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 mind. Women 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.
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.”