Part Thirty-Four: The Hard Choices

Those who know me are well aware of the fact that I am of the pro-choice camp where politics are concerned, because I don’t feel that I (or any uninvolved party) have the right to impose a subjective moral choice in someone else’s life. Those who know me a little bit better are similarly aware that I lean towards a pro-life philosophical stance as far as my own life is concerned. Philosophy, however, has little relevance when real life comes into play a great deal of the time.

Once upon a time I met a spectacular woman and almost immediately knew that I wanted to pursue a relationship with her…strangely enough, she was similarly afflicted where I was concerned. It was less than a month into this relationship, and one of the first times that we had been intimate, when an accident happened with the birth control this woman was using and we just seemed to have the sort of awful timing that led to conception with that one slip up. It was a short while later before we discovered that she had gotten pregnant, having had no reason to suspect that it was even a remote possibility until she began displaying some of the symptoms associated with the early stages of pregnancy. Both of us already had children of our own and we were at points in our respective lives where neither of us was prepared to be bringing a new life into the world, financially or psychologically…so neither of us exactly relished this startling discovery.

My first question, not knowing precisely when the conception took place at first, was to ask if the baby was going to be mine. It may seem like a rude inquiry, but I didn’t know what her sexual activity had been like up until we had gotten together, and I hadn’t requested those specific details. It wasn’t that I was considering washing my hands of the situation no matter what he answer happened to be, that thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I really liked this woman and I wasn’t eager to jump overboard just because some other guy may have accidentally gotten her pregnant, it wasn’t like we both didn’t already have children from different partners, so the principle was essentially the same.

The timing worked out that the baby was mine though, as you might be able to predict.

We talked about the situation quite a bit, and she felt that abortion was the only viable solution since going through the pregnancy and having another child (at that time specifically) would essentially derail everything she was working towards in her life. She had a lot going for her, just on the horizon, and she was putting a great deal of effort into improving her life and the lives of her children; this was one of the things that attracted me to her, one of the things that I admired about her.

I tried to work out ways that we might be able to avoid going through with that particular decision, because I knew that she didn’t want to go through with any abortion any more than I did, but every attempt to figure out an alternate solution led to the same grim outcome…that she would be stuck losing a great deal of the progress that she’d made towards the better future she deserved. I had no choice but to concur with her assessment of our options, though I didn’t stop trying to brainstorm some other way up until it was no longer a possibility.

There was no question that she didn’t want to do it though, so don’t you dare judge her, the whole idea itself was painful to her and all I could really do was let her know that she had my support and that I was there beside her either way.

If she had chosen to keep the child we would have figured something out, as difficult as it might have been, I’m sure…as challenging as it surely would have been, we could have worked through it, because (at least for me) what we had was worth the strain. The choice was ultimately hers to make after all discussion had been completed and the options were weighed, and she made the difficult choice to terminate the pregnancy.

She scheduled the appointment with Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls (a few hours away) and I set aside money in order to assist her with the cost of the procedure. The scheduling wasn’t optimum and it conflicted with my work schedule, being an overnight trip…and it was like pulling teeth for me to get any time off work, which meant that I was going to be unable to accompany her. It turns out that, to this day, that it can be said that I do have two regrets (regardless of my bluster about not regretting anything); not working harder to find a way that I could be there with her during that trip to Sioux Falls is one of them, the other is that I didn’t find a better solution for us so that she wouldn’t have to go through with that.

Thankfully she had a close friend who was both willing and able to be there with her, and he took the trip with her in my place. I was grateful that she didn’t have to be there alone, because she shouldn’t have had to go through it by herself. It broke my heart not being there anyhow, especially when she told me about the counseling that took place before the procedure itself. I should have been beside her when she was forced to read about the development of her fetus and where it was at this point. I should have been there next to her when they asked her if she wanted to see the ultrasound video, which she couldn’t bring herself to watch (and I don’t blame her).

After it was all said and done, we never really sat down and talked about it. We never took the time to mourn together or really process what had happened. Maybe it would have made no difference if we had tried, as we each mourned our decision separately in our own ways, but it seems to me, looking back, that some good may have come of us doing so.

I didn’t make it easy for her to talk to me though, my coping mechanisms are off-putting at the best of times, but they can be devastating during times of extreme emotional fragility (which, thankfully doesn’t occur often). I wrap myself up in thoroughly inappropriate humor or flat affect detachment when working through difficult quandaries and the like; sometimes fluctuating between the two with seemingly no warning…and this was one of those occasions.

Maybe if she had been a part of my life longer than she had, she would have been accustomed to that trait enough to see it for what it was…but, as it stood, it simply pissed her off and made her feel like she was alone in coping with the loss we had sustained. If only I had developed better habits when dealing with unpleasant things, that whole situation could have turned out better.

There are people who bounce back just fine from something like an abortion, there are even people who can be casual and dismissive about it, but we were not two of those people…and scars still remain to this day.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later that she told me that she blamed me for the whole thing. She knew, logically and rationally, that it wasn’t my fault…that, if anything, her error with birth control was the proximate cause of what happened. But what she knew and what she felt were two very different things. She knew that it made no sense to resent me like she did for what happened, both the unexpected pregnancy and the following termination…but that didn’t stop her from resenting me just the same. That undercurrent of animosity wasn’t made any better thanks to my inability to take the trip with her and be supportive in that respect as well.

There are a number of questions and possibilities that I have mulled over since then, little ways that I wonder if things might have been made at least somewhat better. Maybe if I had less jarring coping mechanisms or maybe if I had been able to be with her as a shoulder to lean on before and after the procedure…or even if we had communicated better with one another openly and honestly after the abortion, we could have mitigated some of that resentment and animosity. I never hated her for what happened, but she was the one who actively had to bear the burden of both the choice and going through the actual process involved, and I honestly can’t imagine what that had to be like for her. She tried to appear stoic and undisturbed, but I knew that it was a façade and I avoided probing at it because I thought that she needed that appearance of stability to keep from falling apart.

Even now I wish that there was something I could have done differently, because maybe things would have been better between us if that had been the case…but nothing can ever be done to repair the mistakes of the past, and we have to go on living with the repercussions no matter how painful they might be.

I may be pro-choice still, but I will never pretend that abortion is something that should be decided upon without very serious consideration. It takes a toll on the parties involved, at least it did for the two of us…and maybe that toll was just too much to bear on its own, even without the additional factors involved like my stupid, ill-advised reactions, it certainly seems like the price of that decision we approached together was much higher than either of us was properly equipped to pay.

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