What to Expect After Giving Birth:
Giving birth is an emotionally intense and physically traumatic experience. Be really gentle with yourself as you recover from it. If you've experienced a miscarriage, still birth or early neonatal loss some of these topics will still apply to you, but please also see the Loss page here. The Loss page also has information for parents of children with disabilities or special needs. Here are some pages about what to expect just after giving birth:
Mayo Clinic's Page on Early Post-Partum Care
The Fourth Trimester - What to Expect of Your Body After Giving Birth
What to Expect - Early Post-Natal Recovery
Belly Belly Forum - What Should I Expect of My Body After Birth
Common Problems After Giving Birth
Naming Your Child:
Naming a child says something important about their identity and yours. Whatever name you choose, whether it's their legal name later or not, it's a connection between you that will always remain. Naming a child can be very emotional, especially if you intend to place them for adoption. Be very kind and gentle with yourself throughout this process. Many people find giving their child a name helps them process their experiences and grieve.
Here are some pages that might help you choose a name you like and one that means something special to you:
Baby Names World
Baby Names Inventor
Random Baby Name Genie
Baby Name Advisor - this is a lot of fun!
Adoption - Can I Name My Child?
Considerations in Naming an Adopted Child
Laws About First Names of Adopted Children WA - will vary from place to place.
If you've chosen to place your baby for adoption, this could be a very difficult time for you. You usually have to wait a minimum time before signing the adoption consent forms. Then there's some time after that during which you can change your mind. I imagine the waiting is hard.
Adoption processes differ from place to place, so you'll need to find local information. If you're in Australia the links on the Deciding What to Do page here might help. You might also find Children by Choice (in Australia) and The SA Department of Family Services page on Counselling about Consent to Adoption useful. Adoption.com's page on Placement and Saying Goodbye follows a different model of open-adoption in the US. The processes differ but the emotions involved may be similar.
During the waiting period you may be invited to write a letter to your child explaining why you placed them for adoption. This letter will be aimed at a child 8 to 10 years old. Will you tell them you were raped? Or would you rather wait to see if they want contact with you after they're 18? Stigma is an international organization for children conceived in rape. They might be able to help you with this decision.
In Australia there's commonly no direct contact between birth and adoptive parents. But in the open-adoption model more common elsewhere you can hold an Adoption Covenant and Placement Ceremony or Entrustment Ceremony. Perhaps you can take some ideas from these pages to help you in your own placement process. You might also be interested in the idea of pregnancy journalling. Please see the Pregnancy Developing page here.
These sites may be helpful:
Placing a Child for Adoption: Birthmothers Share their Thoughts
Birth Mother Centre at Adoption.com with a forum.
Birth Mother Support has links to other support sites and personal stories
Birth Mother Forum
Lifemothers Information and Message Board
Birth Parent Forum
Birthmother: Heroes I Have Known Blogspot
Adoption Origins Tasmania - All Affected by Adoption are Welcome Here
Saying Goodbye to a Baby: Birthparents Guide to Loss and Grief in Adoption
Long-Term Issues for Birthmothers After Adoption
Information about the Effects of Adoption on Birthmothers
Birth Mother Trauma Counseling
Many birthmothers fear that their child might not be safe from abuse or neglect with their adoptive parents. It wouldn't be surprising if this fear was even stronger in women who'd been raped and abused. The rate of abuse from adoptive parents is very low, probably because they're carefully screened before being allowed to adopt. If you have any concerns about the screening process talk to the adoption counsellor about it and reassure yourself - you have that right!
Adoption is a very complex process, both practically and emotionally. This is such a brief look at it that I wonder if I should put it up at all! But perhaps the links here might help you find support and information, or encourage you to look for adoption-specific counselling. You're doing a very brave and loving thing. Adoption involves losses. The gains are also real. It's not ideal, but you've been placed in a situation where "ideal"'s no longer possible. As the sister of someone who was adopted, I can speak for the gains and have also seen some of the losses and difficulties. You aren't responsible for these losses and difficulties - the blame for those lies solely with the person who raped you and created this imperfect situation. You're giving life, which is a gift much too big to be perfect! I know it can be hard, but you deserve to feel proud of yourself.
For more information about adoption and counselling, please see the state links on the Deciding What to Do page here.
