childfree

Childfree at 30; female sterilisation. 

Eighteen days ago, 30 year old childless me walked into the Day Surgery Unit at my local hospital, with my hand in my partner’s and my Mum on my other side. I was about to be admitted into hospital for an elective Laparoscopic Tubal Ligation – or to the layperson – to have female sterilisation.

I entered the unit with my long term partner (I would say boyfriend, but he’s more than a boyfriend but not quite a husband) and my Mum. Both of whom I couldn’t have done this without. My support network was exactly what I needed. I was so nervous and excited at the same time but having my loving partner holding my hand and my amazing (Nurse) Mum beside me made the whole procedure much easier to take.

The all important support network

If you’re considering having a Tubal Ligation, having a support network around you is extremely important. Making the decision to end your mothering capabilities forever is a huge decision and having family and friends around you, supporting you, makes all the difference.

The Surgery

At 11:15 I was admitted to the day surgery ward. There was quite a long wait but there were some lovely chatty ladies already in the beds around me, which made my stay a little bit more enjoyable.

I was told to take a urine sample with me on the day of surgery (I believe this was to confirm I wasn’t pregnant) so this was given to the nurse and I was told to wait for the Anaesthetist. As I have a rare illness (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) I made sure my Nurse Mum explained to my Anaesthetist that my illness causes me to be resistant to anaesthetic, so we made sure both the Anaesthetist and my surgeon both knew before I was put under general anaesthetic.

My Gynae consultant who was performing the surgery came to see me and to tell me about the procedure. He said it should only take him half an hour as it is a straightforward procedure and he’s done many many of them (admittedly, not to too many women my age) and he did ask me if I was one hundred percent sure I wanted to go through with it. He did say that he didn’t like performing this surgery on one so young. (I’ll get to that in a minute!)

Anyway, so the chat with the surgeon went well and I put my not-so-sexy compression socks on and my backless hospital gown and it hit me – I’m going to be put to sleep for the first time in my life and it started to feel real. I was really nervous.

My time came and I was wheeled off down to the Anaesthetic room to be put under. The porter commented on my long unpainted talons and that took my mind of the coming surgery, just for a moment.

The nurse started attaching the heart monitors to my chest and an IV line was put into the back of my left hand. The nurse was lovely and started asking me about my eyebrows (she was surprised to hear that they are naturally arched and I don’t shape them like that myself!) and again, this put me at ease. A mask of oxygen was put over my face as they put the general anaesthetic into my IV… and I was gone.

The next thing I know, I’m awake and I can hear lots of voices but I can’t see straight. I saw a man in glasses peering down at me and I had an oxygen mask over my face. I fell in and out of consciousness for around half an hour (or so I’m told)…

Paul, the man who was looking after me in the recovery room immediately after my surgery, was lovely. He chatted to me about my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (I felt a bit like a celebrity, as I seemed to be the talk of the town because it’s unusual to have a patient in surgery with a resistance to anaesthetic) and he gave me a very sugary cup of tea and not one, but TWO packets of biscuits – My mouth was incredibly dry from having a tube down my throat so I only managed a biscuit and a half so he gave me the other pack to take back to the ward with me.

I was in recovery for around 45 minutes. This is apparently unusual but because I’d had to have more anaesthetic and more painkillers (I’m on a morphine derivative permanently at home) so it took me longer to be brought back to the ward.

Oh Holy Oramorph!!

I must admit, I was surprised by how okay I felt having been wheeled back to the ward… and then the morphine wore off…

Holy mother of all things merciful I have never felt pain like it. The pain came from not only having my organs pushed and pulled around, but from the gas they pump inside your stomach so they can see what they’re doing in there. It’s this gas that made my stomach so painful. So, they gave me two lots of Tramadol and when that didn’t work, they offered me Oramorph. I drank it and within 10 minutes I was right as rain again.

Around 20 minutes after the morphine, I was wanting to get up and move around, so I went to the toilet for my first wee. It’s important that you wee after surgery, or they won’t let you go home. I was relieved that I’d peed and eaten so I was soon to be discharged.

I got myself dressed (they encourage you to do as much for yourself as possible) and the nurses all looked at me incredulously, like I’d made a miraculous recovery – I was writhing around in agony just 30 minutes before!

img_9163

Shortly after receiving 2 doses of Tramadol and 1 dose of Oramorph!

My Saviours are here!

I text my Mum and within 10 minutes I was walked down the corridor by a nurse and there I saw my Partner and Mum standing there, peering behind the door looking relieved to see me. I’ll never forget their faces in that moment.
We walked slowly and gently to the car (me wearing my pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers) and home to rest I went.

Post Surgery

I cautiously moved around my house for a few days after the surgery, careful not to lift anything heavy or reach upwards. I had a couple of dissolvable stitches inside my belly button and another stitched wound near my left ovary, just below my knicker-line.

