I was a senior in high school when I found out my girlfriend was pregnant. At first, I was actually overjoyed at the thought of being a father. I really did love her, and the thought of having a family was exciting. However, that feeling of joy quickly turned in to fear. I was seventeen. In my mind I had no business being a dad. I was afraid of disappointing my family and friends. My girlfriend was starting college, and I was afraid the baby would prevent her from succeeding. Because I was afraid, I never talked to anyone who could have actually helped. I let my fears and selfishness determine my actions.
I can't explain it, but somehow I put a wall up around my heart that prevented me from looking at the baby as anything but a "thing". As long as I thought of it as a thing, we could get rid of it. That wall was firmly in place when I drove her to the clinic that morning. I had basically convinced myself that it really wasn't a baby, and that after this day I would have my life back. I did feel bad for what my girlfriend went through. I could see the look in her eyes and the pain she was in....but I still thought it was the right thing to do and that she would agree as life went on.
It is laughable now at how wrong I was on all accounts.
As time went on, my girlfriend and I lost communication. We broke up shortly after the abortion, and she ended up moving hundreds of miles away. Through the years, I would often find myself thinking of her. I would wonder what she was doing....was she OK?....did she ever get married?....was she able to have children after?...was she OK?
I would also think of the child.
I'm Catholic...always have been. Views on abortion in the Catholic Church are well known, and I was reminded weekly of my choice to give up the child - and what a bad choice it was. As the weeks turned into months turned into years....my regret at my decision increased. It's a very helpless position to be in when you want to fix something that just can't be fixed. There was no bringing back the baby. I needed to talk to the mother, but by now I had no idea where she was or how to reach her. I had never talked about the abortion with any family or friends. Even 20+ years later, it was still my secret. The only person I could talk with about my feelings was the mother.
By the grace of God, in February 2012 I finally got my chance. A fluke encounter through a social media site gave me a way of contacting her. I immediately sent her an email just to get her attention, and that was quickly followed up with apology for what I asked her to do 24 years ago...how I never did stop thinking of her...how I've thought about the child, and cried....I just dumped it all out. That email was the start of about a 4-5 month healing process for both of us. It began with her finally having a way to tell me just what she went through, and me actually understanding. Along the way, that "thing" that I "got rid of" 24 years earlier transformed into our child....a daughter (we both thought of her as a girl), and we even named her. It was both an incredibly loving moment, and also incredibly sad. That's when my own grieving really began. That's the first time it ever felt like I gave up a "baby", and my heart broke at the realization of what I had done.
By the end of those months of back-and-forth, the mother was able to find forgiveness not only for me, but for herself. Once she was able to forgive herself, I found that I was able to do the same for me. We are comforted now at the feeling that we have our daughter back in our hearts...but it will never replace the feeling of being able to hold her in our arms.
It's amazing to think that back then we thought our lives would be ruined with the birth of a baby. Twenty-four years later, we both know that our lives would have been significantly better if we had kept the child. Twenty-four years of pain and suffering could have been avoided if we had just dealt with a few months of disappointing friends and family. The true friends and family would have eventually come around and supported us - we know that now. We could have had our daughter, who would be graduating college by now. We would not have gone through the depression and struggles that we did.
If we only kept the baby...