You know that feeling when something bothers you, and you can’t put your finger on why exactly this specific thing is so intolerable? At first glance, it’s something you shouldn’t be upset by. In fact, you feel like this is something that should be part of your life, that you should enjoy & embrace.
And yet….. The sight, sound or thought of this specific thing or idea makes you cringe. No matter how hard you try to just tolerate it.
It’s a common feeling! Most people feel this way about something or other, be it weddings, shopping for new clothes, or even petting a dog.
For me, it’s always been babies. Try as I might to embrace the idea of motherhood, the thought has always filled me with apprehension. The same sort of dread I feel when I consider the fact that, one day, I’ll probably have a root canal or get into a car accident. Something inevitable, but that I still couldn’t wheedle myself into wanting it at all.
It wasn’t until I was 21 that I realized that the only person making my decision to become a mother was me. And that my decision was a firm no. With that epiphany, the clouds parted, I could see a wide open future where all my dreams were reality, and I was finally free!
Until I remembered that I was still fertile.
“Easy enough to fix” I thought, “I’m a modern woman with the right to control my reproductive system!”
As it turns out, my reproductive rights aren’t as black & white as I thought.
We live in a wonderful society here in Canada. Women can visit their doctor for free, birth control is typically easily accessible in many forms, and abortions aren’t as difficult to obtain as they are in many other countries. But even with this open minded culture surrounding women’s health, there is one big weakness.
A woman who chooses not to become a mother, and wants to make that decision permanent, is faced with many obstacles. Age is the biggest hurdle.
When I began my journey to permanent sterilization, it became immediately apparent that my age was going to slow down the process. I spoke to many doctors about my birth control options. Repeatedly, they insisted that I was too young to make that decision, that I would eventually reconsider having children. They felt that the weight gain, acne & suicidal thoughts I experienced as side effects from the birth control pill were merely an inconvenience to be tolerated until I changed my mind.
They are professional doctors after all, so I trusted their opinion. For years I struggled with constant thoughts of killing myself, wishing I was happy, wishing I could learn to like kids, wishing I could just be someone else, and asking the doctor at every annual check-up if there could please be some sort of alternative. Some doctors suggested an IUD but each found that it wasn’t a good fit for my specific uterus. And so back on the pill I went, every time.
I finally had enough of the misery and decided to go au naturel. Everything improved, I lost weight, my skin cleared up, and I was finally feeling like myself again. And I had the energy & drive to fight for my reproductive rights.
It took 10 years of asking, switching doctors, and a full on shouting match with one stubborn gynecologist, but at age 31 I had my wish granted! My tubes were tied, the baby factory closed down permanently. A wave of relief washes over me every time I see the tiny scar from the surgery.
More importantly, I added one more to the number of women who have won the right to truly control their fertility. Every woman who succeeds in breaking down that wall helps every woman who comes next. My one small win is another step towards acceptance for all women who choose to opt out of motherhood, and their right to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies when the alternative methods are not working to make their life better.
I’ve had no side effects physically from my operation. I was very surprised at how little pain I had after the surgery, and my two tiny scars are fading away to a memory.
The unexpected side effect I’ve experienced is awareness of the limitations women experience all over the world when they want to take charge of their bodies. To be female & childfree by choice is still seen as an oddity. People want to change our minds, they want us to want their lives & their experiences. It’s very hard for some to see that their choices may make them so happy that they can’t even express it, but it would make others equally unhappy. Unfortunately, this mindset is found in even the most intellectual people, and worse, in many people with power.
Every day we see the abortion debate rage on all over the world, news coverage about access to affordable birth control being threatened in many ways, and an ever increasing number of children left without homes & families going into the foster care system. And every day I wonder how many abortions could be prevented if women had easy access to sterilization, how much less overloaded foster families would be if there were fewer unwanted pregnancies?
Over the decade I spent fighting to get my tubal ligation, I found that I was in a bigger fight than I had known existed. There are so many women who are still battling against the idea that all little girls grow up to be mommies, who are trying to open the world’s eyes to the image of a woman who can just be a woman, on her own, as a complete being.