Within a week, I started to feel much more like myself and I took a tentative trip outside with my Mum just to the shops for a little walk around. I’m now 18 days post-op and my belly button looks exactly as it did before the surgery. The wound on my left hip is healing more slowly, but it’s getting there.

sterilisation-image

I received a pre-assessment information pack that I read cover to cover. It featured all the information about the surgery, the anaesthetic and the recovery.

 

Thoughts

Q: How do you feel now that you are permanently unable to bear children?

A: Exactly as I did before the surgery. I didn’t wake up and think ‘Oh God, what have I done?’ I felt no different whatsoever.

Q: What if you start to regret it?

A: I’m a firm believer in instinct. If my gut tells me something is right or wrong, I tend to listen. At the age of 30, if I wanted children, I would have had them by now. I do not see myself ever wanting children and that is why I made this permanent decision to be sterilised. If in ten years’ time I find my mind wondering about children, I’ll remind myself of all the reasons why I chose to be sterilised in the first place.

Q: …And what are those reasons?

A: One, lack of maternal instinct. I’m not going to wake up one day and feel broody. I have never felt broody.
Two, I don’t like children. There, I said it. They’re loud, they’re messy, they’re expensive, they’re needy, they’re tiring, they’re stressful.
Three, I am an introvert. I am sensitive to the energy of other people and my people-battery gets flat after a short while. Being around a baby or child runs that battery down twice as fast and I would definitely resent it. I need quiet, I need to be alone, in order to re-charge my batteries.
and finally, number four, the “big kahuna” – I am invisibly disabled. My health has been poor since my early twenties and I have several chronic illnesses; two of which, run in my family. I do not believe it is morally right to bring a child into the world if there is a known possibility of them inheriting a health condition.

Q: But what if you didn’t have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, do you think you would feel differently?

A: No. I do not believe I would. I listed my EDS as the last reason and there’s a reason for that – I am a woman, first and foremost. I am a woman who has never felt the urge to procreate. If everything in my life was perfect, if I had all the money in the world, If I had a large house, a garden, Nannies, and I wasn’t disabled, I still would choose not to have children. My own lack of maternal instinct is reason enough. I shouldn’t have to justify not wanting children and it shouldn’t rest on whether or not I was physically fit enough to bear a child. I don’t want children, period.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for other women out there who are contemplating Tubal Ligation?

A: Yes, think, think and think again. It is such a personal decision, no one can make it for you. You have to be absolutely sure that you never ever want a baby, because Tubal Ligation is non-reversible. It is a permanent solution.

Q: Okay, so I’ve decided I want to go through with it, where do I start and do you have any advice?

A: Yes; Stand. Your. Ground. Your first port of call (this is advice for ladies in England, I do not know the procedure for private health care or that of US health care) will be with your General Practitioner – they are the ones who refer you to the NHS for the procedure.

Even in 2017, Doctors are reluctant to refer women for sterilisation who are “young” and “childless” (and even in some cases, after having children they still are reluctant!)
You will need to assert yourself at every point, and make your argument clear. When approaching a Doctor, have your facts. Research the procedure, the success and failure rates, research other women’s successful cases and have every answer to their questions thoroughly thought out. I was asked about why I didn’t want to continue with the Mirena Coil and my own feeling is that my body does not react well to added hormones, so I wanted a permanent solution that didn’t involve hormones.
Unfortunately, you will come up against doctors who will refuse outright, either due to their own personal opinions or because they think they know best. My advice is to stand your ground and don’t take no for an answer. If you have no luck with your own GP, book an appointment with another GP at your surgery and ask them to refer you.
I was turned down by my own GP but when I saw another, after somewhat of a fight, I was referred on and then got to be assessed by the Gynae team (they are the ones who make the final decision).

Q: Do you have any other advice?

A: All I can say is, do what is right for you. I knew deep down I didn’t want children at a very young age. I did wait until I was 30 to broach the subject of sterilisation and I did try every available form of contraception before making the huge decision to be sterilised.
I won’t sit here and say it’ll be easy, or that you won’t regret it – the decision is 100% yours and you have to be prepared for the possibility of regret. If you can accept that, then good luck to you on your journey to being childfree.

16998910_596060570593498_6271573720889782055_n

“Motherhood is not for every woman, and that’s okay.” – Beth Von Black

Advertisements

Sterilised at 30 – part 3

On 28th October I sat in the waiting room of the Gynaecology department at my local hospital (alongside lots of pregnancy bellies) and I couldn’t sit still. I was incredibly nervous.I could feel my pulse pounding all over my body. My boyfriend of just over two years was sat next to me, holding my hand in one hand, and a book in another.

It didn’t take long for me to be called in for the initial weighing, height taking and blood pressure. All was normal (which is surprising, considering I normally have low blood pressure, but I put that down to the fact that I was feeling rather stressed in this instance!)

