What Not to Say to a Rape Survivor on the Anniversary

What Not to Say to a Rape Survivor on the Anniversary September 21, 2021

Just a content warning to anyone who doesn’t want to read the details of medical abuse and a rape today: I’m going to write about just that.  I had something more poetic planned, but I received a very curious ignorant comment that I need to take to task. I’ll have a poetic musing a little later.

Yesterday was the ten-year anniversary of my water breaking after nine days of prodromal labor, two weeks past my due date, and my midwife telling me “try to get some sleep” and she’d be there in the morning. Of finding a smear of what might have been meconium and trying to tell her about it but she didn’t seem to care.

Today is the anniversary of twenty-seven hours of unassisted labor where the midwife would show up every four hours or so to give me what she claimed was a cervical exam even though it felt nothing like any cervical exam I had before or since– nothing like the cervical exam the registered nurse gave me later when the jig was up.   I was so naive, I thought it must just be a different kind of cervical exam. It’s my anniversary of lying there staring at my dusty ceiling, gasping in pain, wondering why whatever she was doing hurt so very much. This is the anniversary of being told to sip Emergen-C to prevent sepsis after  hours of ruptured membranes. This is my anniversary of wondering when the midwife and doula were going to show up and perform all the helping and comforting measures we’d decided on in the birth plan, after they’d convinced me I’m a candidate for home birth and I should fire my obstetrician. This is the anniversary of obediently chugging two  whole bottles of black and blue cohosh essential oil and a bottle of castor oil laced with melted ice cream, because the midwife said they would help me dilate.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the contractions going more and more wildly out of control. Of calling the midwife and being told over the phone that that was a good sign. Of the contractions starting to shoot Rosie backwards inside of me so she was no longer at zero but back up at one and two and my cervix was still only one centimeter. Of begging for help and being told that the midwife was too tired to drive to my house right now, so she was sending her backup midwife. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the backup midwife molesting me while I screamed in uncontrollable pain. Tomorrow is the anniversary of her blackmailing me by telling me I was suffocating Rosie every time I screamed. The anniversary of the backup midwife telling me she refused to take me to the hospital until I’d quieted down and meditated on a lotus opening for awhile. The anniversary of being told that I wasn’t dilating because I must not really want my Rosie.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of something waking up inside of me, taking possession of me like the demons I used to believe in in the Charismatic Renewal, and screaming at that assistant backup midwife to take me to the hospital. Threatening her. Roaring that I refused to be quiet until she took me to the hospital.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of sobbing “I’m never having a baby again!” and the backup midwife saying “then you’ll have to use protection!” as she slowly, methodically packed up her car and didn’t hurry. Every single time I’ve begged God for another baby and gotten my period anyway in the past ten years, I have thought of that second and wondered if the secondary infertility is God’s punishment for saying such a thing.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of praying to die or at least black out and the Virgin Mary not granting my prayer. Tomorrow is the anniversary of arriving at the hospital in Martin’s Ferry, almost an hour from Steubenville, where the midwife talked me into going instead of the closer one to cover her tracks. I found out later that she told people from Martin’s Ferry to go to Wheeling hospital, all so doctors wouldn’t know how many cases she botched. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the backup midwife telling me to tell the doctor it had been only fifteen hours, and leaning in to me and hissing in a threatening voice that I had to concentrate on not yelling.

Tomorrow at 7:32 in the morning is the anniversary of the exhausted obstetrician yelling at me and making fun of me for believing the midwife when she said she was qualified to assist at home births. I was his second emergency c-section from the same lying bait-and-switch con artist midwife of the night.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of seeing my Adrienne Rose, the most beautiful girl in the world, and hearing her voice for the first time.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of sitting in a hospital room with blue roses on the wallpaper, remembering that I’d prayed to Saint Therese for a blue rose as a sign that I would be a mother, and never wanting to speak to Saint Therese again.

Two days from now is the anniversary of the first flashback and of admitting to the doctor what happened. The doctor called the health department who said “what do you want me to do? Take her license away?” because it’s not illegal to be an unlicensed lay midwife in the state of Ohio, or at least it wasn’t at the time.

Four days from now is the anniversary of the doula who introduced me to the midwife in the first place berating me, calling me names and threatening me with having the baby taken away by social services if I ever talked about what the midwife did. She announced she was suing me. She threatened to sue the local Catholic moms’ social group if they didn’t throw me out of the group and take my name off the email loop, and they did so. She took away my bassinet with the lace all over it.

Four days from now is the anniversary of the midwife threatening to take me to small claims court if I didn’t pay for and submit to six follow-up home visits and cervical exams in the next six weeks.

Sometime after that is the anniversary of DONA telling me I couldn’t report the doula anonymously but had to use my full name, and the doula would see it and be able to respond. So I didn’t report her.

Sometime after that is the anniversary of realizing that entering a woman’s vagina through a ruse is rape, and I was having such severe flashbacks because I was really a rape victim. The midwife had lied about her qualifications. She had lied that she was going to be there at the birth. She had always planned to overdose me on labor-inducing herbal medicines, claim the irregular contractions were a good sign, and then claim she was too tired to come. She’d done it to a string of other women in the area. One woman’s baby died of a prolapsed hand. And I never would have let her enter me if I’d known that. I was tricked. What she did wasn’t even a cervical exam, it was a painful and physically damaging show to make herself look like a medical professional. I didn’t consent to being a character in her show. I paid her to help me, but she tore me up so hard it hurt to urinate for nine months.

It was nine months before I could sleep for more than two hours at a time. It was nine months before the physical pain when I went to the bathroom stopped, but I was too ashamed to see a doctor about it. It was a year before I could go to bed without jeans on. I still can’t stand to wear a nightgown without shorts underneath.

This morning I mentioned on social that it was my rape anniversary and the last day that my only baby would be in the single digits, and I wasn’t doing well.

A Twitter follower who claims to be a therapist, apparently some sort of “pastoral counselor,” said the following:

“Wait until she becomes eligible to join AARP.”

This person is always saying snide things to me; last week when I was in Columbus and asked for prayers for wisdom about who to contact and try to reconcile with from my past, she glibly chided me with that adage about “if people tell you who they are the first time, believe them,” as if I hadn’t thought of that. Now she was chiding me with a particularly cold and callous version of “you think it’s hard now? Just wait til they’re older!”

I confronted her with what an awful thing to say that was and she said “feel free to block me.”

I don’t really understand how someone can go all the way through training as a therapist, and still be such a callous unfeeling crank. I don’t know why we don’t have better programs filtering out abusive people who want to be therapists.

If you know someone who has been raped, please be gentle with them on anniversaries. I write for a living and I don’t even know how to begin to describe the pain. It’s like having white hot lead poured on you, every year.

If you’re a pastoral counselor, whatever that is, and you act like this, do the world a favor and quit. Take a vow of silence and you’ll do the Church a lot more good than this.

If you’re a rape survivor, please know that it isn’t your fault this was done to you. Whatever silly things you tell yourself later about God punishing you are perfectly understandable, but they’re not real. God doesn’t blame you and is on your side.

And I’ll be on again later after I’ve calmed down, with a blog post that’s a bit more inspiring.


image via pixabay.

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