I have a family member who gave birth to a baby that went on to die a few hours later. Ever since then, she continues to openly celebrate his birthday. During my youth, this confused me. Why would you continue to celebrate the birthday of a baby that didn’t survive? Sure, it was part of the grief process. Beyond that, I could not understand. This fetus and baby had only been a part of her life for 40 weeks. Why would you continue to commemorate that day for decades to come?
A few months ago, her deceased son turned 30. I think I understand now. Namely, the truth is that this is not a choice. You will remember him regardless of whether you want to or not. That’s a simple fact of human nature. Love does not die. It may go hidden. It may get complicated. But it will never die. She had that baby grow inside of her for nine months and gave birth to him. Of course she loved him. Even thirty years later, that does not change.
Today is the six year anniversary of the worst mistake of my life. My mistake was not getting my high school girlfriend pregnant. My mistake was in believing that I had no other option that to get rid of the fetus. I can still feel the strange sense of floating I experienced as I sat in the waiting room of the Fort Collins Planned Parenthood. Floating. Not in a good way. I was experiencing the moment—knowing full well that the purpose was to not experience it. I was there that day to erase my perceived mistake.
It failed. I could not erase the child I was supposed to have. I could only make sure he was not born. And that is what I did. I sat in that waiting room, utterly unaware of what I was doing. The fear that comes with a 17 year old seeing a positive pregnancy strip changed me. Strong emotions spark strong emotions. It is a rule of human psychology that I couldn’t have understood at such an age (or maybe I could have and didn’t try). The simple truth is that I was unaware that I was in love with my unborn child. There was no way I couldn’t be.
The first three months felt like nothing but floating. When I came down from my numb cloud, in October of 2006, it hit me hard. In the six years that have passed since the abortion, that emotion has not changed. I still cry when I hear songs that remind me of him. I still see children that would be his age and wonder what he would be like. The only change is that I don’t think about him as much. I do go days without thinking about him. I wish I didn’t, but life carries on regardless. It’s easier now to understand how my family member can still celebrate the 30th birthday of her deceased son.
There’s a strange twist to this story that I never talk about. It’s not that I try to hide it. Moreso, I try not to think about it. In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, it’s known as “Double Think.” It’s the ability for a human to hold two contradictory ideas in their mind without realizing it or resolving it. For me, this comes from the idea of abortion. Note that my confusion does not come from the abortion that my girlfriend and I had. My confusion stems from the fact that I can regard my two-month old fetus as a son.
I grew up pro-choice. In my mid to late teens, as I grew into my own beliefs, I encountered a problem. As I encountered the debate of abortion on my own, I didn’t like what I saw. I aborted a fetus. I regarded that fetus as my son. In all honestly, I understand why I didn’t let myself think about it at length. In my mind, I found a way to legally kill my child simply so my life would not grow complicated.
I want to feel guilty for being selfish. I want to hate myself to convincing myself that killing him was alright. The thing is, it worked. I graduated high school. I went to Europe. I fell in love. I graduated college. I wrote books. I’m about to go into the Peace Corp. Every one of those would be made complicated or impossible with a kid to take care of. I do love the life I have. I just can’t help but wonder.
I always imagine the life that I would have had if I kept the child. The thing is, that’s not how it would have happened. If we didn’t abort, we would have given the baby up for adoption. Would my life be the same if I knew that my son way out their somewhere? I know my high school experience would be much different. I got to be the Homecoming King, Prom King, and Student of the Year when I should have been taking care of my pregnant girlfriend. What kind of life path would a full pregnancy and adoption put me on?
I have refused to take a stance on the issue of abortion over the past six years. Instead, I argue around it. I argue the right of a father to at least be notified of the procedure. I argue for greater funding and awareness of adoption to help teach people about the alternative. I even argue about the legality of late-term abortion. Almost every ounce of my beliefs screams that I am Pro-Life. Except that I refuse to see the world in black and white.
The death of my child sparked something inside of me. I do not like abortion. The thing is, I have felt the emotion that comes with a frightening pregnancy. Making abortion illegal is a terrible idea. A society that is unaccepting will only drive a pregnant woman into hiding. She will receive her abortion in a very dangerous way. Even if the abortion does not kill her, the emotional pain that comes with having to hide it will slowly destroy her.
So what do we do? The only way I find that makes sense is an open and accepting society. Instead of telling women they shouldn’t be getting an abortion, we should be telling them about the families they could be helping through adoption. Instead of funding abortions, we should be funding full medical insurance for anyone willing to give their baby up for adoption.
Having a baby is scary enough. Pregnant teenagers automatically think the sky is falling when they make the mistake of pregnancy. We need to tell them that the sky is not falling. They can turn it into a beautiful situation—much like the movie “Juno.” It’s the only way to stop them from freaking out and try to make it go away as if it never really existed. Can we create that society? I hope so.
In a society like that, someone would have told me that I was making a mistake.
In a society like that, I wouldn’t have to hold the truth so close I felt like bursting.
In a society like that, Jaccob would be five and a half years old.