Yesterday, I had surgery to remove both of my fallopian tubes, which is similar to getting my tubes tied but with the added benefit of heavily reducing my risk of the more aggressive forms of ovarian and breast cancer, as studies show they often originate in the tubes. While it is something I have considered doing my entire adult life, the Supreme Court leak indicating their upcoming attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, coupled with living in a red state that has trigger laws in place to end access to reproductive healthcare pushed me to action. I scheduled my appointment to talk to my gynecologist the day after the leak went public and my surgery ended up being the day before the sham of a Supreme Court made their detrimental decision official. While I am relieved for myself that I no longer have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy derailing and/or endangering my life, that relief is tinged with guilt that not everyone has that guarantee anymore.
I have known I never wanted kids ever since I was a kid myself. I had baby dolls, but I never mothered them—they were simply my friends and peers. I used to beg my mom to have another baby because I really liked hanging out with them. Whenever my friends and I played “house,” I never wanted to play the mom. I most frequently requested to be the housecat. I have had nightmares about pregnancy for as long as I can remember, even during stretches of time where it would take divine intervention for me to be pregnant.
There’s a common misconception about me and most people who don’t want children that we don’t like kids or being around them, but I would argue that I like kids more than most people do. I have absolutely no doubt that a vast majority of parents out there love their own kids and think they’re rad little people, but that love of kids often doesn’t extend to other people’s kids. I love hearing all the dumb little stories kids stutter through over and over again, and I love how they laugh at the same joke no matter how many times they tell it. I love acting like a monster who wants to eat their toes, or pretending we are a den of lions who must cross the savannah for a fresh watering hole. I love how they see the world in their own unique, uninhibited, untainted way, and I love that they still think absolutely anything is possible. I will hold any baby you hand me for hours at a time and I will read them a story, with the appropriate character voices, until they fall asleep on me. Kids have always tended to gravitate towards me, and I am incredibly proud of the fact that even the shyest among them open up to me, because I have become exactly the kind of adult my cripplingly shy child-self sought out and trusted. I have acquired scores of nieces and nephews (the non-gendered plural of which is “niblings” which delights me to no end), and I love them without bounds.
If I were forced into a situation where I had to have a child, I think I would do a decent job being a mom, but that is not a role I have ever wanted. I enjoy the freedom of a quiet house when I need it, the ability to duck out of town for a weekend without intense planning, being able to prioritize my own mental health without guilt. I would also lose the energy to interact with and love the niblings already in my life in the same way if I had my own children to tend to. I believe to have children or not is the biggest decision a person can make in this life, and I wish more people put as much thought into it as they should instead of just following the traditional script that is laid out for heterosexual couples, and women in particular. Having children is the prescribed future for women, and I’m in no way saying scores of my peers have mindlessly decided to have kids, but I do think there is a lot of pressure to give in to that norm, and there’s a lot of fear involved in stepping outside of that traditional family framework, simply because society is not set up for us in that way. I’m incredibly lucky to have the support I’ve received in making the decision to alter my body so I never conceive a child. Friends who have kids and a couple of friends who are currently pregnant have expressed the same joy in my decision that I have in theirs, which is so affirming. My mom and brothers have been nothing but supportive—my mom was so supportive that she came in town to drive me to the surgery and stayed with me today to make sure I was okay. Not everyone has that kind of support in their life, and I know I am incredibly lucky.
I had talked to doctors about sterilization before, but none of them had taken my requests seriously. A couple of them insisted that I had to be married and already have children for the procedure to be done, which made me feel as though I had fallen through a wormhole back to when women were considered the property of their husbands. Others insisted that I would change my mind. I switched insurance and got a new gynecologist last year and when discussing my options for birth control, she was the one who presented sterilization as an option. I faltered for a moment and said, “Even though I’m not married?” She gave me a funny look and asked if I was planning on marrying someone who was going to force me to bear children even though I had just said I never wanted any. When I said no, she said, “Then you’re the only person in the world I need to talk to about this.” She presented me with facts about the procedure, and she provided me with statistics about the percentage of people who regretted the decision, broken down by age range. She presented those statistics in an informative way rather than as a threat, like previous doctors had. The statistics for people my age range regretting the procedure are very low. I told her I would look a little further into the procedure before making my decision, and she sent me on my way with good resources to delve into.
