Abortion: What It Feels Like For A Man
I suppose I should start by saying everything about this story is true. Jermaine knew about it, because he was the first person I called when it happened. My mom never knew until I told her two nights ago, years after the fact. I couldn’t write this before I shared it with her, but it wasn’t as though I was asking her permission or seeking her approval. What’s done was done. I just wanted to share it with her before I shared it here, out of respect for our relationship.
The other thing I should say is, no matter what your views are on abortion — whether your pro choice or pro life — I share this not to advocate for either side of the issue. Today’s post isn’t motivated by an article I read or some story in the news or something I watched on TV. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know why I’m writing about this other than to write about my life without shame like I always do.
And most importantly, this post is not to pit a man’s experience against a woman’s experience, to say one is more deep than the other. Frankly, I don’t think there’s much of a contest between the two. I have no idea what it’s like to be the woman in this situation, not mentally, not physically. All I know is what it feels like for me, a man.
One can say, how it all ended is how it all started.
She was a crush I had in middle school who moved away before high school began. We promised to stay in touch, but I never heard from her until my sophomore year of college. She found me on AOL, back when people had profiles with pictures and the best you can do is a name search. Luckily for me, my name is pretty uncommon, so when people searched for me, their gamble usually proved to be correct. Such was the case when she searched my name.
I was out in my dormitory hallway at 1 a.m., talking with friends when I heard the Instant Message alert go off in my room. I excused myself from the conversation to see who hit me up, and it simply said “Jozen? From King?”. That was me, I confirmed and then she revealed who she was. I went back into the hallway to tell my friends goodnight, closed the door, and proceeded to talk to this girl online for two hours, and then talked to her on the phone for two hours more.We took all the time we needed to catch up on everything.
My bio was simple, I graduated from high school and went to college in D.C. Hers was a little more complicated. She was married at 18, and already getting a divorce. Her and her estranged husband had a child together, and she was raising it mostly on her own. Also, she added, child birth almost killed her and so the doctors told her she couldn’t have another child, which was partly why her husband left, she said. He wanted more children. She lived in the Bay but still made frequent visits to my hometown area because her grandmother still lived there.
Sure enough, I was planning on being back home within the next couple of weeks, so we made plans to see each other when I was there. In between that first conversation and my trip home, we talked everyday, just like we did for a time in middle school. And no sooner did I arrive back home were we making plans to be together, if only for one night.
The plan was for me to pick her up from her grandmother’s, to do a whole date and then spend the night together. Both of us knew, our time together would be brief, so we wanted to extend it as long as possible and with my mom and sister being home, and her grandmother already knowing her granddaughter wouldn’t be home until the morning, a hotel was our only option. So that’s what we did. Dinner, drive along the coast, a night at a hotel together.
The morning after we went to get some breakfast together, and then I took her home. Everything went better than we thought. There was no awkwardness between us, and we weren’t shy around one another at all. All the chemistry that we had over the phone and over the computer carried over seamlessly in person, and when I dropped her off, we made plans to get together one more time before I left.
But unfortunately, it never happened. She had to go back to Oakland. Her son was ill and she had to take him his pediatrician. I told her it was fine, and sometime during the summer she should come to Detroit and visit me. I was headed there once I left home to do an internship for three months. Sounded good to her, and we left it there.
When I arrived in Detroit, I got swept up in my internship. There were a few calls she made to me and a few calls I made to her, but none of them lasted long and none of them had the same spark our old conversations had when we first reunited.
Then one day — I recall it was a warm afternoon — I was in the kitchen of the house where I was staying pouring myself some Coke. From upstairs I could hear my Instant Message alert go off, so I went upstairs to check who it was.
We hadn’t spoken in a long time online. Most of it was on the phone. But this time, wasn’t like the last time she reached out to me online.
long pause because I wasn’t around my computer at the time…
Okay, I don’t know where you’re at right now, but I was just trying to let you know that I’m pregnant and the child is yours. But don’t worry, because of what the doctors told me when I had my son, I have to get an abortion and I’m getting one this week. My grandmother is taking me. There’s nothing you can do or say to make me change my mind about this and there’s nothing you need to do to help. Everything is fine, I just wanted to let you know.
***** has signed off
I dropped my glass of Coke and let it spill all over, paying no mind to its flow running underneath my feet and foolishly, I tried to type a response to her, hoping she didn’t really sign off, that she just went invisible online. No such luck. So I read the message again, and again, and again, and again.
There were two things I had to get over: The first being the words, “I’m pregnant and the child is yours.” Television likes to sensationalize this kind of moment. We either see a man who is overjoyed and immediately runs out to his garage to size up his car in an attempt to figure out how a new body is going to fit, or we see them on a stage of an afternoon talk show trying to deny, deny, deny and insisting on a DNA test.
