When I first broached the subject of permanent, non-hormonal birth control with my gynecologist, I wasn’t even considering a tubal ligation. (Who elects for her first surgery to be a completely volunteer procedure for a non-life-threatening ailment?) I had originally been trying to decide between the copper IUD and Essure. IUDs (intrauterine devices) are not permanent, but they do last a while. Essure (spring devices that are implanted in your fallopian tubes to cause scarring) is a fairly new procedure that, like an IUD, can be performed in your gyno’s office, but, unlike the IUD, is permanent. I was leaning toward Essure because it was permanent and would only cost an office copay. Until this happened:
“If I were you, I would just get my tubes tied.”
Floored, I asked why.
“Well, they’ll put you to sleep, then you’ll wake up and it’ll be over. There’s minimal pain with recovery because it’s a laproscopic procedure.”
She told me the Essure and even the IUDs can be painful because you have to dilate your cervix to implant the devices. With the IUD, I’d have to deal with checking strings. Essure can cause bad cramps while your fallopian tubes adjust to having metal in them. Sometimes either device doesn’t implant properly, and both can have detrimental effects on your menstrual period.
So I made an appointment with a rather loud, but understanding surgeon who explained how a tubal would go down. Basically, I should take off work for a week– mostly from the anesthesia, not the surgery itself, which would only take 20-30 minutes. She told me it was possible my periods would get worse after the surgery, not for any biological reason, but it was something she had observed in her years of performing the surgery. Besides the whole surgery thing, there was literally no downside that the other procedures didn’t carry as well.
Like any good introvert, I took months to decide. Surgery is big deal, especially to someone who has never even broken a bone, so I wasn’t about to make the decision lightly. I talked to my then-husband, I talked to myself, I wrote in my journal, I called my insurance. It was the money that finally pushed me to the decision. I had already met my deductible for the year, which pretty much cut the cost in half. So it seemed the decision was to just go for it.
Then I had to start telling people. Those were not fun conversations.
“Are you sure?” Pretty much everyone.
“Are you sure? You’re so young!” My office administrator and supervisor.
“But why doesn’t your husband just get a vasectomy? It’s easier.” A relative who apparently forgot we were nonmonogamous.
“I can’t believe you found a surgeon who would do the procedure at your age!” A Republican.
But somehow by convincing everyone else that I was, in fact, sure of my decision, I did, indeed, become very sure.
I now sport a one-inch, red, shimmery scar just below my belly button, the only evidence that I am now blissfully as incapable of having children as biology will allow.
Are You Sure? The Reasons Why
Let me be clear though: the question was never, “Do I want children?” The question was always: “Do I want to have surgery?”
I’ve never wanted to have kids. I’ve never wanted to be a mother. I’ve always been awkward with children, even more awkward than I am with adults. I’ve recognized this since I was in middle school.
Don’t get me wrong. I was young and impressionable, and before I knew myself, I assumed I’d have kids with my high school sweetheart whom I was surely going to marry and also with my college sweetheart whom I did marry. But after we divorced and I realized that pretending to be this person I wasn’t was killing me slowly, I decided that anyone in a relationship with me would have to be content with never procreating with me.
The reasons are numerous and probably insulting to parents. I don’t mean them to be, and I honestly have nothing against children or parents. I used to be married to a father of two young boys and, as such, was technically a stepmother for almost four years. But these opinions are how I feel, and if I have to put up with your squishy-cute attitude about children, then you can do the same for me.
I think pregnancy is probably the grossest thing to ever happen to a human being. You lose all privacy. You are prodded and poked. Your body is stretched and disfigured around a very alien-looking creature. And it has to hurt like hell. Needless to say, I can’t watch the Alien movies without becoming nauseated.
Then you have this … critter that’s the epitome of demanding. Cute, yes. But damn. I don’t do well without sleeping, and I just frankly don’t want the responsibility of taking care of a being who is literally helpless. And loud. Babies start off crying and then they learn to talk, and there’s just no silence after that. Then you have to start worrying about giving the child complexes and neuroses. I can barely deal with my own neuroses, thank you.
On top of those are practical reasons. I have too many health problems, physical and mental, to pass on to an unsuspecting child. Since we have taken our species out of the natural selection process, I have deemed my genes unworthy of passing on on my own. Also, there are seven billion people in the world, and I’m sorry, but that’s just WAY too many, so since I have no desire to be pregnant, I’ll just take one for Team Earth and try to keep the numbers down.
I’ve always heard there’s some magic to being a parent, some transcendence that you only understand when you join the club. That may be true. I can see from the outside that being a parent changes a person to her core, from body to mind. Your needs change, your desires change, your world changes. I see that. But you have to understand that I spent most of my life changing who I am, denying who I am, ignoring who I am because I thought I had to, because it was easier than questioning my family and friends all the time. And dammit, I’m tired of world-modifying, life-altering changes. I just want to be me. And I don’t want to be anyone’s mother.
These reasons don’t make me a bad person, but some people would probably assume so. They don’t make me less alive or less human, but some people probably assume I am miserable and cold. That’s okay. I’ll go sit in my quiet house with my warm, cuddly kitties, while you wrangle your precious angels to sleep tonight.
I thought the only result of the surgery would be peace of mind if I was a couple days late for my period: there would be none of that “Oh, God, am I pregnant?” thought process that anyone who has accidentally made a human when it wasn’t the best time or place goes through. That’s a wonderful peace. But it’s not the only benefit.
Before the conversation with my gyno and before the certainty that came with reassuring everyone that I was sure about my decision, I had this small, teensy, itty bitty piece of me that thought perhaps I should wait to make such a permanent decision until I was 30. By then, my biological clock would be in full swing, and maybe I would find that I am, in fact, a normal woman who wants to have children.
Funny how crazy assumptions about age and youth and even prejudices about non-parents can seep into your own psyche. Why would I make decisions based solely on hormones when I know that I have never wanted children? Why should little chemicals change how I feel about pregnancy and small children? Hormones that would eventually pass are not a sound basis for having children.
I was so fearful of my body making a decision that I didn’t want it to, of the universe deciding something for me that it had no right to decide. No one should be afraid of her own body or feel so out of control of her own life.
So I made a decision, the best decision for me. I removed the possibility from my future, and with a small scar and a week off from work, something strange happened: the veil of fear that muddled my present and future cleared.
As a result, my tolerance for children has increased. I don’t automatically scroll past Facebook posts with pictures or videos of children. Sometimes I watch them. Sometimes I even smile and laugh. I am not afraid of those little aliens with too-big heads and loud mouths anymore. Those photos and videos are not forewarnings of my future. They are just cute, little critters that I can watch and then scroll past. I’m sure they are bundles of joy and transcendence for their parents. But for me? Nah.