When an anonymous writer shared her story a couple of months ago about being sterilized at 27, I was surprised. Not because I think it’s weird or anything but because I also voluntarily had my tubes tied at 27 and I didn’t know there was an under-30 sterile chicks club that needed to be formed.
I wasn’t going to write about this for xoJane. I’ve written about it and been interviewed for radio and print about it. It’s out there and easy to find. I’m flattered that people want to talk to me about my non-procreating ways, but I’m also just one more woman who found a way to do what’s right for her body and her relationship.
But the recent public debates about birth control have upset me. I had my tubes tied because I never want to have children, and because I don’t want to fight for access to my birth control method of choice for the rest of my pre-menopausal life (which should be at least 20 years if the gods are smiling on me).
To be clear, I never ever ever wanted to be a parent. I have never been worried about changing my mind, and since having surgery, I’ve felt happier and freer than ever. Obviously, that’s why I did it. But the link between not having kids and contraceptives is also obvious, and I think it’s striking that in this day and age, I felt like my best option was a tubal ligation rather than bothering with a lifetime of birth control.
Like perhaps too many of my peers, I took hormonal contraceptives since adolescence -- in my case, since the tender age of 15. I had heavy periods early on, and the rather frightening gynecologist I visited to ask about relieving my symptoms gave me the most horrifically painful exam of my virginal life (seriously, some kind of sick abstinence scare tactic? Fuck you, Dr. Blake) before handing me a scrip for birth control pills.
I don’t know what my diagnosis was. I just know I started on a nearly 15-year cycle of pills because I was too young to advocate for myself or question if there were better alternatives for a migraine-prone girl like myself.
By the time I did become sexually active, I wasn’t about to experiment with other forms of contraceptives. My method of choice had been handed down, and I took my pills every day as if forgetting would cause spontaneous combustion or certain death. Why fool around with a good thing?
I have been extraordinarily fortunate that I’ve always had access to birth control when I wanted and needed it. For most of my life, it was even covered by insurance. When it wasn’t, I was still able to afford and obtain my pills. And like every other woman who has very specific ideas about if or when she will become intentionally pregnant, I spent way too much time thinking about whether or not I would always live in a city with a supportive doctor, clinic and/or pharmacist.
Since you can read the details elsewhere, I’ll spare you rest of the specifics here. Suffice to say, when I had my surgery, I was living overseas in a country with government-run healthcare. Because I’d always been unequivocally committed to being child-free and my surgery was free in Europe, I saw an opportunity and took it. I had a badass gyno who signed off on my desire, and again, I’ve been happier and healthier since. (Seriously, ask me about how I don’t have migraines anymore. Yee-haw!)
I know there were lots of people who thought I was a terrible, stupid woman for making the choice I did. I was able to ignore that (mostly) because of the 25 (TWENTY FIVE!) pages of personal emails and notes that poured in from encouraging, supportive, thoughtful and wise strangers throughout my own little child-free media blitz last year.
In hindsight, it seems obvious that I’d get such positive responses. A lot of people -- mainly women -- wrote with the same sentiments. They thanked me, agreed with and/or supported my choice and vented about social pressure to procreate. Some shared personal medical struggles or agonized about birth control the same ways that I always had. Most just wanted to create that elusive club for women who love their sterile existence.
I had my tubes tied in my earlier 30s. I'm now 60. I have never regretted it, not for one second. One of the best things I ever did for myself. - Julie
Many parents also sent supportive love, if only because they know that parenting is tough and should be left to those who want it most. Some told me heartbreaking stories that still haunt me.
As a 34-year-old mother of two I want to let you know you made a very good choice. Although I love my children, I realize now I was not made to be a parent. As I try to advise people to be very committed to this choice and think seriously about it, the response is always a look of horror. I got married and had kids because that is all I knew. I had no idea that I could even think otherwise. - Sarah
Those letters were and are why I write and talk about not having children. And more and more, I now feel particularly compelled to talk about all of our options and lack thereof as so many are eroded. A lot of people are scared, and if I wasn’t walking around with my intentionally barren uterus, I’d be frightened, too.
Here are some of our own recent xoJane thoughts on the issue. I could add a whole bunch more links here to lefty blogs and mainstream news sources. But I don’t really need to offer that context because many people reading this think about birth control on a regular basis. We’re deep in the debate because it impacts our daily lives.
It’s not that I think we’ll all truly lose access to birth control, though the slashed funding and clinic closings in some states seem ominous. I mostly just worry about living in a climate of fear, where it isn’t acceptable to do what’s best for your own body, your own life. I'm safe and secure in my decision. Everyone else deserves to be, too.