This Is How I Got My Tubes Tied at Age 26
This is not a how-to guide. What worked for me may not work for you. I am not a medical professional. I am a white woman, able-passing, from an upper middle-class background. I came at this from a place of incredible privilege, and I want to acknowledge that before I begin.
This is how I got my tubes tied at age 26.
To start, I suppose I should give a bit of history on myself. After all, the process of getting voluntarily sterilized is a long one. It was a 10-year process for me. It started when I was 16 years old. I was taking a World Issues course in high school, and as well as instilling a certain sense of nihilism on my soul, I learned one very important factor in my life: the world is (according to what I was taught) overpopulated. For this story, it doesn’t matter the various factors involved past that. What mattered to me is two things: I was taught that the planet cannot support humanity’s continued growth, and people will never stop procreating.
That was when I decided I never wanted to have my own children. After all, there are plenty of children in the world, in Canada, even probably in my community that need love — why would I make one of my own?
There are plenty of other factors that support my decision — I live with (and suffered greatly as a teenager) from depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality traits and various flavors of anxiety. I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). All of these disorders have genetic factors as far as I’m aware, and I refuse to pass on whatever combination of predispositions I might in a child. Furthermore, although not nearly as dire, my father is very bald (from what I understand any sons I may have will very likely also go bald), my entire family has poor eyesight, and I, like many people in my family, struggle with body weight issues. I don’t want to pass that onto a child either.
I also believe I would not be a particularly good mother. I am impatient, distracted, selfish and have a poor temper. I take hurt from unconscious slights, and I over-analyze everything. I am not particularly good with children (although I was very good with children prior to my decision never to procreate), and I do not believe I have the temperament to financially prioritize or support any child I may have — I like to travel, have comforts and… stuff. I like to impulsively buy things on the internet.
The last reason is that I was in close proximity (socially) with some (to my mind) very badly behaved children many years my junior. I was (and sometimes still am) horrified at their behavior and their parents’ general disinterest. What if I ended up with badly behaved children? What if my parenting resulted in kids that nobody wanted to be near? They weren’t the first or the last nails in the coffin of my ever becoming pregnant, but they were significant ones.
So, with the weight of my reasoning behind me, I went on with my life. I wasn’t sexually active at 16, and wasn’t likely to be any time soon. Eentually that changed, but I was already on oral birth control by that time for my PCOS. I began taking oral birth control sometime around age 16, I believe, but don’t recall exactly. At age 22, I switched from oral birth control for the an IUD, as I had begun smoking intermittently. I was concerned about the risk of blood clots, and my general absentmindedness with taking my pill every day at the same time.
By that time, I had been made aware of how difficult it was for women to get sterilized. I suppose I was always somewhat aware of it, but people were posting to Facebook in frustrated outrage about how it was nearly impossible to get done unless you already had multiple children. It was about that time I also met my partner. He agreed with my reasons for not having children, and was ambivalent as to the idea at best, so we had no problems in that arena. He even tried to have a vasectomy before I decided to try and have my tubes tied, but his general practitioner would not agree to it — my partner had not been vocal about not having children for very long at all, and he was also in his mid-twenties. I am fairly certain that were he with someone as strong in their convictions to have children as I am not to, he would also be just as happy to be a father. He wasn’t a good candidate for a vasectomy.
In the next four years, two important things happened in my journey to have my fallopian tubes severed: I began to see a psychiatrist on a regular basis, and I switched doctors. My new doctor was willing to help me find a surgeon to perform this procedure. I was open about my wish not to have children with both doctors from the start, and I believe that my honesty and willingness to tell anyone who would listen that I didn’t want my own kids were also helpful.
It took my general practitioner months to find a surgeon willing to even speak with me. I don’t remember how long exactly, but when I first broached the subject with her, she was open to it, and willing to try. I know it took longer than six months to find a surgeon, but eventually, I was notified by my medical center that I had a surgeon willing to speak with me.
I cannot stress enough that I don’t know how many surgeons my doctor reached out to, nor do I know how much work she put into it, but I believe she did a lot. I cannot express how much I appreciate all that she did to find me a surgeon even willing to entertain the idea of a young woman with no children having her tubes tied. Nevertheless, she made it happen.
I called the surgeon’s office and confirmed my appointment. They asked my age, and I gave it, and the receptionist cautioned me that the surgeon may not be willing to perform the procedure on someone as young as I was. I told her I understood, and confirmed the appointment anyhow.
Now this is where I got serious about having the procedure done. I had a number of months between getting my appointment scheduled, and having the actual appointment, and I made full use of them. I was going with every bit of backup as I could gather. In total, I brought testimonial noted from my psychiatrist, my mother, my partner and one of my best friends since high school, all saying the same things: first, that I do not want to have children, and that I have not wanted children since I was 16 (or as long as they had known me). Secondly, the notes all said that as far as they knew, if I ever did change my mind and wanted to raise a family, I wanted to adopt children instead of making my own. I believe this second statement was just as important in the surgeon’s decision to perform a tubal ligation surgery on me, as the first was. After all, what’s the first thing anyone hears after saying they don’t want kids? Oh, you’ll change your mind.
Not me. Not on this. And if I do ever change my mind, I won’t change it on where the children will come from: not me.
The note from my psychiatrist outlined my various mental health diagnoses, and that I had been vocal and determined about my decision not to have children, and an openness to adoption in the future. The psychiatrist also outlined my length under psychiatric care.
In the note from my friend, she outlined that for the past ten years, I had been vocal and adamant about never wanting to be a mother, and certainly never wanting to procreate even if I changed my mind about the mother thing.
In the note from my partner, he outlined the same determination never to have children, the length of our relationship, and also explained that he did not want children either. He also described an openness to adoption should we change our minds.
In the note from my mother, she outlined my family health history, the troubles she had with pregnancies and deliveries of both myself and my brother, as well as my same obstinate decision never to have children, and certainly never to have my own children. She outlined how long I had been vocal about not wanting children, and some of my medical history she had been privy to that I forgot.
So with my fistful of letters, I went to the appointment at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto. I was nervous, of course, but determined.
The surgeon I spoke with was more or less my worst nightmare: an old white man. Would he listen? Would he believe me? Much to my relief, not only was I wrong in my snap judgment, but after discussing my reasoning behind not wanting children, and giving him the testimonial letters (and a brief exam), the surgeon only had one more question for me: “Would next Thursday work?”
I’d managed it. On my first real try, I got a surgeon to agree to a tubal ligation at age 26 to a young, healthy-seeming white woman.
I’m not entirely proud of how I managed it. Getting what felt like permission slips from my mother and partner still frustrates me, but I wasn’t willing to risk forgoing their written support and being denied something so important to me. This was my first try, but how many tries had my general practitioner made to even find a doctor who would speak with me?
As I said at the beginning — I come at this from a place of privilege. If I was a woman of color, would I have been listened to? What if I didn’t have a psychiatrist backing me up? What if I was in a place where universal health care wasn’t the norm? What if I didn’t have such a loving, supportive network of people behind me? What if I had been single?
I can’t answer these questions, nor can I guarantee that if you try to get your tubes tied, you won’t be denied. I just wanted to let people know that it is possible, and how I managed it.