I was powerless to stop my girlfriend from aborting the baby we both created
Editor’s note: Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.
Following the recent UK release of Obvious Child, a rom-com film about abortion, on Thursday Daily Mail columnist Bel Mooney shared her personal experience with abortion and declared that her decision to terminate her unborn child was "no big deal."
However, for many, abortion is a big deal that can leave regrets long after that choice is made. It is also a choice that has an impact on men as well as women, even though the media rarely presents the experience of abortion from a male point of view. Perhaps the general assumption is that abortion doesn't really affect men. Perhaps I would have shared that assumption had I not lived through it myself.
Several years ago, I met a woman just a few months after I returned to London following a stint in America, my home country, for work. I fell for Jenny from the start - her cherubic smile and her silky hair warmed my heart. Above all, we shared a love for life and a determination to leave the world a better place than we found it. I felt as though Jenny understood me in a way that few others did.
I wanted the baby and I hoped I could change her mind.
We spoke on the phone each night after work and spent the weekends together, exploring London and enjoying each other's company. Even so, I found it hard to see where things stood with us. Jenny artfully straddled a line between friendship and a relationship. She would show and tell me how much she enjoyed our time together, but then she'd tell me that I "deserved better" than her. We would make love one night and then part ways the next morning for work with nothing more than a quick goodbye kiss; she would coolly approach her train platform without a single glance back.
Like most sexually active couples, we did talk about what might happen if she fell pregnant and we both said we would want to keep the baby. Little did I know how timely that conversation would prove to be.
A couple of weeks later, Jenny rang me to say she had a dizzy spell and felt nauseous. When she added that she had nausea for a couple of days, I broke into a sweat and my pulse raced. I suggested that she take a pregnancy test. She was on the pill, but I knew there were no guarantees.
Jenny rang me as soon as she had a chance to take the test. "I think I'm pregnant," she said. Those words hit me like a sledgehammer. Her next words left me trembling: "I've decided to have an abortion."
I offered to come over so that we could talk things through. "There's nothing more to say," she said icily. I tried to reply but she cut me off. "I don't want this baby and it's my choice to make. Do you understand me?"
I, on the other hand, wanted the baby and I hoped I could change her mind. As long as we could talk, I believed, there was hope. We agreed to talk and there were moments when I felt I might be persuading her to reconsider, such as when she asked how we might make things work to raise a baby. I knew she didn't want to get married or even move in together. I assured her that I would be there for her and that we could find a way to give our child a meaningful life.
I became hopeful, until she said: "I would keep the baby if I were swept off my feet in love, but I'm not. The feeling is either there or it isn't, and it's not. I'm sorry."
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I couldn't help but question myself, wondering what I could have done or said that could have made her feel differently. But I knew there was nothing I could do to stop her from going through with an abortion; it was her legal right.
Becoming a parent is supposed to be one of the most exciting - and of course scary - moments in the journey of life and losing a child is said to be one of the worst. Now, I found myself tasting both sensations at once. I had quickly come to terms with the prospect of parenthood, before fighting in vain to save the life I helped create. Nothing can describe the profound sense of powerlessness that comes with watching someone terminate a life that you helped create. I felt alone in a sea of pain, desperate to keep afloat.
Despite my best efforts, Jenny went through with the abortion. The pregnancy was over and, weeks later, so was our relationship. Six months later, she got in touch and suggested that we meet again. But the pain was too great and we parted ways for good.
Wounds do heal over time - even deep ones - but scars remain. Eight years later, I find myself incredibly blessed with a beautiful, bright and loving wife, a 19-month-old son and a daughter due in January. At times, I can't help but look into my son's deep grey-blue eyes and wonder what his older brother or sister might have been like.
Sadly, my story is not unique; other men have experienced the same anguish. Men and women both have a role to play in creating life and raising children, but today's laws, and the debates around them, don't reflect that. Women alone decide whether to end a pregnancy, even though both parents bear responsibility when women decide to continue a pregnancy. Perhaps one way forward might be to resolve this inconsistency and address abortion, like parenthood, as a family issue. Men should have a chance to be heard.
Reprinted with permission from the September 12, 2014 edition of The Telegraph.