This past March, I got my tubes tied. I was 28 years old.
For as long as I can remember I’ve never wanted to have kids. Some of my earliest childhood memories were of playing teacher. I would sit all my dolls up on my bed and relay to them the topics I had learned in school earlier that day. After their “lessons” were completed I would push them all away from me and would pretend to do whatever I thought teachers did in their child free time. Sometime I was a pop star, sometimes I was a fashion designer, sometimes I was a writer — but I was never a mother.
My whole life, women and men alike have smugly told me that not wanting kids was a phase, one that I would eventually grow out of. One time I thought I was pregnant. I had just turned 24. I was casually hooking up with some guy who made it explicitly clear that he didn’t want a girlfriend, but then he would treat my like his girlfriend, causing me to hang around him far too long. One day my period was supposed to come and it didn’t. It was late, and a few days later, it was very late. A week and a half later I realized that it wasn’t late, it just wasn’t coming.
I was petrified. I knew to the very depth of my soul that I didn’t want it. I knew with every fiber of my being that I didn’t want it now, and I knew I didn’t want it later. But after a cursory review of my options — abortion or adoption — I did nothing. I froze. I confided in my sister, who immediately told me to take a pregnancy test, a suggestion I ignored. A positive pregnancy test would have turned this horrific days long nightmare into reality, a reality I was not prepared to face fully. I was childishly hoping that if I stood still and waited long enough it would all go away. And it did. After the scariest 15 days of my entire life my period came with such a vengeful wrath. I spent the entire first night vomiting my guts out from the worst cramps I’d had in years. But I didn’t care, I was just relieved.
I have a fraught history with my menstrual cycle. From its onset, it has been a dreaded and painful experience through which I’ve had to grit my teeth and bear. It all started in 7th grade with cramps so intense that I couldn’t focus on class. High school was when the vomiting and all day diarrhea began (which was when my mom started letting me miss school because of the symptoms). The intensity of cramps increased with age, and by the time I was in my 20s they were so bad I would get light headed and occasionally lose consciousness. My flows were so heavy on many occasions I bled through a tampon and a pad and my underwear and my pants, and a even sweatshirt “discreetly” tied around my waist. As I got older the symptoms became worse. Hot flashes, cramps, and fatigue eventually had me bedridden for the first few days of every cycle. I’ve contended with all of this, with varying degrees of success, since I was 13 years old.
I was on the pill from ages 25 to 27. I was finally able to control my period with hormones not produced in my body, but manufactured in a lab. Unfortunately, the trade off was losing control of everything else. A few months into my new regimen I began to have wild and violent mood swings. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m an emotional person. But the pill made me feel like I was losing my mind. There were countless times I felt myself getting irrationally angry, the ire boiling within me and I could do nothing to stop it. I also experienced weight gain to the tune of 20 lbs, an unpleasant and unfamiliar body odor, and consistent — but fortunately mild — cramps. After trying three different pills with three different hormonal dosages in 2017, I switched to an IUD. The little piece of plastic inserted into my uterus released hormones that stopped ovulation. This simultaneously prevented me from getting pregnant while also preventing me from experiencing any symptoms associated with menstruation. Essentially I tricked my body into thinking was perpetually pregnant and I thought it was the answer. But it didn’t help. I gained another 10 lbs, and on top of all of the other symptoms, I experienced incredibly painful sex which resulted in a complete loss of my sex drive altogether. Unfortunately, despite their benefits, I’ve come to realize that hormonal birth control was not the best method for me.
All of this lead to my decision this past March. At 28, I elected to have my gynecologist completely remove my fallopian tubes. There were two issues at play that determined my choice: my desire to not have kids, and my desire to have control over my body. I had been wanting to get my tubes tied for a long time. I mentioned it to my first gynecologist when I was fresh out of college, but he told me that I needed to wait and see if I would change my mind.
Six years later and after another pregnancy scare, getting married and experimenting with birth control that bogged me down with so many artificial hormones I felt like a prisoner in my own brain, my mind had not changed.
However, getting my tubes tied only partially eliminated my need for hormonal birth control. I will no longer be able to get pregnant, but I will still have to contend with menstruation and not having complete body autonomy (which means dealing with cramps and the other symptoms I was so eager to get rid of). But after dealing with the side effects of birth control, I’m prepared to revisit the symptoms of a painful period. I’m 29, and thankfully approaching the end of my peak fertility. I’m secure in my job and I am fully, completely, and utterly in love with the life my husband and I have created.
I know now more than ever that getting my tubes tied was the right decision for me.