It has been twenty-two and a half years since that phone call, but I don't think I will ever forget it. It is very true that hardship brings out a person's true character, and that "friend" I had kept in my life for two years suddenly revealed something to me that I had never even dreamed I'd hear. In fact, I learned a LOT about people and society and priorities and values in a very short amount of time. All because of something someone called a "mistake".
Ironically, I don't remember the date, and what's even more ironic--I don't even remember my own reaction to seeing the second pink line show up on that pregnancy test. I don't even remember Pete's reaction. I do remember that neither of us ever gave a second thought to what WE would do. I don't even think there was an "if" conversation. But for a couple of weeks, we hid a secret we knew we couldn't hide for long while we tried to get up the nerve to face it. What followed was a dizzying flurry of emotions, threats, insults, and guilt that broke our hearts far beyond what the immediate consequences could. The two lines on that little stick had more impact on the two of us than on anyone else, but both of us spent the first four months eaten up with regret over what our actions had done to everyone ELSE. What I realize now, all these years later, is that the reason *we* have a good life now has everything to do with us not listening to people who really had no vested interest whatsoever in our lives.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. I had just turned 16. Pete had graduated, enlisted in the Army, and was ready to leave home, move on, and get his own life started. I'm not even sure my parents knew how "ready" I was to begin my own life, because I had kept to myself the fact that I had already begun the process of applying for appointment to the Air Force Academy. Pete and I really had no "plan" other than to go our separate ways. Yes, we cared for each other. Yes, we were teenagers and more than just a little reckless, but we were not stupid, as is often thought the case. Morality never really entered the thought process, but we were "careful". We'd been through all of the oh-so-informative sex ed classes at school. We knew the "risks", so we took "precautions".
We became statistics.
What I do remember of our reactions was that we somehow flipped a switch, going from planning out independent lives to having a life together immediately. There was never any other question. Both of us had enough of that traditional, moral training to know that there really only was one option. I think what shocked us was that there were so many around us who tried to convince us otherwise! Surprisingly (but maybe not so?), one was a Catholic priest. Pete was raised in the Catholic church, so when we started discussing plans of marriage, well, that became a MAJOR issue. To say the least, the Catholic church doesn't "play" well with other religious groups, and Pete was told by this priest that since the Catholic church would neither recognize a marriage with a non-Catholic or a child who was not raised according to the tenets of that faith, he should just "cut his losses" and leave us behind, that he had "no obligation" to me or the child God had blessed us with. He left the Catholic church instead.
The priest's comments probably bothered Pete much more than they did me, mostly because he lost all respect for the faith he'd been raised with in one fell swoop, but I won't say it didn't really hurt me to hear it. However, one comment has stuck in my mind and still hurts as much to this day as it did the day it crossed my ears. I remember I had been out of my regular classes at school for about two weeks (Our high school put pregnant students in a vo-tech program for teen moms at a different campus so we could "finish" our school year presumably without a hiccup. Yeah ... not so much. But that's another post entirely.) and Pete was preparing to leave for basic training, all while we were going through wedding planning and prenatal care. I'd had little contact with many of the friends I had become so close to in school, when out of the blue a fellow trumpet player (and someone I considered one of my "good" friends) called. He told me first that it was really bad that I wasn't there, since I was going to have been the section leader that year (yeah, thanks for that little zinger there), and that he missed goofing around in Algebra class with me. But then he said something that left me almost speechless, and all I remember doing was hanging up the phone. He said, "You know, Pete has a life, and you're better than this. Why don't you just have an abortion, let him go, and get on with your life?"
That really was, in all reality, the FIRST time that word had ever crossed my brain. An ABORTION??? Are you SERIOUS?? Kill someone, just because I want my "life" back?
Yeah, I know what pro-choicers think. They want to believe it's a "potential" person, not a real, live human being, just a blob of cells. Whatever. That's garbage. It's a made-up justification for people like this JERK who believe it is our right to decide who lives and dies based on whatever kind of life we want for ourselves so we can fix that "ooops!!!!" See, here's where I lose my political correctness. And my patience with "choice". Pete and I **DID** make a choice. We decided, at 16 and 18 years of age, that we had the right to do whatever we wanted to do, regardless of whether we were ready for that and regardless of whether it was even RIGHT. That was the CHOICE.
We dealt with consequences. Yes, we spent several years in near-poverty because it is VERY difficult to live on military pay--especially 22 years ago. Yes, things could have been much "easier" for us had we chosen a different route. I might be an Air Force officer like I'd planned. Pete might have been able to play for the high-falootin' military honor bands like he'd wanted to. We might be together, or we might not have ever seen each other again. Who's to know?
What I do know is that Pete and I have had a pretty good life, these last 23 years. We are proud of every single one of the children God blessed our family with, and we wouldn't trade a single one of them for an "easier" life. I also know that my jerk friend grew up to be a very bitter, cynical, mean-spirited man. He has no children--only cats. He's a professor of political history now. He has had what most would consider to be a pretty good life too. But I like mine better. I'm glad I didn't "just let him go live his life". I'm glad that God saved me from myself with the blessing of life Pete and I received through our choice to take liberties we should never have taken. Our son isn't a mistake. No child is ever a mistake. And the life I have now? It's better than any I could ever have dreamed up for myself as a 16-year-old.