I never wanted to be a mother. You know how people always say “you will change your mind,” and you think they're jerks because they should just accept your truth and let you be. People can’t just let you be with your choice, though. If you don’t want kids, they want to convince you that you should, and if you do want kids they try to convince you that you shouldn’t. There's no happy place where people just create their own lives and stay out of yours.
The first time I found out I was pregnant, I miscarried days later. I hadn’t had time to decide how I felt about the pregnancy I had never wanted to experience, but I wasn’t enjoying miscarrying all alone at 17.
A couple years later, after constant infections and illnesses, I was told by Planned Parenthood that I was probably sterile and that if I wanted babies, I’d better start trying because the chances were slim and would get slimmer with time. The doctor was very clinical about it all. I said “I never wanted kids anyway,” and he just looked me up and down, seemed somehow relieved, then left the room. The nurse said it was better that way, that some people shouldn’t be having kids anyway. I didn’t know what that meant, but I was sure it was a dig at my poverty, my accent, the “Native American” and “bisexual” boxes checked on my forms, my brown-skinned lover that they had insisted come in for treatment as well when they couldn’t figure out why my infections were resistant to antibiotics.
I went home to my fiancé, who loved kids but, like me, had never thought he should have his own. I told him the news, that this might be our only chance to have children, and we immediately started trying. It’s funny how being told you can’t do something makes you want it more than anything else in the world.
We ended up living on the streets in Chicago, and I almost died from starvation and exposure. I also discovered I was pregnant with twins, and then I started to miscarry. Shortly after, we returned to our home-city and tried to put our lives back together. Unfortunately, returning meant that my partner went to jail, and that I was left alone in a very cold winter, sick again. It took a couple of months and teasing from my employer for me to realize I was pregnant again. I was elated, excited and hopeful.
During that pregnancy, I went to a clinic and stayed in contact with my incarcerated partner. I moved back in with my mother because the pregnancy was high-risk given my history. I decided it would be best for me to take advantage of the Medicaid option to have my tubes tied after my son was born. I felt one child was better than none, and that it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest for me to continue having miscarriages while caring for my son.
I was stunned, however, by how many people -- family and friends of my parents -- felt compelled to advise me against the tubal ligation. To me, it was an intensely personal decision that I had made in conjunction with my partner and under the agreement of my doctor as a necessary health precaution. I heard so many variations on “someday you will meet a wonderful man who wants to marry you and have children and you won’t be able to give him any” that I told my mom I would punch the next person who said it and claim hormones as my excuse. I could not then, nor can I now, 18 years later, understand how they could overlook the fact that I had a partner and wasn’t looking for someone else; I think that and the heterosexism was what angered me the most at the time. But I also hated the way they made it sound as if my only value to a relationship was the ability to bear children.
I had the surgery the day after my son’s birth, with no regrets or second thoughts.
My son’s father was looking at an extensive sentence, and I was getting used to single parenthood. When my son was four, I fell in love with a man, and we moved in together when my son was five. He was 16 years older than me and had three kids with his ex-wife. He was not looking for more children, so knowing I couldn’t have any more was fine with him.
Until I got pregnant.
The first three times I found myself pregnant with this partner, he was ecstatic. He made me tea, sent me to rest frequently, talked to my belly, and bragged to everyone that he was going to be a father again. When I eventually miscarried each of them, he took care of me as well and seemed as hurt by the loss as I was. It was little things like picking up a bag of laundry or tripping on the staircase that started the miscarriages.
Then my body started acting pregnant when it wasn’t. This was something it had done several times before I had my son, when my previous partner and I were desperately trying to conceive, so it was familiar to me. I would gain weight, have morning sickness, and get numerous other typical pregnancy signs. At one point after the three miscarriages, I went to see my doctor and told her that the home test was negative but that I had all these symptoms again. She did an exam and said that internally I certainly showed the signs as well, but a blood test proved negative.
Something in my relationship shifted dramatically after that appointment. During this time, my cycles were also extra-difficult and painful.
When I discovered I was pregnant yet again, my partner was not happy. He was actually angry, in fact, and stayed away from home as much as possible. One evening, I walked around the block to find him at his kids’ house. Climbing the steps, I felt that familiar tug and was embarrassed when his daughter answered the door to find me nearly falling over. This pretty much signaled the end for us, it seemed, as he expressed no sympathy. I began making plans to move out without telling him.
However, we reconciled and moved twice. He had become a grandfather twice over and was definitely certain he did not want to be a father again. I had not gotten pregnant in a couple of years, and my cycles were long and painful. We thought we had worked through our problems and drawn closer together, but he asked for a divorce just prior to taking a month-long trip home to his country. I suggested that he should make the trip and think about things, then decide if he really wanted a divorce when he returned.
Shortly after he left, I discovered I was pregnant again. I couldn’t believe it and did not want it to make a difference to his decision, so I didn't tell him. I had to admit to myself that I had fallen in love with someone else, someone who respected my marriage and would not make an inappropriate move, and I thought this new pregnancy might be a sign that I was supposed to yet again work things out with my husband. He called frequently to check in, and it was clear that the absence was making him rethink the divorce.
Then his one month trip turned turned into a two month trip. When he returned, he didn’t come straight home, and I didn’t know where he was. He showed up a week later acting like he had just gotten into town and apparently unaware that his friend had already called me looking for him and let it slip that he had been back. It had given me enough time to figure out that things weren’t going to work out and to start to panic about how to keep the pregnancy hidden so he wouldn’t decide to stay for the wrong reasons.
When I started to miscarry in the middle of the night and he was called by my boss to take me to the emergency room the next day when I could hardly stand up straight at work, it should have led to questions. Instead, he acted bored and decided to leave me alone in the ER. At least I never had to explain the pregnancy to him, and I was prepared to encourage him to go through with the divorce.
A year later, I sat in the exam room with my OB/Gyn and finally succeeded in making my case for a hysterectomy. And finally, I felt like I had taken my life back. Like the tubal ligation, I have never regretted the hysterectomy, and I have a quality of life like I never had before.