#19 | Sexual Assault & Childbirth: Interview with Author Lindsay Gibson

April 15, 2020

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this episode may not be appropriate for all listeners. Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, and in 42% of those cases, it happened before age 18. Today’s episode explores the question, how can sexual assault impact a woman in pregnancy and childbirth? 

Our guest is Lindsay Gibson, who experienced rape at age 16. In her twenties and thirties, she went on to give birth to four children, one of whom was born still. Lindsay is author of Just Be: How My Stillborn Son Taught Me To Surrender. This is Lindsay’s story of healing from the emotional and physical trauma of rape through her own grief, and how each of her four births brought her one step closer to freedom from her past.

National Sexual Assault Awareness Resource Center  

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline

CDC Facts on Sexual Assault

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View Episode Transcript

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And this episode may not be appropriate for all listeners. Nearly one in five women in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives. In 42% of those cases, it happened before age 18. Today's episode explores the question, how can sexual assault impact a woman in pregnancy and childbirth? Our guest is Lindsay Gibson, who experienced rape at age 16. In her 20s and 30s. She went on to give birth to four children, one of whom was born still. Lindsay is the author of just be how am I stillborn son taught me to surrender. This is Lindsey story of healing from the emotional and physical trauma of rape through her own grief, and how each of her four bursts brought her one step closer to freedom from her past.

My name is Lindsay Gibson and I am the mother of four beautiful children. My daughter Lillian who's the 13 years old, my daughter, Layla, who is by almost five years old. She'll be five next week. And our daughter Luna, who is 18 months old, and our son Joseph, who was born still so He shines his light from heaven all day on us every day and I am married to my husband Jason, who's from Ireland, with a brogue and all and he makes me blush still every day. My story begins at 16 years old, right after my mother and I moved to a new town. I was trying to make friends and I had found some and one girl in particular decided to hang out with me outside of school. It was really excited yet something in me kept saying not not a good choice. But being only a teenager, I'm not listening to my intuition and my gut.

After hanging out with her for the day, she wanted me to go into the city and go to a nightclub which of course I'm not allowed to do and I said no, you need to bring me home. Well, she I needed to make a stop first on the way home. And I didn't know what for. And she said, wait in the car. And it was a very bad section of town. And I wasn't comfortable. And after about five to 10 minutes, I'm wondering, where is she? And I didn't feel safe. So I got in the car and I decided I'm going to go find her and tell her we need to go. I went into this rundown apartment building that she was in and right away when I opened the door, I heard her voice and so I'm marched upstairs and I went into this apartment. And she was standing there with a very tall, muscular looking man. I didn't know what she was doing. I didn't know what they were talking about. And she said, Oh, Lindsay, okay, hold on one second. And that's the first time I was face to face with my rapist. He had asked, What are you girls up to? She explained, well, we're going to I'm going to a nightclub. I'm just going to bring her home. Oh, why don't you go ahead is what he told her and I'll bring Lindsay home. Before I could even register our process, you know, what was going on. She left and he was able to lock the door and now I am trapped inside of this apartment with a man I don't know, or what he was planning on doing. He attacked me. He raped me. He beat me up. He forced alcohol, vodka actually down my throat as this game to make them laugh. And after, after the after the rape, I there was one point where I was able to because he had stopped pinning me down. And he had his back turned and I jumped up, and I grabbed whatever clothes I could, and I ran into his bedroom, because I had nowhere else to go. And I shut the door, and I put the clothes on. I didn't have a cell phone and have any of that I didn't know what I was going to do. From that point, and I saw a phone and I called my mother I said, you need to come get me. There's a Crowder's near nearby which is like a convenience store. And I hung up. And for the first time that day I listened to my instinct which said run. I wasn't sure if he was going to intercept or what I just ran. I didn't even think and he let me go and ran outside shaking from head to toe. The summer crickets were so loud. I just remember all these details. It was very hot and muggy is August, and minutes later, my mom pulled up like alongside me on the road, and I got in shaking, screaming. Go. So we get home now she's panicked. My mother's a single mom. She has no husband to call home to help her through this and she's trying to figure out what to do. Luckily my my older brother was home from college and I didn't want them to see my bruises. Are anything and so I went straight into the bathroom, I took a bath, which, after a rape, you're not supposed to take a bath all your evidence gets washed away. Shortly after falling asleep later I woke up screaming out of a nightmare. And at that point it signaled my mom, we need to go to the hospital. Something happened to my daughter. We need, we need help. But when I go in, now we're under big lights. My mother can see my bruises. Everything starts to come to light as we're in these big fluorescent hospital lights. And they separated me from my mom because they wanted to question Is she the one abusing me? I'm under 18. And I didn't know that I just kept saying I want my mom. I'm not talking until I have my mom. And I went silent. I was so scared that I because I didn't have her and now they're all staring at me. Doctor after doctors coming psychiatrists were coming in. The police were coming in. Social workers were coming in nobody, I think Felt like nobody was handling me the right way. Like they took my blood work right away, which is pretty standard and an ER. And that came back pretty quick and they saw the alcohol in my blood level. Now I'm an alcoholic teenager. Now the doctor came in and the next question was, what party Did you go to tonight, you just don't want to tell your mom. And that's the way they talk to me. And now I'm getting attacked after the Act, which can be more traumatizing than the actual trauma itself. First responders need to know that that trust is the most important thing that they need to get right away. And the only way I was able to be released from the hospital at that point was if my mother signed for me to go to an outpatient alcoholic group. Now my soccer days are over. I went from straight A's to straight F's, and no resources for her to send me none. And my mother had to blindly now This trauma with me, which I did tell her a few months later, you know what had happened. But after that point, I made a decision shut it down. I don't want to think about that night anymore. And that's how I carried on for 13 years as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder crept in. And I didn't realize or recognize that it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the nightmares, the flashbacks. Within months, I completely forgot the event. I put it in a part of my mind and I shut the door and I never wanted to look back.