Then, I was ushered into another room. The lady asked me all sorts of personal questions about my menstrual cycle, my sex life and she asked me about the different contraception I’ve tried over the years.

I was quite surprised by the fact that she seemed shocked that my boyfriend of two years wasn’t keen on having a vasectomy – Apparently, when asking for a female sterilisation, the first thing they do is ask if your partner would be willing to undergo sterilisation instead (it’s less invasive than female sterilisation). The fact that he’s younger than me (only by 2 years, but still) and that we’re not yet married meant that I wasn’t willing to try and persuade my other half to make the life altering decision to undergo male sterilisation. After all, my quest to remain childfree has been MY quest since I was a young teenager. It’s not his responsibility or burden.

We moved on to discussing other reasons for sterilisation. As you are probably aware, I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, which is a debilitating, degenerative and genetic connective tissue disorder. There have been reports (from specialists in the EDS field) that suggest a link between the Mirena Coil – which I currently have – and the worsening of EDS symptoms. I know for a fact that my EDS flares up during that time of the month and if I can have the option to go without any hormonal contraception, I would benefit from it; emotionally and physically. The lady doing my assessment was keen to refute the idea that the Coil could have any effect on my EDS but I held my ground. I made in clear that I wanted rid of all hormonal contraception, end of.

She then went to another room to discuss this with the Consultant. 5 minutes later, the consultant came in, shook my hand and said she understood that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and asked me who else in my family has the condition. I explained that my sister and mother are both hypermobile, as were my Grandmas on both sides of my parents. She explained that she understood that EDS is an autosomal dominant condition and was happy to give me the go ahead for female sterilisation.

I couldn’t believe it, I grinned from ear to ear. I said thank you very much, and she left the room. It was then down to the other lady to go through all the paperwork with me and explain what’s going to happen next.

It was explained to me that there are some risks associated with a Tubal Occlusion and they are: possible perforating/damage to the inner organs during surgery, infection, failure rates and so on. I am due to undergo a Tubal Occlusion using the clipping method which has a failure rate of 1 in 200 which doesn’t sound too great, but as we all know, abstinence is the only way to stay 100% pregnancy free, unfortunately!

But, this was all worth it, to me. Knowing I won’t have any other hormones in my system other than my own, is worth the risk.

I signed the consent form there and then, and even underwent a surgical pre-assessment – bloods and a medical history were taken and I was told that as I don’t work, I may be asked to attend surgery at short notice, which is absolutely fine with me! The sooner the better really.

So that was my (surprisingly short and easy) experience with being referred to Gynaecology for female sterilisation.

I feel I must add my own thoughts.

Firstly, if there is anyone else out there that is young, childless and absolutely sure that they don’t want children and would like to be sterilised on the NHS, I would absolutely recommend talking to your GP about it. My own GP refused to refer me, so I got a second opinion from another GP who, when pressed, put me forward for it.

Unfortunately, with the country and the NHS in the state it’s in, we now have to fight for treatment. We have to put our case forward and fight to be taken seriously. But, the funding is out there for female sterilisation – you just have to make a case for yourself.

I went to my GP fully armed with information on the NICE guidelines for female sterilisation, articles on my genetic condition and articles on other young women being sterilised on the NHS. (If you’re not aware of a young woman named Holly Brockwell, look her up – she has been an inspiration to me, in my quest for sterilisation). Holly fought for four years to be sterilised on the NHS and she had never even had a coil fitted (unlike me, who had to undergo every type of contraception before being taken seriously!) so if Holly and I can be heard, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be heard too.

Being childfree is a choice that we all have a right to make. If you don’t want children, that’s entirely up to you and no one should make you feel bad for your own lifestyle choices. Be proud of the life you lead and stand by it. If you’re at all unsure and think you may want children someday…. sterilisation is definitely not for you. It’s a big decision that requires years of thought and you must be absolutely sure.

I’ve never been more sure.

Stay tuned; I will be updating this blog every step of the way and as soon as I get a surgery date, I will let you all know x

She Said Yes; Part Two – Sterilised at 30. 

Earlier in the year my own GP said “no chance” when I first inquired about being sterilised. I left it a good few months, booked an appointment with a lady GP who dealt with my Mirena Coil and broached the question with her. She was resistant at first but relented when I pressed the issue – that was on 7th October.

Today, I received a call from the Gynaecology department at my local hospital asking if I can be available in 10 days time for an appointment regarding female sterilisation! I am over the moon!

Because this issue seems to be quite a taboo subject (and a growing number of women are choosing the childfree life) I have decided to document my experience of being sterilised at 30, so that it may give other young women the courage to stand up for what they want in life. It isn’t anyone else’s job to tell you whether or not you want kids, nor that you should live your life having to constantly worry about falling pregnant by accident because for people like me, who are sure about who they are and what they want, there ARE options to make sure we never get pregnant, full stop.

