“Email Dr Hinkel. She will listen to you. I’ll let her know you’ll be in contact.”
This was the DM I got after tweeting asking women about how hard it was for them to get sterilised in preparation for an article about wanting to be sterilised, but doctors not listening to me for Parent24.
I explained my various reasons for wanting sterilisation to Dr Tracy Hinkel, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital.
I decided not to have children at 22. I began to think of sterilisation just before 26 after seeing this TEDtalk from Christen Reighter titled ‘I don’t want children – stop telling me I’ll change my mind.’
It made me see that sterilisation was a real option, and it was something that I wanted. I thought about it, did research, and then asked my doctor about it at my next annual pap smear. I was met with the “You’re too young; you’ll change your mind when you get older” reply.
From GPs to my former psychiatrist, I was told I was too young to know what I wanted or that I’d change my mind when I meet the right man. I met a man that I love very much, but I still didn’t want to have his babies, and it was imperative that he knew that. My choice to not have children is always upfront.
I’m severely mentally ill, and most days, I struggle to look after myself, how would this be fair to a child? I’m also extremely high risk for postpartum depression or even psychosis. I also realised that I have tokophobia, which is the fear of pregnancy.
But, on top of all of that, I just have no desire to have a child. I don’t want to bring a child into the world who will eventually realise they were not wanted.
I told Dr Hinkel this and, for the first time, a doctor didn’t dismiss what I wanted. She acknowledged my feelings and my research. She said she was obligated to inform me about long term birth control like the Implanon and the Mirena, but I didn’t want either. I already have to take medication to regulate the chemicals in my brain, and I don’t need any more chemicals. Plus, long term use of hormonal birth control can have adverse effects on the body.
Two weeks later, I was at the hospital for my assessment. I took a pregnancy test, had my blood pressure checked, weight, height and medical history recorded.
There were eight other women also waiting for assessment that day. All of them had children. They were all shocked that I wanted to be sterilised even though I have no kids. They were all scared and didn’t know what to expect.
A tubal ligation is a simple surgery that takes about 30 minutes to do, barring complications, and is 99% effective.
On the day of my surgery, I went first. I was nervous but excited. I joked with the doctors and nurses, and then I was out like a light.
I woke up in extreme pain, incredibly thirsty, and like the doctor had used me as a sock puppet. It was worse than severe period pain. Another woman who was sterilised on the same day said that’s what contractions feel like. I basically got a taste of what labour would have been like, and it honestly just cemented my faith in my decision.
I was screaming, crying, and swearing - it hurt so much. It took a long time for them to bring me morphine for the pain, but it barely took the edge off.
The first time I had to walk to the bathroom to pee was agony. I was also still groggy from the anesthetic. I sat there for 10 minutes while it trickled out of me.
I was given varying levels of pain meds and told I could go home as soon as someone could fetch me.
I got home, watched Netflix, and slept. Everything hurt. Think of the worst period you’ve ever had and turn it up about ten notches. I was bloated and sore. My incisions felt weird.
The first week was not fun. I knew I needed to move around and sit up as much as possible. But I would get tired from standing for long periods of sitting in certain positions.
The first time I had to cook took me longer than usual, and I was exhausted after, but that mac and cheese was so damn good.
If you do this, you’ll be bloated, your vagina will hurt, there will be a little bit of bleeding for a few days, you’ll have cramps, farting will be a new experience, and for the first day or two, you’ll struggle to pee properly. But all of it is worth it. I do not regret the decision in the least.
I’m now almost 12 weeks post-op, and my life is back to normal, and I’m so happy that I got this chance. That I got to make this choice for my body. That a doctor listened to me. That I have a tiny chance of conceiving a child, but still the ability to carry one if I ever do want to.
My libido is still the same as it was before. My period hasn’t changed. But I am happier. All I have are two small scars and the knowledge that I got to advocate for my body.
A few days after my surgery, I did feel very depressed, but not because I regretted my decision, but because I felt sad that so many other women want this and can’t get it. Women who have been waiting longer than I have. Women who have limited access to healthcare and no money for birth control (or the time to wait for it at the clinic).
I felt incredibly guilty. But I’m taking that, and I’m going to turn this into advocacy for other people. I’m going to try and get this done for those who have no one else to advocate for them.
How has your experience with accessing health care been? Tell us here.
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