At what point did the story come out for the first time when did you start to talk about it?

The very first time I actually told my story, but not in detail with with my husband Jason when I met him, you know, here I am. Just a college girl. But he he can tell I was hiding something. So eventually I told him, something happened to me at 16 and then that was the first time I ever said anything close to what had happened.

How Are you at that point? I was 21.

So what happened? You met your husband in college you fell in love? Yeah. What happened next?

Yes, I met Jason. We fell in love. And we found out we were pregnant with Lily and 10 months into our relationship. We were definitely shocked. We were not prepared. But we were happy. And a part of me knew, despite all of the struggle with PTSD, and trying to be a college student all that I knew it was going to be okay. But a lot of my past did not hit me. Like I was just saying until I was walking into my first obstetrician appointment while pregnant.

At this point, did he know that you had been assaulted when you're 16? But without the details without the detail? Okay. Yes, he but he knew it was a sexual assault.

Yes. Okay. Yep. We got inside and he took charge because I was frozen. I was having my first trigger. With something that was presently happening, and I didn't know what to do, and he recognized that he went right to the receptionist and asked for a female only doctor.

So this is the first part of your story where I'm seeing your eyes water. Yeah.

It's my first baby. And as mothers, we want to look back on all of our experience, as beautiful and perfect. And a part of it angers me still. It's not so much sadness. It's not so much anxiety with it. It's just anger in it robbed me of a lot of beautiful moments that I had no control over.

So tell us a little bit about what it was like this first pregnancy to be processing this story for the first time and since it happened, I think I went into protection mode. I honed in on the denial that I had been on more and more because I felt like I needed to protect my child from how I was feeling. So in other words, I kind of amped up ignoring it. So I turned that part off. Once I got into the birth room, it was a whole It was almost a domino effect of triggers that started to erupt. They had to induce me I was almost two weeks late and I got a cold stasis and my blood pressure shot through the roof so they sent me right in the birth was not flown like it should have been and it was long and they had to have a lot of intervention. And it was when the intervention started to happen that the triggers came. I was good with just my midwives but when they wanted to speed things up and break my water and and you know, scaring me now I'm feeling out of control. I didn't even let my mother tie her shoes at one point. I was I needed her next to me hold Because I was all of a sudden gripped with terror and fear, not just because of the birth, but this extreme, just terror that something was I was going to die or something was going to happen to me. And my midwives actually did not even come into the room until it was time to push they the doctors sort of took over doctors that I didn't know I had never met before, which was a whole nother trigger. Male doctors I had it in my chart. I don't want male doctors and you still had male doctor? Yes.

