In Canada up until recently, there used to be rules in several provinces about when a woman could ask for sterilization. It usually involved her being over 40 years old, married and having had at least one boy and one girl. Just as with abortion, it seems not so long ago that doctors and law-makers believed they knew what was best for women.
I looked these up because two years after having my first and only abortion (I am childless), I decided that I didn't want to have children at all.
I was 31 years old. Two years later, I am getting the surgery in a few weeks, and I couldn't be happier.
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I remember going to my doctor and telling her I wanted to be sterilized. I am lucky to have a professional, understanding doctor who basically keeps her personal opinion to herself, if she has one. She asked me a few questions: Why? What if I changed my mind? What did my partner think?
Why I'm Getting Sterilized
There are several reasons why I'm getting sterilized. The first one is: I don't ever want to be pregnant again. The only time I have been pregnant was horrible: all-day nausea, unable to eat anything but crackers and ginger ale, basically stuck in bed for two weeks before my abortion. I was unable to work or to do much more than watch TV and sleep all day.
There is another health concern for me: I have major depressive disorder, and being pregnant would mean not only my having to stop my medication, but also put me at a much greater risk of post-partum depression. This is a chance I am definitely unwilling to take.
Last but not least, I do not want to have to take the pill until I hit menopause. I am a bad candidate for IUDs and IUSs (I have tried), so there are few non-chemical options left to me. Sterilization is, to me, the least harmful solution for my health.
I have other reasons that lie more in the political and ecological realm. (Yes, sterilization can be political!) First, I don't need to reproduce to ensure the survival of the species. There are enough people on this planet consuming resources, and my not having children will not change that. I also want to affirm the right to do what I want with my body; as a feminist, I choose not to have children, and I act accordingly.
And there are personal reasons too. Yeah, I don't want to have to take care of a child. I'm not particularly fond of them. I never have been. The kind of life I plan for myself isn't conducive to having children either. I like my mobility, my freedom and my independence.
What if I change my mind?
Short answer: I'll adopt.
Long answer: I don't think I will change my mind, but if I do I will adopt a child. This connects to the political and ecological reasons above: there are enough children in this world already consuming resources. Why should I have one myself? The children already on this planet who need a loving family deserve just as much concern as biological offspring. They are just as deserving of love, and who am I to deny a child a good home?
I would rather adopt a child who's already here and in need than produce a new one. My mother was adopted. She was raised in a wonderful, loving family and she never cared to look for her biological mother. To her, her adoptive mother is her mother. Blood isn't a prerequisite for love.
What does my partner think?
Back then, when I actually had one (I'm single now), he didn't object.
Not that it mattered much to me, to be honest. My body, my choice. My desire to get sterilized stemmed not from not having children from him, but from not having children at all. I merely informed him that I had decided that I did not want to bear children and that I was going to seek sterilization.
I have to say that our relationship was already in dire straits back then, so maybe that was a factor in his non-reaction. But even if it had been better, I don't think I would have done anything differently.
Although a potential partner's concerns about wanting children are valid, ultimately, because of all the reasons above, I will not carry children. It is unsafe for me, unsustainable for the planet, and doesn't fit with the plan I have for my life. If my wanting to maintain my health and choose the life I want is selfish, then selfish you can call me.
It's a Valid Choice
Choosing sterilization is as valid as choosing to carry a child to term. As a woman, my worth to the world is not defined by my ability to reproduce. Many of the lingering opinions and resistance from people stem from the idea that women aren't "complete" unless they've had children.
I refuse to play this game. I refuse to let society dictate what I can and can't do with my body. I am a complete and worthy person, with or without offspring.