Supporting a Loved One: For Male Partners & Parents
For Men / Male Partners
It is Normal for Men to Have Feelings About the Abortion
Northland Family Planning Centers are different. Not only do we provide the best medical care possible, we also create an environment where women and men are treated with compassion, dignity, and respect.
We know that most women want to talk to someone about their feelings and fears. Even though you are working to be strong for your girlfriend, wife, or friend, you may also be scared for her. You might feel guilty or shut out of things. You might be upset at the idea of losing, or continuing, this pregnancy. Please know that most women do want to know how you feel. Even though she must ultimately follow her own judgment, she wants to hear your thoughts and know that you are concerned and that you care.
How are you feeling?
Men are certainly impacted by pregnancy, the decision making process, and the choice made. Many men experience the same emotional tug of war as women feel…in their heart, they may feel they want to have a child, but their head tells them this is not the right time to become a father.
It is natural for men to have emotional feelings about the abortion experience.
Did you know that about half of all women who are seeking an abortion generally have a man waiting for them either in the clinic or the doctor’s waiting room? You are not alone.
Putting feelings into words
“I feel bad. I feel guilty.”
Some men feel guilty that they caused the pregnancy, especially if a condom was not used. Unless you pressured her into sex, then both you and she share the responsibility for the pregnancy.
Focus on what you can do now and in the future. Tell her you are sorry, follow some of the support suggestions below, and become involved in preventing, or planning future pregnancies.
“I feel bad because I’m not a good provider.”
Sometimes men feel like a failure because they can’t afford a child – or another child. More and more families are relying on two paychecks to get by. You may feel that even if you take on extra work, your working all the time means you can’t be with her or with your children. Or, you may feel that even though it will be hard, it’s worth having another child.
Share your thoughts with her and let her talk it through with you. It may be you both set a goal to become more financially stable so that you can provide for a child in the future.
“I feel sad, I wanted this baby.”
It may be hard on you if you wanted to have this baby and she doesn’t. You may feel the loss more than you think she does.
People who suffer a loss need to grieve. It’s important to find someone who can listen to what you are going through. That may be a counselor or a friend. Please let us know…we can help.
“I feel insecure. Will we break up?”
If you both agree and support each other-and talk to each other, the relationship get can even better. Even if you don’t agree, if you show that you care about each other, the relationship can grow. And, even if you have already agreed to break up, caring for each other now will help you both cope better with this unexpected situation. You will feel better knowing that you did your best in a difficult time.
This can be a challenging time, however, so remember to be patient and take time to talk to each other. Remember, we are here for you both.
Talking to someone
It may help for you to talk to someone too. She may not be the only one having a hard time. Talk to us. Or, seek out counseling from a mental health clinic, or a private therapist. We can offer referrals to some great people who truly understand. If you continue to have a hard time with your partner’s decision, get help.
Support suggestions: Show her you care.
Let her know you’re sorry that she is the one who has to go through this physically
- Check in with her often to see how she’s feeling
- Do something special for her…flowers, dinners, a gift, a love letter
- Be affectionate, but be prepared for her to not want to be sexual
- You may feel rejected, but remember that she may connect sexual intercourse with this situation
- You can be affectionate without having sex
- Be understanding about the symptoms of pregnancy: nausea, tiredness, irritability, and moodiness are all pregnancy symptoms
- Read through the Recovery At Home packet she is given
- Have pain medication available and maybe a heating pad
- To avoid infection, she should not have intercourse for two weeks
You can be a part of this experience, too.
Northland Family Planning Centers offers men the chance to be a part of the abortion experience. If your partner agrees, for an additional fee, you are welcome to be with her during much of the pre-abortion care, including a pre-abortion visit to the clinic for counseling and medical history. If you and your partner choose this extra option, we are pleased to let you know that the time required for preparation on the day of your procedure will be reduced and you will be seen prior to other patients.
Portions of this adapted from Pregnant? Need Help? Pregnancy Options Workbook by Peg Johnston, Southern Tier Women’s Services; After Her Abortion by Anne Baker, The Hope Clinic for Women.
We Encourage Young Women to Involve Their Parents
Whenever possible, we encourage young women to involve their mother, father or a parental figure in their abortion decision. Even though you may be dealing with your own feelings of shock, anger, disappointment, sadness or fear, your daughter needs and values your support.
Remember that your daughter came to you for help with this crisis. It took courage for her to find the words to share her feelings, and how you respond to her display of trust will impact your relationship. We also know that you may need support. While your first reactions may be shock, anger, disappointment, sadness and/or fear (hers, too, we have found), finding healthy ways to deal with your feelings are equally important.
Listen to your daughter
The single most important thing you can do is to listen to what your daughter says about how she feels. There is no right choice to be imposed, since each pregnancy situation is different. It is crucial for your daughter to be the primary decision-maker about her pregnancy. Sometimes this may seem impractical, especially when she is young, but this is a vital part of respecting her rights as an individual and, more importantly, of asking her to begin to be responsible for decisions. This may mean that you need to take a step back and let her think this through. By all means share what you think and how her decision will affect you, but please understand that this must truly be her decision.
