What happened to you as a child that feels like a punch to the gut every time you think about it?
Answered by: Janie Wolf,Trauma Survivor, Victim Advocate, Truth Speaker
It was 1987, I was 12 years old – and pregnant.
I had no idea what was going on, no idea that a small life was growing inside me. No idea what was about to happen.
I would never know who the father of my child was.
I am a survivor of incest, sexual exploitation, rape, and child pornography.
I gave birth on a cool Friday evening in April, to a tiny, beautiful, dark-haired baby girl who I named Grace. She was the first newborn I ever held and I was sure I would break her. I don’t know how far along in pregnancy I was when she was born, but she was very, very small – too small.
Three days after her birth, my sweet Grace died. For three days I had held her, changed her diapers, fed her, taken care of her the best I could. And then she was gone, just like that. Not to be spoken of again for 30 years.
The story was that I had had “mono” and was out of school for several months while I recovered. I would get my 7th-grade work sent home to complete and be returned to school for me. After Grace died, I was sent back to school, with a story of how sick I had been. Never was I to speak of the real reason I was kept at home.
I lost my child many, many years ago when I was only a child myself. I was so young, and given the circumstances, I never grieved for her. Until now. Now that my father is dead I'm flooded with flashbacks, memories, smells, feelings, and so many other things.
I struggle so much with not having anything tangible of hers; nothing I can hold, smell, touch, see, feel. The only memories I have of her are those in my mind. I remember the weight of her tiny body on my chest and the sound of her cries and tiny baby squeaks. I remember her new baby scent and the way that her soft, wispy hair tickled my nose as she slept on me. I remember the way her breathing sounded, fast and strong – and then gone.
I am ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t love her. I didn’t know what love was. What was this strange, far-away concept that I had never known? How do you love someone when you have never known the essence of love yourself? It’s like trying to master calculus when you haven’t learned addition.
Do I love her now? With every fiber of my being, I love her. I still don’t know exactly what this “love” thing means, but I have a better idea now than I ever have before.
I only hope that one day I will be strong enough to tell my whole story, to speak openly about Grace, to encourage and inspire other girls and women to speak up and speak out about sexual abuse, incest, and sexual violence.
I have to believe that Grace had a purpose in the very short time she was on this earth, and I have to believe that I have one too.
ETA: I continue to be so humbled by the outpouring of support from all over the world. Thank you all so much for all of your kind words. I do have a wonderful therapist who is an absolute expert in the field of trauma psychology and has helped me immensely. He has been encouraging me to write a book and tell my story, and I’m considering it.
I have been a court-appointed advocate for abused, neglected, and abandoned children for over 7 years now. Being a voice for the voiceless has been so incredibly rewarding and healing.
I am incredibly fortunate to have a loving, supportive spouse and a family of our own. One day I hope to tell my children about their sister, Grace.
Thank you again for all of the support I’ve received. Sharing my story has been incredibly difficult, but you’ve all made it a little bit easier, and I thank you.
ETA 4/9/20: It’s been several months since I originally posted my story, and I have found the experience a very healing one. Grace was born on April 17, her birthday is coming up… This is typically a very difficult time for me, and with the pandemic in full-swing, I’m finding it even harder. Reading so many supportive, caring comments here has helped me feel a little less alone, so thank you all.