How do I tell my parents about my sterilization?

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"How to use a scalpel print" from Etsy seller AntiquePrintsOnly
“How to use a scalpel print” from Etsy seller AntiquePrintsOnly
After 18 years of marriage, 10 different types of birth control, no kids, and enough problems with my lady bits and periods, I decided I’ve had enough.

I’m 40 years old. I pretty much told everybody I wasn’t having kids (too gross, too painful, I imagined) since I was a kid. After almost 20 years of marriage, you’d think everybody would be clued in that having children is just not what my family needs or wants. But my mom still gets a wistful sigh when she talks about her sister’s grandchildren (and great-grandchildren).

I don’t want to go into surgery, even day surgery, without telling my parents. But at the same time I don’t want to hurt them or have them try to change my mind. I’m not going to change my mind; but if they press, it’s going to make me upset.

How do I tell my parents that I’m getting a tubal ligation? Anyone else have to go through something like this? -Grayeyedgrrl

We’ve talked about how to drop the child free bomb, but how do you drop the “I’m choosing to have surgery to shut down the baby factory forever” bomb?

Comments on How do I tell my parents about my sterilization?

  1. You know your parents best, so you probably already know the best way to approach them. Email may be helpful for some distance, but in person would probably be better. I recommend having your spouse there to show that (s)he supports you. I recommend waiting until shortly before the surgery to tell them so that they can’t try to change your mind for weeks. Give them a few days or just send them an email that morning. No matter how you approach them, be prepared to tell them what you want from them. Are you looking for their blessing? Their support? To hear “I love you” in case you die? If you don’t tell them what you want from them, you leave them to figure it out themselves, and it probably won’t be what you want. So use I statements, explain why you want to do this (or don’t), and tell them that you value them too much to get surgery without telling them.

  2. I went through a similar (but not identical) situation with regards to surgery. I decided to have a gastric bypass (weight loss surgery), and didn’t know how to drop that bomb either. I ended up telling my mom & dad in person (although there were lots of tears involved), and other people (ie in-laws, friends, etc) I sent a short text message the evening before surgery. Everyone in my life was very supportive after I told them, but my partner’s support mattered most to me.

  3. It’s such a strange thing, isn’t it? Controversial, yet you know beyond a doubt it’s right for you. I was raised in a very Catholic home, where sterilization flies directly in the face of the Church’s teachings. I will be honest and say that I’ve not ever told my parents. It’s not something they need to know, and there’s a big difference between them understanding I’m not planning more children and them knowing I “defied God” in order to make it so. I’m divorced also, which they still cannot comprehend, 11 years later. If it ever comes up in conversation, I will not hide it, as I do not believe it’s wrong, but I’m not volunteering it either. I admit that I felt weird withholding such a big piece of information, especially about surgery, but I also did not feel as though they needed to know. I had local emergency contacts. That was 7 years ago (when I was 36).

  4. If you feel that you want to tell them, which it sounds like you do, make it short and sweet and so it sounds like there are no negotiations about what you are going to do. For example: “I just want to let you to know that I’m having surgery next week/month for XYZ (getting my tubes tied, etc). We (significant other and you) have decided that our family is complete and we will not be having any kids (they probably already know/assume that.). Because of XYZ reasons, I feel that this decision will benefit me in XYZ ways (better for my long term health, no more female issues, etc). I would appreciate your support in this decision and help with XYZ after the surgery. Thanks for listening/your support/XYZ.”

    Then, after the surgery, the next few times that babies/grandkids come up from your parents, tell them very frankly that you won’t be having any kids because of the surgery (getting tubes tied, etc.), but that they can/should enjoy XYZ’s relatives kids (sister’s grand kids, etc.). I have told my in-laws this several times as my MIL is dying for grandkids. Luckily, my sister-in-law is pregnant. So, anytime it comes up for us, I just divert the focus on pregnant sister-in-law and her future child. I.E.: “As you know, we’re not currently ready (XYZ reason) to have kids… but let’s just enjoy sister-in-law’s pregnancy and future child! OK?” … move on with other conversations!

  5. My husband dropped it into dinner conversation when we were over at his parents place. “How was your week?” “I got a vasectomy.” His mom pretty much ignored it (yay WASPs!) and life has gone on. Since then he has cheerfully used the phrase “We’re not having kids. I put my money where my vas deferens is and shut it down!” whenever anyone asks when we are having kids. My mom was really good and said that she realized her desire for grandkids shouldn’t come at the expense of how I want to live my life.

