(A man looks back at the time his girlfriend had an abortion and what followed for them both. A true story. )
When I was around the age of 19 my girlfriend came to me one day and told me we were going to have a baby. We had been together for a couple of years and this was a topic we had discussed more than once, should something like this happen.
Sophie (not her real name) refused to tell anyone at that stage, especially her parents, which made things very difficult. I finally convinced her we needed to see a doctor and we went to my doctor to confirm the pregnancy and ensure Sophie was ok. I’m a bit hazy on whose idea it was, whether it was my doctor’s or ours, but we ended up at the local Hospital being assessed by a social worker.
After many lengthy interviews both together and separately, we were seen as a young couple that could successfully raise a child. And we were ok with that. Due to the social worker’s decision it was not an option for Sophie to have a legal abortion according to the hospital’s criteria. This was one of the options discussed in the interviews. I believed at the time we could make this work for our child even if we didn’t live as a couple.
I finally convinced Sophie we must tell her parents. I asked her mum to come on a walk with me and we got no more than 20 yards from the house when she turned and looked at me and asked how far on was Sophie. She’d known all along. This was at the three month mark.
It was out in the open. I was sure I was going to get dragged out the back of the woodshed but instead Sophie’s father informed me they were worried Sophie would destroy my life. That was definitely not what I was expecting, nor did I agree with it.
After 27 years the exact sequence is lost but somewhere around this time a third party became involved, a woman with an extremely strong personality and her husband. The next thing I was being informed that Sophie was being taken to Auckland by this third party to the only illegal abortion clinic in New Zealand at the time. I don’t remember being referred to in the process, it just happened – Sophie and our baby were gone.
Sophie returned a few days later. I went to see her; we just sat. What could you say? I was numb. We stayed together as a couple as I wanted to be there for her as best I could but the strain grew too much between us and we began to push each other away and tear each other apart.
During this time I had to do something with all the feelings churning inside as I had no one to talk to about it. I was suppressing it all. Who does a young guy talk to about this kind of situation? Talk to the wrong group of friends and you get told you were lucky – you’ve got a second chance at life – that’s not how I saw it at all. I was concerned what the trauma of the situation would do to my own immediate family so I just buried it deeper. I would only really speak of it when I was drunk or under the influence of other substances and with people I felt safe with.
At that time I was a keen outdoors-man so I went to a picturesque lake I knew, where I had spent many happy hours. It was and still is a special place. I paddled to the most remote section of the lake and on a small hill I made a little grave and placed a simple cross for our daughter. Since becoming a Christian some 22 years ago and becoming aware of the grace of God, I’ve given my daughter the name Jasmine.
Eventually Sophie and I ended our relationship. I moved 1000km away and began a new life. I returned to my old town about a year later for a family occasion and as I walked down the street and rounded a corner I walked straight into Sophie. She was heavily pregnant.
We just stopped and stared at each other. We didn’t say a word. Slowly we moved off still staring at each other. I’ve since learned that often after an abortion a woman may experience a tremendous need to have another child.
I later found out Sophie gave that child to her sister to raise.
Approximately 18 months later I received a phone call very late one night. It was my Mum. Sophie had taken her life.
There is a road I can drive down whenever I return to that area, and from it I can see Jasmine’s lake and hill. The entire area has since been set aside as a wildlife sanctuary not to be disturbed.
I’ve only just started to tell my story and it stirs up a myriad of feelings. Some of the strongest ones are the anger, frustration and sheer grief that I didn’t want anyone to die and I couldn’t protect either of them. Also I wasn’t permitted to be with Sophie when she was in one of her darkest moments in her life. Other times I stop and wonder what would Jasmine be like if she were here now.
My hope is that in time more men will speak up about their experiences and through that, change will occur. Ultimately, greater support will be provided, and there will be a deeper understanding of how men feel and cope with the experience of abortion. Which, by the way we don’t do very well. Personally I believe, suppressed grief from abortion could well contribute to many of the health issues men face and don’t deal with. We’re very good at self-medicating.
The pain doesn’t go away as such but I’ve learned to live with it and embrace it and move forward with it. There are many different sessions with the grief, and it is important to be gentle on yourself in working through it. The guilt and shame have been the most difficult to deal with. Sharing my story firstly in a safe environment has been such a tremendous help in overcoming the shame. I’d encourage any male struggling to email Open Doors or a like-minded support group and take that bold step. In that place healing will begin to flow.
I’d like to thank my beautiful wife and our 5 children, without their support and encouragement I wouldn’t be standing before you. I’ve only just begun the next part of my journey through abortion.
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