How did you feel when male doctors walked in the room.

I felt overpowered. I felt unheard. But I was in such panic that I was literally shaking the bed. And I felt like I was in literally in the fight or flight mode. It was either fight them or run I wanted to run but I couldn't. I'm in the middle of giving birth. So Lillian came into the world and she was surprisingly big, 11 pounds, four ounces and two Four inches long. When the nurse weighed Lillian I heard her go, oh my goodness, like she was so shocked and she turned to me and she said well done is Lily and was just a big, beautiful full rolls. I loved it. I'm just chunky baby. Yes Then today she's taller than me at five 913 and after they checked Lillian, they brought her back into me and later on later on my chest to try to feed and I was triggered yet again. But I had no idea why. And I did what I did best, which was ignore it and push it aside. It was a struggle. I was not able to successfully breastfeed her like I wanted the nurse that came in and saw me struggle I was struggling and I was in my mom tried to help me as much as possible with the with the latch. And then I had a nurse come in and tell me you're young, don't even worry about breastfeeding. Carry on with yourself. You got to finish college, literally. So That's me. And I was like, oh, and so being young, of course, I listened to her and I thought, Oh, you're right. I have too much to do I have to go back to school. I can't breastfeed. I can't do that at sexual assault survivors have a trust with their body that that they lose and forgiveness of yourself and things like that. So breastfeeding is hard for a lot of women. birthing is hard. All those things in that out of control experience can trigger you but also the it's a sexual experience. It's an intimate in that space, anything in this space, the birth itself, there's so much intervention, I went into panic during it. So I had come off of that right into this supposed to be beautiful breastfeeding and bonding experience with my very first baby. It's not the best way to begin with with your child, but nobody was recognizing that no one.

So before we get into your next pregnancy, what purpose to the birth of Lillian sir In your journey toward healing prior to getting pregnant with her, the way that I coped with PTSD was alcohol. I drank a lot, I partied a lot. I worked a lot. I kept myself extremely busy to the point where it was very unhealthy. I was unhealthy. Having Lilian paused me, it slowed me down. It stopped me from drinking. I never went back. And she served a very, very good purpose, even though it was in an inconvenient time.

Having read your book, what became so apparent was you couldn't be in a quiet place. You couldn't just be alone with your thoughts. You stopped drinking, you stopped distracting yourself. You stopped partying, and now life got quiet and slow as it does with a baby. Yes.

So you went on to have a second child. And can you tell us how that second pregnancy second birth played into this experience?

Yes, seven years later, we decided We're ready for baby number two, and we are pregnant very easily. And we were happy and excited. It was different because because this pregnancy was planned, and I was so happy to finally be doing this again. But shortly into finding out we were pregnant, I got really sick. I of course didn't know what was happening. And it wasn't until I passed out on the bed, bathroom floor and my mom had to come rushing over and said, we're going to the hospital. I was about seven weeks pregnant that we went rushing in and after they hooked me to IVs and I just could not stop getting sick that the term hyperemesis gravidarum was told me I never heard that term before. Here's another out of control experience with the body that triggered me all over again. In case you don't know what hyperemesis gravidarum is, is extreme nausea and vomiting through a pregnancy it can last all the way to the end, for some Women in it did for me with two out of the four pregnancies, which was my second and third. I had nurses with homecare picc line, they even started talking about a feeding tube at one point because I could not stop getting sick with with the second pregnancy. That out of control experience with my body made me feel like I failed. And it just started going from there failure. I can't do this anger and all of these extreme emotions were coming out. It robbed me I just started you know, I couldn't I couldn't be present. My husband kept saying to me over and over at the end, we're going to be holding this baby it's going to be worth it. It's going to be okay, you're doing a great job all but all of those words and all of that comfort from him was going in one ear and out the other because I was already so triggered and I didn't have any coping skills to get myself out. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended at 26 weeks, and we had found out at 20 weeks that he was a boy. And we named him Joseph after my husband's uncle and grandfather, actually. So he was our only son. And the day that I lost him, I had broken up with this feeling that something was wrong. I thought it was me, maybe my blood pressure, you know, something was off and then I thought, Okay, good. The nurses coming soon and I'll ask her. Well, she came and she took my blood pressure on my vitals. She said, You're, you're okay. You're okay. I'm like, Okay. And I took a nap. And I woke up like abruptly I started to poke my belly. And he didn't respond. And I tried not to be alarmed. You know, I try not to panic. And I call their office I said, No, I need to come in something is wrong. So I went in, and that's how they found out there was no heartbeat. So my mother intuition was on point with that and I'm open to this new pain, grief.

