What No One Told Me

by Ethel Rohan

In the kitchen sink, wet, soapy, and slippery between my hands, lay our newborn daughter, not yet three days old, and only hours home from the hospital. She smelled of lavender, chamomile, and her parents' hugs and kisses, and she terrified me. Not the usual new mother's terror that I'd read and heard so much about, although that was there too, no, this was something else, something I'd never anticipated. A sexual abuse "survivor," I couldn't bring myself to take the white washcloth between my daughter's thighs and soap her crotch, not without seeing flashes of my hand molesting her. Trembling, I dropped the washcloth, and almost dropped my daughter, and called shakily for my husband. After over two decades of telling myself how well I'd recovered from the abuse, I felt shaken to my core, experiencing anger at last at my abuser, furious that his stain was still spreading, tainting everything from the misshaping of me, to the very act of making this precious baby, to my ability to bond with this now shrieking bundle, the one I was pushing into my husband's arms.


Ethel Rohan, born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, now lives in San Francisco. She received her MFA in fiction from Mills College. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from several literary magazines including Prick of the Spindle; Identity Theory; Miranda Literary Magazine; SUB-LIT; Cantaraville; and Word Riot. She is a brazen chocaholic. Her blog is here. (Click here to make a donation to Ethel, half of which will support 6S.)