At 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday, I have a big decision to make. The sun shines brightly, and it's one of those rare days for this Colorado summer when there are no storms forecast anywhere in the state.
It is, however, 6 in the morning, leaving me heavily debating whether it's worth it to go and do that 12-mile hike that's nagged me all summer or give in to my sleep-deprived and whiny inner child who beckons me to roll over and go back to sleep until a more reasonable hour that starts with double digits.
On the mornings when I do succumb to my inner five-year-old, I typically don't feel too guilty. The weather could turn on a dime, and I could just as easily squeeze that hike in with snowshoes on a sunny day in the winter. Even if that doesn't happen this winter, my opportunity will present itself next summer. Or the summer after that. Or ten summers after that.
I will only ever have to worry about cajoling my inner child into getting out of bed at a certain hour, after all. I am childfree. And to ensure that I stayed that way, I finally convinced a doctor to implant into my fallopian tubes, permanently preventing them from releasing eggs.
I was 28 when I finally found a doctor willing to permanently sterilize someone my age; 30 is the typical minimum cutoff, but some gynecologists balk even if the patient is 35 or older.
For me, however, 28 was a good seven years later than I wanted to have the procedure done. I have known since I was child myself that I didn't care for the younger set, but since all the adults I knew had children (all the adults I knew being my parents and my friends' parents), I figured it was one of those life stages, like growing a foot overnight, sprouting breasts and hips, or gushing blood once a month, that simply happened to people of a certain age.
High school health class, which included a run-down of abstinence-heavy (though, thankfully, not only) sex education, convinced me that said life stage was something I should avoid at all costs. Some of my female classmates gasped in awe and sighed wistfully upon being shown diagrams of fetal growth in a woman's womb. I was horrified at how little territory remained for the mother to call her own.
The final straw arrived in the form of three teenaged mothers, girls our age, visiting from the local opportunity school who talked about how difficult their lives were with children, a fact that my distinctly non-teenaged mother always informed me was the case no matter what age the mother was.
The teens then passed around pictures of their babies with the admonition, "Now, don't go thinking our babies are so cute that you want one of your own!" My female classmates cooed and squealed nonetheless.
I looked at the pictures as they passed with a grimace, then looked wonderingly at the dazed mothers out of the corner of my eye. If I didn't find these bizarre, not-quite-human-looking creatures adorable, how would I ever be able to love one through the endless shrieking, shitting, vomiting, and sleep deprivation?
My only long-term relationship that began in college changed nothing of my viewpoint. Even though the madness that consumed me must have been what all the great writers and poets of old called love, even though I desperately wanted to spend the rest of my life with the man, even though the man himself had a good deal of patience and the homebodying qualities that would have made him a great father, I could not imagine having children with him. So much for the smug parental trope, "You'll want kids when you meet the right partner."
That relationship ended. Other women my age devote large chunks of their free time caring for, preparing for, or screening prospective co-parents of their children. I freely admit that all this time that could be going to a good cause, such as writing my scores of novel and screenplay ideas, rarely goes to anything but watching trashy television (though thanks to one particular episode of "My Strange Addiction," I learned that, "Eating mattresses can lead to liver blockages, intestinal damage and even death." Given that I had never the considered the possible consequences of mattress ingestion before, I actually learned something from The Learning Channel!) and scouring the Denver Metro area for that perfect bowl of spicy miso ramen.
However, I have not entirely ruled out the possibility that I might meet a man (my preferred gender, so far) who charms me with his wit, feminism, ability to cook a meal, lack of need for physical contact, and appreciation for each party in a couple maintaining their own private residence. And should those stars magically align, the Essure will ensure that he has to take me at face value when I tell him, "I'm never having kids." There will be no prospect of minds changing down the road. My would-be suitor will either have to accept a childfree future or cut ties before falling too deeply.
Of course, the squawking of the majority dictates that it is distinctly possible that I may one day change my mind and decide I don't want to be childfree anymore. Why in heaven's name would I want to literally block myself off from such a life-changing decision? To them, it seems as though I cut off my access to the one major highway running through town.
I prefer to analogize my decision to trees rather than roads. In my mind, getting the Essure was less a limiting of opportunities than an opening of possibilities. Each possibility seems to me akin to a branch on a tree full of promising fruit at the end. The baby branch, however, is diseased and needy on my tree. It sucks the life out of the rest of the tree.
Sure, a few other branches may flourish in spite of the all-consuming force thrust into their midst, but if the trunk and roots are crumbling from the weight of sustaining just the one branch alone, the tree itself is going to wither.
I chose to prune the wasting branch before it had a chance to grow unwieldy. The other branches -- the ones stretching to mountains I want to climb, books and screenplays I want to write, countries I want to visit, food I want to try, even the crap TV I want to watch, the friends and/or boyfriends I want to do these activities with me -- will more than make up for the one I can no longer reach.
The Essure is an insurance policy for all those other branches. If I should falter and think, "All my friends are having kids. Maybe I should give it a whirl to see if the sheen of madness in their eyes is one of love or plain insanity," or even, "I really like this man, but I cannot get him to imagine a future without kids," reversing my current reproductive status would require tens of thousands of dollars, all of which would be out of pocket. I could not ever foresee a child being worth that down payment (before the hundreds of thousands needed for its care after its birth) to me.
By that logic, there will be a major component to most people's lives that I will never understand intimately. But I'd prefer to get more intimately acquainted with the mountains or even my own sleep-loving inner child anyway.