About this Blog

After banging my head in frustration over the obsession everyone around me had with procreation, I went online to find a community of people who were more like me. I have met some fascinating people along the way, but I have also found that many in the childfree community are quite hostile toward Christianity and a Christian world view. I understand that, unfortunately, many of my Christian sisters and brothers have given them a lot of ammunition (undoubtedly, I have been guilty of this at times too). Not wanting to be perceived as "trolling" for expressing my Christian perspective on other people's forums and blogs, I use my own blog to share my musings on childfree life while at the same time expressing my faith.

My intention is to show support to childfree people, both Christian and non-Christian, but from my own Christian perspective. Questions and constructive comments are welcome; negativity and intolerance are not.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Sterilization Story


There has been a bit of a hubbub about women’s (and sometimes men’s) requests for sterilization to be granted.  Slate has run a series of articles on childfreedom during which the topic emerged, and it has also made this month’s issue of Vogue.  In turn, this seems to have prompted some of the bloggers I follow (and now me) to keep the discussion flowing.

By the time I discovered the word “childfree” and found out that there was an entire online community of people seeking relief from the baby-rabies surrounding them, I had already been sterile for a few years.  My experience – both the decision and the execution – was so easy that it never occurred to me that other women would have to fight to be sterilized.  As I consider my situation, I realize I had several factors going for me (plus a little bit of luck that my small-town doctor was supportive), and I hope that sharing those might assist anyone reading this who is considering a procedure.

Time (and maturity) was on my side.  In my early twenties, I brought up sterilization to my first gynecologist.  At the time, this woman had known me for only about half an hour, and she could see a lack of confidence in my demeanor.  She was very frank that my hesitancy, my age, and her lack of knowing me well made this a non-discussion.  I was not ready to put up a fight, and I really did not mind waiting.

In the meantime, I heard people saying things like, “By the time you are 30*, you know for sure,” and, “Once your friends start having kids, you will want them too.”  When I reached 30, I had observed enough close friends having children to make me even more certain that it wasn’t for me, and I’d had about 15 years to reflect on why I did not want children and what I did want for my life.  I now had a confidence and an ability to articulate myself that a reasonable doctor could not ignore.
*That “magic number” 30 also pops up in some research about which Laura Carroll blogged; in one study, about 20% of women who were sterilized before the age of 30 later regretted the decision, whereas only about 5% of women 30+ expressed regret.

I had “done my homework” and had a plan.  When I finally broached the subject with my nurse practitioner, I was able to explain to her in less than 3 minutes why I should be sterilized.  I explained that I always knew I didn’t want to bear children and played the “30” card so that she knew this decision had been carefully considered for years and that I had been willing to wait for as long as conventional wisdom demanded.  I also shared, with passion and conviction, my commitment to adoption should I ever decide that I wanted to add another person to my family.  She listened intently and agreed that whenever I was ready, she would have her office refer me to an M.D. who could perform the surgery.

I anticipated the doctor’s questions and reactions.  When I met with the M.D., I was again able to tell the story I had shared with my nurse practitioner.  I am sure it also did not hurt that I could tell the M.D. about my advanced degrees, my career, and my marriage too.  I know that some people do not appreciate doctors grilling sterilization candidates, but given that this woman had only just met me, it seemed perfectly reasonable that she would want to hear my story – and my ability to anticipate her concerns and articulate my story meant that she had relatively few questions for me.  Instead, I felt that she did a great deal of listening. At one point she said, “I wish your husband were here so that I could talk to him too.”  My response?  “I’ll bring him in from the waiting room!”  I know this is also anathema to many who feel like the doctor is asking them to obtain their husband’s permission, but I had anticipated that the doctor might be interested in our family dynamic.  Again, she had only just met me.  I see it as responsible of her to be sure that I was doing this without pressure and that my husband knew the risks to me.  In fact, one of the reasons she stated had to do with risk – she would prefer to know that he was at least willing to have a less-invasive vasectomy (this was when Essure was in its infancy and thus not an option in my little town).

