Book Review: Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse
By Mickey Sperlich & Julia Seng
Motherbaby Press, 2008
245 pages, softcover
Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, CCCE
Past sexual abuse is an unfortunately common experience for women. Anyone who works with women of childbearing age should be mindful and informed of the effects of an abuse history on the woman’s experience of pregnancy, birthing, and mothering. Indeed, I consider this awareness to be a fundamental professional responsibility. Enter Survivor Moms, published by Motherbaby Press. This book is an incredibly in-depth look at the experiences and need of survivors of sexual abuse during the childbearing year.
One of the best and most unique features of the book is the “tab” format used for much of the clinical, research-based, or fact-based content in the book. Rather than lengthy chapters reviewing research and analyzing the phenomenon, textboxes containing quick facts and reference material are printed in the margins of many of the pages. The bulk of the narrative information in the main body of the text is then in the voices of mothers themselves, interspersed with commentary by the authors linking concepts, explaining ideas, and clarifying essentials. This is a powerful format that makes information readily and quickly available for reference as well as making the overall book very readable and approachable.
As someone with no personal abuse history who is currently pregnant, I did find the book to be a very emotionally difficult, intense, and almost overwhelming read at times. This is not a criticism in any way—sexual abuse is not a light or cheerful topic and it can be one that many people prefer to avoid. This is all the more reason for birth professionals to make a specific effort to be educated and informed.
Written both for mothers themselves and for the professionals who work with them, Survivor Moms is an essential part of any birth professional’s library. As noted in the book’s introduction, “We need to understand the impact of childhood abuse on birthing and mothering deeply, from hearing women’s stories. We also need to understand it broadly—from looking at the impact on samples and populations, on the body and on the culture.” Survivor Moms offers an accessible way of hearing those critically important stories and developing the necessary understanding to care compassionately for birthing women.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.