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The Tubal Ligation Decision

Photograph by Getty Images

After having my first child, I thought that I’d have another, but this conviction got murky when my marriage ended. I was already fortysomething, the mother of child with special needs and unable see the path leading to having another baby. Nonetheless, I quietly hoped some miracle might give me permission to have a second child.

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That said, I feel like my entire adult life has been about my body’s ovulation cycle. I’ve done nothing with greater determination than try to not get pregnant. Unfortunately, hormone ingestion disagreed with me horribly—weight gain, spotting and entirely missed periods had me running away from birth control pills.

After giving birth, I opted for an IUD. This seemed like a great solution for me. I didn’t have to worry about the impact of hormones on my body, or remember to take a daily pill, or get any type of shot. There was a one-time visit to my gynecologist, where she quickly inserted the instrument into my cervix, and that was it. I was happy, even ecstatic about the freedom the IUD provided. Occasionally my partner would complain that he could feel something way up there, but I just ignored this whimpering. “That annoyance is blissfully not a baby,” I said, and he had to agree that it was really not so bad after all. Life went on nicely, and I never had to concern myself with worries about my periods or pregnancy.

During an annual checkup with my doctor, he noticed I was quite anemic and insisted on doing some tests to find out why. I was brokenhearted because I knew the answer—since getting the IUD, my periods had doubled in heaviness and length. Some days I just stayed home all day to avoid the possibility of a messy accident. While most of the month I was as free as bird, the onset of my period would ground me like a storm.

In that moment I was certain I no longer had the desire to nurse, change diapers or ever be pregnant.

After I had the IUD removed, my sex life came to screeching halt. I started researching herbal methods of birth control and discovered an entire community of women who actually prevent pregnancy with things like wild yam root, neem oil, Queen Anne’s lace and wild carrot seeds. Many of these women have it down to a science, and keep pregnancy at bay with a trip to their local Whole Foods. I was excited about the possibilities until I realized I was entering perimenopause.

On a visit to my gynecologist, she mentioned that I was ovulating.” I can’t be ovulating, I just ovulated a couple of weeks ago,” I said. She pointed toward what looked like air bubbles on the screen. “These mean that you’re ovulating.” I was devastated. Her announcement meant I was not able to effectively track my cycle, which was a must for using herbal birth control methods. After the exam was complete I sat up and asked the question I never thought I’d consider. “What about permanent birth control methods?” I asked. She explained the process which includes having something placed into the fallopian tubes that causes a blockage, preventing the egg from reaching the cervix. All of this made my head spin. Even though I was 45 and a single parent to a child with special needs, I was still holding out for some magical event that would make having another child possible. I left her office with a sample NuvaRing. “Try this,” she suggested, “maybe it will work for you.”

I spent the next several months talking with women who’d had their tubes tied. Most of them had more than one child, and most of them were really happy with their choice. I realized I was seeking freedom I hadn’t known my entire adult life, and that was to have sexual pleasure without the worry or concern of pregnancy.

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After meeting a woman at the park who was 47 years old and nursing an infant, I called to schedule an appointment to permanently tie my tubes. She said that she thought she was in menopause but after a couple of months she realized her missing cycle was actually an unplanned pregnancy. In that moment I was certain I no longer had the desire to nurse, change diapers or ever be pregnant. After 35 years of working to prevent pregnancy, I was ready to take matters into my own hands. The energy I have used preventing, worrying and wondering about pregnancy all these years could officially be reassigned.

Have you considered permanent birth control?

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