Breastfeeding and Early Baby Care:
Whether or not you're planning to place your baby for adoption, its likely its first feeds will come from you. Breastfeeding is a skill mothers and babies learn together (this page tells you some of the basics) and it's normal to have ups and downs. Women who've been sexually assaulted or abused are twice as likely as other women to try to breastfeed. They're also more likely to have problems. These pages might help:
South East Centre for Sexual Assault (VIC) about Breastfeeding after Child Sexual Abuse Breastfeeding After Sexual Violation
Breastfeeding As A Rape or Sexual Abuse Survivor
Breastfeeding and the Sexual Abuse Survivor
Pandora's Project Breastfeeding Your Baby As a Survivor
This personal story in a post from a message board where you can talk to a lactation consultant might also interest you. For lots of useful information, resources and support in Australia go to the Australian Breastfeeding Association. They also run a telephone helpline - 1800 686 2 686
If certain things about breastfeeding make you uncomfortable, talk to your personal lactation consultant about alternatives and ways round these problems. Here's a page of information for lactation consultants about what issues might arise. You're not alone if you experience detachment or dissociation. Many women who've experienced sexual abuse also have trouble with things like baths and nappy changes, and with the physical closeness between a mother and her baby. It's not easy, but it can be very healing and empowering to overcome these problems. Give yourself permission to do what's best for both you and the baby. If you decide to bottle feed, remember that what's not ideal can still be the best decision in the circumstances.
Photo from Baby Photos and Pictures
If it's at all possible, try to find a counsellor who can give you ongoing support as you work through the abuse and become a new parent. They, or you, might be interested in reading this article about Childhood Sexual Abuse and the Potential Impact on Maternity. Here's some information about early baby care and information about support services to help you start this new stage of your life. There's more information about parenting after rape and abuse on the A Pregnancy After This? page here.
Post-Natal "Baby Blues", Psychosis, Depression and PTSD:
In the days and weeks immediately after the birth of your new baby you, like most mums, may experience more extreme emotional highs and lows. After all, your hormones are going nuts! This is sometimes called the "baby blues" or post-partum depression (PPD). These pages on
Baby Blues and Post-Natal Depression and Post-Partum Depression (PPD) and the Baby Blues might help you. The "baby blues" affect around 80% of women and usually occurs between 3 and 10 days after giving birth. The "baby blues" usually pass on their own, but they may be more complicated if you're also experiencing rape-related trauma. So if you're worried about how you're feeling please talk to your caregiver or early childhood nurse.
Post-natal psychosis is an emergency experienced by about 1 woman in every 500 who've recently given birth. It usually develops between the 3rd day and the 6th week after giving birth. It used to be regarded as a form of postnatal depression, but is now seen as a separate illness. Half of first time mothers who experience post-natal psychosis have no history of mental illness requiring hospitalisation. But if you've got any personal or family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder you might be at greater risk. Post-natal psychosis requires immediate treatment and usually at least some time in hospital. This page gives some useful information about the symptoms and treatment of post-natal psychosis and includes advice for partners, family and friends. Though women may be at greater risk of developing post-natal psychosis after future pregnancies, they usually recover fully with proper treatment.
Photo from Cepolina
Post-natal depression (PND) is much more common, occuring in about 16% of women who've recently given birth (i.e. about 80 times more often than post-natal psychosis). Here's a list of pages and articles about post-natal depression. PND usually develops between 1 month and 1 year after giving birth. It can begin gradually or suddenly. You may need urgent assistance (see also Crisis Links here), psychological "talking therapies" and/or treatment with medication (some antidepressants have been found much less likely than others to cause any harm to a breast-fed baby). Some herbal preparations and alternative remedies which have been shown to be effective in treating depression aren't suitable for breast-feeding. Please make sure you discuss them first with your medical doctor.
Anyone who's been pregnant through rape has lots of good reasons to feel worn out and depressed (whether or not your child is with you)! But just because you can see why you might feel bad doesn't mean there's nothing that can help. Please, if you can, ask for the help you need - you do deserve it! If you're already working with a counsellor or therapist, you can talk about it with them. If you don't have a counsellor or therapist already, this website lists counsellors and services across Australia who specialise in PND. Do tell your counsellor or therapist that you were raped - it's important information that will help them help you.
Post-Natal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PN PTSD) occurs in up to 33% of women who give birth and is a recognised response to birth trauma. Women with a history of abuse and trauma have a higher risk of developing PN PTSD. As someone who's been raped, that puts you at higher risk. You may be further traumatized or re-traumatized by the experience of giving birth. With good support during labour you're less likely to experience the feelings of fear and helplessness that can precipitate PN PTSD (see Birth here), but birth is not a process we can fully control.
PN PTSD symptoms may start soon after childbirth or be delayed, sometimes by years. There may be other symptoms that cover those of PN PTSD. If you recognise any of these symptoms please don't hesitate to ask for help. PTSD doesn't usually pass by itself. This page from the UK explains PN PTSD and where to go for help. You can also find explanations and support at this Trauma and Birth Stress page from NZ. Here's another helpful page on PN PTSD: Healing the Trauma
If you're already seeing someone about rape-related PTSD you might find it hard to recognise or bring up the symptoms of PN PTSD. I hope this information helps you and your therapist identify the quickest and smoothest possible path to recovery for you.
