I’m Child Free by Choice and I Finally Got My Tubes Tied

Actually, I had my fallopian tubes removed altogether but we’ll get to the specifics later. What’s important right now is that finally, after more than a decade, after being turned away twice, after enduring the endless condescending comments on the matter, I’ve been allowed to make my own decision about my own body and reproductive choices and have myself permanently sterilized.

My journey to sterilization started in Pennsylvania, which is important to note because in addition to spanning many years, this journey crossed state lines. I acknowledge that getting a tubal ligation (or in my case, a bilateral salpingectomy) was easier here in Washington state than it might have been in some other parts of the country. I urge you to look into the laws in your state and talk to your doctor regarding facility policy and the law.

I knew at a young age that motherhood wasn’t for me. Sure, I had hypothetical children, but they only got mentioned when declaring how differently I would do things if and when I had kids. Sometimes, I’d read a book or see a movie and there’d be some kick-ass character with a cool name and I’d think, Hey, that’s a really cool name. I’d totally name my kid *Blah* but that’s about as far as any aspirations of motherhood went. So, in my early twenties (in Pennsylvania), I asked my doctor about tubal ligation. Her response was that I was too young to know for sure that I didn’t want to be a mother, that they didn’t ever sterilize women my age unless they’d already had a couple of children, and that I needed to wait until I was at least 25 to have this discussion. The first time around, I could see my doctor’s point. I was 21 or 22 at most and in the height of my party days, not my serious thought and knowing what the hell I wanted from life days. At the time, even I conceded that maybe waiting was best.

Fast forward a handful of years—we can skip over the times I white-knuckled it, begging the heavens for my period to start any time it was so much as a second late. I’d turned 25 in December. January found me back at the doctor’s office asking about tubal ligation. I knew with certainty that I didn’t want to be a mom, but my doctor had other ideas. She looked over my chart, confirming that I had not yet had any children. “You’re single?” she made her statement a question. I confirmed that I was, in fact, single. If anything, I thought that would help my case, but then she looked at me and said the words I’ll never forget: “What if you meet a man who wants kids?”

An educated, successful woman had just let those words come out of her mouth. I was dumbfounded by her betrayal. I’d already ended a handful of potential relationships because the men in question wanted to be fathers someday and it hurt to break up, but by goddess I did it because I knew for damn sure I didn’t want children. How dare this woman not take my word for it!

I don’t remember what I ended up saying to her when she told me to ask again at 30. I just remember feeling betrayed, angry, and helpless. I knew in that moment that I absolutely despised her. I know that still, in more private forums, I speak of her with all the spite I can spit.

I’d met my now husband by 30 and he was more than willing to get a vasectomy after we got married and were certain that we weren’t having children. (I told him that if he was marrying me with hopes that I would change my mind about motherhood, he shouldn’t marry me.) While his offer to get a vasectomy was sweet, it always stuck in my craw that he had to make it at all. Yeah, I get that vasectomies are easier to perform (and reverse) and are less invasive than tubal ligations. I get that there are fewer risks associated with vasectomies. But what I also get is that if I’d been allowed to make my own choice about my own body, the situation would have been taken care of long before I’d ever met him.

Let alone that a vasectomy on my husband’s part would only protect me from his business. In a world where women are disproportionately victimized by men and society is happy to look the other way and saddle women with the consequences of their attackers’ actions, having my husband cut simply wasn’t good enough for me.

 The Consultation

Fast forward some more. We’d moved out of Pennsylvania, spent some time in Connecticut (where, in fairness, I might have had an easier time getting a tubal ligation but my husband was still trying to convince me that snipping him was the better idea), and then moved on to Washington.

We’d been in the greater Seattle area for just over a year when it occurred to me that my last gynecological exam had happened back east. So, I looked at our health insurance plan, found an in-network doctor and facility, and made my yearly appointment.

The physician’s assistant and I started going over the standard new patient questions. I confirmed that condoms were my method of birth control because I hated the pill and wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an IUD. She asked if I was happy with my current method of contraception. No, I was not happy. I told her that I’d been wanting to get my tubes tied for a while but had been turned away twice, the last time on the grounds that I apparently hadn’t met a man to tell me what I was allowed to do with my body yet. The PA was offended on my behalf. She said I wouldn’t face those kinds of problems here and gave me the name of the doctor she recommended for the consultation and surgery. Due to the nature of our health insurance policy, I decided it would be best to schedule my consultation after the new year.