After the Supreme Court decision was pre-emptively leaked, I was flooded with fear. I have an IUD in place currently (and will continue to keep it inserted until it expires, as it prevents my menstrual cycle from being horrendous), but there is still always a chance of birth control failing. An added layer to that fear is that if the IUD were to fail, the chance of that pregnancy being ectopic is higher, which has happened to two of my friends. Ectopic pregnancies are never viable, and they are very often deadly if left to fester on their own. The process of removing an ectopic pregnancy is medically considered an abortion, even though a baby could never come of that type of pregnancy. I live in a red state with trigger laws and while Missouri technically (and only recently) removed the provision that criminalized abortions for ectopic pregnancies, I don’t trust that to stick. I don’t trust anything to stick at this point. I scheduled an appointment to talk with my aforementioned gynecologist hours after the leak was made public.
I saw my doctor within a week, and she was unsurprised at the timing of my appointment and shared her own fears about the future and how it will impact the quality of reproductive healthcare she provides for her patients. She told me we could schedule the procedure as soon as I wanted, and that was that. I gave my workplace six weeks’ notice that I would be taking a week of vacation at the end of June, and I got it officially scheduled. I spoke with my insurance company to make sure I wouldn’t be thousands of dollars in debt from this and I was informed that sterilization is completely covered. All I had to pay was a facility fee, which was admittedly higher than I expected or would have liked, but I am lucky enough to be in a position where I could swing it. They also offered a financing plan if I couldn’t.
I checked into the facility and was talked through the whole process before I went in. The anesthesiologist explained everything incredibly well, which is great, because the thing I was most nervous about was going under, since I hadn’t experienced general anesthesia since I was five years old. My doctor, who was also my surgeon because her badassery knows no bounds, stopped by to say hello and address any questions I had before I was given a relaxant and wheeled to the operating room. All of the staff in the operating room made sure I saw their faces and knew who would be in the room before putting me under. They put the mask on and the next thing I knew, I was waking up wondering if the surgery had even been done. It was laparoscopic, so I only have three tiny incisions on my abdomen. They gave me a pain pill before releasing me, but I was able to walk with very little discomfort almost immediately. My mom and I stopped by the pharmacy to get my prescription, but I was home within three hours of the surgery. I lounged around and watched TV and movies and ate the lasagna my mom had brought me. I took a pain pill before going to sleep just in case.
Today I woke up feeling like I had done a lot of sit-ups or had a particularly core-heavy workout, but no real, substantial pain. The most uncomfortable thing I’ve experienced is referred shoulder pain, which happens with most laparoscopic surgeries, as the gas used to inflate the abdomen during surgery often gets trapped by the diaphragm, which triggers the phrenic nerve, which causes shoulder pain. I have plenty of pain pills if I need them, but I haven’t taken anything since last night and will probably just stick with extra strength Tylenol, if anything. I’m going to take it easy for the next couple days and just hang around my apartment, but it has been a shockingly easy recovery so far.
I know not everyone who wants reproductive sterilization has the means to do so. A combination of already being a healthy person who is able to undergo surgery, having the financial ability to do so, having a job that provides quality insurance and vacation time, finding a doctor that actually listens to me, and a support system for the aftercare aspect means a lot of privileges lined up all at once. If you live in the Kansas City metro area and are looking for a new gynecologist, even if you don’t want this permanent of birth control, my contact information is in my “About” section, so email me or send me an Instagram DM, and I will send you my doctor’s information.
The relief I feel at my own freedom from constant fear of an unwanted pregnancy has been overshadowed by my anger at the official overturning of Roe v Wade. The three Supreme Court justices that Trump appointed directly lied under oath in order to gain their appointments by implying that the decision was already settled by the court and that they had no interest in overturning settled decisions. I hope that everyone who insisted that being devastated by Trump’s election in 2016 was an overreaction is having an incredibly shitty day today. I hope that anyone who is celebrating today’s overturning realizes that they are not actually pro-life, as this decision will cause not only the death of many people who will still seek out abortions, just not safe ones, but has the potential to criminalize and incarcerate people who have miscarriages and are grieving that loss. This will bring unwanted children into the world to be abused and neglected. They will not stop at abortions, either. There have been direct statements from the Supreme Court implying that same-sex marriage, access to birth control, interracial marriage, and voting rights could be next on the chop block. I would like to offer a sincere “fuck you” to anyone who scoffs and says that would be an overstep, because those out-of-touch dinosaurs have already overstepped.
I’m angry and sad, but I am not without hope. Recent polls imply that around 70% of Americans support access to reproductive healthcare, which includes abortions, so I don’t think the fight is over, not by a long shot. I think we should take the day to grieve this tremendous step backwards, but then it is time to fight back to regain control of our own bodies. My body is still healing, so I can’t attend protests this weekend, but I am with you each and every one of you in spirit.