‘You need your husband’s permission.’ I begged. I didn’t feel maternal. I was told I’d ‘change my mind.’: Woman refused sterilization procedure multiple times, ‘they made me feel dirty’

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“I was probably about 16 the first time I considered not having children. I was scared about becoming a parent and failing. But I was a teenager, so the idea fluttered into my mind and disappeared just as quickly.

By the time I turned 18, I had learned there was a procedure that prevented women from getting pregnant and I wanted one. During my annual exam with my OB-GYN, based in New Canaan, Connecticut, I asked if I could have a tubal ligation, a permanent way of preventing pregnancy by blocking, clipping, removing or tying the fallopian tubes. She quickly refused. She said I was too young and it was a procedure reserved for women in their 30s or 40s who had at least two children and knew they were done having children.

To add to this, everyone in my life told me I’d change my mind about not wanting kids; however, I didn’t want to run the risk of being stuck with a child I wasn’t prepared for and not having a way out.

Every year during my annual exam until I was 21, I asked for one and my doctor always said no. I realize I was ambitious in approaching my doctor at only 18, but I was certain that I did not want to have any children.

I took the birth control pill in the meantime. When I became sexually active, I felt constant worry. If my period was even a little bit late, I rushed to the grocery store for a pregnancy test — just to be sure. I fretted about becoming accidentally pregnant and needing an abortion.

As I aged, my thoughts evolved and I knew I never wanted children. I did not feel maternal and if I did change my mind, I could always adopt. With so many people straining the planet’s resources, it personally felt irresponsible for me to bring another life into the world. And, I have a family history of illnesses, such as depression and Parkinson’s disease that I did not want to pass onto a child.

Courtesy of Kelsey Silverstein

When I met my husband, Mark Donoher, and he admitted he did not want children, I was even more certain. I wanted to undergo a tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy.

Courtesy of Kelsey Silverstein

When I was 24 years old, we moved to Nashville and I realized I only had one more year before I was going to lose my health insurance. I was self-employed at the time and was going to lose the coverage provided by my parents’ insurance plan. I visited my new OB-GYN and took a stand; I told her I wanted a tubal ligation before being without health insurance.

Then, I was told this: ‘You need to bring your husband into my office to get permission for a tubal litigation.’

I was stunned that as an adult woman I needed my husband’s blessing to make decisions about my body. Yes, I believed it was important my husband and I be on the same page, but my body is my body. Why did a man have to approve of my choice to make it valid? But I wanted this bad enough to drag him with me to talk to my doctor. I went home and wrote a pros and cons list, including all my concerns and the benefits of having permanent birth control. As I read it, I felt more confident that permanent birth control was right for me.

At the appointment, with Mark in attendance, the doctor suggested he get a vasectomy. But I wanted control over my body. I plan on being with Mark my entire life, but I couldn’t help but think, ‘What if I’m raped and become pregnant at some point? Or what if something happens and I can no longer be with him?’ Having a tubal ligation was something that would help me feel more comfortable in my body. And, well, Mark wasn’t the one who could get pregnant.

We had to agree that we would adopt a child if we changed our minds and wanted children. After securing my husband’s permission (sigh), sharing my list of pros and cons and agreeing to adoption, I underwent the outpatient, minimally invasive procedure where my doctor clipped my tubes to permanently prevent pregnancy. However, it took me sharing ‘crazy’ stories about mental illness in both of our families for my doctor to finally budge.

Recovery hurt more than I thought it would, but I have no side effects from the procedure and the tiny scars have mostly faded by now. Three years later, I have no regrets. At the time, I hesitated to share that I had undergone tubal ligation surgery. It felt so dirty. The hospital made me feel this way after refusing to perform on me because of their own religious beliefs, despite that vasectomies could be performed there. I was sent to a different hospital for the operation.

There seems to be a taboo when women admit they do not want to have children. But I enjoy life as it is. Mark and I love spending time with our three adopted dogs and I look forward to the day when I can be an aunt and spoil nieces and nephews — and then send them home.”

Courtesy of Kelsey Silverstein
Courtesy of Kelsey Silverstein

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelsey Silverstein of Nashville, Tennessee. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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