In my first pregnancy, I dreamed of feet

Content Warning: Rape, PTSD, Pregnancy, and alcoholism.

This piece explores my experiences with Rape, PTSD, and Pregnancy. At the end of the piece there are resources to guide the readers to various services that they may find helpful.

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In my first pregnancy
I dreamed of feet.
Those soft pudgy appendages that I would hold in my hand
And take endless photos of

The sole of a foot against my thumb

In this pregnancy, I dream that you, baby, will have my rapists eye colour
Even though the two events are years apart.
I dream that you will come out with his hair.

I wake up in the night and pray to the god that I don’t believe in.
I lay here feeling you move as the lingering thoughts of him wrap themselves around my throat
And make it hard to breathe.

And I weep for your father,
The man who holds me in his arms and consoles me.
Telling me it’s impossible.
Even as the PTSD takes hold of him too, when he’s at his station at work,
With his endless thoughts.

I feel robbed
Of my dreams of feet.

I wrote this poem 75 days before the birth of my daughter last year. I wrote it lying in bed at night after one of the many panic attacks I had during my pregnancy.
You see, at the beginning of my Master’s degree in 2017, I was raped by a man who was accessing a service I volunteered at.
I froze.
I’m not a freezer, I don’t freeze.
I’m opinionated and argumentative. But at this moment I froze.
My son was playing on a laptop computer in the next room and I wanted this situation to be over so that I could take him out of this foolish situation I had put him in.
So I let it be.
I remember fleeting details like the jeans I was wearing and the smell of the carpet.
I think for the most part I switched off completely.
I carried on frozen at that moment for a long time afterwards.
I did not take any action.
To this day I haven’t taken any action, and I have only uttered these words to a handful of people.
Until now.

Only my partner has known the un-ending violent trauma that visits in panic attack induced bouts of insomnia. Like the one that is happening to me right now.

After a conference in London, my chronic illness landed me in the hospital.
I thought I’d maybe overdone things until the happy, shiny, smiling doctor walked into the cubicle and announced to my partner and I that I was pregnant.
I didn’t even have time to react, and at this point, I hadn’t even told my partner what had happened.
I think this was the point things started to unravel.
I lasted about 6 weeks until I couldn’t take my partner’s excitement at becoming a father anymore and I told him what had happened.
I told him that I didn’t know if the child I was carrying was his child or not.
I told him that I, the woman who had longed for a second child for years, wanted an abortion.
He held my hand when we went to the clinic and I was forced to see an ultrasound of my baby before making my decision.
He drove me to Manchester and waited in the car park while I went in to have the procedure.
He held me when I cried angry tears at the unfairness of it all.
He supported my decision to tell people we had lost the baby rather than facing the truth.
And I hated him for not hating me.
As you’ve probably gathered from my previous posts I turned to whisky.
Firstly to sleep, and then to numb the pain. And then to get through the everyday.
I successfully managed this for about 8 months, I just about dragged myself through a Masters degree.
Submitted a half-arsed dissertation that I can’t bring myself to read.
But I carried on.

Until I couldn’t carry on anymore. I was exhausted.

I was unhealthy.
My chronic illness was exacerbated by the alcohol so I was stuck in a cycle of alcohol in the evening and pain meds in the morning.
And I gained a ton of weight. Which people loved to point out by suggesting ‘helpful tips’ and exercise classes.
At the same time, I also had to deal with the breakdown of a friendship which led to some pretty relentless gossiping and bullying.
I spent so many nights fucked off my face on whisky on the phone to mental health services asking them to give me answers to why this was happening to me.
And then I got pregnant again.
I was terrified.
I was sick and terrified.
I found out I was pregnant on my partner’s birthday.
And when I plotted the dates back I realized that conception was around the one and only time I went out drinking and dancing with my best friend.
I started to panic and wonder if this baby was my partners.
I panicked in case I’d been date raped and not known, or I’d drank too much and not known what I was doing.
I went through all my pictures and texts from that night to piece together a timeline.
I knew that nothing had happened yet I spent weeks convincing myself that nothing had happened. Just in case.
The panic attacks were relentless.
I really started to doubt myself and spent night after night crippled in fear of this baby being my rapist’s baby.
Every night my partner would struggle to stay awake so that I could fall asleep first as I hated lying there alone while he slept.
I would wake up screaming and crying and he would tell me that this was OK and that the baby is ours.

This fear never left me until the moment she was born.

