Pregnant Pause

Simon Anderson recounts the day that changed his life.

My relationship with Kate was pretty rocky. We were on the point of a trial separation when one afternoon she came home from work and announced "Guess what, it's positive". I didn't even know she'd had the test she was referring to - a pregnancy test.

Somehow I didn't accept we were pregnant for the first few weeks. I simply denied it to myself. I lived in a state of fleeing fear for the first months of the pregnancy. During that time Kate started talking about an abortion, saying things like "You're obviously not interested, you're completely freaking out".

She was right - I was terrified. I was scared of losing my freedom. I had always had bad associations with sex because I was raised Catholic. I had bad feelings about a lot of the aspects of being a father.

When Kate said she was going to have an abortion, I replied with all the glib bumper-sticker phrases of the time. "It's a woman's choice" I said. I was very pro-feminist. Intellectually I believed that it's a woman's body and no-one can tell her what to do with it. I saw abortion as a political issue, not a spiritual one. How naïve I was about it all.

Throughout the first trimester there was a lot of emotional tug-of-war going on. It became apparent that Kate wanted to have our child, but wanted to have it in the best circumstances. For her an abortion was a pragmatic way out. She decided that our relationship was never going to work out and she didn't want to raise the child alone.

Eventually she arranged for a friend to pick her up and take her to a clinic. She didn't tell me where it was. "Goodbye, have a nice life" and she was off.

I went into paroxysms of guilt and confusion. I realised that I had to find out what I really wanted. I had never done that before in my life.

I realised that I did not want the abortion to happen. I realised that I had completely opposing views in side me - the spiritual one was in absolute conflict with the political one. I had to try and tell Kate what I really felt before it was too late.

I got on the phone and called all the abortion clinics in the phone book and asked if Kate was there. I didn't hold much hope that this would work, but I had to try.

On the third call, the woman who answered paused for a moment, then said very seriously "I can't promise anything, but hold the line". After what seemed like an incredibly long pause Kate came on the line. I simply said "Let's have the child". She broke down in tears and came straight home.

The rest of the pregnancy was not stress-free by any means, but now we knew that we both wanted to go through with it. When our daughter was born, it really did happen like in a corny movie. I was transfixed! An amazingly quick change came over me. I went into a hypnotic state as I watched this little person covered in Brylcream clinging to my arm, and since then I realised that becoming a father was the best, and hardest, thing to ever happen to me.

I also felt a real sense of powerlessness, realising that as a mere father I did not have the final say over whether or not I would have a child. I embraced the feminist theory that abortion is a woman's decision. But my conscience was very clear that, for me, at that time, abortion was not the right choice.

I've met many men since then who have been in similar situations and many have echoed my doubt that the issue is as simple as the bumper-stickers say. Our heads may agree with women's right to choose, but our hearts are saying that the mother and father are in it together; let's work this out together. After all, if we have a child together, we will hopefully be making decisions about that child's welfare together. How can we justify leaving the father out of that most difficult choice of all?


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