I still feared being told I would need my husband to sign off on my decision, so I brought him to the consultation with me. He wanted to be there anyway ‘cause he’s a good dude like that, but when I told my doctor about my previous experiences and my particular reason for having him there, her disgust was clear. She told me how she hadn’t even believed that my story up to this point really happened to people, that stories of young women being turned away for being single and childless were nothing more than sensationalized urban legends, but now here I was: her fourth patient to tell her the same story.

We started going over my options. We talked about non-incision (hysteroscopic) methods like Essure, but since I wanted my procedure to be immediately effective and I don’t generally fear surgery, we focused on laparoscopic (surgical) methods. Clamped or clipped, severed and cauterized, or removed altogether? All options were highly effective (98%+) in preventing pregnancy*, and if I understood my doctor correctly, all would reduce my risk of ovarian cancer; however, bilateral salpingectomy stood out for its higher level of risk reduction. It’s not like I was using my fallopian tubes anyway. They were pretty much just sitting there being beacons for cancer. “Pull ‘em out,” I said.

The 30-day Waiting Period

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. If it had been, I’d have lain back and let her take them that afternoon. Since sterilization is a procedure with a high regret risk attached, I had to sign a form that said I understood that my procedure was permanent and that reversal procedures were often ineffective. The paperwork also needed to prove that I’d been given at least 30 days to consider my decision; so, once signed, I actually had to wait the 30 days. By my calculations, I’d been waiting for something between 16 and 18 years, so what was one more month but time to consider the inevitable blog post?

I stopped being flippant about that month the very next day. I was on the phone with one of the ladies from the billing department at my doctor’s office trying to find out about medical codes and oh-so-fun health insurance stuff. She asked what I was having done and somewhere in my response the words, “rip that garbage out,” rolled off my tongue.

I’m a writer. I understand the power of words and I had just used the word “garbage” to refer to working parts of my healthy, functioning reproductive system—the system that creates life. The implications smacked me in the face.

The next thing to roll off my tongue was an apology to the woman on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t say that. Just because I’m not using my fallopian tubes doesn’t mean they’re garbage.” She was gracious, but we were both clearly jolted by my contempt for my working system.

So, of course, I had to address that contempt. It wasn’t hard to figure out where it was coming from. It came directly from years of being denied my preferred choice in managing my reproductive system. A little contempt was understandable, justifiable even. What I needed to figure out was whether I was letting it cloud my current decision. Was getting my tubes tied more about finally getting my way and proving someone else wrong than really wanting to have it done?

I ended up spending the next 30 days as the good folks of the establishment hoped I would. I asked myself every question about my motivations from personal to political and back again, and it turned out that only one question mattered:

Do I believe that there will ever come a time in my life when finding out I’m pregnant would be anything short of personally devastating?

No.

My decision was clear.

 The Procedure and Recovery

My surgery was scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, March 10, 2017.

The intake process went just slowly enough that I was happy I’d brought a book, but quickly enough that I didn’t make much progress. Multiple times I was asked to confirm which procedure I was having and whether I was leaving the hospital that afternoon. I knew from previous surgical procedures that all the repeated questions were safety precautions, checks to make sure everyone was on the same page, but they’d always made me nervous.

I asked for sedatives. I got them. I got sleepy.

And then I was waking up.

People were smiling. I was told that I’d been trying to make jokes. It’s the “trying” that concerns me. My humor is questionable when I’m wide awake; there’s no telling what I think is funny when I’m half out of it, but people were smiling so I’ll take that as a good sign.

One of the doctors asked me if I was feeling any pain. I said that I had some cramps and he pushed a magical little button and the pain went away almost immediately. I must make it clear, though, that the cramping wasn’t bad in the first place. The day after the surgery, a friend asked me if the procedure hurt or if I was in any current pain and I replied honestly that at no point did I suffer worse than I do with second or third day menstrual cramps. All women are different, and I don’t know if my statement is one of how bad my monthly cramps are or of how painless the procedure was, but there you have it.