If you're now a single mum trying to recover from giving birth and from the rape preceding it, you're probably feeling overwhelmed! It might seem like sense to put off getting help for yourself. But both PND and PN PTSD respond best with early treatment. Maternal depression also affects your baby. By looking after your little one's mum you're looking after them as well.
If you no longer have your baby with you, that's no reason to delay! As soon as you're able, please ask for help. Sometimes finding help takes time and strength that's hard to find. Getting support online may help you build resources for finding professional help offline:
BubHub.com.au Post-Natal Depression Support Group
Baby Blues Connection to Telephone Support US
NetMums Coffee House Post-Natal Depression Support Forum
Post-Natal Illness Support Forum UK
List of Support Groups Internationally from the Open Directory Project
Or go to rape-related support groups such as Pandora's Aquarium and those listed at Herodes' Cave.
Bonding with Your Baby After Birth:
If you're planning to place your baby for adoption you might not get much chance to bond after birth. Please take a look at the Pregnancy Developing page for information about bonding during pregnancy, even if you're planning to place your baby for adoption.
Post-natal illness and rape-related trauma can make it more difficult to bond with your baby. Here's a page on The Effect of Trauma on a Mother's Attachment to Her Child. Here are some pages of information about bonding with your baby after birth:
Bonding with Your Baby from Kidshealth
Bonding After Birth - What is bonding? What if I don't bond with my baby straight away? When should I worry? When did it happen for you?
Connecting and Communicating with Your Baby in a Nutshell
Babies Connecting and Communicating
Photos from Slideshow (linked just below)
One way to bond after your baby's born is gentle touch. Here's some information about baby massage:
Good Basic Information about Baby Massage
Slideshow of How to Massage Your Baby
Benefits of Baby Massage from the Infant Massage Information Service
Recommendations for Baby Massage from the Infant Massage Information Service - includes getting started, information for parents of pre-term and special needs babies, and information about massage and post-natal depression
Baby Massage and Post-Natal Depression
Time with Baby: Baby Massage and Post-Natal Depression
Getting Started on Baby Massage - has diagrams and also links for tips about early baby care.
Mirroring your baby can also be a good way to establish eye-contact, give your baby focused attention and build a bond with your baby.
Mirroring's a good way to "listen" to your baby. Dunstan Baby language can also help you listen and understand the meaning of your young baby's cries. It applies only to babies younger than 3 months old, but if you can establish communication early it's likely to help later on as well.
Dunstan Baby Language - Why is My Baby Crying? - this page has videos to help you practice identifying the 5 basic cries.
"Neh" = I'm hungry
"Owh" = I'm sleepy
"Heh" = I'm uncomfortable
"Eair" = I have lower gas
"Eh" = I need to burp
Sometimes babies just cry! But this can help you develop a better understanding and quicker response to the needs your baby expresses.
A way to develop better communication with your older baby is using sign language. Before they're developmentally ready to speak, children point and try to communicate. Here's some information about how to teach your baby sign language:
About Baby Sign Language
Time with Baby: Sign Language
Articles about Baby Sign Language
Every Baby Signs
Teaching your baby even a few signs can help you communicate with them. Little people I know have learned signs for food, drink, hearing sounds, sleepy and maybe a few more. It's helped both them and their parents.
How can you do any of this stuff when you're both so severely sleep-deprived? I hope you'll get more sleep soon! These pages on best practice methods for settling a baby and how baby should sleep might help you:
Baby and Toddler Sleeping
Your Baby's Sleep
There's more advice on parenting on the A Pregnancy After This? page here.
Feelings and Thoughts:
Please be aware that this section may be upsetting and contain graphic details.
Here's another experience:
I do have a child from rape. She is the most precious girl in the world. She is now almost 21 years old. I was deeply in love with her father and making wedding plans when he chose to rape me one day. I was terrified. I was 18 at the time. I now realize how young 18 is to deal with issues like this. I put off everything else and concentrated on my unborn baby. I put off dealing with the trauma to make new decisions including baby. Unfortunately I couldn't deal with those big issues and still continued on to get married. The baby was a welcome distraction as I couldn't deal with the rape. I had no reservations about raising her. I love children and wanted several. Now since leaving my marriage and suffering PTSD there has been some issues because she is alot like her father. She sense's something happened in regards to her birth. I feel awful. She thought she was adopted that one of us had an affair particularly me that got pregnant with someone else's baby. None of my family knows and I am now considering coming forward to them about the abuse to set myself free. He still on occasion uses that control over me from a distance, not sure if you understand, to make me feel like the bad person. He even called me abusive. I feel it's the only thing to do. I have to work out somethings with my doctor but we'll work on a plan. I don't want to tell her she's a product of rape but just about the abuse I suffered. I know it's risky and going to be painful but I need to heal. Jail would be better but I don't want to go through the courts and it's not going to change anything. I did tell him if it happened again I would come forward with my evidence.