Happily Barren

I first got on the pill when I was fifteen (shout out to Planned Parenthood!); I finally stopped twenty years later after ingesting approximately 5,500 bits of estrogen and progestin.  Not wanting to go back on hormones once I stopped using them, I had a tiny copper IUD placed in my (apparently) tiny uterus, which promptly rejected it.  I thought the expulsion was due to my menstrual cup, so I got a new IUD placed, bought a lighter and more flexible menstrual cup, and started to be super careful about breaking the seal and watching for my IUD strings.  Despite my caution, as I squatted to pee in the middle of the night in a completely dark outhouse in the middle of rural Uganda this past April, I could feel my IUD strings poking out – seven months after I’d had it placed… almost as if my uterus didn’t want a foreign body lodged inside of it.  As I pulled an IUD the rest of the way out of my cervix for the second time in one year, I sighed, thinking: “Now what?”

Months away from coming back to the US, I knew I’d have to rely on condoms (which I usually use, anyway) and withdrawal for the rest of my trip and potentially for the rest of my life.  It was then that I started thinking about a more permanent option.   I’m not afraid of having babies (though a LOT of what Livvy wrote resonated with me) – I just don’t want them.  I love the idea of fostering or adopting an older child at some point, but I decidedly do not want to grow or raise infants.

Shortly after I came home this year, I went to my local STI clinic to get some routine testing done; while talking to a medical assistant about contraception, I casually mentioned that someday when I do have insurance, I sure would like to get a tubal ligation.  “Oh,” she said casually while typing my information into a spreadsheet – “In that case, let me sign you up for family planning health care.  It’s covered.”  I was incredulous and overjoyed; she made it so easy.  I signed some documents, called around to clinics to make an appointment, and finally got in to see a doctor in mid-November.

He asked, in short: Why do you want a tubal?  I told him my contraceptive history and my very strong desire not to breed.  Okay, he said.  No argument.  No “Are you sure?  You’ll change your mindWomen are made to reproduce and your life will be incomplete without a baby.”  None of that.  He just listened to me, trusted me, and said, “Okay.”  There was a month waiting period before I could have the procedure done; I had to sign a waiver saying the state of Wisconsin wasn’t asking me to get sterilized (there is a long and terrible history in this country of people living in poverty, people of color, prisoners, and folks with mental health issues being sterilized against their will), and I had to get the surgery done in a suburb because the Catholic hospital he works for doesn’t allow tubal ligations to take place there.  Because of course they don’t.  I’m lucky I had transportation to get out there in the dead of winter; a lot of women don’t.

It ended up being a short outpatient procedure; I came in at 6:30 in the morning, was on the table by 8:00 am, came out of anesthesia by 9:30, and was home by 10:30.  I met with the anesthesiologist, the nurses, and the doctor to ask questions before the procedure, which was very simple: he made a small incision in my belly button and inflated my abdomen with gas, then inserted a small camera called a laparoscope; he made another small incision in my lower abdomen and inserted the surgical instruments through that incision, placing plastic clips on my fallopian tubes.  Everything out, all stitched and bandaged up, and presto!  No more need to weigh the pros and cons of various methods of contraception.

Check out the sweet mesh panties they gave me to wear home…

Before I left, I had to ask in my very groggy state: How long before I can have sex?  For how long do I need to use a backup method of birth control?  I had to ask these questions because no one bothered to tell me.  When I asked the last question, the nurse responded, “Oh, you have a boyfriend?”  Last time I checked, I didn’t need a long-term partner in order to have sex, but hey – it’s Wisconsin?  They gave me a prescription for a few Percocet and sent me home, where my mother literally tucked me in and made me soup.

My mom is amazing.  She desperately wants grandchildren; all of her siblings and friends have them, and she has no children to spoil.  My sister doesn’t want kids either, so my mom is left wanting to smell baby scalp and looking at Facebook photos of other people’s babies.  I was so scared to tell her that I was getting sterilized – but she had the best reaction I could ever hope for.  “There are too many unwanted children in the world,” she said – “So if you don’t want one, you shouldn’t have one.”  She was so supportive and respectful of my choices.  I found it strange and ironic that she was the one to care for me after my surgery, but I’m glad, too – I feel lucky to have a mom I can trust and enjoy spending time with.  Also, I can’t imagine a better place to be while letting my body heal.

I spent the day of the surgery sleeping; the cramps were terrible, and I bled for three days.  Now, four days after the procedure, I’m still a bit crampy and sore, but I can be out in the world.  I can’t exercise or lift heavy things for a couple of weeks, but I finally got to shower and get all that iodine off my torso, which felt like a small victory.  The incisions are small and healing nicely, and I can’t wait for The Engineer to pump me full of jizz.

I’ve spent the past ten years having some variation of this conversation:

Me: “I don’t want kids.”

Other person: “Don’t worry; you still have time.” / “You’ll change your mind!” / “But you’d be such a great mom.” / “What if your future partner wants kids?”

Me: *silently rolls eyes, frustrated not to actually be heard*

I am pro-choice; for me, that means that women should not only have the right to terminate a pregnancy safely, but that they should have the right to prevent pregnancy in a way that feels right to them and ALSO that women should be able to have as many children as they want in a safe and healthy environment.  I’m a nomad who doesn’t find babies cute or understand the way that people fawn over them; they’re just not for me.  And I’m so grateful to have a doctor and a family who understand that enough to say, “Okay.”


