Rape-Related Pregnancy and Pregnancy Loss

Accepting an Unexpected Baby

I don't want to give glib or irrelevant advice on what's a genuinely complex and difficult situation.  I'll write from the heart and hope you find something useful. 

I'm deeply sorry for the wrong done to you.  When someone we love is hurt it hurts us too.  Wrong choices create wrong consequences.  The closer to ground zero we are the more we're affected.  You didn't deserve this.  It's very unfair.  I'm sorry.

So, what happens now?  Well, in my eyes, it's a delicate dance of life and death, fear and love - sacred, fundamental and not easy! 


Photo from Free-StockPhotos

There’s a thread that connects a mother with her child.  Whether or not her little one makes it into the world, whether or not she chooses to parent that child, she shares a beginning full of uncertainty, yet still deeply significant.  A mother occupies a place that can never be filled in the same way by someone else.  Sometimes she forfeits that place through abuse.  Someone else may partly fill the void and her child may learn to live around the gap, but the gap is still real.

When a child’s placed for adoption, the relationship’s transformed but not ended.  When another person parents the child, they have a very special, but distinct, role.  My eldest brother was adopted.  My mother and he have a very loving relationship, no less important than her relationship with her other children, but it’s not the same relationship for either of them as if she’d conceived and given birth to him. 

In my own experience, the death of a child doesn’t end the relationship either.  All my little ones were lost or taken from me by force.  And it wasn’t for their benefit – they died.  Unless it’s for the child’s benefit (and that can be a difficult judgment and must be based on more than fears), I strongly advise against ever coming between a mother and her child.

There’s a realization I think is very important.  I know the situation’s complex and perhaps the thread’s still fragile.  But once the person you love has formed a connection with her child (and this seems to happen at different stages in different pregnancies with different women), whether or not you believe it’s a “life”, whether or not she’s ready to call it that herself, she is already a mother.

It may be hard to accept that her judgment of what’s real is what’s real.  But there’s no one better placed to recognize life, in all it’s twilight significance, than the person whose body’s coaxing it into the sunrise.  

Photos by Anthea Sieveking, Wellcome Images

You may be very concerned about the consequences for her.  How will she continue her education?  Will she be able to find work and build financial independence?  Will she be able to love a child conceived in rape?  The end of the pregnancy could solve these problems, but create deeper ones.  It must be her free choice.  By all means help her to see the different problems, but also help her find the possible solutions.  Many women do find a way to continue or return to their education.  Perhaps you can help that happen.  Many women do rejoin the work-force after pregnancy.  The flexibility of work these days produces opportunities to start a career at different ages.  Your encouragement and support may help the woman you love adapt, keep hold of, and fulfill, her dreams.  You’re not helpless to change these outcomes.  You can find more information on the Study and Work page here.

Photos by Anthea Sieveking, Wellcome Images

You may be concerned about the consequences for your own life.  Will you be able to love someone else’s child?  Were you expecting to take a break from raising children?  Do you have enough money?  Will your daughter be moving back in with you?  Has this put your retirement plans on hold?  What will you tell other people?  Will they judge you or the person you love?  Will this baby call you "daddy"?  Please be kind to yourself about all these concerns.  They are entirely reasonable!  This is a big change in your life and you have very little control over it.  That’s extremely hard to deal with!  The advice about feelings on the Pregnancy Developing page here might help you too.

If you’re angry about it, that’s not surprising.  Please remember that it’s not a choice the person you love’s made.  Whatever choices she made – if she chose to go to the wrong person’s house, if chose to get drunk, if she chose to walk home instead of catch a taxi, if she chose to open the door to someone who hurt her, if she went back to that no-good boyfriend or husband, she was never, in any way, choosing to be raped.  The person who raped her made that choice.  The challenge now is for you all to deal with that, with her pregnancy, with an unexpected child, as a team.  Do all you can to stay on the same side and make it clear that if you’re angry, hurt or frustrated, she is not the cause.

By your relationship with her, you have an automatic relationship with her child.  If she’s already a mother, you’re already a father, a grandparent, an uncle, or a friend.  You’ll build that relationship over time, but, unless you’re a partner or a friend, it will always exist.  If you're a partner or friend you can only end the relationship with her child by ending your relationship with her.


Photo by Anthea Sieveking, Wellcome Images 

I’ve been talking in negative terms … but a child is also an amazing opportunity and so very precious.  I believe creating life and sustaining it’s fundamentally meaningful.  The challenge of love is at the centre of our lives.  Viewing this pregnancy in a different way, as much more than a tragedy, is an important part of acceptance. 