Of course, I jumped in to make it clear that this was about me.  If, God forbid, anything ever happened to my husband or, God forbid, I were raped, I wanted to be sure I was taken care of.  Though I did not bring this up to the doctor, I was also influenced by the pressure one of my relatives had faced.  Her now-ex-husband had a vasectomy when they finished having children, so she was left unprotected in a sense.  When she remarried, her childless husband started pushing her to have a baby with him.  However, she had clearly already left that stage of her life behind.  Her children were older, and she did not want to start over with a baby, especially at her age.  Needless to say, things did not end well (though on a positive note, no new lives were destroyed in that tug-of-war).

Lastly, I was able to anticipate a time frame that worked for all of us.  I was uncertain how long it might take to schedule a surgery, so I purposely arranged for a consultation in the spring with the intention of surgery in the summer when I would be off work.  When the M.D. agreed to the surgery, she added, “I want to give you three more months to think about it, so we’ll schedule the surgery for summer.”  I replied, “Perfect!”  Waiting periods may raise the hackles of sterilization advocates, but because I had already built that into my plan, I still felt a sense of… I guess… control, that this was exactly what I wanted and I was not just at the whim of the medical establishment or whatever.

I am very healthy.  Speaking of risk, I had no health factors that might dissuade the doctor.  This made the surgery smooth and successful, and it assisted in a relatively easy recovery.

The only compelling argument I have heard against sterilization is that with the wealth of options available, some of which (i.e., IUD) are more effective than tubal ligation, people should be more resistant to take permanent and potentially dangerous measures.  However, my belief is that it is still up to the patient to decide what risks are most acceptable to her.  The doctor informs; the patient chooses based on that information.

Seven years and counting, and I still celebrate my sterility every day!

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments or to offer advice to anyone considering a permanent procedure.

11 comments:

  1. I appreciate your doctor's desire to make sure it was the right choice for you. I have a close family member who was pressured into sterilization, and made the decision right before giving birth to her (unplanned) third child. She later regretted the decision and had a reversal, then nearly lost her life to an ectopic pregnancy. For years she tried to have another baby to no avail. If her doctor had been as thorough as yours, she would have been saved so much heartache.

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    1. Laura, what a sad story. My heart goes out to her.

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  2. Hello! I found your blog while searching for more women who have made the choice to remain child free. You're very thoughtful and well spoken, and I especially appreciate how you include your faith in this discussion. I haven't faced much trouble expressing my own feelings about not wanting kids, but I do find myself having to explain sometimes. People seem to have a hard time taking that decision at face value. I just appreciate reading about your experiences here. I particularly enjoyed your post today, and just wanted to leave a comment.

    Personally, I've never wanted kids... I've been saying "I'm never having kids!" since I was 6 years old. I've been waiting for my biological clock to kick in, or to change my mind like everybody tells me I will, but it isn't happening. I'm turning 30 next week. My sister is having her first baby soon (already has a 3 year old stepson), and our friends have started having babies. I love all of these children, but seeing my sister and our friends with kids makes me want them even less, if that's possible. I've been married for 2 years now. My husband and I both feel strongly that we don't want any... not now, not ever. We talk about it all the time, and we aren't changing our minds. With my age, having been married a few years, and having experienced our siblings and friends take the leap into parenthood without us, I think I can safely commit to the decision to remain child free to the point of sterilization.

    I hate (HATE) taking birth control. I've tried several over the past 10+ years including an IUD, which didn't work for us. I finally told my husband that I would like to stop taking birth control altogether have the Essure procedure done. Like you, I feel strongly about ME never having kids. I would actually prefer having Essure than my husband having a vasectomy. I decided on Essure in May, and just to be certain have decided to wait one year to see if I change my mind. My feelings haven't wavered since then, though.

    So, all that is to say, I really appreciate reading about someone else who has made the decision to remain child free AND who has gone as far as sterilization. That's the thing my family and friends seem to have a hard time with. Telling people we don't plan on having any kids has gone over relatively well, but they freak out when I mentioned sterilization. Was that your experience? Did it give you pause to reconsider? It sounds like your decision was pretty easy.