I was left with one tiny little incision in my belly button, and an even smaller one a few inches below.

While the doctors and nurses were all great (really, they’re angels in my eyes for finally doing this for me), I was especially touched by the nurse who took my hand and told me that she, too, had made the decision not to have kids and that she never regretted it a day in her life. It was like this special moment of solidarity, validating that our choices belong to us and we’re not any less women for making them. We can still be goddesses without being mothers.

I was told not to do any intense workouts or heavy lifting for a week after the surgery and not to have sex until cleared for it in the post op appointment (about two and half weeks after surgery), and that was it. I left the hospital with a weight lifted off my shoulders and a pocket full of pain prescriptions.

It was going to be a good weekend.

I returned to work on Monday.

Was it worth it?

At the time of this writing, I’m only a few days removed from the surgery. Gauze pads have given way to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Band-Aids. I’m not in any pain, even without pain meds, and I’ve got the tell-tale itching of wounds beginning to heal. Little in my life has changed. I’m still child free by choice, only now I don’t really have to think about it. Once I am cleared for sexual activity and I get over shuddering at the thought of unprotected sex (yes, even in my monogamous marriage), I predict that I will enjoy a lot more spontaneity and passion in my sex life now that the once ever-present fear of pregnancy has been removed. The truth is, I have never felt this free in my life and my only regret is not having this done years ago.

But like I said, I wasn’t allowed to make that choice then.

 

*Tubal ligation does not protect against STDs.

Random Thoughts: On Writing, Politics, and Silence

I really love what she has to say about silence vs. being loud.

Reggie Lutz

Today, I am supposed to be writing a dinner scene among a family between whom there is no political agitation. Given the political agitation that is currently in the very air we breathe this is no easy task. The brain desperately wants to engage with that while the particular demands of the story I am writing now require that my brain engages with something else. The fictional family’s conflict that I am writing about has to do with combatting negative paranormal energies that they are, as humans on the living side of the equation, unaware of. This has nothing to do with politics, as far as the moment goes. Except that I remember in fiction, as in politics, conflict arises when character agendas diverge and come into opposition. So maybe I can use the present turmoil as a way in, as I write, even though the characters are fighting with…

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On the Importance of Strong Female Characters

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From the Women’s March; Seattle, WA; January 21, 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters in fiction.

As I marched with 175,000 other humans (the estimate at the time of this writing), I noticed countless signs referencing some of my favorite female badasses from fiction. I took in multiple nods to space rebels, vampire slayers, and warrior princesses and knew—without a doubt—that every last person who argues that female heroes aren’t interesting or “won’t sell” is absolutely full of shit. I saw little girls in Wonder Woman costumes and Princess/General Leia t-shirts (I was wearing a General Leia shirt myself), and knew—without a doubt—that the strong female characters we see on screen and read about in books really do have an impact on us and how we view ourselves, each other, and our roles in the world around us.

What would General Leia do?

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These three signs caught my attention, but you couldn’t swing a pink pussy hat without hitting a Leia Organa reference. Considering that Carrie Fisher was a badass in real life, this is not surprising. If the dead really do get to hang around and see what the living are up to, I’d like to think that she got a giggle from the “Carrie Fisher sent us” sign.

I’d like to think that she’d be proud to be our rebel leader.

Are you ready to be strong?

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Fans of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer not only know where the words on this sign come from, but many of us can recite the entire speech—if we can get through it without crying, that is. Submitted for your misty-eyed pleasure:

For people like me who rarely view embedded videos in an article, here are the highlights:

They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power…From now on every girl in the world who might be a slayer, will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

-Buffy Summers

A whole damn lot of us made our choice and are ready to be strong.

And then there’s this:

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The picture says it all.

Xena will always have a special place in my heart. It was a Xena poster I hung on my wall to remind me not to take any shit, particularly from real-life Joxers.

I’ll never forget the time I told a guy that I was a big Xena: Warrior Princess fan and he responded, “You know Xena and Gabrielle are lesbian icons, right?” Well, I hadn’t actually known (naïve me, I guess), but the only troubling thing about finding out was this guy’s tone and his obvious suggestion that there was something shameful about being a lesbian icon. Fuck that noise.

