I shall never know in this life whether my child was a boy or a girl. My former girlfriend, the mother of my child, the woman I loved and still love, only told me a number of weeks later that she had been pregnant and that she had had an abortion.
She told me as we left a bar. I was on a busy street but I put my head up against a building and began to cry, the first time I had cried in public since I was twelve years old.
What happened next I find almost impossible to account for or explain. We got in my car and looking at her I experienced the most profound sense of tenderness, protectiveness and love that I have ever felt toward her or toward anyone, ever. It was if my mind had two enormous facts to deal with and could only take them one at a time. The first was that this woman whom I loved was pregnant with our child. Despite our unmarried status, I was pleased and happy, and hung there for an instant over the abyss feeling the elation a normal married man must feel at such awesome news.
Then I looked down. The child was there and then he was not, was created and killed in the same breath, as was my sense of elation. I don't know if this occurred to me then or later, a line from Scripture, "The Lord kills with the breath of his mouth." And God breathed life into Adam.
I was very much in love with this woman as was she with me. She knew I was unalterably opposed to abortion and that I would have vigorously pursued marriage if she had presented me with the fact of pregnancy. There would have been enough money but we both would have had to contend with disgrace in the eyes of our families and friends. Her career, in her eyes, would have been demolished.
I know I am not innocent of the thoughtless and criminally careless conception of this child. That will always haunt me, as will the profound sense of being powerless to protect it. For several months after I found out, I had the strong sense that my child existed, was somewhere "out there" and that there was no way to exercise a newly-formed paternal concern. Thoughts came unbidden, like "Is he cold?" The reaction -- nauseating feelings of helplessness and dereliction of duty. Meanwhile, the newspapers and television seemed full to bursting with pictures and stories of babies.
Coincident with this was a sense of not having protected my girlfriend. I have read enough on the subject to know that it is a violent procedure. That this woman I loved so much should undergo such a cold, soulless and brutal experience, and then have to hide it from those who love her, sickens and saddens me. And yet a strange, disquieting dichotomy not unlike that which prevailed at the time of my discovery, exists here as well. How could I comfort her when she herself made the decision, without my concurrence or even foreknowledge, to subject her body to one of those hideous machines? Had she been struck by a car or fallen down stairs I would have been the first to help console and heal her. As it was, I did what I could, but not without a sense of being divided. I knew she felt this too and that only made me pity her the more, and further the sense of division.
Why, if this is not in some way felt as a wrongful death, are we so reluctant to let others know of it? I desperately needed others for the first several months, yet I could not seek them out because of the disgrace and shame to myself and the mother. The one individual I confided in immediately, a clergyman, advised that I should speak of it to no one. I respected his advice then and still agree it was correct. My girlfriend lived alone with it for several weeks until she broke down and told me. She, too, tells no one.
In old Western movies, a man whose child was murdered might give up everything and undergo years of search and hardship to wreak revenge. What do you do when there are two responsible parties, and one is the mother? She I have forgiven, still love although we are apart, and hope for. Myself I know I will always bear an extra burden of sorrow, which is to a degree deserved insofar as I was careless with the power of life. But I never asked for the name of the obstetrician, because I was afraid of what I might do. At the very least, I would confront him on his way out of the office and say, "You don't know me but you killed my child." And just look at him.
The first two pages were written at about two years from the event. This is written almost exactly four years later.
Following the abortion and her telling me, she left town for about six months to take a job in a distant city. Then she returned and I left town, mostly for career reasons, but I don't think either one of us could stand to live in the same city -- she for her reasons, I for mine. I tried several times by letter to communicate to her the misery and sorrow I was feeling, but her responses were mostly uncaring and exculpatory. She even wrote at one point that she felt "stronger, more confident" for having had the abortion. I suppose Hitler felt that way after conquering Poland, but does that make it right?
In her one or two responses, the most obnoxious part was that the rhetoric she used was dismal, heartless Cosmo girl propaganda. And I thought her an intelligent woman. I think now she used such language to distance herself from the reality. These were lies she was telling me, but they were also lies she was telling herself. After several attempts I realized we were completely at odds over the issue and would be for some time. She is living with a man in a distant city now and we no longer communicate, but I cling to the hope that someday, somehow we will be reconciled.
For myself, not a day goes by that I don't think about it. I have told only four persons, two of whom live far away and the other two can be relied upon to keep it secret. one of the latter, a close friend, suspected that something serious was wrong and pried the truth from me by degrees. The first big clue was when I went with her to a hospital maternity ward to visit her sister and new niece. When a nurse held the infant up in the nursery, I turned sheet- white.
I can view the situation with more equanimity, but I still have violent emotional reactions. For instance, a television news program recently showed a woman strapped to an operating table awaiting her "procedure." Some ghastly older woman came in and smiled at her a phony "everything will be just fine soon, Deary" smile… as the witch must have smiled at Hansel and Gretel. In the few seconds it took me to leap out of the chair and turn off the TV I thought, "I'd' like to wipe that smile off her face with a baseball bat." One can smile, and smile, and be a villain.
Meanwhile, I contribute to the pro life cause. I wonder whether I should join Operation Rescue but I am afraid I would lose my temper and discredit the movement.
Also, my trust in women and in people in general has been rocked. I have not been able to sustain any kind of relationship with a woman since and doubt that I shall ever be able to trust a woman enough to marry her. I doubt, too, whether my own reaction to marriage and children will be adequate. Don't I already have a first child?
There is so much more I could say, the strange reactions one gets to news of friends getting married and having children. The sensation of looking at an infant nephew and wondering, "Would my son have looked like this?" My girlfriend's abortion turned the world upside down and there has been no justice to turn it right side up.