In October, Rebecca Vijay wrote an article for Raising World Children about her tragic experience of losing one of her twin children. I want to send a giant thank you to Rebecca, for bringing awareness to, not only her own awful experience, but for all of you moms out there who’ve lost children, either within the womb or after they were born.
She expressed her grief in such a beautiful way. I loved learning about the word Vilomah, which Rebecca explains is the Sanskrit word meaning “a mother who has lost her child.”
Rebecca’s work helped me to want to express my own experiences with this. I have lost children. Several times. Many miscarriages when I was 30 and trying to get pregnant. But the very first time is the story I’m interested in telling you today.
WARNING: TRIGGER ALERT!!!
It started when I was 12 and an older boy, 16, from another school showed great interest in me. At the time, of course, I was far far too young to date. (My parents didn’t know I was.) And far too young to be making grown up decisions… Looking back, (I actually realized this a long time ago. I’m presently 55 years old) this experience with this boy dramatically shaped my entire life and the choices I’ve made.
I don’t remember at what point in the “relationship” he began having sex with me. I say it in this way because he raped me from the very beginning. Looking back, I think about why a 16 year old boy would be interested in a 12 year old girl. And there is absolutely no reason that he should!
But his multiple sexual assaults resulted in a pregnancy when I was 13, just about to turn 14.
First of all, I knew I, somehow, had to tell my parents. But there was absolutely no way I wanted to disappoint them. I can remember being extremely ashamed in myself. And scared. And sad! Above all, trapped. I was afraid to tell them both. But mostly, I was afraid to tell my Dad. The thought of disappointing my Dad was, back then and throughout my life, something that was very upsetting to me.
After a couple of day, which seemed like a life time to me, I’d decided I was going to tell my Mother first.
I vaguely remember the night.
Dad was working late and both my older siblings were out as well. I cried, as I had been since the moment I felt I was pregnant. I asked my Mother if we could to talk. I was laying on the couch and she came forward and sat beside me. I don’t remember the words I chose, but I do remember her holding me so tight, telling me she loved me and that she would tell my Dad.
This was just the first step of many I was about to face.
For a several weeks, I was determined to have the child. Mom drove me to the doctor quite often as he requested seeing me weekly. Both my parents were supportive of my decision. But one of my last trips to the doctor, when I was just over 2 months along, the doctor sat with Mom and me and explained that he didn’t believe I’d be able to even carry a child to term.
At 13, I had a very small body and frame. He said there was a strong possibility that either I or the baby would die in the process of carrying and birthing. I’ll never forget that day, the ride home and my Mom’s words.
She said, “Up until now, this only affected you and the baby that is inside you. But now, this affects me and the baby that was inside me. You can hate me, scream at me, you can feel how ever you choose to feel about me. But the decision has now been made and when we get home, I’ll be calling the hospital. You’re going to have an abortion.“
And oh boy, did I cry!!!
This was in the early 1970s, shortly after the Roe vs Wade decision (January 23, 1973, a woman’s right to have a legal abortion according to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States), which enabled me to have “the procedure.”
I don’t recall the time frame, between that trip home from the doctor and when “the procedure” was performed. And I only vaguely recollect the trip to the hospital, the preparation or being taken into the operating room.
What I do remember, quite vividly, is waking up to seeing my Dad at my bedside with such a look of love for me. I don’t recall his words. I don’t know if he told me the words, “I love you.” Actually, I don’t think he said anything at all.
But what he did do was hand me a small glass bowl, shaped like a bowl someone would put a goldfish in, but much smaller. Inside the delicate bowl was a partially opened bud of a baby pink teacup rose. No words were necessary. This was all I needed for me to get the message of his love for me. That we’d make it through this. And I cried with relief!
I’d taken a leave from school prior to this day and for several days following. I thought that since the boy was from another school, which was 30 miles away, that my secret was safe among just my family. The school I attended was small. Perhaps only 600 people all together, from the sixth grade through the seniors. I never even told my very best friend.
But, Somehow, when I returned to school, everyone knew.
I heard the whispers. I saw their faces. I understood their body language. Judgement. Judgement. Judgement.
I’m not sure how long it took for the whispers to stop, but I remember one particular girl who took it upon herself to badger me with her religious values, expressing to me how horrible of a person I was for what I’d done.
Oh not about the unprotected sex so much, but for having an abortion. I’d find notes shoved in my locker. Notes with graphic pictures of what an abortion does to an unborn baby. She’d pass notes to me in the classroom. If I left my textbooks unprotected for any amount of time on my desk, I’d return to another piece of paper shunning me.
I didn’t know what to do to stop them from coming. Day after day !
I remember though the day they stopped. My older sister, came into my classroom and stood up to this bully for me. Unfortunately, it got to the point that my sister had to resort to threatening to cause her bodily harm if the badgering toward me didn’t come to an immediate halt. And that day, they did!
But what it left was an indelible mark inside me, compounding my own shame toward myself, which I’d felt from the very beginning. My own disappointment in myself. My own guilt. And sadness.
I mentioned in the beginning of this article that these experiences ended up shaping my entire future. Up until today, that is. The boys (and when I grew up, the men) I chose to have in my life were also men who wouldn’t treat me right. Men who said they loved me but their actions were anything but.