I had spent years and PTSD now I'm grieving over my son. But here's here's the difference. I love my son. And so that love is what started opening the doors to what had happened to me in the past. And it was almost like I was coming up against the final wall. I had to either face it and make a choice to live or give up. I had to birth him though, I had to get through that experience. First. I had to say hello and goodbye to my son all in one day. And being in the hospital with something that's traumatic, brought me right back to being in the hospital after the rape, the smells, the sound, everything, everything. And once I was there, I couldn't come out of the trigger. It was like one constant panic. The The entire time I was there. So I'm having constant anxiety. I'm having panic, I'm trying to get a grip. I'm trying to also be there for my husband because he's grieving too. A lot of times men get ignored in this whole process. And I wanted to be there for him, but I couldn't. And I got up at one point, I got up and went into the bathroom. And for the very first time, I when I splashed my face, and I was shaking, and I was holding on to the sink and I was just trying to get a grip, like get a grip, you need to try to stay as calm as you can. But how do you do that when you're giving birth to your dead baby? I mean, no one can stay calm. And I looked at myself and I saw myself differently. It was almost as if I was looking at the 16 year old version of myself and it shocked me. And all of a sudden I heard my rapist voice I smelled vodka. It was as if somebody picked me up from the hospital and put me into his apartment into in the summer of 2000. It was the it was weird and creepy almost because I couldn't I didn't know what was happening. I didn't know that one trauma can trigger another. I'm very you know, this is this is just happening and I screamed, my husband and I came out. And the first thing I said to Jason is you get to get somebody in here. I can't breathe, I can't breathe and he of course the first thing he does is trying to help me breathe. And the nurses came in they repeatedly kept asking me Do you want medicine we can we can take this anxiety away we can give you whatever you want to help you through this. I kept saying no. I didn't want any medication because I wanted to remember this time with with Joseph. I didn't want to be numbed out. The problem was my body wasn't registered. During that it was in labor. Three days passed. And I and I still was, he was not here yet. And at this point they had to call a larger hospital. So they call the Yale to see what do we do. Now, of course, I wasn't listening. I'm just, I didn't want to burn him. I didn't want to let him go. And so I was okay being there because I did not want to leave that hospital without him. They called Yale and they called Bridgeport Hospital. Bridgeport was the one that got back to them. So I was transferred to Bridgeport Hospital, and I was told that I was going to go into surgery, not a C section because they didn't want to risk doing a C section for my future pregnancies. So they had what's called a D and E, not a DNC, a D and E. And there was one doctor in the state who was very experienced and she was in Bridgeport, and she was the very first doctor who recommend recognized my trauma and spoke to me like a person And when they put me on to the surgery table, she held her her finger, I'll never forget that she held her finger up to silence everybody and she leaned over me and she said, Your son is safe now I want to make you safe. And that I will never forget that moment. And then I was asleep maybe seconds later because she had art they had already inserted the anesthesia. So I will forever remember that moment. It was the it was so it meant so much to me because it made me feel like I was heard, you know, and that I was safe, which is really important, especially for a rape survivor to hear the words, you are safe. I felt like I blinked and then woke up and the surgery was over. But it was silent. There was no baby in my arms. I was in the recovery and just sat there and complete shock that that had just happened.

