by Furry Girl

10.22.10

This post is a part of the Scarleteen Sex Ed Blog Carnival.  Find links to posts from other participants here.  This is veering off the course in which other participants have been headed, since I don't want to write about why sexual education is a good thing, or hit with you my own sales pitch for why Scarleteen and why you should donate, so I've written about a sexual health issue near and dear to me.

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If you have a uterus and fallopian tubes, you've been hearing the same thing since you were in junior high (or earlier).  When it comes to birth control, your options are condoms, the pill, or maybe, if you're feeling unconventional, the shot or the IUD.  But what about those of us who don't want to take hormones or have an IUD painfully jammed up our cervixes?  I got myself fixed four years ago - via tubal ligation - and I couldn't be happier with it.

First, a note on gender and language: for the sake of brevity and smoother writing, I'm going to refer to those who have a uterus and fallopian tubes as "women", but this doesn't mean that I don't consider trans women to be women, nor do I mean to exclude those who do not identify as women, but who may want a tubal ligation.  Birth control isn't only an issue for straight people.  Aside from all the bisexuals, consider, for example, a gay-identified, uterus-having FTM trans guy who fucks men, or a cisgender woman who has an non-op/pre-op MTF trans woman as her partner.  It's just too hard to write inclusively of every possibility and still have concise, readable sentences.

I have never wanted children.  I do not like children.  Where most women light up with delirious joy when they see babies and little kids, I'm just hoping the child doesn't vomit or blow its nose on me.  I choose to focus my maternal energies on my cat-baby and on my various projects.

Our culture demonizes childfree women as profoundly selfish, cold, and unfeminine.  Sterilization for women seems to be more controversial and patently offensive than abortion - I'm not just saying "not right now" to the prospect being a mommy, I'm saying, "absolutely fucking never."  I'd guess there are more places in America that will perform abortions than will sterilize childfree women.

Try on these common responses for starters:

"Aww, you'll change your mind when you hit 30!  Wait until that biological clock of yours starts a-ticking!"

"Sure, you think don't like kids now, but it's totally different when they're your own!"

"Your life as a woman just won't be complete without experiencing pregnancy and birth!"

"Smart and pretty people need to out-breed those ignorant hicks!"

And so on.  All of the sentiments assume, whether overtly or just subtly, that the only reason for me (and by extension, other women) to exist is to pop out babies, that it's where I'll find my "real" happiness in life, and that I'm controlled by a biological clock, incapable of making rational decisions about my fertility.

I've dated a couple of guys who wanted vasectomies.  I went to their mandatory counseling sessions with both of them.  It was easy as pie!  No condescending insults, no pervasive culture of, "Come on, now, all men want to have babies!  You'll probably change your mind anyway, you silly creature!"  They were dudes, and it's natural for dudes to not want to have kids.  No one shames or questions the sanity of men who get sterilized.

I got to watch one of my boys have his vasectomy performed, which was awesome, and took less time than getting a pedicure.  Had I been supplied with a syringe of lidocaine and an autoclave, I could have performed his vasectomy on my kitchen counter using cuticle scissors, a crochet hook, and a soldering iron.  He didn't even need stitches afterwards, and while he spent a few days taking it easy, he didn't need much pain medication at all.  Vasectomy was easy to obtain for him, cheap, and didn't have many risks or a long recovery time.

When I was 22, I decided it was time to get serious about finding a doctor to sterilize me.  If you're looking to get a tubal ligation, I highly recommend doing what I did: get a list of doctors from Planned Parenthood that they refer women to for tubal ligations.  Here in Seattle, I think it was over a dozen doctors.  I called one.  I told the receptionist that I'd like to make an appointment to talk about getting a tubal ligation, but that I wanted to make sure before I even bothered to come in that the doctor didn't have a problem sterilizing young childfree women.  The receptionist put me on hold, then told me it shouldn't be an issue.  My consultation went much better than I expected.  I came in there armed to the teeth to argue about my right to be sterilized, but the doctor was already on board.  He just gave me a short spiel about how tubal ligations are to be considered permanent.  To cap it off, he even ranted briefly about how rude and paternalistic it is that other doctors won't sterilize women who want it.  I was in!