  6. We still haven’t told my parents that my husband got a vasectomy before we were even married – his parents know, and my parents know we don’t want kids, but I’m worried my mom’s going to flip the fuck out when faced with actual, incontrovertible evidence that it’s not happening. I’m hoping to wait at least until my sisters have kids 😛 Though it’s not really her business so I might just never bring it up and let her draw her own conclusions. I totally get not wanting to go under the knife without telling them, though- tubal is a bigger surgical deal than a vasectomy. I have to think that at age 40, after 20 years of marriage, it can’t possibly come as a big surprise to them, though.

  7. I had a hysterectomy at 40 to deal with my awful periods. Like you I was married, didn’t have kids and had already made it clear that I didn’t want any. My family had seen me suffer for years and even though this was clearly about relieving that suffering and the sterilisation was a side effect, my family still had concerns about (and focused almost entirely on) me doing something that prevented me ever having children. They totally supported me but wanted to make sure I had thought it all through. This was not because they didn’t trust me but because they hadn’t been in my head for all the thinking and because it is a big big deal. All of what I have to say below assumes there is fairly ok, pretty standard, not perfect but not toxic, communication already going on, truly toxic situations may require a different approach. Whatever the situation no one knows better than you what’s right here and no one can take that away from you.

    It has probably taken you a long time to get to this decision, your family are going to have to make that leap much quicker. It’s really annoying but try and see those worried questions as expressions of love, be really wary of falling into zero positive outcome trap of thinking that if they loved me they would just accept unquestioningly because of course anyone who loved you would have questions about this (different to trying to talk you out of it). All that said you’ll also need to be clear yourself how much questioning you’ll take and be ready to shut it down firmly but politely (something like “Thank you for caring so much about me, it matters to me very much what you think but I have made my decision and it would mean the world for you to get behind it if you can. Let’s leave this for now.”) If you can, try not to answer questions defensively, (really hard I know) it makes you look less sure and will make worried people more so and before they know it they are trying to argue against you which is almost always not really what they intended.

    Of course parents don’t have a right to grandchildren and no one should obligated to produce them but your news may be sad news for your parents, this doesn’t make you a bad person (or them in my opinion). If you can (and you totally don’t have to) try and acknowledgement this but you are in no way obligated to apologise for it, I say this just because they may come round quicker this way. Telling them all this, wanting them to know is also an act of love on your part, make this clear in whatever language works best for you. Good luck!

  8. Would a little white lie here help? By that, I mean to sell it as “I’m doing this for my health” and not “I don’t want kids”

    Not the most valiant way of doing it but an option if you’re comfortable with it

    • Even a little white lie by omission? “My doctor and I decided that this is what’s best.”

      I’m sorry to all the doctors out there, but I’m always leanin’ on you guys as my “can’t argue that” excuse.

      • We have been known to throw the “Well or doctor really feels this is best” to get out of heavier conversations. Some times I just don’t have the emotional energy to have the needed conversation and it is just easier to blame the doctor.

  9. You said you’ve had medical problems with your reproduction system, simply tell them it’s a medical necessity. No parent who wants their child to be healthy will argue with that.

  10. I was really lucky when I told my parents about getting sterilized last year( I was 29). They had know for a long time I didn’t want children. And they’ve never tried to talk me out of it. But I still wasn’t sure if being ok with the idea of me never having children and knowing for sure they would never get grandchildren from me would go. My dad’s response was supportive and joking about how he was surprised I hadn’t had it done sooner. And my mom insisted she be the one to take me to the hospital for the procedure. My friends and parents never once tried to talk me out of it or feel bad for not having children. I know not everyone is this lucky.

    My advice would be to sit them down and let them know it’s something you have thought a long time about and you and your doctor agree it’s the best option for you. I know it’s hard but be as calm and firm as possible. If having your spouse or friend there as support make it easier bring them along. Tell them when and where you are having the surgery. I know my mom wanted to be the one to take me in because she wanted to be close by if something were to go wrong. If your parents take the news well would you be ok with them being there the day of the surgery? Being the one to drive me in and take me home helped my mom a lot. She was able to take care of me and show support that way. My mom is also a worrier. Being in the hospital she knew she would be the first one they notify if something happened and she would be as close as she could possible be to see me.

    Good luck and I hope everything goes well for you!

  11. I still haven’t told mine. I figure that they have had plenty of time to come to terms with the fact I’m not having kids, and we are not the kind of family that openly talks about sex, so I kept it to myself.

    I told my sister, and she probably let them know, but nobody’s said anything about it to me.

  12. Mine were in such full and hearty support of my tubal that it was almost insulting.

    Family can be weird when it comes to reproduction and genetic immortality. Just stand your ground and remind them that you’re an adult.

