What Happens When a Preacher’s Son’s Girlfriend Has an Abortion?
On difficult choices, the complexity of mourning, and the difference between loss and regret
There are two stereotypes of a preacher’s kid: the good and the bad. The strait-laced and the screw-up. Aziraphale and Crowley.
It doesn’t matter who was worse growing up, my sister or me (she was, of course). What matters is we each appeared before the parental tribunal to admit the same accident.
My sister got pregnant by her boyfriend Ian, which ended in an abortion. Two years later, it was my turn. I was older: 26. I stood before my father, told him the woman I was seeing was pregnant, and felt his ruined gaze travel over me.
As an English teacher, I read abortion essays all the time. Anti-abortion essays, actually. The undercurrent through my students’ pro-life papers is the assumption that women who have abortions do so gleefully.
They rarely acknowledge the mothers’ struggle, and the sense of loss that many of those mothers feel.
Fathers feel it too. In the movie Se7en, Detective Somerset (played by Morgan Freeman) tells Tracy about convincing his former girlfriend to have an abortion:
“I know… I mean, I’m positive that I made the right decision. But there’s not a day that passes that I don’t wish that I had made a different choice.”
Loss is not regret. Not every time. My sister feels her decades-ago loss. Feels it like a phantom limb. She does not, however, regret her choice.
But what if the decision is taken out of your hands?
I met April in 1999. We worked for different branches of the same company. She was 20 years old, an Ohio-to-South-Carolina transplant, outspoken, persistent, bawdy, red-haired, chain-smoking, freethinking, kind of fun, and a little, just a little, trailer trashy.
There wasn’t much attraction in either direction. She was a single mom, recently jilted. I still felt flattened by my first divorce. Sex under those circumstances was ill-advised, yet we fell into it with ease.
When April said she was pregnant, I put off telling my parents for weeks. I was the…