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.
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!
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.
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.
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.