pregnancy

'It takes two to make a baby and an unplanned pregnancy is not just a women's issue.'

The Queensland Government just passed legislation decriminalising abortion. Like many women, it got me thinking about my own experiences. But unplanned pregnancy is not just a women’s issue.

I took the morning after pill twice, in my early twenties. Both times were as a precaution (lesson: condoms are not fail safe) and both times I was so grateful the morning after pill was an option. Had those accidents resulted in a pregnancy, I am certain I would have been one of the many women who have had a termination.

I would have been a bad parent in my 20s, I knew it at the time and I know it even more now. And while nobody ever wants to be in a position where they’re faced with the choice of having an abortion, thankfully it’s a choice. It’s a woman’s body, it’s a woman’s choice, I have always thought.

Abortion protests Queensland
After years of campaigning abortion reform was passed in QLD. Image: Facebook.

But it takes two to make a baby, right? And I have had a front row seat to another side, another aspect of an unwanted pregnancy. Before we met, my husband was a regular, 20 something, good-time guy. Focused on building a career, hanging with his mates, having a beer and getting laid. Pretty much the same as me if you swap the beer for a Moscow Mule.

One night, after a big session at the local, he went home with a familiar face for a ten-minute fumble. By now, you can probably guess what happened when the lady phoned, a few weeks later. She was pregnant. What did he want to do? Was he interested in moving in together, perhaps see if they could be a family? My husband was adamant he did not want to be a father and said so. They agreed she would have an abortion.

So you can imagine it was a little surprise to receive another phone call a few months later saying that the termination did not occur. The baby would be here shortly. It’s at this part of the story that I stand by my belief that it is the woman’s body, it is her choice. But it begs the question, ‘Where does that leave a man in a situation like this?’

My husband’s family was told and a relationship between them and the lady was established - it was their grandchild after all. After the baby was born, my husband, under duress from his parents and the fact there was a baby, tried to form a bond. It didn’t come naturally.

He was very young and looking after a three-week-old baby two afternoons a week and every second weekend, was not where he wanted to be. He became depressed and upped his intake of beer and found pot. I’m not sure how the lady felt at this point. Maybe she questioned her decision. Maybe she didn’t mind that this wasn’t a white-picket-fence scenario. I don’t know.

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I know I wouldn’t give a rat’s arse if my baby daddy didn’t want to have my baby, if I wanted to I would. But that attitude isn’t without consequences, is it? Big, human, consequences. Lifelong consequences.

Later in life, when I was pregnant with my son, there is no way anyone could have convinced me not to have him. Even if I was to do it on my own, I was absolutely ready. So I can understand the lady wanting her baby. She was already a mum at the time and perhaps felt more capable, ready than my husband did.

But here is where is starts to get tricky, a baby doesn’t stay a baby. A baby grows to a child and a teenager who wants answers, wants an explanation, and rightfully so. From a child’s point of view, it’s not always enough to have one involved parent. Why isn’t my mum or dad so into me?

Kids are intuitive: they know when one parent is not fully committed to them. But no one is ever going to say (unless you’re a complete arsehole) ‘To be honest, I wasn’t ready to be a parent; I didn’t want/wasn’t ready for the emotional, physical, financial toll a baby would take. I didn’t want to stay home while my mates travelled for months overseas. It was not my choice to have you’.  So you say ‘I was young and not ready to have a child, but I sure am glad you’re here’. Even if, it’s not entirely true.

Queensland women share their personal stories of abortion.

Video by Fair Agenda

There are also the financial obligations as a parent, and while child support is a well-managed legislation, many single parents will tell you that it doesn’t nearly cover the costs of raising a child. Not to mention the lack of physical support you have when you’re flying solo. Which means it’s a bloody tough situation from the get-go.

A good friend of mine was dating a guy on-and-off for a couple of months. Their rendezvous would coincide with a good band playing at the pub. They discovered, just three months in to this jive, that they were expecting. Her parents persuaded them to get married.

When the little one was two, they thought it might be a good idea to have another baby. It was not a good idea. Both of them were miserable and the children were less than thriving. They eventually spilt up, several years later, but neither escaped unscathed and given the chance again, both have said they would have made different decisions.

But this isn’t always the case, hey? Sometimes unexpected pregnancy can be THE best gift of all. But the determining factor is if BOTH parents see it as a gift. If not, it can be the undoing of even the most stable of marriages: that precious third child that my girlfriend longed for and her husband refused, ultimately saw the beginning of the end of their marriage.

It is true a parent can legally terminate their parental rights, thereby surrendering access and financial support, but (unless of course the child is in danger, physically or emotionally) that’s a pretty awful thing to do and where does that leave the child? Abandoned and under financial strain. It’s not the child’s fault the adults in their life didn’t agree on the prospect of their very existence.

No matter which side of the pro-life fence you sit, there is no denying that a pregnancy, when one parent is adamant they do not want to be a parent, is a very difficult, life-changing, issue. It's one not to be taken lightly, and there is no easy answer. Like many things in life, there are just people trying to make the best decisions under not the best situations.

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