So after you left the hospital and after you You got back to life? How did you start to face this?

Well, I didn't know if what I was feeling was an emotion or trigger from my past or grief, I had a really hard time understanding. And really, no, I didn't know, what do I do first? And am I ready to face my past but grief became my teacher through this whole process, although I didn't realize that I could not deny grief because I can't deny loving my son and grieving in love going, in my opinion, go hand in hand, and I'm grieving because of him and that's okay. It's okay that I still grieve today over him. But at the time, I didn't know how to move forward. I felt like the time in between him and getting pregnant with our third child was this gray area. Maria, I didn't want to talk to anybody actually, because a lot of my friends were were having their their first babies and I didn't want to be around that. I blamed myself, because I had always blamed a lot of this since the rape you know, all my body failures, you know, couldn't breastfeed. Lilian, last Joseph, all these things I unconsciously connected back to that time at 16 years old. I didn't think I was gonna ever regain control. You see, at one point after I had Lillian, there was some time there may be a few years that I felt in control again, I'm like not having panic attacks anymore. I think life is good. It wasn't good because it was in that's what losing Joseph showed me. And eight months later, we were pregnant with our daughter, Leila. And so I thought, okay, if I, if I get pregnant, and I do this again, it's going to take the grief away. Because now I have my baby, and maybe all of all of these emotions and I'm feeling the anger, the panic, all these things that came back, maybe that'll just go away too. I always looked for outside things to help me with my pain. Instead of looking in, I was really like, dedicated to having more control in my birth I felt like I could. And when we got to the end of laylaz pregnancy, I think, after not processing my feelings and living in this like denial warrior state that I was in, I was so weak by the end of it, that I couldn't, I couldn't stand up for myself. They had done a measure on her. Now without realizing my first I was 11 pounds, four ounces, they measured almost 13 pounds. And because I was so weak, I just didn't care anymore. I just said find an eye gave in and now I'm out of control. Again, I don't feel empowered. I don't feel in control with this. But I gave in because I just wanted to hold her. You know, I didn't, I didn't want to lose her. So there was that fear. And it's, it's hard when you're when you're bullied down from a doctor, it's really hard to stand up for yourself when you're that weak. The C section was scheduled for the next day. And I went home, and I mean, I was nervous for another surgery, but I was okay. I was calm, at least. And at 4am. I woke up and the contractions were intense.

So how interesting because you had agreed to a surgical birth at this point. And now you woke up at 4am in labor? Mm hmm.

Okay, yeah. So I thought, oh, okay, here we go. And I just continued letting the contractions calm, I didn't even call like, and I showed up and they were about every five minutes at that point, and they were pretty strong, and I was beginning to dilate, and I just I didn't want anything to happen to her that kept that was on the forefront of my mind I just want my baby alive. So I said fine, let's do the surgery and I just I just gave in to it and I I wish I can go back to that moment but it can you do it differently.

I wish I was stronger with my instincts. I wish I spoke up more. I wish. I wish a lot of things but I just --

Well, it's easy to wish you had done things differently now that you have confirmation that she was born a healthy baby but back then you were a mom who had lost her previous baby, right? I mean, it's a whole different story. It's understandable completely that you relinquished a little earlier than you might have otherwise. And as a rape survivor, I already didn't trust my body. And how did it go? The surgery itself was actually fine. They played they played Irish music just to make me laugh in my head. came in and they danced to this Irish music which made me laugh. It actually the team in there was great. I had no issues with them. The anesthesiologist was so funny, it was actually fine that the whole surgery itself was very straightforward.

And I do want to ask you one question, if you don't mind you took HypnoBirthing. Yes. And what doesn't get addressed a lot is did you feel you were able to use your HypnoBirthing tools through a surgical birth?

Yes. And I did, how your voice came back to me. And I just remember the breath work that we practice, and that was the own so I tuned out but the biggest thing that my doctor and he was a male doctor, by the way, I he came around, and he he said, Put your hand Put your head right here, and he hugged me, like a father would hug his daughter and I just melted into him and I said, and I whispered, thank you. And he said, Just breathe. And then I was like, okay, Cynthia taught me this. And so I started to breathe and I kind of got into a zone. Just relaxed in was great.