Unknowing of what was going on exactly inside me, inside my unconsciousness, inside my body. The nightmares and flashbacks became prevalent. The increasing high startle reflex seemed normal. Many years later when I had children and as they grew, they learned early on not to jump out from hiding to scare me.
I would start crying. I didn’t know why. I just lived with it.
There were so many things within myself that I didn’t even give a thought to thinking they weren’t normal. I never told anyone about the nightmares or flashbacks. I didn’t tell anyone about my fears from certain people for no apparent reason. There was a hidden room, somewhere up in the far reaches of my brain. Tucked away in a box, in the way back dark corners of the attic of my unconscious, so dark and so sealed, not even I knew it was there.
Cut to three years ago. I was sitting on the back porch of my aunts house with my cousin, (who just so happens to be a social worker) talking and drinking lemonade . I don’t know how the conversation started on the subject, but she was telling me about a close friend of hers who was having great difficulty in her marriage with a manipulative and an abusive husband.
She spoke for five or ten minutes and relayed her friend’s terrible predicament, when suddenly some words simply tumbled out of my mouth. I didn’t say much, just a portion of a sentence. But it was enough that my cousin was able to imply the rest. I remember I quickly covered my mouth with my hand and stopped breathing for a few seconds.
My words came as an immediate surprise to her… and even more so, to me. Her face quickly turned me and she said, “Oh my God, Jane. Did that really happen to you?” With my hand still over my mouth, I nodded. She replied, “Oh Honey. Was it more than that?” I nodded again and she said, “You need to promise me the very second you get home, you’re going to call and get yourself into therapy! See a good psychiatrist. You probably have PTSD!”
I have no idea why I those brief few words tumbled from my lips that day. I had NEVER told anyone. Even though I’m very educated and very logical, from the teeny tiny bit that I did recollect from my past, I’d justified away as just being normal. In my mind, I was doing everything necessary to make those relationships work. That day on the porch with my cousin, that very brief moment, also has dramatically altered my life.
On The Uphill Path To Recovery
I did make that call for help the following business day. And I have been diagnosed with PTSD due to sexual and emotional trauma throughout my life. It took nearly two years for me to locate that hidden box in the upper floor of my brain.
And it took even longer before I could actually open, just a small bit, of that box. And once I did, all of the fear came spewing out at me. All of sadness. All of the shame. And a whole, whole lot of tears. Sobbing, snot rolling, can’t catch your breath tears.
The nightmares and flashbacks increased at least tenfold. Probably more.
This, in and of itself, has dramatically changed how I live my life. Five years ago I was enjoying being out with friends and meeting new people, working with the public, and living with that unknown, locked away box, which I had just learned to somehow live with… It all changed to having an uncountable amount of sleepless nights.
And a very uncharacteristic fear of going into public. Fear of pretty much all men. A startle reflex which has been absolutely off the charts.
It’s been a little more than three years of therapy, so far. A few things I’ve learned is that I continued to chose men who would fill the deep, deep void that horrendous experience left inside me. Men, in many ways, with the same manipulative ways as that 16 year old boy. And if I did happen to notice any inklings of red flags, I simply justified them away, just as I had all those years before. And I just knew, that if I tried really hard, I could help them to change. Or make them change. I could, somehow, get them to show me they loved me just as much as their words expressed.
I’ve had to work on (and I’m still working on) something I guess I’ve always had, but failed to recognize in myself, which is disgust. Utter disgust with myself. Feeling as if it was my fault. The logical side of me actually knows it wasn’t my fault. From the time I was just a very young girl of twelve years old and those terrifying experiences with that boy shaped my life.
But now, after years of therapy (which I will continue), and I’m now in my 50s, I’ve been doing my own deep studying, research and homework. And I’m very slowly improving. I’ve remained relationship free at this point since 2004, definitely by design. I’ve learned that I absolutely will do everything I can to NOT follow this pattern into my future. My self learning and therapy has taught me a lot about myself…
Like that I’m courageous, and strong and brave because I’ve lived through all of those years without becoming completely mentally unstable. I’d never turned to suicide as the answer (although I have to admit, there were so, so many times suicidal ideation has taken me over), I’d never turned to addictive drugs, overeating, smoking, or anything other coping mechanism.
But I’m very afraid of actually submitting this piece to Raising World Children for all of you to read. I’m scared to put this out there into cyberspace. I’m apprehensive of what you’ll think of me. The memories of those kids at school when I returned are haunting me right now. Even though I’ve done so much work on myself through therapy and my own self discovery on what other people think of me, and having this quote etched into my brain, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” But I still worry about what you’ll think of me.
I intend to read this piece to my BFF (in the whole wide world) before I submit it. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been seeking the courage and strength necessary to let all of you read something about me that is so raw. The wound is still open. And I still don’t remember my whole story. After a certain amount of having the old memories come leaping out of that box at me, I still am working very hard to keep it closed. I’m still working on coping with it myself. Very often, I just want the memories to stop. So I work so extra hard to keep the box closed. To shove it back into that dark and dingy corner where it was for all those years…
But somehow, I think it’s necessary for me to tell you my story. I know that others have gone through their own personal hell in their lives. I just really hope that my message reaches the ears of those who need courage. Who need to muster up just a wee bit of strength. Perhaps this will give someone that gentle, yet forceful push to speak out to their family, share with friends, seek out therapy and work diligently.
My thoughts are with you my Friend and I send you my love in return. Do you have a story to share with me now? Go ahead. There’s no judgement here.