  13. I got sterilized in my mid 20s. I basically just told my parents, “hey, this is a thing that I’m doing. I’m not asking for any input into the decision– I’ve made up my mind, signed the paperwork, and scheduled a date. I’m letting you know as a courtesy because you’re a part of my life and important to me, and you’re welcome to tell me what you think about it, but this is not something that you have any say in.”

    My parents did have some stuff to say and they weren’t supportive (I wasn’t expecting them to be). I told them they didn’t have to be happy for me but they did need to respect my decision. If it ever came to the point in a discussion (either when I initially told them or later) where they would kind of start down that path of trying to convince me to change my mind I would just tell them that this wasn’t something that was up for discussion and not talk about it.

    That worked for me, but I think a LOT of it depends on your relationship with your parents. This is the same approach that I’ve used with a lot of different things with my parents– it’s basically how I moved from being a teenager to being an independent adult. But I think in general the keys are (a) set boundaries at the beginning of the conversation, (b) acknowledge that they may NOT be happy with it and it’s OK for them to feel that way, and (C) make sure that they know that their feelings/opinions do not override your decision and you are not required to let them try to change your mind. (Also important: be able to walk away or otherwise exit the conversation, at least for a time).

    Good luck!

  14. As other people have said, it depends a lot on your relationship with your parents and how strongly they feel about their “right” to grandchildren. I would say tell your parents a few days before your procedure. That way, they have a bit of time to process the information but not enough time to be a nuisance to you. Let them know that you love them and would appreciate their support of your decision, but that you understand if it’s a difficult thing to wrap their heads around. Be prepared for questions (probably asked in an upset/angry tone). Tell them that in the end, this is about your body and your life, and it’s a personal choice that they can’t make for you. You are a human, not a grandchild-making factory! Good luck to you! <3

  15. I still haven’t told mine and it’s been nearly nine years. My sister thinks I should have told them right away but they have a tendency to blab stuff they shouldn’t be sharing to other relatives and as far as I’m concerned…I’m an adult and they aren’t my emergency contacts anyway.

    I’m getting married in a couple months and I’ll be 34 by then so I’m sure there will be pressure on us to get started right away, but FH and I are planning on presenting a united front and saying “we don’t want them so they’re not happening”. Anyone who is holding their breath waiting for an accident will be waiting awhile.

  16. I feel you both on the wanting to be sterilized for health reasons and for not-having-kids reasons. I haven’t done it yet, mainly because I just had surgery for endometriosis last year, and I am not really keen on repeating the whole surgery experience again any time soon. With the health issues I have though, I know that eventually I will get a hysterectomy. Fortunately, my parents have always been very supportive of the majority of decisions I’ve made (even if they didn’t agree), and as far as this issue goes, they very much just want for me to be healthy. There’s also the issue of being in your mid-late twenties and finding a reputable doc who will perform the surgery on someone under the age of 35– from my understanding it can be hard to find doctors who will perform partial hysterectomies or other types of sterilization on young individuals because “What if you want baabiiiieeesss,” (even when you explicitly do not want babies). Maybe this is more common in the Bible Belt, I dunno. While you don’t want a complete hysterectomy unless you absolutely have to have one before menopause (bone density issues, among other things), a partial or a tubal ligation doesn’t have any impact on that, so doctors really ought to perform them regardless of age.

  17. Well, the one way you *definitely* don’t want to do it is by calling them up after the procedure and just dropping the bomb. Turns out, for most parents in denial about no grandbabies, when they hear “We’re going to do the procedure in a month or so,” they really don’t understand that its _happening_. I swear I told her way in advance, so maybe it’s just me, but my Mom can listen to my ramblings and updates and apparently doesn’t think the biggest updates are actually real! Whoops.

  18. I would guess that your parents (like every other human being on the planet) want to feel needed, so perhaps instead of phrasing it with lots of “you can not” phrases (“You cannot change my mind”; “you cannot have grandchildren”; “you cannot have a say in this”), perhaps tell the ways that they “can” help.

    i.e. “mum, I might be in pain after surgery, would you be able to come round and rub my hair like you used to do when I was a kid?” “I won’t be able to cook for a while, could you come around and bring a meal/order pizza?” “Can Dad please drive my car home and then bring husband to the hospital on Tuesday?” “Can mum & dad make sure that the doctor answers this list of questions about aftercare before I’m discharged?”

    Of course your family dynamics might be wrong for this, but it might make your parents feel like they have something to do in the here-and-now, rather than dealing with it all in the abstract.

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