When I checked myself into the emergency room, whispering under my breath that I was sexually assaulted and needed to file a police report, I didn't realize all the ways my life was about to be (and already was) forever altered. I didn't know that my sexual assault would change my future romantic relationships; I didn't realize that my sexual assault would change how I gave birth; I definitely didn't realize that my sexual assault would change my breastfeeding experience. Honestly, I was just trying to comprehend what had happened, and prepare myself for the necessary steps ahead. And while, after I became a mother, knew that I wanted to try breastfeeding my son for as long as possible, I didn't realize that surviving a sexual assault years prior would make that attempt much, much, harder.
I honestly thought enough time had passed that the edges of my initial trauma would be softened enough as to not poke holes in my now fortified memory bank. It had been two years since I was examined and pieces of my clothing were bagged and pictures of my body parts were categorized and statements were made. It had been two years since the detective informed me that there wasn't enough evidence to go to trial. It had been two years of healing and counseling and strength and reasons to laugh again and a new, healthy relationship and a surprise pregnancy, ending with the birth of my son. I honestly didn't think that, when my son latched so effortlessly and started eating so easily, my breastfeeding issues were just starting. I didn't realize that the act of breastfeeding would sharpen the edges of my trauma and memories would pore out of my mind and in front of my eyes and I'd start to re-live a moment I had been trying tirelessly to forget.
My breastfeeding experience is why, to this day and always, you'll never hear me say, "Breast is best." I understand the benefits of breastfeeding and know that it can be a great bonding experience and alleviate financial hardships and just be a wonderful overall experience for both mother and child, but it can also be a trigger for the estimated 293,000 women who are sexually assault every year in the United States. While not all of those women will choose to become mothers, and not all of those mothers will choose to breastfeed, and of those women who do choose to breastfeed, not all of them will have issues (as there are plenty of sexual assault survivors who don't have any problems breastfeeding, and even say breastfeeding helped them heal from their trauma) a sexual assault can change a woman's breastfeeding experience. Here are just a few ways how: