Men’s Stories – Jay

The weekend before my wife traveled for an abortion, I was working abroad. I listened to her desperate phone calls that weekend and felt utterly helpless. I was a few hundred miles away, as I would be when she travelled a few days later (when I would look after our children) and didn’t feel like I could make any helpful contribution to the situation. Certainly not one that would ease the pain in any way. All I could do was reassure her that I would back her up 100% on whatever decision she felt was right.

Having said that, with young and sometimes very challenging children already, we both knew almost immediately that another was not something we wanted or possibly even could cope with as a family.  Our youngest hadn’t slept a full night for some years and we were just coming through that process. The idea of creating that position again for us and the children would have been disastrous. Our attention and devotion to our children would have suffered as would their behaviour, development and education.

On the evening before, she packed and prepared for the following day. I couldn’t even drive her to the airport because of her very early departure and the need to care for our children. We spoke and texted each other throughout the day, which was some comfort to me but probably of little to her. I was somewhat reassured by the fact that a family member based in the UK had very kindly made the trip to be with her for the day, even if she wasn’t actually travelling with her (there were plenty of women from Ireland with my wife that day who were on their own).

I can’t begin to imagine the pain, anguish and rage she went through that day, being exiled for doing something that she knew was the right thing for her and for our family and yet having to make a lonely, stigmatising trip to do that. Of course, I felt empathetic and sympathetic towards her and shared her anger. However, I also felt guilt – guilt that I contributed to this mess – whilst also thinking, that because our method of contraception failed just once, neither us nor our family should face such long-lasting consequences for it.

When she arrived home late that night, exhausted, she was in a lot of discomfort and she was distressed, as she would be for many weeks to come. I tried my best to comfort her. Her distress was not to do with the abortion itself, but rather it manifested as anger at the isolation and stigma she felt at having been forced to travel in order to access the care and support she needed.

Who are we protecting by keeping this law? Certainly not the women or men affected, the baby? My wife was barely 5 weeks pregnant. If it came to saving my wife or that embryo, it would be my wife every time. Finally, I never again want to witness anyone I love go through such needless trauma and distress. Not my wife, not my daughters. Not your wife or daughters either.

The only positive, if there were any, that I was able to take from the wretched situation was that I had a newfound admiration for my wife that different to any I’d already experienced.

Artist: Jacob Stack.

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