Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Would Have Been a Dad!

I never know where my triggers may come from or what might spur a memory. But they seem to come nevertheless. I had such an occasion during with my treatment group this week. One of the men in the group shared how he was coming to grips with the anger he had for his wife who had three abortions before they were married. He went on to share that he had been close to several women as he was growing up who had abortions themselves (not of his child) and how it had changed his relationship with them. He admitted that part of it all had to do with jealousy...both with his girl friends from his youth as well as with his wife.

As he shared, it brought a memory back that had receded deeply within the creases of my consciousness. It took me back to 1983 and the memory wasn't a good one. I was dating a woman that I had pretty serious feeling least serious for me. She wasn't my "first love", but I figured she was a woman I could spend the rest of my life with. My family liked her and she seemed to like them and fit in with them well. We dated for well over a year and spent a lot of time together and had become sexually intimate early in our relationship.

By the summer of '83, we had become pretty "comfortable" in our relationship, and as I reflect, I really wasn't a very good boyfriend. I know that I took her cooking and nurturing for granted and never really did anything very special for her. I guess she realized that too. And is often the case in life, she met someone who knew how to treat a woman and swept her off her feet.

I remember the conversation (now) like it was just the other day. We were sitting on the couch in her apartment and we were talking about her getting ready to travel to Australia to visit her dad. I'm not sure how, or why, she brought it up but out of the blue, she told me that earlier that spring, she had an abortion...and I had been the father.

I was totally speechless! It took me a few moments to grasp what it was she had just told me. I had gotten her pregnant and she never told me...and I was totally clueless. And instead of telling me and allowing me to be a part of the decision about our child, she thought the best decision was to abort the baby and move on with her life.

After simply sitting there on the couch for what seemed like an eternity, I reached over and held her, and told her how sorry I was that she had to go through that by herself. She told me that she hadn't been alone...that a "friend" had been there with her. I didn't ask her why she didn't tell me or why she didn't allow me to be a part of the decision. I didn't ask her who the "friend" was or why she didn't consider me a good enough of a friend since we had been sleeping together for over a year by now. I simply apologized...and cried...and held her.

Our relationship was essentially over at that point. When she got back from Australia, everything had changed. As school started again in the fall, we spent less time together and she was soon receiving flowers at school from a new "friend". We remained friends, but we never talked about the abortion again.

As I sat in the small room with my treatment group, I reflected on how I had reacted to the news of the abortion more than 25 years earlier. I had done what I had done my entire life. I had accepted that it was OK for others not to tell me the truth about things that were important in my life. I had accepted that it was OK for others to make decisions about my life without asking for my input. I had accepted that it was OK to be less than honest if it meant that truth might be hurtful.

And then I thought about what had really happened. Someone else had murdered my baby and I hadn't been asked if it was OK! I had conceived a life that was snuffed out and never given a chance to breath fresh air into his or her lungs. I was going to be a father and I was never going to get a chance to hold my own baby in my arms. And as I thought about what I had allowed to happen without explanation, I got angry. I was angry with myself for not being a man enough to confront the situation 25 years ago. And I was angry that something had happened to me during my life that I had believed that it was more important to bury my feelings instead of speaking honestly from my heart. Strangely, I was never angry with her. And that makes me angry.

My wife Paula and I never had children of our own. I was 30 and she was 35 when we got married, and I know enough about biology to know that the risk of genetic defects in the baby and risk to the life of the mother with older pregnancies was great. She had three beautiful kids that came to love me as their own dad. We now have four beautiful grandbabies that I got to hold in my arms within minutes of their births. I know first hand what I lost when that baby was thrown away 25 years ago.

And the pain in my heart is real...and feels fresh. I'm sure part of the reason is the fact that I can't hold my grandbabies any more and won't be able to be around them for I don't know how long. My niece is having a baby in two weeks and I'm not sure I will ever hold him in my arms.
I'm not sure how exactly, but I know my life would be different today if the baby would have been born. One thing I do know for certain though is that I would have been a dad.

Photo from Flickr

1 comment:

Deb Shucka said...

I share your pain, and I can feel the depth of your pain in your writing. One thing that both helped and hurt more was when it was pointed out to me that even though I didn't raise my own child, or have a conventional family, I am still a mom. I believe you are a dad. And a granddad. What's really sad is that your first child died before you could know him.

I'm glad you're finally angry. May it be a healing fire.

I love you.