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My boyfriend was totally supportive, until I had an abortion.
By Cait Robinson
Have a question? Email email@example.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.
Dear Miss Info,
I've been in a happy, functional, long-distance relationship with my boyfriend for about two-and-a-half years. In general, my boyfriend is unconditionally supportive and wonderful. We've been through a lot, and other than a few bumps in the road, our relationship was smooth, until a month ago.
I discovered I was pregnant. Since we only see each other a couple of times a month, it was easy to figure out when this happened. I was blind drunk, he was sober. I drunkenly egged him into not using a condom, and he obliged. He paid for Plan B the very next day, but the test couldn't be denied.
For me, there was no question about what I would do. I was going to abort. I wasn't prepared to have a child and neither was he. He was on board with this. Neither of us harbored any delusions of keeping it. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood, and chose a medical abortion (i.e., "the abortion pill").
The thing is, I've been very disappointed in him throughout this whole ordeal. Perhaps he was simply feeling too shell-shocked and guilty to respond properly, but his reaction was cold. He didn't initially offer to come down to be with me for the appointment, and I had to have a friend rearrange her work schedule in order to take me. He told me he couldn't get time off from work, which I can understand, but it turned out he never asked. He just assumed that his employers would refuse his request, and seemed to think that asking would be an imposition.
I was alone on the day of the abortion, and it was a terrible experience. I should not have been alone. He should have been with me. Two friends called to check in on me during the abortion (which took four long, painful hours), but he did not. When I called him afterward to let him know it was over, I told him how hurt I was that he hadn't even called to check in on me. He said that he had been thinking of me all day, but "didn't want to bother me."
I can't comprehend that. This is equally his fault. I feel like I bore the punishment for our mutual stupidity, while he just went about his life as usual. I had to ask for time off work without being able to explain why; I had to go to Planned Parenthood for multiple blood tests and ultrasounds; I had to spend an afternoon stumbling around my apartment in agony, while he just went to school and work and felt a little bummed out. He should have manned up, and made more of an effort to take care of me. Instead, he seems to think that we should just move on and "never talk about it again."
I feel he just wanted it quietly dealt with, and his concern about it being rude to ask for time off seems like a lame excuse. I know it wouldn't have been a pleasant visit for either of us. But he should have been here. He could have at least called to check up on me, or at the very least, sent me some flowers or something. He didn't, and I just can't understand why.
This is very uncharacteristic of him, and I don't know what's up. He doesn't seem to be able to talk about it, and changes the subject any time I try to bring it up. He's avoiding it, plain and simple. Obviously it's easier to stick your head in the sand and pretend it's not happening, but I didn't have that luxury. I love him, and see a future with him, and he feels the same, but I am not sure how to move past this. He keeps saying and doing the wrong things, even though I've been very clear about what I need. I want him to acknowledge that I went through a lot, and that he could have done more. I want an apology. And I want it to come from him. I don't want him to apologize because I tell him to. I want him to apologize because he means it. I am not sure how to address this with him, and I don't even know how he can rectify it at this point.
— Preggosaurus Rex
Dear Preggosaurus Rex,
If text-based support from an internet stranger counts for anything, first things first: your choice of moniker made me laugh, and also suggests to me that, even though these profoundly difficult experiences, you've still got a good handle on yourself.
In all matters reproductive, men's involvement is treated like a footnote. This does everybody a disservice. On the one hand, you have good men who have their experience cheapened or ignored (where are the parenting manuals for men? Who keeps men company when they're sitting in a Planned Parenthood waiting room, scared to death?) There can be a helplessness and loneliness to men's experiences, whether they're watching a partner carry a pregnancy, suffer a loss, or undergo a termination. All of this joy and suffering happens in women's bodies; men are often stuck on the sidelines wondering what to do to help.
Meanwhile, as you know, inhabiting a female body is no cakewalk. We're the ones who have to undergo the physical pain, plus bear the brunt of the vitriol from judgmental types over daring to take ownership our own bodies. (Biology! It all sucks. Well, thanks for listening, guys!)
If your boyfriend doesn't have the tools to deal with these things, it isn't necessarily because he doesn't care. It may be because, like most of us, he's ill-prepared for hard situations. He may just not know how the hell to support you though this. So, that's the "compassion" angle... which, I know, doesn't help you when you want to grab his shoulders and shake. Now comes the pragmatism. Whether he likes it or not, he has to learn some coping skills, and he has to do it now. He has to come to a place where he can talk to you, so you two can lean on each other. You shouldn't have to go through this alone, and neither should he. Talk to him, and stress the importance of this: you can be a help to him, just like he can be a help for you. If you can't talk to each other about it, though, it will only become a wedge.
If he isn't sure where to turn (another perk of abortion: people are often shamed into secrecy), a number of support resources exist. Exhale is an Oakland-based hotline that also helps men (holla, Exhale! Gender equality makes my heart sing!) Backline is another good resource, though they focus more on women. Also, full-spectrum doula projects (i.e. birth, adoption, and abortion) are popping up across the U.S., typically staffed by kick-ass ladies — you can find a list of them here (look for the ones marked with asterisks). If you want to grab coffee and debrief, a doula would be happy to help. If there isn't one in your city, try writing to the nearest one. It's not uncommon for a doula to offer support via phone or email, entirely on the client's terms.
Your experience is by no means unusual; any reproductive choice can bring up profound and baffling responses in even the best-adjusted among us. It's terrible that you had to go through this alone, but you don't have to wade through the aftermath on your own — and neither does your boyfriend.