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The road to sterilization

There have been a few times when I thought about children, but those reasons are the worst possible. On the few occasions I found myself wondering what it would like to be a parent, I realized I would want to raise any child of mine to be a more accomplished version of myself, succeeding at all the things I wasn’t the very best at, giving them all the opportunities that could have turned my life around sooner.

Notice there’s nothing about having love to give a child, or wanting the experience of bringing up a decent human, or wanting to nurture a family.

And to be honest… I don’t like babies. They’re loud and disrupt your entire life and their crying is like squeaky chalk. Kids are fine when you can talk to them and have conversations in complete sentences. But you have to get through the infant and toddler years first and that takes way too much energy that I could be devoting to other interests. And almost all cases of having a child involve being pregnant, and that’s a major squick of mine.

On top of that, a hypothetical child now has to deal with political extremism, school shootings, and a planet that will look totally different by the time they’re old for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Republican lawmakers enjoy attacking reproductive rights even though the general public agrees that abortion should be allowed at least some of the time.

Before now, my primary method of birth control was abstinence. I haven’t dated that much, I don’t get the big deal about sex, and I’m this close to giving up on allocishet men altogether. I spent nearly ten years of my adult life with low job security and no health insurance, so obtaining birth control long-term was iffy at best. Up to this point I’ve been picky enough about who I date that I haven’t run into anyone who flat-out refuses to wrap it up. But as I entered my mid-30s and right-wing legislatures started enacting abortion restriction laws, I knew it was time for permanent voluntary sterilization. For uterus-havers the gold standard is no longer clipping or tying the fallopian tubes but straight-up removing them, also known as a bilaterial salpingectomy. So let’s talk about my experience and recovery.

Before getting started, I should acknowledge my privilege here. I’m a college-educated cis white-passing-ish woman with a job that makes me sound fancy and intelligent. I have good health insurance. I’m reasonably well-spoken. I knew the name of the most common procedure (bilateral salpingectomy, or bisalp for short). And the big one for this situation: I was 35 at my initial consultation, when age-related pregnancy risks start coming into play.

With all that in mind, here’s my sterilization experience.

Roe v Wade reversal (June 2022) – Remember that goal I made for 2022 about investigating sterilization? The Roe v Wade reversal lit the fire under my ass. I started doing the research for what it would take to become sterile. I lurked in the childfree subreddit, reading stories about other bisalps and viewing the list of childfree-friendly doctors. I chose a doctor in my area from the list and make an appointment, except they couldn’t get me in until September. Good enough.

Consultation Day (September 2022) – I also had a regular Pap smear and pelvic exam since it had been way too long since having those exams done. For the sterilization counseling, the doctor did go over the medically responsible amount of detail without any pressure: it’s permanent, it’s surgery so I would need some time out of work to recover, long-acting reversible solutions are available, IVF is an option in the future in the unlikely event that I change my mind. She was friendly and approachable about it and didn’t bingo me or ask about any hypothetical partners getting a vasectomy. (In fact, based on family pictures I’ve seen with dogs, I wonder if she’s childfree herself.) She also found a large cervical polyp that would typically require another office visit to remove, but since the polyp hadn’t been bothering me, we may as well wait until the sterilization surgery and do two things at once.

It took several weeks to get the surgery scheduled because the affiliated hospital had limited availability. We finally got a date: January 5 or 12, 2022, 9:00 AM. Which eventually got changed to 7:00 AM. I chose the 12th so I could be in shape to do something on my birthday, and so I’d have five days to recover at home before going to work (on the couch, most likely) the following Tuesday. And we’re off!

Day -3 (9 Janaury 2023, Monday): Pre-op testing day! My morning started at my OBGYN’s office, where I sign some consent forms and state that yes, this is what I really want. According to the pre-op notes: “She is aware of permanence and strongly wishes to proceed.”

My pre-admissions testing was at the hospital in the same set of buildings but I had an hour to waste before then. Most of that hour was finding the right place for my second appointment because the first set of directions was wrong. Whoops. After arriving in the correct place, I spent the next hour answering questions about my entire medical history to multiple people, learning how to clean myself with Hibiclens for the days leading up to surgery and how to use the spirometer to make sure my lung capacity is still fine.

Not one person bingo’d me along the way. To be honest, I’m not sure a few of those people knew what kind of surgery I was even having.

My last stop was to pee in a cup for my second pregnancy test of the day. When I said “Fallopian-free is the way to be”, the person taking my blood for the last test mentioned they were a step ahead of me–they were also uterus-free. Solidarity.

Day -1 (11 January 2023, Wednesday): The day before. I washed the sheets on my bed, took out the trash and cleaned the bathtub, sink, and kitchen surfaces. That wouldn’t be happening for a week unless something gets really gross.