I feel like his own paternal instinct. He had this wave of affection for you, you know, and I feel like he just had a paternal instinct and it's so beautiful because of your position on male doctors before which was so understandable and justifiable even without having had a history of assault. Right? But there is that space for the right soul in the room, he can treat you and he was the doctor I didn't initially like in the in the practice. We have two male doctors and he was the one I was like, I don't know about him. He ended up being the best doctor through that whole thing. And he does have four children I found out later so he's very fatherly, and I'll always appreciate that. surgery went great. No issues and it was so intense that here I am, finally have my my next baby. She's alive. She's pink, she's healthy, everything's good. And not just the pregnancy but also the eight months before having her came. It's almost like you came crashing down at that one. It was like Hi. Hi. Hi, here she is. And then boom, I crashed. And I wasn't having any flashbacks or anything like that. But I, I went from such an elated Oh my god, she's alive. She's breathing. Everything's good to this. Oh reality, all the pain that I was ignoring all this time. Oh, here we are again it was so drastic. And once we were in the postpartum room I actually turned away from Layla and he was ready to hand it to me to to nurse she was starting to fuss. And I said I don't want to hold her. And he didn't know what to do. And he did the right thing by not questioning me. He just gave me some time to do what I needed to do and I rolled over actually fell asleep. I don't know what he did. I woke up he had no shirt on he was doing skin to skin and she was asleep. And so but I knew she needed to nurse and I knew she needed you know we couldn't hold her off anymore.

I have to ask you What so that that combination of emotions or whatever was starting to brew in you? Was it the stillbirth? Was it the rape? Did you know was identified? I had no idea okay, I just didn't know did it turn into a guilt like she's here and I get to love her and hold her and he's not and Joseph is not that it did it turn into a guilt. The guilt was there with me through the whole pregnancy. I I felt a lot of anger towards her, and what you know, not as if it was her fault, but why are you here? And your brother is not. I wanted both of them. It's not like I didn't It's not like I wanted to get rid of her. I just I wanted all I wanted all my children here and so that that guilt was never it was something as a trauma survivor that I always felt, see, I felt guilty for going into that apartment building. I felt like I knew better, you know, and so I felt like it was my fault because of that. So I always have that shame and guilt with It was a part of me almost, and I didn't know how to shake it.

And even though there was so much struggle, it was that very dark day when she was eight weeks old. That woke me. It woke me up to the point where I had to finally, after all of this, make a choice, choose life, or give up was the first day I'm alone with her after weeks of really deep, dark, postpartum depression. She woke up from a nap, and she was crying. She was ready to feed. Of course, she's eight weeks old. And right when I heard her crying, I started to get panic. I had had a panic attack like that before but not in a very long time. And panic attacks are very scary. So I said, Okay, she's just an innocent baby. Get a grip is when I kept telling myself and I quickly texted my husband and I said, you need to Come home is all I said and I put the phone down, went to her nursery, and she's screaming at this point and between the crying and my dog had started to bark because she sensed what was going on. She can hear Layla crying so she's barking and barking and I could hear the barking and when you're in a panic attack, you feel like you're in a tunnel. And so I heard I heard Layla and I heard my dog and I her traffic outside all in this like tunnel and it was all at once. And I and I was outside her bedroom door and I just sat down and I was shaking. And I said I can't hold her I'm gonna I felt like I was on dropper if I had gone in there and some mother strengthen me got me back up and I said just feed her and put her down. And I picked her up. I put her to my breast in the rocking chair. But I sat robotic, not staring at her not relaxing into it. Just put her there. She did. She did start nursing. She was starving. And staring straight ahead. My heart was pounding so fast and I'm like, What? What is going on? I looked down at her. Finally after about maybe five minutes, and she was looking at me while eyes wide open, big blue eyes looking right at me. And she reached her hand up. She's put her hand on my cheek. And I started to cry. And I realized I never let go that way. I had spent over a decade being in denial and ignoring all my pain, and I hated crying. I felt like if I started, I would never stop. And so I started to cry and cry and cry, the tears falling on poor Laila. She stayed very still through the hole. She kept nursing through that moment. In her hand, that connection just showing me It's okay. I didn't realize how much time passed but Jason wasn't working far away anyway. And he had he obviously got that text, probably panic. And he came home, and she finally fell back asleep. Now he's walking in seeing me nursing. He's probably thinking, what why is she panicking? Why did she text me? But he saw I was crying and he knew I was suffering postpartum. We put Layla back down in her crib, and she just continued sleeping. And we left and I just lost it. I can't really even describe it. I think the first thing that came out of my mouth was something like I can't do this anymore. I can't pretend anymore. He knew. And he didn't have to ask anything else. And the entire night at 16 years old, came flat like flooding as if like a dam wall broken, the water just crashed. And all the memories came back. I didn't realize I had control of them like that. I always thought I forgot them. And that was it. Our bodies and our brain So amazing. And the minute I gave it permission to come, it came. I remembered every detail. He I was screaming, I was crying. I said it all the way back. I remember every single detail of that night. And he he looked down at me and he said, and you're safe. And that's all I needed to see that it was safe to feel. It was safe to process. It was safe to let go. That was the first day that I chose life. And even though I was far from being healed, or you know, no knowing what to do next. I knew that it was going to be okay. I just didn't know how did you begin to talk about your story with people at that point?

