how I am experiencing pregnancy to be helpful.

Before I begin what I’m thinking of as a mini-series I will begin by stating that I realize my experience is not going to be universal. I am a white woman in her mid-20’s in a loving and stable marriage. This pregnancy was planned.

With that said, I have a few pieces of advice to dole out that have been helpful to me in the first 18 weeks of my own pregnancy.

First, if at all possible, make sure you are in a good place mentally. I don’t mean mentally preparing yourself for pregnancy, labor, and parenthood. I mean, for yourself make sure that you’ve worked through your major issues. About 2 1/2 years ago I went to therapy because I realized it was very badly needed. I was panicked because there was no way we could afford that. Luckily, it didn’t take me long to realize that because I was a student I could get the help I needed from the counselors at my school for free.  Not all of you are students, but there are free and sliding scale fee options in many communities that are easily accessible.

Second, educate yourself on what to expect when you and your partner first start talking about having a family. In the United States things are not awesome for women if you opt for “the usual.” There is very little focus on consent and a lot of women have fairly negative experiences. A great starting point is the documentary “The Business of Being Born.”  Ricki Lake also produced a mini-series after the documentary came out to discuss some more issues in depth. In my opinion, educating yourself is the best way to be empowered to speak up.

Third, seek out women who are also expecting. Having a community of women that are experiencing the same things you are is hugely helpful! My clinic does something called “centering” that I am starting this week.  I’ll talk more about this as I experience it more.

I’ll be writing about this more in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. I hope you remember that you are amazing, you are a miracle, and you are capable of doing this and being an advocate for yourself.

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