She was born via emergency c-section. I couldn’t see her straight away as I was being stitched up and she was being cleaned.
I lay on the operating table surrounded by medical professionals again crippled with fear.
I needed to know who she looked like. I asked for her hair colour.
The midwife said she looked like she was a redhead so I started to relax.
She was placed in my partner’s arms next to my face and that’s when I saw that she has my partner’s ears, and the shape of his head and her hairline is the same shape as his, and they have the same profile.
She looked just like her daddy.
A lot of my friends joke about their children looking like their partners after we’ve done all of the ‘hard work’, but I was so relieved that she does!
Slowly I have started to piece myself back together.
My family have pieced me back together and reminded me of the reasons I have to enjoy life.
But
I’m a different person now.
I’m less confident and more insecure.
I don’t trust people as easily.
I realised that all the ‘problems’ I thought my relationship had were so insignificant and that love can be shown in many different ways.
I’m afraid of the dark.
I socialise a lot less and stay home a lot more.
I find happiness in different things.
I found some peace to continue to slowly work on myself.
And now I have hundreds of pictures of feet.

IMG_2907

 

 

And reading this back I criticise these words thinking they’re not well written, they’re a word dump.

But really I’m criticising myself again.

So here they are, word dump and all.

If this post has affected you in any way, or if you have any questions please always feel that you can talk to me. My twitter is @lauraanne141

Resources for anyone who may need them

From www.itv.com/thismorning/rape-helplines

For women

NHS

Help after rape and sexual assault

Sexual Abuse Referral Centres – Find a SARC

Sexual violence is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Don’t be afraid to get help.

SARCs are specialist medical and forensic services for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. They aim to be one-stop service, providing the following under one roof: medical care and forensic examination following assault/rape and, in some locations, sexual health services. Medical Services are free of charge and provided to women, men, young people and children.

Rape Crisis

Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30)

rapecrisis.org.uk

National organisation offering support and counselling for those affected by rape and sexual abuse.

See website for local groups or contact directory enquiries.

Victim Support
Supportline: 0333 300 6389

Rape and sexual assault

Our services are confidential, free and available to anyone who’s been raped or sexually assaulted, now or in the past. We can help, regardless of whether you have told the police or anyone else about the attack. Our volunteers can visit you at home (if you want us to, and if doing so will not put you at further risk) or somewhere else if you prefer. If you don’t want to see anyone face-to-face, you can also talk to us on the phone, either at one of our local offices or at the national Victim Supportline.

Women Against Rape

womenagainstrape.net

This is the joint website of Women Against Rape and Black Women’s Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

The Survivors Trust
Helpline: 0808 801 0818

thesurvivorstrust.org

Find support

Rape and sexual abuse can happen to anyone regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, culture or social status. Living with the consequences of rape and sexual abuse can be devastating. We believe that all survivors are entitled to receive the best possible response to their needs whether or not they choose to report.

Women’s Aid Federation

National Domestic Violence Helpline (24hrs): 0808 2000 247

womensaid.org.uk

Sexual violence

Women’s Aid is the national domestic violence charity that helps up to 250,000 women and children every year. We work to end violence against women and children, and support over 500 domestic and sexual violence services across the country.

For Men

Survivors UK – Male Rape and Sexual Abuse Support

survivorsuk.org

Ways we can help

If you have been subjected to male rape or sexual abuse, one of your biggest challenges will be taking the decision to talk to someone. At Survivors UK we know this can seem an enormous and daunting step. Anxiety and fear are among the most common emotions experienced by the abused. But these feelings do become easier and people can, and do, successfully go on to explore their past and its links with today in making sense of recurring problems. We offer emotional support by our Chat Service and SMS and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

Rape Crisis

Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 & 7-9.30)

rapecrisis.org.uk

National Organisation offering support and counselling for those affected by rape and sexual abuse.

Many Rape Crisis Centres provide support services for men and boys who have experienced sexual violence, as a child and/or as an adult. Rape Crisis Centres that do not provide services for men or boys will be able to give you information about relevant support organisations. See website for local groups or contact directory enquiries.

Rape, Sexual Abuse & Personal Safety Abroad

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Rape & Sexual Assault Abroad Leaflet

Support for British Nationals Abroad

Rape and sexual assault can happen to women and men of all ages and backgrounds. While most visits abroad are trouble-free, we are becoming more aware of people being sexually assaulted whilst they are overseas. Sexual assault is a very traumatic experience whenever and wherever it happens, but the trauma can be made even more difficult to deal with when it happens abroad. We will be as helpful as we can to anyone who tells us they have had sex against their wishes or been attacked by someone wanting sex.

Rape Crisis Network Europe

www.rcne.com

RCNE is the network of European rape crisis centres. We aim to make sure that anyone who experiences sexual violence can get the help they need. We are active in influencing policy, standards and legislation through European governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

All member centres share a ‘survivor-centred’ and anti-discriminatory approach.
Personal Safety Advice Abroad

When travelling abroad, most people are keen to relax and unwind. Travellers, tourists and foreign businessmen and women can be prime targets for criminals, however. In order to minimise stress on your holiday or trip, take time to plan your personal safety strategy in advance. From keeping your valuables safe to avoiding violence, a little forethought may save you from becoming a victim of crime.

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