Yes, I got a therapist that I liked. I had to find a interview a few before I found one that I was comfortable with and it's okay to do that. That's important to do that. Yes. Just like it's okay to do that with your doctor. I found She's amazing. And she helped me through the grief, the rape, just everything. And I realized the more I started telling my story, the more I wanted to tell my story. And the more I didn't want, I didn't want other women to feel this way I didn't want and whether it's a similar story to mine, pain is pain. I, you know, tell your story and tell it again. And if someone doesn't listen, say it again to someone who will. And then it's okay if someone doesn't listen, because maybe they're not ready. And that's okay, because we're all at different points in our life. And so it just became this release. And finally, finally, I realized what I was seeing in Joseph's birth room was that grief was allowing me to surrender. And that it was okay. You know, the only way out of it is through it. That's right. At that point, we didn't have any plans on having another child. All I knew was I needed To heal and I was ready. And besides the therapist, I started getting into somatic therapy, body healing, nutrition. I started meeting all kinds of wonderful alternative practitioners who specialized in so many different areas. I started to learn about mental health and nutrition and why that's important to strengthen your body. Because I needed the strength to cope with these feelings that were coming through and the processing can really wear you down it's a journey it's not a step by step it's a you take a next step and then you see what is going to work for the next step after that once I really incorporated my body into it and learning how to forgive my body, it was a game changer for me you know, natural living and alternative healing and all these really disconnecting the mind body. I started to realize it's it's not just a life choice. It was it was about giving my body in my mind the opportunity to help me process something that we are equipped with At birth, our bodies in our mind, we are able to handle these things that happen. But I was so beaten down from so many years of ignoring it that I just, you know, I didn't realize that you had been in a place of disconnect. That's right for all of those years. And when you start integrating the connection, yes, that's how you are able to move forward, reintegrate it and be okay with it. None of our stories are the same. So therefore, none of our healing is going to ever be the same. That's why there's so many different wonderful healing modalities out there.

So you had almost three years Yep. Before you felt ready to have another child.