Who’s to blame?
It is natural to want to blame someone – your daughter, the boy involved, or even yourself, but there is no point in approaching pregnancy in a punishing way. Chances are she feels pretty bad about herself right now and is looking for your encouragement and support. Most parents want to blame the young man involved. Be careful not to set up a hostile situation. This is a time for support and guidance. In some cases, talking with the other family can be helpful.
If your daughter’s pregnancy is the result of an unwilling encounter, such as rape or incest, please tell us and we will work with you and your daughter in dealing with law enforcement and other agencies.
Caring for your daughter after her abortion
If your daughter chooses abortion, your care and support will contribute greatly to her physical and emotional health. In our long experience, we have found the following to be most helpful:
- Be available throughout the abortion experience
- Drive her to and from our Center, fill her prescriptions, check in on her frequently
- Take some time to sit quietly with her
- Listen to her feelings and watch her body language
- Reassure her that you love her, will always love her, no matter what
Northland Family Planning Clinic’s counselors are available to help talk to your daughter about her reproductive health, prevention, and protection through responsible reproductive health care.
Post-abortion emotional health
Most women feel a sense of relief after making their decision, but many continue to experience other emotions after an abortion like sadness, grief, loss, anger, or guilt. There are many reasons your daughter may have a difficult time coping. Some include:
- A boyfriend who has left her
- A parent who won’t let her see her boyfriend
- Emotional or physical abuse
- A recent death
- If she has chosen abortion and her religion says abortion is morally wrong
- If she blames someone else
- If the pregnancy was wanted
Know the warning signs of not coping
Watch carefully to make sure your daughter has not lost her appetite or is eating more than usual; if she is not able to sleep or is sleeping all the time. If you notice that she is unable to concentrate, is suddenly doing poorly in school, crying a lot, staying in her room constantly or has cut herself off from friends, you should talk to her about the changes you are seeing. More warning signs of a young woman who is not handling her experience include not caring about her looks or what she wears, is excessively angry or irritable. If she hints about suicide or talks about death, talk to her and then CONSULT A MENTAL HEALTH AGENCY OR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.
How are YOU doing?
As a parent your feelings are very important, too. They will show up in your relationship with your daughter. You may recognize yourself in the feelings parents have expressed to us:
“I am mad and sad. I am so disappointed.”
You thought she knew better. Your daughter may have made a different choice than you. She is making a choice that is best for her at this time in her life. Try to remember a time when you disappointed your parents and what you needed from them then. Tell her she is still your daughter and you love her.
“I am so angry.”
You have the right to feel anger and it may be helpful for you to find another adult to talk to. Name-calling and criticism don’t prevent future mistakes. Make time to talk when tempers are calm – and listen. Don’t give up on her.
“I feel ashamed. I should have protected her.”
No parent can know what their kids are doing 24 hours a day. No parent can be totally responsible for their children’s behavior. You can only teach and guide. Sometimes, experience is the best teacher. If you shelter her, you will only cripple her ability to make good choices for her life.
“I feel ashamed. I don’t believe abortion is right.”
You may find that you are re-evaluating your beliefs about abortion. If you feel abortion is wrong and your daughter is making this choice, you need to find peace for yourself and forgiveness for your daughter.
Speaking with a trusted friend or your spiritual advisor may help you support your daughter and yourself. See Northland’s list of resources for more information.
“I feel so bad, like I have failed her.”
You did your best. Now you can try and help her. She may be feeling foolish and sorry that she did not follow your advice earlier.
This is a challenging time – it can be a growing time and your new relationship really can be deeper and better.
“I’m worried. I feel like I’m looking at her differently now.”
You probably do see her differently. After all, she has become sexual and has been pregnant. This may bring back memories of your own youth – for better or worse. And you are facing new questions about your role with your daughter.
Remember to assure your daughter you love her and be honest and tell her that the conversations you will have now may be broader, may be more intimate, and may be less comfortable at first. But trust – keep talking. Don’t pretend this never happened. Let this be a growing point for you – and her.
The final decision on whether or not to continue this pregnancy must make sense not only in your daughter’s head, but in her heart as well. Northland Family Planning Clinic’s unique Head and Heart Counseling Program helps women explore their feelings – both rational and emotional – about pregnancy. Then, patients work with our counselors to come to a decision. We invite you to join your daughter for this specialized counseling. We offer this as a free community service.
This pregnancy can change your relationship – choose from your heart.
This section adapted from: “Your Daughter Wants to Talk” by Charlotte Taft, Imagine Counseling, “Pregnant? Need Help? Pregnancy Options Workbook” , developed by Margaret Johnston, Southern Tier Women’s Services, and “After Her Abortion – for parents, male partners and friends” by Anne Baker, The Hope Clinic for Women