So here’s the thing…

The articles reminding us that one march isn’t enough are already flooding my feeds—as well they should. Marching is great, but there is more work to be done. There are the things we can all do as citizens; then there are the things we can do that are more personal.

I’ve always known that the presence of strong female characters in fiction is important, but this march solidified for me what a great female character can inspire in real life women. As a result, my dedication to writing these characters has been renewed. I intend to contribute as many badass women to the fiction world as I can because…well…I can. And of course, I don’t want to do it in some pandering political way—obvious and boring as hell to read—but in a way that’s honest. A way that inspires.

I suppose I can call it my duty. I prefer to call it my privilege.

Excuses, Excuses!

“What’s your excuse, now?” you might be asking, and you’d be within your rights. After all, every time I’ve been quiet on the blog, or the internet as a whole for that matter, I’ve come back with some flimsy excuse as to where I’ve been, but this time the excuse is a good one. I promise.

Yes, I’ve been trying to find balance in my writing life again, but this time it’s because I’ve landed a new paying day gig. It’s a technical content writing job and it’s actually kind of perfect for me. It is also particularly significant because landing a full-time job was the final piece of the puzzle before feeling like I really live here. Driver’s license and registration updated: check. Registered to vote: check. Employed by a company in the Greater Seattle Area: check. Though I rarely have to commute (working remotely is nice, I’ve got to admit), there’s something about being able to complain about the traffic with the other commuters that just makes me feel like part of the community. Of course, I realize that as a transplant, I’m actually a part of the traffic problem we face.

There’s also the issue of getting the most out of the few remaining days of summer. It’s no secret that I hate going to the gym. I’d much rather get my exercise from an outdoor activity. So while I still have enough daylight to hike a trail or skate (inline) around the park after work, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it. There are plenty of short, cold and rainy days on the horizon that will find me on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

Or maybe I can just suck it up and learn to be cold and wet in the dark.

I really hate the gym.

But time marches on. Summer is almost over and autumn is upon us. Aside of perhaps having to return to the gym (I say “perhaps” because I’m seriously considering that cold and wet in the dark thing), I’m excited for fall. I’m ready for hot cider and Halloween. Fall is also my most inspired and prolific time of year, which is good because I have a lot to do.

And if I can find that elusive little critter called balance, you might actually get to hear about it.

It’s Been a While

Hello all. It’s been a while since my last post and I figured it was time for an update lest anyone think I succumbed to the frustration of the job search, walked into the woods, and never came back out again.

While there hasn’t been a big, blog worthy event, there have been a few things worth noting and some thoughts clinking around in my brain. You have been warned. Read on at your own risk.

The Work In Progress

In my last post I talked about how I was having trouble settling on a novel to write. I considered whether I had a fear of commitment when it came to novel writing. Well, I have finally committed to a tale. I’m excited about it. I hope the excitement sticks.

The Ugly Side of the Internet

Social media, and much of the internet in general, gets ugly(er) during an election year. It just does. I’ve come to terms with it, and while I wish people could be a bit more civil in their discussions, at least the discussions are happening. That said, there’s only so much vitriol I can take before I hear a primal rage scream that, as it turns out, is coming from me. My sanity benefits greatly from closing the laptop, silencing the notifications on my devices, and walking into the woods—threatening never to return.

Unfortunately, election year also coincides with my search for full time employment. Given the kind of work I’m looking for, it’s not the best time to slash my internet time. Now’s the time to prove I’m a social media goddess who navigates the digital world with ease and panache. I need to be expanding my presence, not narrowing it. So, I spend a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and refuse to engage in the outrage, which brings me to…

Can We Please Talk About the Toddler?

Look, I’m not going to rehash the whole story about Harambe and the Cincinnati Zoo. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard it. I’m not going to talk about the perceived negligence of the mother of the child who fell into the gorilla enclosure, nor will I discuss the merits of tranquilizer darts vs. bullets, or whether Harambe was protecting the child, or whether zoos should be shut down. Instead, I’d like to focus on the little boy.

Imagine, for a second, growing up knowing that there were people outraged about the decision to save your life. Imagine growing up knowing that a large number of people valued the life of a gorilla (that they probably hadn’t even heard of previously) more than yours. Doesn’t feel very good, does it? Of course I’m sad about Harambe, but my heart breaks for the child.

