Please Don't Judge Me for Choosing to Have My Rapist's Child
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I was 21 years old when I became pregnant with my oldest son. I was 21 years old, working my way through college, and found out that I, the girl who planned everything, the straight A student who was pretty traditional in her values, was pregnant. I was 21 years old when I was assaulted by a man who tormented me for years, but this time left me with a child.
A woman’s right to choose whether or not she keeps her pregnancy is something I steadily stand by. While I myself, someone who was threatened many times, could never imagine having an abortion, I also support any woman’s right to choose to do so. Surprisingly, yes, a person can be pro-choice but also pro-life. And yes, that woman is me, a woman who chose at 21 years old to have a child who was a product of rape.
My story goes far back and begins with childhood abuse that continued into my adulthood. While most would not understand how that is possible, I do not write this to explain the impact of childhood sexual abuse, nor the results and reactions that can come from repeated trauma; I will leave that up to the professionals. I write this instead as a woman who, regardless of her circumstances, chose to have a rapist’s baby.
In today’s society, we are at war with each other. Extremists are battling on both sides and sometimes it gets dizzying, overwhelming, to the point where it becomes difficult to even read the newspaper or watch the news. Usually, I can step back from a story or action that I do not agree with, stand strong in my own morals and walk away. But when it comes to our latest battle of whether or not clinics and organizations that support abortion should be legalized or banned, I cannot sit back. I cannot sit back and watch as I see so many protestors holding signs that read, “Don’t force a woman to have a rapist’s baby!”
Well, I am here to tell you, to tell the world, how it feels for me to see signs like this. Those signs, intended to support a woman’s right to choose, feel like they’re judging the women who may choose to do just what they are protesting. They also place a direct label on these children; they are officially “a rapist’s child.” I did have the right to choose, and I would not change that choice for the world. More importantly, I am here to tell everyone to stop labeling these children. My child has a name, and should you ever have the privilege of meeting him, please call him by name and nothing else.
The thing about my son is that he saved my life. I could not stop the cycle of abuse and assault. For years, I could not stop what was happening; I became the product of a system that most would not understand. I dissociated and did whatever I had to in order to survive. In reality, I was dying. My way of coping was through a severe eating disorder, one that numbed me and made me forget most of what was happening. It got to a point where one night I almost lost my life. The person who was assaulting me literally tried to kill me. While being chased after and attacked, I ran and found myself hiding on the side of a highway, praying that the car lights would not shine on me so I could get away and survive. I knew that night that if he found me, I was going to die.
I did hide that night, for hours, and I managed to get out alive. Though I was physically removed from the situation, the harassment did not stop. The stalking, the calls, watching every move I made, threatening people in my life, it all continued. It became too much to tolerate and left me in my room frozen in fear, held hostage by years of bondage. One evening, I got down on my knees and cried. Actually, I wept. I sat on my knees and I begged God to do something, anything to help me get away; I could not do this anymore and I wanted so desperately to get away and to be able to live my life. I knew I had failed to save myself and I had to give it over to a higher power.
Within a few days of that evening, I received a message from that man. I was told that if I showed up one more time, just one last time, that he would leave me alone for good. I was petrified, but I was also desperate. I would have done anything to get away from the years of abuse. And so I did; I went one last time. My sick, severely underweight body that had not ovulated in years took what little energy I had left in me and I went. That was the night I became pregnant with my son. That was, I would soon realize, my very last night.
I knew within a couple of days that I was pregnant. That may not make sense, but something felt different. I felt stronger, as though something was stirred inside me that gave me a strength I had not had in years and had never felt before. For that man, it was not the last night, as he would keep trying, following me, threatening me, etc. But for me, once I was able to take that pregnancy test two weeks later, I knew it was the last time I was going to be assaulted. Because now, now I had to fight. You see, I did not become pregnant with what your signs may want to call “a rapist’s child.” I became pregnant with my son, a child that gave me the strength to fight back, to hide, to get away, to take care of my body and to get my life back, finally, after years of being a victim of repeated assaults. That night, I became pregnant with the child that would save my life. Yes, I believe in the right to choose, and for me, that choice was easy; I chose life, life for me and for that child.
My pregnancy was amazing. I took care of my body for the first time in years. My family came together in ways we had never been able to before, and I gained a strength within me I did not know even existed. This child, who, biologically speaking, never should have been in my body, was. And it was his life that gave me, and everyone in my family, a complete renewal.
After I had my son, I felt pure joy. I did not realize how amazing it is to be a mother. I had to protect him, and in doing so, I protected myself. Before I knew it, however, we went from protection mode to contentment. It also helped that he was an exceptionally easy baby and a bright child. His sweetness, patience and inexplicable sense of peace brought something to me and my family we did not even realize we were missing. He allowed me to finish my undergraduate and graduate career in under three years. He provided me with the motivation, the drive and the ability to connect again to my passions (literature and writing), to my community of professors and to fellow writers and educators. I went from surviving to thriving, a possibility I never knew existed before this child was born.
My son is just like me in so many ways, in looks and in spirit. He is introverted, sensitive, incredibly intuitive and has a brilliant mind. He was reading at the age 3, and knew more about history by the age of 4 than I do even to this day. He is an avid reader, an interact volunteer at his school, a member of the bible club, has the highest lexile in his school’s history (he reads at a graduate level) and is also an athlete. He reads scripture each day, and often reminds me of the messages I need to hear when I, myself, am not hearing them. He has a father, my husband, who has raised him since he was 6 years old, and a younger brother whom he adores. He supports me in all of my struggles and gives me strength when I am not even aware I need to ask for it. This child, my child, is a miracle to which words cannot give justice.
So, please, do me a favor; if you ever meet my son, do not call him by your sign’s title, because that is not who he is. If you get the honor of meeting him, please call him by his name. He does not own that story (though he does know it) so please do not force him to call it his own. Call him by his name.
We are a country inundated by social media, television and information constantly being thrown at us. Ironically, “Law and Order: SVU” is one of the top shows on television, a show whose main character is a product of rape. No one identifies her by the way she came into this world; she is identified for the amazing things she has given back to it. Though everyone knows her story, they do not define her by it. Please allow my son, this child who saved my life, and is already a better person than I may ever be, to be looked at in just the same way. Do not define him by an action he had no control over, or by a person he has no ties to at all. Define him by the character he astounds me with each and every day. Define him by the great man he is becoming, one who has already changed this world for the better, which makes his future even that much more exciting.
The world is filled with bad parents, parents who fail their children each and every day. However, we do not see signs labeling other children, “abuser’s child,” “deadbeat’s child,” “addict’s child,” and so on. We push them, support them, encourage them. We do not label those children with signs, so please stop labeling mine.
I firmly believe in the right to choose, and I understand why someone would choose not to have a child who came into this world through rape. But maybe we can go about the fight in a way that does not make me relive that experience, feel like my choice was wrong or make my child think that he never should have been born. Maybe we can realize that these signs may one day hurt my child, for that is not the story, nor is it the label he chooses to own. Everyone is fighting for the right to choose. Well, I chose, so please allow my son to do the same.