Day 0 (12 Jan 2023, Thursday): Sterilization day!!!! Since I had to be at the hospital at 7:00 AM, a friend stayed with me the night before to reduce the amount of last-minute scrambling. I pulled my hair back and washed with the Hibiclens one more time before putting on clean pajamas and drinking the 12oz of Gatorade I was allowed to have three hours before my surgery. I took my pre-cleared morning meds with the Gatorade and saved the rest of the Gatorade in the fridge.

My friend dropped me off at the main entrance and I waltzed over to the surgery check-in. The person at the front desk gave me a sheet of paper to give to another front desk person. Once those were processed, it was waiting time.

I got called back around 7:15 AM and entered a pre-op room, where I changed into a hospital gown and socks, then threw all my personal belongings into bags. I had to answer the “What is your full name and date of birth?” “What kind of surgery are you here for today?” “Who’s the doctor performing this surgery?” “Have you had anything to eat or drink in the past eight hours?” about a dozen times. A nurse gave me an IV drip, some pain meds, and a nausea patch, plus a warning to wash my hands immediately after taking the nausea patch off.

The surgery started around 10:30 AM, over an hour and a half later than originally scheduled. It turns out the crew had to set up more stuff in the operating room and my doctor’s previous surgery went long. The last thing I remember is tweeting this and handing over my phone to be stowed away with my other valuables (my wallet and phone charger).

I was awake with my phone back two and a half hours later. According to the nurses I didn’t even say anything weird under anesthesia. What fun is that?

I was cleared to go home when I could use the bathroom well enough for the nurses. It took a glass of water, a can of ginger ale, and a saline bag, but I did it around 2 PM! Friend came back and drove me home, and then we ordered some pho takeout. I paid for hers because come on, it’s the least I could do as a thank you. (And it was delicious.)

Fun fact time: bisalps are typically performed as laparoscopic surgery. This involves pumping some gas in your abdominal cavity so the surgeon can see everything inside you. But the gas irritates your diaphragm, which shares nerves with your shoulders, hence the pain and gas getting up there. I spent the rest of the evening drinking a ginger ale and trying to burp out some of the extra gas. This is a trick I learned from r/childfree and other folks who have had laparoscopic surgeries, so I bought some of those fancy artisan sodas during my pre-op shopping.

I had three small scars from the surgery, one on my belly button and two off to the left and right sides less than an inch wide. They were covered with glue so I didn’t even need to put bandages on them. Bending over even a little bit was uncomfortable. I could walk around that day but I wasn’t very happy doing it.

I tried going to bed early since sleeping on my back wasn’t very comfortable to me. I’m normally a side/stomach sleeper but I couldn’t do it without being uncomfortable. Sleeping on my back was… something. I didn’t get much of it.

Day 1 (13 January, Friday): The first full day post-op. Gas woke me up at around five in the morning, and getting out of bed was terrible. I never appreciated my abdominal muscles more.

After not sleeping too well on my back, I woke up at six and grinded and made some of the coffee my old roommate sent as part of a post-op care package. I ground a few more cups’ worth so I can store it for a few days.

I spent most of the day on the couch, watching Day 1 of the Arlington Pokemon Go regionals and catching the Pokemon Violet legendaries. Despite this, I also tried to move around the condo more, and it wasn’t too bad except when I had to bend over for something. Ow.

I felt more sore and tender than in actual pain. I was supposed to breathe into the spirometer, but my results weren’t quite as good as yesterday because my mid-chest down was sore. My shoulders were still sore thanks to the weirdness that is referred pain. Heating pads, soda, and tea helped with the gas. I took only two ibuprofen and some Gas-X because I was more uncomfortable than in actual pain. I didn’t bother filling the prescription for the good painkillers.

I heard from others that constipation is normal. I accidentally solved that problem by including beans in most of my pre-sterilization meal prep.

The feeling of elation started to kick in today. I did it. I took control of my own body and made sure an unwanted pregnancy would never change my quality of life. It still feels weird when I think about it too much, but ultimately what I want is to never be pregnant, and I made the best choice to ensure that.

Day 2 (14 January, Saturday): I managed to sleep for an hour or so on my side before waking up around 7 AM. My mid-abdomen was still sore, but my shoulders were starting to feel better. My spirometer breathing results were almost the same for the first half of the day, but by the end of the day I was hitting the high mark of what I was hitting after getting home from surgery.

I felt well enough to walk around the condo and unload the dishwasher, and this small amount of physical activity did help with the gas. By the end of the day my shoulder pain was almost gone and taking deep breaths was much easier. I still took a couple of Gas-X throughout the day but the ibuprofen for today was mostly for my period.

I spent most of today watching day 2 of the Arlington Pokemon Go regionals and finishing the Pokedex in Pokemon Violet.

And most importantly: I managed to sleep on my side that night!