I had neither reaction. My knees went weak on me and I had to sit down in the desk chair, my fingers frozen over my computer in home-row. She was pregnant and the child is mine. She was pregant and the child is mine. What? How? I mean, I knew how, but when? I mean, I knew when, but what? What? What? What? I didn’t want to believe her, but honestly, I didn’t want to not believe her either. I just wanted to do something, to help in anyway I possibly could. So I called her immediately. She didn’t pick up. I called her again. She didn’t pick up again.
I called her and called her and called her and called her and called her. I never called someone so many times in my life. She still holds the record.
During all the phone calling I did, I had to get over the second part of her message: Don’t worry, because of what the doctors told her, she was going to get an abortion. The words “don’t worry” are what stuck out most in my head. It was as though she was doing me some sort of favor by getting an abortion. She might as well have told me, “I got your back baby, you can still go to college and get your degree. I’m just going to be out here getting rid of this child we conceived together.”
I learned then, some men have no say whatsoever in a woman’s decision to keep or abort a child. We’re not even given options from which to choose, I certainly wasn’t given any. All I was left with was an Instant Message. I mean, certainly I wasn’t in a good position to bring a child into the world at the time, but I remember thinking of all the ways we could have made it work.
I would have transferred from Howard to be closer to her. She could have moved to D.C. to be closer to me. If she stayed home she had her grandmother, I had my mother. All of these ideas I had were life-altering decisions that I knew would have affected a lot more people than just me and her, and who knows what the verdict would have been, but she didn’t even give me a chance to put forth any of these ideas, crazy as they were. She just sent me an Instant Message and didn’t even bother to pick up the phone after she signed off. I felt powerless, lost, and scared. At the very least, I thought, she could send me her mailing address so I could send some money to help her on the operation. I paid for the hotel in which the child was conceived, I could certainly pay for this. But again, she wasn’t picking up her phone. I was trying to be a good man, and she was treating me like I wasn’t a man at all, as though I was still a boy who wasn’t ready to deal with the consequences of my actions.
No sleep was had that night, I couldn’t even cry enough to get there. I just stayed up calling her until 1 a.m. in the morning her time. At some point she blocked my number so my calls weren’t even going through, but I kept on trying anyway. As for the rest of the world, they were shut out. I just stared at my ceiling and thought of everything from my past, my present, and how both were going to affect my future. I thought of what it would be like to have a child with this woman. I thought of what I would say to change her mind, and what I would say if she couldn’t change her mind. I thought of what it would be like to go through the rest of my life without a child all because of the fact that I was going to abort one now. I thought about whether or not I was as pro choice as I said I was and I thought about how no man should really ever take a stance on something that is as deeply connected to a woman as this.
The next morning, I went straight to my internship and called her again, this time from my desk phone. Not knowing it was me, she picked up the phone.
“Don’t hang up,” I said.
“Jozen, stop. There’s nothing you can do.”
“Don’t tell me that,” I hissed, because I couldn’t yell in the office. “Don’t tell me there’s nothing I can do or we can do. I can do something. I’m not trying to change your mind, I just want to talk, don’t I deserve that? I mean, I can at least help with this operation if you’re going to go through with it.”
“I told you what the doctors said a long time ago,” she said. “And I even asked them if there was anyway the child can be kept, but they said the risks are too high. You don’t have to do anything.”
“I want to do something,” I pleaded. “Just give me your address, tell me where I can send some money.”
“My grandmother is helping me out, you keep your money,” she said. “Now I have to go so…”
“Don’t hang up,” I yelled.
“What, Jozen? What?” She said.
I was stuck. I didn’t know what else to say. I just choked up, and felt my hands trembling.
“I have to go,” she said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
She hung up and I did the same. Later that week, I tried to call her again, but she still had my number blocked, and she blocked my number at work as well.
Throughout that summer, I looked for her online as well, but she seemingly made herself invisible to me. When she hung up, that was the last time I spoke to her and I haven’t spoken to her since. But I will admit, with Facebook and Twitter, and my fairly Googable name, I still wonder sometimes if I’m ever going to hear from her. I don’t know what I would say or what we would talk about, but if I had to guess, I would ask her what happened in the days and months after. What did she learn and what it felt like for her. Then, I would probably tell her what it felt like for me, a man. How I never quite got over it and how it’s nothing like we see on TV and how every time I look at my niece, I think about what I did, what was done, and how I didn’t know what I could have done differently.
The Process: Day 3 of the new workout…keep pushing.