Pregnancy and Loss in RA
Some things are just hard. There’s no way around it. They’re hard, and they suck. Like really badly, they suck.
One thing I don’t talk about with people hardly ever (and this includes people who know me in real life and are privy to my story), and haven’t heard talked about hardly ever, is the topic of pregnancy and loss in the context of RA. (RA is ritual abuse, for anyone new here.) And honestly I don’t know if I can, or how. It’s not easy for me. In fact, this might be one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written thus far in my blogging career. And no, as pretty as it sounds, the idea that writing about it is “cathartic” to me is not really accurate.
I wish it was, but it isn’t. The main reason I am writing about it is because I don’t find it discussed anywhere and if other people need a place or a person, I am here. It’s not the kind of thing you can just spring on your friends. Hell, not even your average therapist would know what to say to this topic, since most don’t even know about RA. See the problem?
Pregnancy, miscarriage, infant loss, infertility, etc is a hard topic anyway. No matter what the circumstances are. There’s difficulty in discussing it already, and that’s in “normal” circumstances. People have so many emotions and are met with so many responses that are insensitive or unhelpful. People are told not to grieve, or that they should grieve a certain way, and/or that they should move on after a certain (somehow predetermined) amount of time has passed. They are urged not to tell their stories or acknowledge their loss(es) because it makes others uncomfortable or because others don’t see their pain as being as valid as other types of losses.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I also want to make it clear that this is not a one-up post. I’m not trying to say that pregnancy/miscarriage/infant loss is somehow “worse” for RA victims in the sense that I am cheapening the pain of anyone else who has experienced this outside this context. I am not the type who wants to compete for the title of “most damaged,” or anything along those lines. If you know me, you know this is the truth. That’s one game I don’t want to play, I’d give anything not to play, and being an RA survivor is not something that makes me special, IMO. I’m not here to utilize that status for special attention, and half the posts I write about it, I wish I didn’t need to write. I wish RA never happened to anybody so there would be no need to raise awareness.
With this post, I’m simply attempting to make a space for the RA crowd to be seen and heard and known – if they want to be. I’m trying to explain to the uninformed why there are even more complicating factors for us when it comes to telling our stories and grieving our losses because of the context. It’s not about saying we have it worse than others who have experienced this type of loss. Loss is loss. Pain is pain. All of it sucks. All stories are welcome here. All feelings are valid here. But I’m trying to speak about something that – in my eyes – is rarely spoken of, in hopes to let others know that I see you. I hear you. I’m thinking of you.
I certainly can’t speak for everyone, and I don’t have the depth that other bloggers have to bring out every nuance of this subject. I can only speak for myself, and I can only speak what I can comprehend at this time. As an RA survivor, I didn’t even remember what had happened to me until after the fact. The problem with this situation (like most others) is that RA itself is so evil, so atrocious, and so commonly unheard of. I have a hard time finding anyone that I feel can handle the knowledge of things that have happened to me, much less be able to handle witnessing my emotions as I continue to go through the process of healing. It becomes a double bind: the closer I get to someone, and the more I feel I can trust them enough to tell them, the more I care so much about them that I don’t want to tell them…for fear of hurting them. And I would imagine the closer they get to me, the more they care about me and the harder it is for them to tolerate imagining me in that kind of pain. Secondary trauma is real, and oftentimes RA perpetrators know that their victims have compassionate, protective souls that would rather suffer alone than cause someone else the pain of knowing their reality. They count on this. They hide behind it. They hope it makes us go our whole lives without healing, by keeping things hidden in the dark from other people (and even ourselves).
So, the truth is that I have suffered losses as an RA victim. I’m not even sure how to categorize them. I’m not sure if “forced abortion” is the right phrase, or “intentional termination” (not by me), or something else.
One of the hard things about this is that the process is traumatic from start to end, and buried in so much pain and shame that I imagine that it could potentially go unacknowledged for survivors’ entire lives. It’s so far removed from the normal context of pregnancy and miscarriage, it feels impossible to talk about it. So I’m going to try. I don’t have a “need” to – I don’t need to shock people, I don’t need the attention or the pity or the outrage. I’m thinking of survivors who have also experienced something related, and feel trapped in shame and silence. If you want to talk about it, if you need a person or a place, here I am. I don’t have answers, but I can listen. If you need to get something out, but don’t want to comment publicly, send me an email.
With RA, it’s not a case where 2 people decide they want a baby, whoever they may be and however they may choose to pursue it. Or any of the other less traditional situations that still include someone wanting a baby and taking a course of action to create one. It’s not a case where the pregnancy is achieved and then something goes wrong and the baby is lost naturally, whether very far along or not very far along. RA is extremely different.
RA pregnancies are often cases where impregnation is forced on someone that didn’t consent – which is traumatic enough (by itself) to spend a lifetime trying to recover from. Sometimes the victim is drugged (I believe I was), so it’s hard for them to fight back during the impregnation process – not that they haven’t already been conditioned not to by then – and they may not remember a whole lot afterward.
The pregnancy itself is traumatizing, since the person did not choose it. They likely wouldn’t have chosen it if they’d been given a choice. Sometimes they are shockingly young. Sometimes the process is indescribably painful (or would be, if not for the drugs). Discovering the pregnancy is traumatic. Feelings about the baby are ambivalent, and oftentimes there seems to be no right way to feel. Being angry and scared and resentful of the baby can sometimes induce guilt.
