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The abortion was long ago, but for
a regretful father the guilt lingers on

COMMENTARY

By PAUL CHIMERA

It has been 20 years since my ex-wife and I aborted our first child. I pray every day for forgiveness. I'm fairly certain my former wife is pro-choice in the divisive matter of abortion. I'm certain, as well, that she hasn't realized I've grown to become pro- life.

But those labels didn't matter much back in the early 1970s, when we were young newlyweds just starting out. It was like so many things in life. You don't realize the gravity of your actions until later. Often much later.

Sadly, it's usually too late to correct the mistakes, if not the sins, of the past.

The news media seldom seem to talk about how men feel when a woman decides to have an abortion. I suspect that's because it's more logical to focus on the woman, since it's her body and her ultimate decision to terminate the pregnancy.

Perhaps, too, it's that many fathers - married or otherwise - just don't care enough whether an abortion takes place or not.

For me, at least, it isn't like that. All these years later, I still go to bed at night asking God to forgive our decision - a decision, I believe, that was born of the idealism and ambition, but also out of the ignorance and selfishness of youth.

When we were first married, our short-term goals were well defined: We would get good jobs, save our money, buy a house. We always felt that paying a landlord every month wasn't much different from putting a match to that money.

So, with our hearts set on buying our first house, nothing was going to stand in our way - including children who came when they weren't planned. In fact, I was not particularly fond of kids at the time at all. Having one of our own was the furthest thing from my mind.

But as fate would have it, my wife became pregnant. Long before we knew of her condition, I'd been almost preachy in my repeated desire not to have kids.

My wife made an appointment at Buffalo Children's Hospital and had the fetus aborted.

Admittedly, at the time, I had virtually no idea how an abortion was performed. Or rather, I had an idea - but it was not an accurate one.

I presumed the procedure was little more than the quick and easy dissolving of some microscopic cells. Clinical and unemotional.

Over the years, of course, I've become far more enlightened on the procedure, realizing there's an all-too-real human dimension to the process.

Long after the abortion was carried out, the emotional fallout continues, at least for me. I still occasionally have sleepless nights, thinking about what we did and why.

I've never admitted this to anyone - verbally or in writing - but I've long wondered whether that ill-fated child was a boy or a girl. We were later blessed with two beautiful daughters, now 17 and 13. They are precious beyond words.

But who was the child we never knew? Would he have been my son? What would he or she be like today, at 20 years of age? How would I justify either of my teen-age daughters having never been given the chance to be the remarkable young ladies they've become?

These are questions for which I'll never know the answers But I'll always wonder.

Seeing the indescribable joy we share today - how proud their mom and I both are of our children, and the love they give back - it's hard to imagine making the decision we made back then.

I tell myself I shouldn't beat myself up over youthful immaturity and bad judgment. I was only in my early 20s, after all, and my wife was barely out of her teens.

Still, the pain of that decision, and the regret, linger. It took being a father of two great kids to make me realize that life truly is a gift.

Sometimes I think God got it backwards. He should have given us, as young people, the wisdom we only come to acquire in our later years.

Then, perhaps, some of the mistakes of our youth wouldn't hurt so much later on.

PAUL CHIMERA is a Williamsville independent journalist and teacher.

The Buffalo, News, Box 100, Buffalo NY 14240

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