Survivor as a parent

Having a child is the greatest joy, just as it is said. All the clichés about how you have never really known love until you know the love of your child, you’ll be walking around with your heart outside of your body, all of them are true. When they placed my daughter in my arms she was crying, I looked up at the nurse with this helpless feeling I said “ I don’t know what to do” and I began to cry. For that first night every time she cried I cried. They placed her on my breast and that is where she stayed for a year. I wanted her to never cry, never hurt, never experience any pain ever. I wanted to protect her from it all. When she was upset and hurting, I hurt. It may have been hormones and I am sure that played a role, but after the birth of my child I was not the same person and the way I looked at the world was no longer the same either.

After I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the tears continued and not just because she would cry. I cried for all the mothers of the world. Loving something more than you’ve ever loved anything in your life, more than you love yourself, is a vulnerable place to be. I cried for all the mothers that don’t have a home to bring their precious child too. For all the mothers that may not have enough milk or food to feed their child and especially for all the mothers who have lost a child. Having something so precious that you love more than life itself taken away, I could not even imagine the incredible pain that would bring.

Then came the visit to the doctor for the first check up and shots. Were they kidding me?!? I was to hold my beautiful precious baby down while they stabbed needles into her! They must be f-ing insane! I could not do it! Another nurse had to come in. I cried the entire time, even more than my daughter probably did. I wonder when we look back on history if people will be horrified at what we put mothers and children through. We’ve gotten so far away from the way it was for thousands of years into something that is so unrecognizable from what nature intended that if baffles my mind at times. Needless to say that was the last time I took her in for shots, her dad had to do it from then on. It literally took me days to get over the whole experience.

Then came the going back to work portion of our existence. My thought was “I’m supposed to leave this beautiful, most precious gift, that I watch and check on every few hours to make sure she is breathing, in the hands of someone else?You must be joking.” The idea of leaving my child in the care of another brought about repressed feelings that I had completely forgotten about. My mother worked and thankfully during my younger years I was left in the care of  my beloved great Aunt. As I reached school age however that changed and I was then left in the care of  a teenage boy who sexually abused me. So needless to say the thought of leaving my child in the care of someone else did not go over well with me.

Our daycare experience began reluctantly and It did not go over well for me or my daughter. She would go all day at daycare without eating then want to nurse all night long. She was miserable, it’s as if it was her protest! “Bring me my mother or I will not eat.” I honestly don’t know how women do it, especially those that have exclusively nursed. It is not easy and was not a pleasant experience for me or my daughter. I was thankfully able to go back to staying home and all was well again. That was until instead of working days I decided to work nights and left her in the care of my dad and step mom. The trouble came when there were a few times they couldn’t watch her and I would leave her in the care of my much younger brother who was a preteen at the time and then a teenager. I loved my brother dearly but all those old fears came to the surface. I swore I would never leave my child with a teenage boy because of what happened to me. Yet here I was faced with not wanting to let my fears rule me, but also wanting to protect my child. It didn’t help that I had read a book called “Miss America by day.” In which the woman who wrote it talked about the prevalence of abuse among family members.

Then came the birth of my second daughter, my oldest was 3 1/2 at the time. I was much more relaxed the second time around. I had already been through the battlefield and survived. It wasn’t until later when my older daughter went from age five to 6, that was when it really hit me. She was so little, so innocent and precious. I realized that was the age I was when I was sexually abused. I was made to do things with not only that teenage boy babysitter but my teenage boy cousin as well, that no 6 year old should be doing. I had many disturbing memories flash back in my mind. Mostly I just felt an overwhelming sadness for the innocent child I once was and the innocence that was taken from me at such a young age. As my daughter got older I faced other challenges, one being if I should allow her sleep over friends houses. I was always leery about it especially if the friend had older brothers. I preferred her to have the sleepovers at our house, so then I knew she was safe. I tried to walk the line between protective, but not overprotective. I remember later other incidents I faced as my daughters got older, one instance in particular when I went in search of childcare, I placed an add at the high school for a babysitter for after school for a couple of hours. I remember my feeling of horror when I had a teenage boy respond saying he would babysit my girls for “free.”

One of my best friends growing up was molested every day after school by her grandfather whom she was left in the care of. He also molested me and several of our other friends. He lived across the street from an elementary school for 40 years! I cringe at the thought of how many children he had access to on a daily basis. I’ve heard many stories of family members abusing other family members, cousins molesting cousins etc. One I  had not heard of though until I was in my 20’s was sibling abuse. A cousin of mine disclosed that his brother sexually abused him when they were children. He had numerous emotional struggles and died by suicide at 21. I have no doubt whatsoever that his sibling abuse was a contributing factor. So the trouble does not lie just in who we leave our children with outside the home, but inside the home as well. I can remember one family get together we had where my cousin took me into a closet and was touching me. Adults telling the kids ” go play” unfortunately can become an arena for younger children to be abused while the older children care for them.

We all face fears as parents. Survivors face not only the usual fears, but additional unpleasant very triggering ones. We are faced with not only the fear of protecting our children, but of knowing what it is like in many cases to not be protected. We know what it is like to have lost our innocence at a young age, along with in many cases are self- esteem and self- worth. Many of us have faced the damaging effects of childhood sexual abuse including self- destructive behaviors, eating disorders, dangerous behaviors and promiscuity and for many drug or alcohol addiction to numb the pain. When they hand us that precious newborn and place them in our arms, this is not the life we want for them. We will do everything in our power to protect the precious gift that has been given to us. We are the survivors as parents.

Wishing you well on your Healing Journey Anne-Marie Wiesman

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