Follow me and follow my quest to be childfree and fabulous!

She said yes!!!

No, this isn’t an engagement announcement, before you get excited… This is a ‘my doctor said yes to putting me forward for female sterilisation’ announcement.

Let me start by explaining how much I do not want children…

I started life like a normal little girl; I loved playing with dolls and pushchairs, I loved playing family with my collection of Barbie and Ken dolls and I had already named my little girl ‘Pansy’ that I was going to have with my first boyfriend at the age of five –  Ryan Bass – Yes, Pansy Bass, that poor imaginary child, I am so sorry.

It wasn’t until after I hit puberty did I really consider having children. It wasn’t something I thought about at all, in any serious way. This carried on until I was around 23 and in my first sexual relationship. I have always been firmly on the ‘pro-choice’ camp but my boyfriend at the time was ‘pro-life’ which, now I look back, is another reason why I’m so thankful I didn’t have to deal with any pregnancies while with this Manchild.

My situation hasn’t altered much in the last 7 years since that relationship ended, in terms of where I live (still with my parents) and I’m no longer able to work, but I am in a long term relationship with a man; a man who teaches children for a living.

One of the first cards I threw on the table during our first date was that I didn’t want children and that it was non-negotiable. Thankfully for me, he was okay with that and he said he’s not fussed about having children either way.

In the back of my mind, I do worry sometimes that my complete lack of maternal instinct will someday impact on my partner’s ‘not so bothered’ status – I absolutely, utterly, do not want to force this lifestyle upon anyone and my choice not to have children is mine alone. I am unwilling to be responsible for any regret someone may have who ‘wasn’t quite sure’ later down the line if/when they then watch their friends have children and wish they had that too.  You simply cannot read people’s minds, no matter how hard you try, so a huge amount of faith and trust goes into a relationship, which isn’t easy!

You may have read previously that I have an inherited connective tissue disorder – possibly from both sides of my parents. It has impacted my life in a huge way and has changed my entire life’s plan more than once. The only time when me and my illness see eye to eye is when we talk about having children (or not!)

My body does not want to carry children, it has made that clear – it can barely carry itself, let alone an 8lb baby. I do not need to go into detail as to how my condition affects me, but I will say that I wouldn’t want to pass this condition on. It’s a horrible illness and I am not prepared to be responsible for a person with a lifelong illness, as horrible as that sounds.
I may get some responses of protest to that statement, but I honestly do not care what anyone else thinks about my view on disability. As someone who is herself disabled, I believe I am more than entitled to have this view on it.

I’ve written previously about my love of sex, travel and antiques and I stand by it. I am thirty years old. Next year, I plan to buy a house with my partner. We plan on travelling all over the world (if we can afford to save enough, whilst paying a mortgage on one salary!) and we like expensive furnishings. We can afford to be self-indulgent and selfish and I want to keep it that way. I love my life the way it is.

To me, having children is like a ball and chain. I personally don’t see any attraction in becoming a Mum. The lifestyle of parenting looks like hard work, that goes unpaid. I do not have a maternal instinct so the ‘love’ I’d feel wouldn’t outweigh all the negatives; the tiredness, the wailing new-born at 4 in the morning, the toilet training, the babyproofing… the list is endless.

My slightly older sister (by 3 years) has an 18 month old. I love him to bits; he’s hilarious and cute at the same time. I’m very much a proud aunt. But, I see what my sister has to go through every day and I thank my lucky stars I’m as free as a bird and I have no responsibilities other than washing my clothes and paying my £10 a month phone bill.

Earlier this year I spoke to my GP about being sterilised on the NHS and the first thing he said was ‘no chance’ because the CGC or whoever simply wouldn’t consider it; I’m too young blah blah blah. I went home with my tail between my legs and felt rather deflated.

I told myself, I’ll leave it for a few months, then try a different doctor; a lady one, hoping she’d understand more, being a woman herself.

As soon as we sat down, I started explaining about how my coil isn’t working for me and I’d like to explore more permanent options. I mentioned permanent sterilisation and she started talking about how often young women come and say they want to be sterilised and then they come back crying saying they want to be able to have a baby at 35.

I looked her in the eye and said I’m not one of those women. I haven’t wanted children since I was 16 and that hasn’t changed and it won’t ever change. She said to me that she could say yes on the spot… as if trying to call my bluff and I said ‘why don’t you?’, she looked at me blankly, paused, and then said ‘okay then, I will say yes, if that’s what you want’. I replied ‘Oh my God, really? Yes, please, I definitely want that’ and that was that. She briefly mentioned having to get funding for it, which I know will be the next hurdle.

But, in the end… she said yes and I couldn’t be happier.