25 thoughts on “Happily Barren

  1. I am so glad you wrote this post and that you had such an amazingly positive experience. I have heard so many stories of women being denied this for all the reasons you have mentioned so to know that there are doctors and nurses who are not like that is brilliant.

    I was going to have the same thing. After I split with my 1st husband I knew that no matter what I would never want another baby. The doctor convinced me to try a coil instead but like you my body hated it. It lasted 5 days. After that she did refer me for surgery but then I met Michael and he already had a vasectomy and I have had a lot of surgery in my life so I never went and had it done.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vasectomies are slightly more effective, so that’s wonderful! I know there are so, so many people who try to advocate for their own needs and are ignored. When I called the hospital to make my initial appointment, the admin. assistant asked if I wanted a male or female doctor; I replied, “I want a doctor who’s not going to tell me not to get a tubal just because I’m unmarried and don’t have babies.” She immediately said, “We’ll schedule you with Dr. R – he’s cool.” And he was. I feel very lucky. ^^


  2. I have so many mixed thoughts and emotions about this and my family doctor offered to perform a simple procedure (immediately) after the delivery of my second child to sterilize me. I had no intention of having more children but I couldn’t go through with the offer. Instead, I told my husband that he HAD to be sterilized and that I would never have sex with a condom and that I will no longer be taking birth control hormones. Period. His options were either get the procedure or we would never have sex again. I left him with that and that while he did have a choice, he truly didn’t. I know that it sounds like I am a bitch but it was my choice and that I was not about to surrender my body to him. I feel that women’s rights trump those of men (they are the inferior of the sexes, after all) and that they exist for our pleasure and to procreate when we are ready.


  3. I’m so happy to hear about a doctor who wasn’t a jerk about getting a tubal ligation. At one point, a doctor in my insurance plan told me no doctor in their system would perform a tubal ligation for a woman with no children, regardless of her age.

    I had to fight for mine, and I ultimately got it (still with plenty of hoops) through a state program due to poverty (there’s something that smacks of eugenics in that, to me).

    Now 15 years later, I’m still happily child free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also got mine done for free through state health care; I’m currently unemployed. I acknowledge the roots of racism and white supremacy in publicly-funded sterilization and how fucked up it is to suggest sterilization to people who don’t want it by force or coercion. For me personally, I’m so happy that it was covered. I couldn’t have gotten the procedure done if I’d had to pay for (even part of) it out of pocket. I know there are SO many women who are told that no doctor will do it, and I’m glad that you fought for what you knew was right for you.


      1. In case it didn’t sound like it, I’m also grateful that I could use my state’s program. Without that program, I couldn’t afford it (at least then) and I don’t know if I could have found a doctor willing to do it.

        The history of forced sterilization and poverty makes my feelings about it complicated. It doesn’t help that the doctor who performed mine was explicitly racist (he told me it was terrible that a “nice American girl like me” wasn’t having babies when”all the Mexican girls had 3-4.”)


      2. That is the fucking worst. Did you tell him that after he performed your procedure, he should sterilize himself to prevent the siring of any little white supremacists?


      3. I complained to the program that used him – he worked in a predominantly Latinx area too.

        A friend of mine used the same program a couple of years later, same doctor, same comments.

        The kicker- the doctor wasn’t even white himself.


  4. May

    This is a great informative post. Your mum is amazing and to be frank so are you – too many parents are out there messing up their kids because they didn’t really want them. Quick question because I am dumb to this procedure – Do all your hormones still function as normal after such an operation ?
    Happy new year Jo x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So very happy for you! I’ve been lucky as an IUD user without incident and I too have had great family and medical support around my choices not to procreate. I’m happy to hear this has worked out for you. For so many it’s so challenging and upsetting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. William

    Congrats on your newfound sterility! As a quasi-teacher who was also sterilised last year, this resonates and I’m happy for you, and glad it went smoothly. My mum was also gutted as I’m an only child, but I’m still beaming that I got the result I wanted in my mid-twenties, a bit of a challenge in itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow – from what I’ve heard, it’s almost impossible to find a doctor who will do this procedure for someone in their twenties; did you get any initial push back?


      1. William

        Yes, my doc was lovely but she was hesitant to sterilize a childless young person – I fully explained why I don’t want children and she agreed. It was done privately, and I suppose the procedure is a bit less invasive than the female counterpart version so I was granted the snip 🙃


      2. I’m guessing that doctors are much more willing to sterilize young men than young women because of institutionalized sexism / stereotyped gender roles… but I’m glad your doctor listened to you!


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  8. As a mother I read your post with interest. I am always fascinated to read about the individual differences of human beings and what makes us so. While having a baby was always my own desire, I fully respect yours and am so pleased you found the professionals willing and able to give you peace of mind. This has to be better than the uncertainty of failing IUDs etc. As a side note, I am a nurse and during my training (over 30 years ago) during my gynae experience, I was shocked to discover this: Doctors were required to get the consent of the woman’s husband in the UK before sterilisation could go ahead. Not sure when that changed, but I distinctly remember that to be the case!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s still the case in some countries; soooo glad the US isn’t one of them! Yes, we are all different, and it’s wonderful. I’m happy there are lots of moms who can’t wait to have and raise children. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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