Day 3 (15 January, Sunday): I woke up on my side with only a little discomfort. Progress!

The shoulder pain was almost gone at this point. The incisions were still tender, but the incision in my belly button was the only one still bothering me. I also managed a shower this morning. I let the soap wash over my incisions instead of washing them directly because they’re still tender to the touch.

I spent the morning reading about abortion restrictions across the nation and came away feeling even more convinced I made the right choice, especially because I live in Georgia with its cruel and inaccurately nicknamed “heartbeat bill”.

A friend came over in the afternoon and we played games and watched anime. (Y’all need to watch Bofuri, by the way. Season two is dropping now and season 1 is adorable. Girl starts playing a VR MMO and acquires all sort of superpowers because… well, she doesn’t want to get hurt so why not max her defense.)

Day 4: (16 January, Monday, MLK Day): I didn’t plan for a three-day weekend to give me an extra day of healing before going back to work but I’m glad it worked out that way.

I was feeling a lot better; my incisions were still sensitive and they started to itch. I couldn’t scratch at the glue; what if they come off?

My Pokemon Go factions teammates sent me a bouquet of flowers, and I had to go to my condo’s entrance to pick them up. This involved some stairs and I was winded by the time I got back home. Long walks won’t be happening for a few more days if I can barely walk a hundred feet.

Day 5 (17 January, Tuesday): Back to work for a four-day work week but everyone needed my time and attention at work all day Tuesday. I could sit at my desk for work in my pajamas, but let’s be honest, that’s my usual work outfit. It occurred to me mid-day that I haven’t worn pants since noping the fallopes. Since the tube yeeting. Hey wait a minute, why am I coming up with these cool names now and not before coming up with the #fallopianfree hashtag?

Day 6 (18 January, Wednesday): I finally left the house! And put on pants! One of my friends and I grabbed dinner at a restaurant a very short walk from my condo. The walking part was fine. The problem, as usual, was pants. I tried to choose jeans that are less tight and low-cut, but the jeans button still dug into my belly button, rubbing up against it on the walk there and back and while sitting down. Ow.

Day 9 (January 21, Saturday): The good news is that updates are starting to get boring. The IV site on my left forearm was still bruised, and my belly button incision is still bothered by pants.

Today was Pokemon Go Community Day Classic, but I have two perfect Larvitar with the special move so I don’t have to care too much. A few friends came over to do some writing. It was a good time but spoiler: exactly zero writing happened And this stressed me out, even though writing with extroverts means I spend half the sprint time figuring out what the heck I’m going to write because of all the time spent talking in between sprints because I actually have to stop and think about what I’m going to write.

Minus the pants situation, I felt okay. I went outside for a few minutes toward the end of Community Day because someone bought me the Community Day special research and I needed to make sure the last part didn’t say “Catch 15 Larvitar”. And for the first time since before the surgery, things have started feeling like normal again. Short of long hikes and lifting a whole Target run’s worth of stuff at once, I’m almost back to myself.

Day 10 (January 22, Sunday): I observed a few days ago that I’m entering sloth mode. I haven’t done a damn thing this year. I haven’t read anything. Okay, that’s a partial lie. I’ve started writing this post and another related on filled with bisalp protips. I’ve enhanced my social life and gotten a little better at Pokemon Go battling. (Fingers crossed since Orlando regionals are coming up.) The friends I’ve told this to say I have a good reason: surgery recovery. But really? It hasn’t been that bad. I could be reading books instead of Reddit stuff that validates all my life choices.

Day 12 (24 January, Tuesday): I walked around for about half an hour today and don’t feel at all winded. Sure, I was wearing low-sitting sweatpants for the trip, but the belly button sensitivity has become less of an issue. When do I risk real pants again?

My post-op appointment isn’t until mid-February and updates are getting boring, so I’ll end it here. The medical glue over my scars are still flaking off and for some reason I’m still bruised where the nurse put the IV in and near one of my tiny scars, but otherwise I feel generally fine. I probably shouldn’t go weightlifting for a few more weeks, but I wasn’t doing that anyway.

The interesting thing is everyone assumes I’m still recovering, like I’m still rolling on my side to get out of bed. To be clear, while a bisalp is surgery, it’s relatively minor on the grand scale of surgeries. It was my most intense surgery only because my sole previous surgical experience was the very common one of wisdom teeth removal. While I actually was recovering for the first week or so and I might have scared people with the experiences of the first few days, recovery wasn’t too bad after the long weekend. After that I’ve been slowly getting back into regular life, or at least the parts that don’t require pants. Pants are always a problem.

Coming soonish: how to get sterile, how Reddit is helpful for a change, and the protips your pre-op appointment should tell you about but doesn’t for some reason. (For real, why don’t they warn you about the gas?)

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