I just hope this child is being shielded from the outrage and that things on the internet maybe can disappear after all, buried under the newest news of the day, because if I had to live with the evidence of how little people valued my life, well…

I’d walk into the woods and never come back out again.

Marshmallow Peeps and S’mores

It all started when a former colleague posted this little gem on Facebook.

The Debate

Now, if you’re like me, you’re appalled that anyone eats these at all. Marshmallow Peeps, in my view, are Easter’s version of candy corn. Nobody in their right mind eats them when there are still chocolates and Starbursts to be had. I commented that, for this reason, I’d never actually eaten a fresh peep so I couldn’t properly weigh in on the fresh vs. stale debate. I may have also called peeps an abomination that could have only come from Hell to begin with.

However, as this very serious—ly hilarious debate continued, I started to get curious. I voiced the curiosity, stating that I wondered how peeps would be in s’mores made with peanut butter eggs.

And so here we are.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

In case any of my readers have never been around a campfire, the recipe for s’mores is simple: toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate pressed between two graham crackers.

I’m lucky enough to have a working fireplace in my apartment, so the microwave method of “toasting” peeps was out. If I was going to eat one of those sugary little bastards, I was going to toast it over a real fire.

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

As I unwrapped the peanut butter egg that I knew was already delicious enough on its own, I seriously considered abandoning the whole s’mores idea and just eating the damned egg, but since it was only one of four, and I truly was curious, I continued on.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth; salty snacks are my jam. As curious as I was, I brought that gooey, diabetic nightmare of a mini sandwich to my lips in slow motion. My curiosity did not equate to a belief that I would like it. In fact, I was hoping to write a scathing review of this atrocity.

Instead, I need to go buy more peanut butter eggs so hubby and I can finish the remaining peeps. Seriously, that s’more was that good. It was the kind of good that must really be evil because nothing truly good is ever that enjoyable.

It's safe to say that hubby also liked it.

It’s safe to say that hubby also liked it.

Of course, now that I know I like Marshmallow Peeps enough to make s’mores with them, now that they’ve proven themselves a useful holiday candy, I almost feel bad about toasting their cute little sugar-butts.

See? I have a heart.

I Got Some!

Snow, that is.

In my last post, I talked about how much I missed the snow. Readers are lucky; they only had to deal with my lamentations for the length of the post. My poor husband had to hear it all week, which made our Saturday plans pretty clear. Stop whining about it; get in the car, and make the drive to Mount Baker to go play in the snow.

The squee-ing started right about here.

The squee-ing started right about here.

It’s safe to say that I was in a bit of a funk last week. The writing life was not satisfying. The job hunt even less so (but I can type “motivated self-starter” in my sleep now; so that’s something). And we all know how jealous I was when I saw pictures of the east coast snow littering my social media feeds. Okay, maybe it was more homesickness than jealousy, but you get it.

Anyway, this cheered me considerably:

Snow Day

It also cheered me considerably that my car and its serious snow tires performed just fine. The roads were actually very well maintained and the weather conditions at the time were no worse than anything I’d faced driving in Pennsylvania or Connecticut. I guess I was being a bigger baby about that than I had to be.

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When Joe and I spend a day playing on any one of the seriously majestic mountains around here, it’s standard procedure for us to stop for dinner on the way home. It’s also standard procedure for us to order whatever the heck we want (diets be damned!), because it isn’t as if we spent the day on the couch. This Saturday was no different.

We stopped at a little place called Crave ‘N Burgers & Brew that has fried cheese curds so good that I will never eat a standard mozzarella stick again. Well, no. That’s not true. I will eat mozzarella sticks again because fried cheese of any kind is pretty delicious, but I will cry because nothing will ever stand up to the glory of Crave ‘N Burgers & Brew’s fried cheese curds. I’m not joking here. I enjoyed my burger and my fries and my brew too, but I will dream about that tasty, cheesy decadence.

I was certainly in a funk, but it seems all I needed was a day in the snow and some artery clogging, fried appetizer goodness to set me right again.

Look out world! I’m back to my usual bright, cheery…

Nope. I couldn’t even finish typing that with a straight face. We’ll just say I’ve been renewed and refreshed.