Yes, my husband, I knew we had one more baby in there. And I was ready. And so I because of my history, of course, I was high risk or categorized as high risk but I was okay. And so I took walks with my girls like I felt like it was just different and she came and What really what I noticed right off the bat with Luna of that I didn't have with my other three pregnancies was the ability to be present and to be in the quiet so there's all this talk out there about you know, you know just be and that's even the name of my book just be in the present you know even though I had tried like those quiet times with Lilian when I had her and I was in for the first time my life had slowed down and it was really trying to enjoy those moments and I thought I was doing it. I really wasn't doing it. What I noticed with Luna was that when I when I held her and I did icontact with her when I did skin to skin, and I held her and I smelled her and I enjoyed those moments, I was actually able to have smell her newborn smell, I was actually able to, I can remember everything from her newborn days, everything. I felt so in control with her and that empowered me empowerment is critical with rape survivor. I trusted myself as a mom, I trusted my body. Love heals everything. a psychologist once said, there's two things we need in life of being authentic. And attachment and not just attachment in the early days, attachment is lifetime, even as adults, we need human attachment. One of the things as a rape survivor, I always said was, I never want to have daughters. I want all boys. I don't want to think about my daughter being in this big scary world. So I looked up at the sky. I remember doing this even before I met Jay and I said, Don't give me any daughters. I don't want them. And, you know, I use God, you know, the higher pop laughs here's three things. And it has been the best thing for me to have these girls I am meant to be a girl mom. And Joseph was there to show me to show me as a male energy moving through For me, what I was ignoring. So I would venture to say that had you not had girls you may not have had to face your past in the way you have had to because right you have had to look at dead in the eye and heal from it so that you could you protect your daughters and you could feel safe going forward in life with daughters, I needed to cut the cord, and the cord ended with me. And my story was not going to be theirs. And it doesn't mean that I hide my story from them. No, my oldest daughter has read my book, and she knows everything. And she thanked me. She said, Mom, thank you for telling me your story. It brought us closer. And she said it actually answered some lingering questions because she saw even as a young child, she saw a lot of my trauma even though she had no idea what was going on.

Can you comment on giving birth to your healthy little bouncing Laila? Yeah, and That misconception maybe within yourself but certainly the people around you like a few thank god Lindsey now had another healthy baby. Okay, we can all move on now.

I actually got a lot of those comments now like they actually articulated those things out loud to you from weather friends, family or are on social media that your arms are full. Oh, you must be so happy. You know all those things. And they were well intentioned. I'm not it's not nobody mean nobody knows what to say to a loss mom, because it's such an intimate loss. And it's one that a lot of people don't can't relate to. You know, you bury your grandparents, but that's expected in life but you're not supposed to bury your child. And for me, it was just always a simple answer. It was. I have four children. I don't have three and then I've had losses because I've had other miscarriages too. But Joseph, I bonded with him. You know, I felt him he was a part of me for 26 weeks. And Layla didn't replace him and no other child ever will always want him to. I'm always going to wish he was here as well with his crazy three sisters. So when I when I answer that to people, though it sort of helps them to step back and realize that, you know, infant loss is something that's not talked about enough.

Does that why you wrote your book?

That is exactly why I wrote my book, but also wrote my book because not only is writing extremely cathartic, it's healing. It's a wonderful activity to do. I've always loved writing, but also, not just for Joseph, but for the many women out there who have suffered sexual assault and the silence and to help them to break that silence because every year, you know, in April, we celebrate sexual assault month and Take Back the Night and helping these survivors to speak their story. And so I wanted my first book to be my story in my memoir, so I can be voice to somebody who's ready to do the same.

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Donna It's so nice that you as Lindsay's mom that you came here today to support her and what was this like for you? I mean, you, you've been by her side, the closest person to her pretty much through this entire experience. What do you want to say?

I think what I would say, as a mother of a daughter who was harmed in this way, at a very young age is is to try to connect to your own feelings and get the help, you might need to go through that. Because there is such thing as secondary trauma. And to understand that, and how you process that, so that you can come forward to your child with more compassion, with listening ears with encouragement. It was December when she finally told me everything that happened, and I think had I been in a place where I reached out and got my own help right away because I was scared. And I was a single mom that I might have been able to help Her quicker to get that story out and go to the police, which we eventually did, and told the story there. So I, I think in all of it, the encouragement I would have for mothers who have daughters that have gone through this is to help yourself so you can help your daughter. I think that's the biggest thing you can do and then continue to know, understand what trauma is and how long and post medic stress disorder which she had and how long that takes to unwind and to continue to help yourself to help her through that process. Yeah.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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