    How did your faith play into your decision to get sterilized, if at all? I'm independent and pretty liberal for the most part, perfectly capable of making a big decision like this, but as a Christian, I want to be sure that this is ok with God. I want to make sure I'm hearing Him if he would have me hold back, you know? I guess that's why I decided to wait one more year. I know you can't give God a timeline and expect him to act within it (ridiculous, I know), but during this year I'm trying to pay close attention to anything He might be trying to tell me. This is very final, after all. I'm just curious what your experience was with that aspect.

    Anyway, thanks for writing :-) I'll be reading!

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    1. Kelsey, thank you for your kind words. :)

      I think some people have trouble with permanence in general, which is why they might freak out about sterilization in particular. Of course, there is also the belief that every woman WILL want to bear a child someday, so people cannot fathom why a woman without children would close that door ("She's just going through a phase right now," "I used to feel that way but I changed my mind," etc.). I told only one friend before my surgery, and she knew me well enough to be supportive. I have mentioned it to a few people after the fact, but again, they all knew me well enough to not make a fuss. None of my family knows, not because it is necessarily a secret but more because I am a private person. I don't share my blood pressure readings, the dates of my menstrual cycle, or the number of times I have taken allergy meds in the last week either, haha.

      Childfreedom and sterilization have never caused me a crisis of faith. I think the reason is that I have never felt a spirit of rebellion over this issue: there has never been even a moment when I felt called to become pregnant, though I have always been extremely moved by the thought of adoption. To me, getting sterilized was as neutral but as well-thought-out as choosing a college major, selecting a college, deciding to marry, and accepting (and remaining at) a job. I realize that we can always change majors or jobs if things aren't working out, but not always without great difficulty, especially if one is steeped in a career (for example, for all intents and purpose, I have permanently shut the door on becoming an accountant). Still, very seldom does anyone question our decisions in these matters. No one ever took me aside and said, "Now, you have quite a talent for English/zoology/accounting/computing... are you SURE God isn't calling you into those fields instead?!"

      So, I think that when someone heads toward a decision -- any decision -- with ears and heart and mind open, God honors that. Our openness allows us to recognize any warning signs or course-corrections; if none are present, we can do nothing else but proceed with life.

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  3. It's nice to know that there are a few people out there who are Christian and child-free. My husband and I are newlyweds and have decided that we don't want or feel the need to become parents. I have only told a few friends and my parents, but I think that they believe that I'm just "going through a phase," and that will change my mind eventually. Even my own sister said that I was being "selfish" because I didn't want children. She apologized later, and I forgave her, but at that moment it really did hurt my feelings.

    I feel like the people who are in my inner circle judge me because I don't want to be a mom. I have explained that I am not against parenthood at all and I like children. I have babysat hundreds of times and one of my goals is to become an illustrator for children's books. I want to inspire kids to be creative through my art…but that doesn't mean that I want the life of a parent.
    And on another note, the very idea of the pains of pregnancy and the responsibly of parenthood TERRIFIES me. The very thought of becoming pregnant and then having my life completely dedicated to another tiny human being doesn't bring any warm-fuzzies at all. O-O'" I'm even thinking about permanent sterilization so that we won't have any "little surprises." But I'm still doing my research and taking my time to decided if this form of BC is right for me.

    But sometimes I worry that my husband and I are displeasing God because we don't want children. But I guess if He did wanted us to start a family it would be on our hearts. Did you and your husband feel the same way? I know that this is a long comment and thanks for reading. I just really needed to get this off my chest lol

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Gabrielle. Did you know Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was childfree? One of my favorite quotes of his: “You have ‘em, and I’ll entertain ‘em.”

      I can identify with much of what you said, so I'm glad you have discovered that there are like-minded people out there. Regarding your question... When I was in my late teens and realized that I could choose not to have children, it never once occurred to me that such a decision might displease God. It was years later (I think even after my sterilization) when I read something like that online that I realized some people believe it's wrong to not have children.

