The first two things I learned in my high school education were that my 130lb frame-with gear on-was not designed to play the game of tackle football and that smoking an acre's worth of weed instead of attending Mr. Andrews' Grade 8 math, was not going to get me very far in school-or life. But the last lesson I learned in school would indeed be the one that changed me forever.
I had just finished getting dressed for my high school prom when the phone rang. It was my girlfriend-she blurted out two quick sentences and hung up. I stood dazed for a moment with the receiver in my hand. Then I slammed it down, scrambled for my keys, and rushed to the hospital.
I had just turned eighteen and was and growing up in the small bible-belt town of Abbotsford, British Columbia. I had a good group of buddies and my first girlfriend.
Rhonda was a year younger than I, and came from a good Mennonite family. We had been going out for a month or so before school started that year, and our relationship was going well when Rhonda flipped my world around-she said she might be pregnant. There was no 'might be' about it.
The bewilderment hit me first-how could this have happened? We'd only had sex six or seven times without contraception. I was so oblivious. Sure, my father had told me to wear a condom, but I placed that information up there with all that other unheeded parental advice, like you should wait forty-five minutes after eating before going into the water. Lord knows I ate plenty of hot dogs and swam right after, and I never drowned.
Once I owned up to my stupidity, other emotions started to creep in; fear and shame hung over me. Especially when Rhonda said that we had to tell our parents. I couldn't. It wasn't the fear that was stopping me, but the shame, the disappointment I knew I'd see in their eyes-the fact that I'd be letting them down. That weighed on me like nothing ever has since. Finally, pushed by Rhonda, I told them. It went the way it had the several thousand times I'd played it in my mind-not well.
Dad-whom I told first-got mad and had a tirade, which slowly simmered to frustration, after calming down, he went to go talk to mom. When they came back into the room, that's when I saw the look-the one that broke my heart-just like I'd broken theirs. The look that said: we've failed as parents, we had such high hopes for you, we thought you were smarter than this, and we're ashamed of what our friends will think. It said all of that and so much more; even harder was the feeling that things would never be the same between us again.
Both sets of parents wanted us to get an abortion. Rhonda's mom drove her to the clinic in Vancouver while I sat helplessly at home. When they came back, Rhonda was still pregnant-she had refused to get out of the car. Neither of us felt abortion was the right thing to do. With the abortion idea dealt with, everyone agreed we should give the baby up for adoption, although, there was a big part of me that really wanted to keep the child and slug it out-the three of us could take on the world, damn the practicality.
Rhonda's doctor suggested a private adoption, and gave us letters from three prospective parents. The letters were at least four pages long, and went into depth on why the couples thought they were best suited to raise our baby. The fact that we were carrying their futures in our hands was not lost on us; we took time, debated over, and thought hard about our decision. In the end we agreed that it should be the couple that took the time to do a handwritten letter instead of typed.