As usual with RA, it’s a lose-lose situation for the victim. No matter what they feel, it seems wrong. They have feelings that directly oppose each other at the same time. And they may or may not have traumatic responses to what happened, unless they were too drugged or dissociated to recall right away. It’s likely that they dissociated different pieces of the memories to different parts of their mind, because no one can endure such a thing in one piece.
I couldn’t, although I am no one special.
So the RA victim already has all of that going on.
Then, whenever the perpetrators decide it’s time, the pregnancy is terminated for their own purposes and by their own methods – also against the victim’s will. This process is also extremely traumatic and often violent – not just mentally and emotionally, but physically. It can be horrifically painful (I’m pretty tough but I’m fairly sure I passed out at least once and it wasn’t due to drugs).
The average non-RA-survivor can’t really imagine how terrifying and excruciating it is. The perps usually find some way to suggest that the loss is the fault of the victim, and/or the victim later feels the horror of responsibility for the fact that they didn’t “save” the baby when it dawns on them that maybe they could have. (Truthfully they could not have.)
The emotions are (once again) intensely at odds with each other, which either re-shatters some elements of the person’s mind, or drives the existing dissociation in even deeper. First the victim is traumatized because they are pregnant, then they are traumatized because they are not pregnant any longer. Depending on how far along they were, and how much time they’d had to try to adjust to the idea (and the physical experience), they once again don’t know how to feel. Their mind has been jerked every different direction.
How could I possibly talk to anybody about this? It’s most decidedly not coffee talk. As stated before, it’s not really even therapy session talk.
I don’t feel the grief every day. I suspect I couldn’t live like that.
I think this because when it does hit me – randomly, at odd times – it hits me violently, viscerally, like a bomb exploding. “Intense” is too mild of a word for it. The pain is so heart crushing it nearly knocks me physically to my knees. I miss my babies in a physical way – as if my very loins have had chunks removed from them and I want them back, I can’t function without them. I know that’s an odd thing to say but I don’t know how else to describe it.
My very body misses them. They are missing from me, even in a purely physical way that I can sense.
I know that’s also an odd thing to say, but there might be people who can relate. It’s not just that my soul was blown apart by the experiences (plural), it’s that my physical being, even apart from my soul, acknowledges the violent implantation of – and ripping away of – little tiny beings that held my very DNA inside them. Despite the circumstances, I loved them. Regardless of how they came to be, they were mine. (Note: it’s okay to not feel the same way, or to not know how you feel/felt about it)
I have nothing to hold onto. I have no graves to visit. I have no other person to bear witness that there was a life, and then there wasn’t a life, and that this is deeply, unspeakably wrong. Even my memories are hazy and my facts are unclear.
The grief comes randomly, like a hurricane that touches down and floods everything – and then dissipates. I can’t (as of yet) tell what triggers it. There are obvious things. Sometimes when I walk by the baby section in a store, I see a tiny onesie or a crib layette and suddenly I can’t breathe and the tears start rushing to my eyes. Sometimes I walk by that section and I’m totally fine. And every time I have to see an OB-GYN for something, there’s the patient form that invariably asks how many pregnancies I’ve had in my lifetime. I’m always tempted to write “I DON’T F-ING KNOW LEAVE ME ALONE” on it but then I remind myself that they’re not trying to be cruel to me.
Sometimes I’m not doing anything related at all. Sometimes it hits me for unknown reasons when I’m grocery shopping, or putting gas in my car. There doesn’t seem to be a logic to it. Not talking about it makes it even harder to bear – but who could I talk to? Who could know these things? (other than the entire internet, after I hit “Publish”…*side eye*…but I guess I was referring to real-life friends)
And there is no resolution that I have found. I grieve quietly, privately, when I can. Sometimes I shut down and go numb. Grief is not linear. Resolution is not forthcoming. That’s one reason I’ve hesitated to write this post. I don’t like bringing up heavy things without offering a solution. But sometimes I feel that acknowledging our losses may be a starting point. It’s the only one I have. So even though I wish I could offer help, I can only offer space, if you want it.
My hope is to one day have a garden of remembrance. I want a decent sized place in which to grow trees, bushes, and tons of flowerbeds with fountains, bird baths, benches in quiet nooks, and beautiful landscaping, a tree swing, gazebos…a garden refuge. Maybe I could write there. A place where I can go to be alone and remember my babies – even talk or sing to them privately if I want to – and feel that they are being honored with that space. I don’t know if this hope will ever become a reality, but it’s the one that makes sense for me if I have the resources to do it.
In the meantime, I don’t know how to navigate this landscape. But breaking the silence seemed to be a good place to start. I told my T this morning “can’t even write about it,” with a song and video I’d found on the topic. But I changed my mind. I challenged myself to write about it. If not for me, then for others.
I kind of *hope* that this is an unneeded post and that traffic falls because it’s just so irrelevant to people’s lives that it’s not interesting to them. That’s an odd thing to hope for with a blog post but I do. Feel free to engage, or not engage. Take care of you. Cheers. ~J8