The following is a short / adapted version of words I’d been writing for myself. With the recent fuckery of American politics, and some new, brave initiatives to combat the shame surrounding this issue, I’ve decided to share some of my experience in a small attempt to stand with the women this culture war is effecting.
I recall placing my hand on my partner’s lower belly. Trying to feel what can’t be felt. Simply imagining it. Our child was about six weeks along… just a lump of cells aspiring to be more. I centered my mind. Cleared away all fear, all worry. Just me and this potential of life. I found I wasn’t scared of it. Wasn’t scared of the responsibility of the child. I was slightly scared of working full time for the next 18 years, but I took a breath and let that go.
What scared me wasn’t the child. It was of my own life, and how that would effect the child. It was my relationship with the mother. It was the fact that we hardly knew each other. That we were barely friends. That as of yet, we did not see eye to eye on many things, and that the relationship had weighed heavily on both of us. That we’d been broken up already at the time of finding out. That due to a multitude of reasons there was a good chance we ultimately wouldn’t live in the same geographic region, leaving us both with the terrible choice of relocating from the places we love or not participating in the child’s life. I pictured the unhappiness of us both. I imagined all the potential threads of possibilities from this starting point. And I knew that my decision was made. It was a troubled decision within my worldview of promoting all life, but I knew the situation would likely limit my reach with how I’d like to promote a child’s life. My vote (knowing it ultimately meant little compared to the mother’s will) was to abort.
I held back tears as I wordlessly whispered, “I’m sorry”. An imaginary voice in my head replied, “It’s OK daddy, I love you anyways.”
But she didn’t abort. She decided to keep it. And while that activated all sorts of newfound anxieties, I realized I was excited. Making plans. Thinking about the things you think about when expecting a child. Drawing mental diagrams to keep us barely above poverty while trying to retain a semblance of freedom and joy. I began planning when to tell my parents, and I was invigorated to find ways to monetize more of the things I enjoy. Regardless of the situation, I was going to be a dad, and I was going to make the absolute best of a tough situation.
But two weeks later that world ended. The mother came to her own realizations of what this would actually mean for her life, for the child’s life, and within a few days it was done. The physical cocktail was ingested, and the emotional cocktail was served. The feeling is hard to express. Unequal parts grief, disappointment, and relief. I can’t imagine the amplification of these emotions the mother must feel.
I was untethered again. I’d return to the familiar feeling of walking back to a childless home. But I think about it a lot. So does she. Neither of us believes that there was any awareness or pain on our cellular baby’s end, but there is an awareness and pain about a life we never led. A child we never experienced. And on and on.
I drive through Florida to visit my parents. The highway is filled with billboard after billboard attempting to shame women out of abortions. The messages aren’t subtle, helpful, or informative in any way. They are accusatory, hurtful, and often times ridiculous in their attempts (from displaying the ghosts of aborted babies to images of hell fire). There’s a part of me that feels a defensive switch begin to trigger when I see these now. I take a breath and massage the trigger off. Then I imagine how it must feel to a woman. In that light, I see it as the giant cudgel of a brutish man. And in that light, it reinforces in me that these men must be stood against and stopped.
The reality is that no one takes abortion lightly. It’s a horrible experience no matter which way you come at it. I hear conservative blowhards tout “statistics” about uncaring women using abortion as birth control. Emotional horror aside, both the price and physical trauma of an abortion are things no one wants to repeat. To get to an abortion clinic in the south you must first plan your shame-mammogram, and then 24-hours later your procedure visit, around the marching times of angry protesters. These self-proclaimed good-intentioned people use shame and emotional torment to attempt to control women. They have every opportunity to be compassionate, to join initiatives for increased birth control or helping the population know more about adoption, both noble goals. Instead they choose the zero-sum path, because in reality their cause is not about saving baby cells, it’s about control. Rare is the pro-life conservative that cares about any other kind / stage of life… from the lives of animals to poor, hungry children who rely on their mother’s food stamps to keep fed.
In light of these billboards, in light of the current Republican disgrace over Planned Parenthood, I’m reminded that the mother made the right choice by deciding to have a child on her own terms, when it’s right for her, when she feels the presence of a child will enhance her life, and when she feels she is in the best position to enhance its life. That’s not to say those who choose the other path have chosen wrong… they chose to make the moment right because that was right for them. She still wishes to have a child one day. And sometimes so do I. Though there is sadness around the event, there should be no shame… yet, unavoidably, there is. I find we don’t discuss it openly. We keep our mouths shut about it around religious conservatives. We silently bow to the enforced silence of the topic. All pain needs access to fresh air to dissipate. Undeserved shame should not be a barrier to that. Hopefully sharing this story, and other’s sharing theirs, helps to disrupt this cycle of emotional violence against women and those that walk the path with them.