My experience in finding a great doctor on the first try seems to be pretty unique, however.  Talking with other women, or looking at forums dedicated to birth control, you'll see tale after tale of women frustrated at being denied the right to control their own fertility, belittled by doctors and told that no, they actually will want to have children.  I am so glad I didn't have to go through that.

I was scheduled to have a laparoscopic tubal ligation, which means I'd just have one tiny little scar.  I decided that I didn't want a sterilization via Essure or the other new methods of inserting things into your fallopian tubes by forcing things up my cervix and (hopefully) correctly into my tubes.  Firstly, because the multiple procedures involved in these methods sounded more painful and stressful than tubal surgery, and secondly, because my doctor has been doing tubal ligations for 30 years and not once had any failures that he was aware of.  I didn't want to be awake and having someone jab away at my internal organs, I wanted to be knocked out and wake up in recovery when the jabbing was completed.

When my special day in the hospital came, it was a serious, all-day event, not like the "pedicure" my ex had gotten.  I switched into a gown, and got an IV line started to give me a saline drip and antibiotics.  It was done in a real operating suite, with my doctor, an anesthesiologist, and other helpers there to attend to me.  I would have to spend most of the day in recovery in the hospital.  (All this means that a tubal ligation costs loads more than a vasectomy.  My tubal was 10-20 times as expensive as your average vasectomy.)  The method of sterilization my doctor used was placing silicone rubber bands around my doubled-over fallopian tubes, which apparently has a shorter recovery time, and doesn't carry the risk to other internal organs that a slip during a cut-and-cauterization procedure could.  Here are my before-and-after shots, look for the white arrow pointing to the doubled-over sections of tube in the lower pictures:

There was a bit of bruising at the incision area, but after just two weeks, you had to look hard to see the small reddened scar that was barely snaking out of my belly button.  I will probably never have to worry about pregnancy again.  There is a slight risk that my body could "heal" itself, but sterilization beats out other birth control methods for efficacy.

I don't mean to sound like a hippie who's afraid of science, but I'm wary of the long-term effects of women taking birth control pills for 20+ years of their lives.  I've still used condoms for most of the sex I've had in the last 4 years, but I'm happy that my backup method is internal and intrinsic, not something external that I have to rely upon being granted access to.  No one can ever take away my right to keep being sterilized.  It's like a buy-versus-lease question, and I wanted to buy my freedom so no one would ever take it away from me.  Although I think it's highly unlikely the government would de-approve the birth control pill, IUDs, and Depo-Provera shots, I really value that I will never have to leave my fertility up to the whims of politicians and the laws of whatever country I might find myself in.  (And, you know, after the zombie apocalypse, how many years do you think the remaining stockpile of birth control pills will last?)

I frequently meet other women who either already have an active interest in getting sterilized, or dismissed the idea as just too difficult until they met me.  I wish that more people were aware of what tubal ligations involve, and that it's not actually impossible to get them, even if you're young, single, and childfree.  As more women are choosing to not have children, I wish the sterilization was as widely-promoted as other forms of birth control, rather than a method relegated to the end of the list, surrounded by extra caveats and dismissive language.  It's not for everyone (neither are IUDs, the shot, the patch, or the pill), but if you know that having biological children is not for you, don't be afraid to get out there and demand it.  You might get turned down by a doctor or few, but don't get discouraged.

If money is an issue for you, all states have federal funds allocated to providing birth control to those with low-income, free of charge.  In Washington state where I live, this Malthusian keep-the-poor-from-breeding-up-more-welfare-babies effort is called "Take Charge", and in Seattle, you need to earn less than (last time I checked) $1600 a month to qualify.  (The amount varies by area.)  Go to your local Planned Parenthood or other clinic, and ask about funding options if you're low-income.  Also, check with doctors about payment plans - that might be an option if you don't have insurance.

So, this is my own contribution to sex education today: telling you about my choice method of pregnancy prevention, and my hope that in time, sterilization for women will become more widely-accessible, and as stigma-free as it is for men.

A few resources:

* Planned Parenthood's info on sterilization for those with eggs and those with sperm
* The sterilizationqa LiveJournal Community  (Yeah, I know, shocker - people still use Livejournal)
The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (I highly recommend the "Biology and Breeding" and "Science Fiction and Fantasy" sections)
The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless (Awesome book)

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