When I first broached the subject of permanent, non-hormonal birth control with my gynecologist, I wasn’t even considering a tubal ligation. 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) is a fairly new procedure that can be performed in your gyno’s office but is permanent. I was leaning toward Essure because it was permanent and would only cost an office co-pay 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 laparoscopic procedure.”
So I made an appointment with a surgeon who explained how a tubal would go down. Basically, I should take off work for a week to deal with any side effects from the anesthesia. She told me it was possible my periods would get worse after the surgery. Besides actually having surgery, there was 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 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 to just go for it.
Then I had to start telling people. Those were not fun conversations. But somehow by convincing everyone else that I was sure of my decision I became very sure. For me, 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.
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 from body to mind. Your needs change, your desires change, your world changes. I see 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 now… I just want to be me. I don’t want to be anyone’s mother.
I now sport a one-inch red and shimmery scar just below my belly button, the only evidence that I am now blissfully as incapable of having children as biology will allow. I thought the only result of the surgery would be peace of mind if I was a couple of 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 gynecologist 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 do, in fact, want to have 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 took the possibility out of my future, and 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 critters with their 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?