I recently got my "tubes tied," or had a surgical procedure called a bilateral tubal ligation to prevent future pregnancies, which oddly enough did not involve tying anything. I swear people make up cutesy nicknames for pretty much anything involving women's reproductive anatomy. It's almost as if our society is completely uncomfortable with it. (Spoiler alert: it is). Anyway, despite a ton of contemplation, research, consulting my OB-GYN, talking to my friends and mom, and Googling the worst things that could happen, I was far from prepared. Honestly, the things that surprised me most about getting my tubes tied were things that I couldn't really prepare for.
The main thing that surprised me was the pain. Everything I read about the procedure described it as "uncomfortable." No. It hurt. A lot. I am not sure if the authors of the brochures and websites I read have never had the procedure, or if they have and this is another example of being conditioned as women to minimize our pain and shoulder it alone, but I'm not gonna lie, it's freaking painful. For me, the procedure and recovery was far worse than childbirth.
Then there are the emotional side effects of the procedure that no one really talks about. The finality of it hit me hard. I actually cried about it, which was totally shocking to me because when I say that I don't want to be pregnant ever again, I really mean it. I don't. Never again. I would rather make out with Donald Trump or swim with sharks than be pregnant again. Seriously.
So why were there so many surprises? I think, in part, because we are so damned uncomfortable talking about reproductive health in our culture. Also, simultaneously, getting pregnant and wanting to get pregnant seems to be synonymous with being a "good" woman (it's really not). The end result is that people don't talk about their experiences with this procedure or they minimize how painful it is. After all, we asked for it, so we deserve what we get, right? Wrong, and that is some pretty messed up bullsh*t.
So, while your mileage may vary, I'm going to be honest about my experience getting my tubal ligation, because I am not ashamed and it was nothing like I thought it would be.
Everyone I know who has considered or had a tubal has faced questions or criticism about getting one, even from their freaking doctor. Not me. Maybe it's because I am 38 years old and already have three children and two stepchildren. Maybe it's because my last two pregnancies were so terrible. Regardless, I asked about it and my OB-GYN scheduled it. She didn't even ask, "Are you sure?" which was so refreshing.
The longest parts of my day in outpatient surgery were pre-op and post-op. I had to be there two hours before my surgery and had to stay until I could keep food down, walk unassisted, and my pain had reached a manageable level. The actual surgery itself only took about 45 minutes, and was nothing like Grey's Anatomy.
That's right. My tubal ligation was 100 percent covered by my insurance, as required by the Affordable Healthcare Act, because it is considered contraception. Thanks, Obama.
It felt like I went to sleep and woke up a second later. I remember thinking that something must have gone wrong and they had to stop the procedure, but then I realized I was in another room full of beds separated by curtains. A nurse kept asking me to rate my pain, and my voice was so quiet and hoarse from being intubated during surgery. I felt sleepy and strange (like I was dreaming), a little bit of pain and bloating, and so completely out of it.
I'm not going to lie, it was freaking painful. I guess that's not all that surprising when you consider that it literally involved making two incisions in my body, blowing my abdomen up like a balloon, inserting a camera and surgical instruments, digging around until they found my fallopian tubes, then cauterizing and clamping them. There's no way to describe pain from surgery to someone who hasn't had surgery, but it's certainly not something I could recover from by sitting on a proverbial bag of peas the way a guy can after a vasectomy.
I let someone cut into my body and change it. On purpose. OMG. So weird. Amazing, but surreal.
It's been hard. Harder than recovery from childbirth and harder on our whole family. In addition to abdominal pain and pain at my surgical sites, which I expected, I had a sore throat and was unable to eat solid food for two days from the tube they put down my throat to breath for me during surgery. I had pain and bruising at my IV sites, pain when I peed from having a catheter, and pain in my shoulders from the excess gas they used to inflate my abdomen during surgery. So much pain. I also was constipated from my pain medication, and my first post-surgery poop was actually worse than my first postpartum poop. I had vaginal bleeding, like after childbirth. They didn't mention that in the brochure.
My husband and I agree that our family is complete, but there's something so final about sterilization. I can't get pregnant, or at least the chances of me getting pregnant now are tiny. I thought I would want to shout this from the rooftop and after decades of being responsible for preventing pregnancy. Honestly though, it has been more like an introspective whisper to myself with a question mark at the end.
Now, this might be a combination of postpartum hormones, looking at my beautiful children, and knowing that I won't have more babies or the finality of the procedure, but I was legitimately sad, which was so surprising.
One of them is inside my belly button and virtually invisible. The other is below my bikini line and tiny. Science is amazing.
It's weird. I don't regret not being able to get pregnant. That's awesome. I do regret choosing a tubal over my partner getting a vasectomy or me continuing to use birth control. If I could go back in time, I wouldn't get a tubal, and I definitely wouldn't get one seven weeks after having a baby when I was still recovering from child birth, sleep deprived, and caring for a newborn.
My husband brought his laptop to the hospital expecting to be able to work, while I was in surgery. He didn't even tell his boss it was happening. He ended up being so worried about me during the procedure that he couldn't work. Then, after we got home from the hospital, neither of us expected me to be in so much pain and to need him to take care of me and our kids. It was seriously rough on our whole family.
I love my children more than just about anything, but my last two pregnancies were among the worst experiences of my life. I never have to do it again. Whoo hoo. I also don't have to worry about birth control. For the first time in 20 years, I don't have to have an implant or IUD, remember to get a Depo Shot, fill my birth control prescription, or take a pill every day. That is a beautiful thing.