      Really, think about all of the choices we make in our lives to not do things: I chose not to be a missionary for example. Am I displeasing God because another career path was on my heart and better utilized my talents? I don't think so. Similarly, my choice not to have children never had any intent or feeling of just being contrary or rebellious. It was just the right fit for my heart and my talents, and it has opened up ways for me to minister to many others for whom I would have no time or energy if I were tending to my own children. Instead, I see this as a gift God gave me.

      Take care!

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    2. I didn't know that about Dr.Seuss. Growing up I had a Cat in the Hat costume! Shame on me! I love that quote “You have ‘em, and I’ll entertain ‘em.” That's how I feel about kids. In the past I have done dance after school programs and playing laser tag and having fun with kids is completely different than pregnancy and raising another life from scratch and a lifetime commitment even when they become adults.

      Again like Gabrielle and you, I would be so BLESSED to find a man in the faith who also doesn't want children. A RARE FIND!

      I forgot to add in my last post that I don't feel guilty for wanting to get sterilized too because there is no conception of life. If a woman were to conceive then have an abortion, that is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from never conceiving at all because she is sterile. So how about I never get pregnant since I'm against abortion?! My only challenge like Gabrielle is checking with God. I don't want to anger my Lord or get punished or something.

      There are some people out there who believe that marriage = babies and so you're required to have kids. But that's not in scripture. The Old Testament Israelite lifestyle was like that, explains how we got the 12 tribes and Abraham's legacy. In the New Testament Paul said it's better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9 )..He didn't say you must have a baby if you marry.

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  4. I found your post by searching "childfree Christian." My husband and I are happily married, Christian, and chose early on not to have children. There are a variety of reasons (mental health, etc.) why we made the decision, but ultimately it was because we knew we wouldn't be the best at parenting. We have many friends and family members who have children, and we have appreciated and loved them (mostly from a distance since we live in another state). We admire parents who can give love and not get stressed out. I don't think it is selfish or un-Christian at all to choose not to have children. God knows our hearts and it isn't a sin to be childfree. Not everyone is built for parenthood. We had the permanent solution done years ago (that is I did), and I had a very understanding doctor. I guess I was old enough that he felt he didn’t need to make sure I knew how permanent. Maybe it was because I researched the procedure and was almost as informed about it as he was from his practice. Nice to find others out there. Like you said “…but I have also found that many in the childfree community are quite hostile toward Christianity and a Christian world view.” That is what I have found as well. I am just now starting to find more Christian couples speaking up about their choice.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. It IS nice to find others out there! :)

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  5. I've been praying about this. I feel God told me years ago in my early 20's I wasn't going to have any children and right now my menstrual is irregular the past couple of months. I'm wrestling between trusting God to perhaps see that He made me infertile somehow based on His revelation in the past or getting permanent, non-reversal tubes tied anyway. I would love to be sterile so that when I do meet men they have to accept and love me as I am and not try to change me or they change their mind on me after we're married. It's hard enough to be single and abstinent until marriage (to obey scriptures against fornication) and to add not wanting children once I'm married makes me an odd ball even more in society.

    At least you were married and already met someone who also didn't want kids. I'm single and "dating" (and courting) is SO BAD today that people constantly throw "Be fruitful and multiply" to guilt trip me once they know I love Jesus. They do this like giving birth makes you a believer, but we are born again by the Holy Spirit, it has nothing to do with our sexual physical reproduction.

    Do you have gmail? I would love to talk to you. I could really use someone to talk to.

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  6. LeeLee, thank you for your comments. Indeed I feel fortunate to have met a childfree mate, and I would hate to ever be back in the dating world, so I feel for you. If anything ever happened to my husband and I found myself back in the dating pool, though, I am at least at an age now where no one would expect me to have children.

    I do have a gmail account with the user address lovechildfree, but I must warn you that I have never been great at quick e-mail responses (my poor mother has been waiting days for a reply to the last message she sent me, haha :) ).

    Though it is not a good place for discussing matters of faith, I would also encourage you to meet people in the Childfree Life forums, http://thechildfreelife.com/forum/. These forums are quite active and are a great place to vent, bounce ideas off others, or receive support. I found them very helpful for a few years when I really needed more childfree people to talk to. Take care!

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