When it comes to unplanned pregnancies, we rarely hear about the experience from the perspective of the fella who was involved with said pregnancy. Maybe it’s because we write them off as such a brief contributor to the situation that we just don’t put as much stock into their opinion. True, the physical and emotional burden is far greater for the woman, and “the male contribution to life” is really well summed up by my favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan. (Watch that link, you can thank me later.)
But, in all seriousness, I was intrigued during a conversation I had recently with another comedian, Mikey, in regards to his perspective after a girlfriend of his had an abortion nine years ago. I sat down with Mikey for an interview after his mention of this sensitive issue during a comedy writing workshop he was facilitating at Liquid Laughs in downtown Boise, Idaho. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard indication that there is a lasting impact from abortions on the men who were a part of an unplanned pregnancy, but this is the first time I’ve been able to get one of them to sit down with me and have a conversation on the matter.
These Decisions Become a Part of You
As we settled in over our lunch—he, over a pear salad, and I, over a hearty dish of macaroni and cheese—we jumped right into the conversation about the depth that certain life experiences have on you. Mikey commented, “The immediate weight of the important things that happen to you isn’t there, because so much of it isn’t about the weight of the moment, it’s the weight that you experience over time . . . there’s this shock, an intensity of a feeling of emotions, but when it’s unexpected.”
He went on to elaborate that when you are in the trenches of an experience, and it is a new, fresh emotional wound, you don’t know yet how to process it. You haven’t yet experienced the lasting effects of the emotions tied with big decisions.
These decisions become a part of you. The greater the magnitude of the decision, the more influence it has on your personal opinions of yourself and the world around you. The weight of these experiences, especially on the subject of unplanned pregnancies, remains with you.
“It’s riding along inside your subconscious, so your opinions continue to form over time … [and] it can deepen the overall emotional impact as years pass,” Mikey said.
The relationship Mikey had been in had reached its end. He had determined that a breakup was necessary, and just a couple of short weeks later was informed of the pregnancy. He accompanied his girlfriend to the abortion clinic, but ended up leaving after a tumultuous conversation took place between him and his girlfriend. He recognized the complexity of her situation, understanding that she was going to be affected physically and psychologically for years to come.
She later informed him that in her case, there were medical concerns and that she had a “hostile womb” that would likely not be conducive to carrying a baby to full term, thus her decision to go through with an abortion. She continues to be open to discussing their situation to ensure healing is available for him, if needed.
Having grown up in a religious household, and being one of five children, he generally identified with the “pro-life” concept. He even recalled a very profound presentation of a poem given by a young woman in their congregation, written from the perspective of a soon-to-be-aborted fetus.
This experience expanded his mentality, as a man, to be as empathetic to women in crisis situations as possible. It’s a delicate balance to be supportive while, in essence, removing himself from the ultimate responsibility of the woman’s choice, even though in this case, his own DNA was attached to the sprout of a new life. His stance on the male role is that if they put themselves into a sexual situation that could result in a pregnancy, that for all intents and purposes, that part of them is surrendered to the woman.
He is confident that if she had carried the baby to delivery, he believes he would have given his full support of her choices after birth.
“A lot of women just do it on their own because it’s such a heavy burden and they don’t want to burden others with it.”
Mikey’s perspective on unplanned pregnancy shifted due to a series of life events, including a scenario where health issues came into play for his former girlfriend. He’s become more sensitive to the experience that women have to endure in the case of an unplanned pregnancy and recognizes that deep and lasting impact it has.
“A lot of women just do it on their own, because it’s such a heavy burden and they don’t want to burden others with it,” Mikey noted. Sometimes the male counterpart isn’t really brought into the details, and women forge their path alone.
He went on to say that, above all, he believes we need to “Give women all the tools to make an educated decision. Information and communication are important,” and he gives credit to women to be able to ultimately make the decision on their own.
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The “What Might Have Been” Still Lingers
I asked Mikey how this experience continues to affect him.
“Sometimes when I’m down, or hit certain age milestones, or other life experiences that trigger thoughts to consider what might have been,” he said, “Things that are around you start to feel differently.”
“Life is mostly random chaos that we try to codify and understand.”
He’s been a comedian for the past decade, and in that world he states that the crux of a joke is when something hits on a hot topic or has a certain level of shock value or abrasiveness. Abortion tends to be one of those topics that comedians latch onto, and in some cases, try to use to become “’forcibly edgy,’ like, ‘look how funny it is that I made my girlfriend get an abortion,’” which, Mikey adds, “that’s just not okay culturally.”
While maintaining the stance that freedom of speech is paramount in the comedy industry, he encourages men to be more supportive of women with unplanned pregnancies.
His views are broad and long-term. Ultimately, once a decision is made, judgment needs to be checked at the door. Each person is a unique individual, with their own lifetime of experiences that have molded and shaped them along the way. No one has the right to put their external opinion onto someone. “A 39-year-old single woman will have a different perspective than the 22-year-old newlywed . . . ” And even the same woman may process experiences differently depending on her season in life.
The impact this has had on his own life has increased his sensitivity to women, and the way he interacts with families and children. It’s made him a champion of inspiring others to keep a humanistic view on sensitive and life-altering subjects.
These decisions made around unplanned pregnancy, whether voluntary or not, have a lasting impact, and ultimately the healing process needs to be embraced and carefully navigated by everyone involved.