So, how can you go about accepting a major life change you can’t control?  If it's possible, I suggest you talk to a relationship counsellor together, someone who can help you work through the changing relationship dynamics.  You also need a safe space for yourself to work through your own feelings.  If you can, find a counsellor or therapist who'll focus on you.  I realise it's not always possible to find a counsellor and the person who's been raped isn't always ready or willing to talk.  You might find online support groups such as those listed at Herodes' Cave, or Herodes' Cave itself, useful.  Because it can be so difficult, I've included some general advice on acceptance here.  I know it may seem too simplistic, but I hope it might spark some ideas for you more closely attuned to your own situation.

A move overseas comes into my mind.  My dad had a job somewhere else for a year, so we were moving.  I remember how I didn't want to go - I didn't know what it would be like and I didn't want to miss my friends and our house.  I was in tears.  Then my parents showed me the map and started talking about what it would be like, what we would see, where I would go to school.  They showed me a plan of the house we'd be moving to.  I began to be interested - if the maps and plans looked like this, I wondered what the real thing might be like.  In the end I felt ambivalent when we left, still a bit unsure but excited about the new adventure we were embarking on.  And that year was one of the best years of my life!

Photo from Cepolina

I'm thinking of it now, because I'm thinking of the value of maps.  Part of accepting a new direction is learning about where you're going.  Read what you can.  Talk to who you can.  Talk together about what this future might be like.  Perhaps you could write a list together or draw a map of things you can look forward to and things you're not happy about.  Get to know the terrain together.  Reassure one another that you'll still be together in this new situation - that none of you need do this on your own.

Some things that have helped me
deal with difficult life changes, such as acquiring a physical disability, are:

  • making good relationships the top priority and fighting isolation
  • looking for things that are still good
  • looking for opportunities to grow
  • looking for opportunities to use my own difficult experiences to help other people
  • trying not to predict too far into the future - planning for things to be hard without deciding that they will be
  • actively solving problems where I can and seeing difficulties as challenges to overcome

I know none of this is easy and there are times when you just feel weary, frustrated and despairing.  Please be extra kind to yourself at these times and to anyone else who's feeling that way.  Together you can find a way through this.

Think about the miraculous individual who'll join your lives, the things you might do together, what you'll teach this little one, how you'll let them know they're loved.  It might help to read the ideas about bonding during and after pregnancy on the Pregnancy Developing and After Birth pages here.  


Photo by Anthea Sieveking, Wellcome Images

Work together on the problems that concern you.  You can be a very special help to the person you love by finding information and presenting them with possible solutions.  The final decisions will be theirs but you can help hugely by listening, talking things through, encouraging them, comforting them, and actively supporting their choices. 

If you don't agree, and can't persuade them, then roll up your sleeves and try to make their choices work.  There are many right answers here.  Your love and support for this child's mother and this child can make a major difference in its life.  There are hard times ahead, but also good times as you help nurture them and help them grow.  Again, I know it's not easy!  Try to give yourself some space to refresh yourself, gather your strength and process your own feelings.

Change, good or bad, can be stressful.  These links to relaxation and self-soothing techniques might help:
MentalHelp.Net Self-Soothing Techniques   
Self-Soothing, with a Mindfulness Focus
Relaxation Techniques
MindTools Stress Management Techniques  
Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent and Cope with Stress
About.com Stress Management


Photo by Sutashiku, Dreamstime

It can be hard to find the time or energy to look after yourself in a stressful situation.  But it's surprising how even a few slow breaths or a moment of appreciation can help.  If you can, try something that appeals to you and observe its effects.  What suits one person doesn't always suit another, so if what you try does nothing for you, move onto something else.  And if you need professional help, please don't hesitate to ask.  You matter too!

Here are some other links you might find useful:

When You're Falling Dive: Acceptance, Freedom and Possibility by Cheri Huber
How Grief Affects Decision Making in a Crisis

Loss, Change and Grief
Surviving Major Life Crisis
Guide for Surviving Major Life Crisis
How to Survive Sudden Change
Change and Transition

American Psychological Association: Strategies to Help Manage Anger
Australian Psychological Society: Tips to Help Manage Anger 
Reachout Australia: Anger

How to Deal with Disappointment 
Helping Your Child Deal with Disappointment

For Parents of Teenagers:

Pregnant Teenager: A Parent's Guide to Becoming A Young Grandparents 
Accidental Grandparents: How Should You React When a Teenager Becomes Pregnant 
Raising Your Grandchildren, Kinship Parenting 
How to Survive Your Teen's Pregnancy


 Photo by Anthea Sieveking, Wellcome Images

When You Have Other Kids:

Please talk to a family relationship specialist about how to deal with this with your other kids.  These pages might give you some ideas about how to find a professional and start a conversation with them.  If you can find a relationship counsellor with experience in trauma that would be even better.

Relationships Australia 
Relationships Australia Online Counselling Service
Relationship Services NZ
Find a Counsellor Near You - UK
Relationships Scotland
American Association for Family and Marital Counselling - Therapist Locator
Good Therapy: Canada Counseling Directory

Expanding My Blended Family 
Helping Your Child Accept a New Baby