Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tube tying.

A reader sent me a link to this comic, apparently approvingly.

(Further scrutiny of this webcomic reveals certain problematic elements. Also sometimes it seems a little too autobiographical. But at least it's, um, brilliantly written and politically trenchant.)

The idea of people getting sterilized young gives me the heebie-jeebies. I have no problem with people not having kids, of course, but committing to it in your early twenties seems like a bad idea. A lot changes in life. When you're that young you just don't know how your circumstances or your partner or even your own beliefs might change over time. In the last five years, I can trace my own progression from snide liberal to snide libertarian, and from reluctant Jew to snotty atheist to eclectic pantheist. If you told me at 18 that someday I was going to own guns and sometimes vote Republican, I would've told you to fuck off. And if you handed me a paper to sign giving all my future votes to the Democrats, in perpetuity... I might have signed it.

I'm going to change more in my future. Right now I think I want kids but not until I'm in my thirties, or somehow "established" in a home, relationship, and career. I may change my mind. I may never have kids; not getting sterilized is hardly a commitment to breed, after all. Whatever happens, I may--no, I will--be a different person in the future. I don't want to destroy something that may turn out to be very important to Future Holly.

I also worry about the influence of the whole "childfree" movement, which is a freaky, freaky thing. It's this loose Internet society of people who don't want kids. But since it would be boring to sit around going "how's it going? still no kids? me either. good deal." all day, it warps into this weird vicious circlejerk in which they hate kids and hate parents and love abortion and love joking about horrible things happening to children. And of course they also love sterilization. And childfree-ers who get sterilized get the accolade of the community and get to feel like they really belong to the movement and they're living their ideals.

And then they grow out of it, right on schedule like they grew out of the Harry Potter communities, and they don't get their reproductive systems back. I don't think everyone who doesn't want kids "grows out of it," of course, but I think childfree-pride flag-wavers do. Or god, I hope they do.

I'm going to be a lot of different people, and they all have to share one uterus. It's only common decency not to mess it up.

EDIT: I'm going to do something unprecedented on the Internet and change my mind. People have the right to do any damnfool thong they want to their bodies, and it's not the medical establishment's job to make reproductive decisions for patients. However, I still think it's a very bad idea for a very young person with no medical problems to be sterilized.

Also I still think capital-C Childfree people are bugnuts. Although now I'm a little afraid to say that because those crazy fucks love them some online harassment. Just keep it online, kids.


  1. You're correct. However, there's a problem with the way doctors look at this, too...

    Spoon is unable to carry a child to term without fucking herself over: she has a degenerative disk, that would mean a couple months lying in bed were she to try having a baby. She repeatedly asked for "the plumbing to be removed", but the doctors refused: "you might change your mind later".

    Yeah... you're going to change your mind about being bedridden for a few months. Sure Doc.

    I won't say we don't want kids: it's just not in the cards for her right now. And thanks to the doctors who refused when she was younger (and under her father's insurance), we're now looking at a HUGE hospital bill... :(

    And are you serious about people joking about bad things happening to kids? NOT something someone wants to say around me...

  2. Strings - When someone has a physical problem, that's a totally different story. I'm only talking about people who are fine medically but have beliefs against having children. That's a lot more likely to change.

    And yeah, I'm not kidding.

  3. You sound like a smug breeder-in-training. It's bad karma to wish misfortune on others.

  4. "smug breeder-in-training"? Wow... talk about condescending bullshit attitudes!

    And I didn't catch any "wishing misfortune on others" in Holly's post. She simply pointed some things out.

    And before you try attacking me: don't bother. My comments are owned by me: I don't lurk behind "anonymous", but step up to the plate and defend myself. And I've had far worse than anything you have the balls to try attempted against me, but I'm still here.

    You don't want kids? Cool... I'm happy for you. But looking down your nose on others who make different choices in life? I'd say that makes you pathetic...

  5. Hey Holly: check your sitemeter, and tell me if Douche hails from Newark.

    Looks for all the world as if it followed me after my comment, and tried a shot across my bow.

    Oops... looks my return fire was actually better than their shot. Heh, heh, heh...

  6. I've seen the world from both sides now /peterpaulandmary.

    As Holly says, it is probably unwise to do permanent, irreversable things to your body. Oh, I've seen people reverse vasectomies and tubals, but it is a lot of work. Now, in some cases there are reasons, a la Spoon's DJD.

    I've also seen eighteen year old women with five children who are begging for a sterilization, but can't get it because they are not of age (these folks are usually medicaid patients and have difficulty with contraception.) After a litter, basically, I can see giving someone permanent relief.

    It IS paternalistic to refuse elective surgery because "You might change your mind"--the pity is there is no way to indemnify the surgeon for doing the work and not get sued for "protecting the patient's interests" later.

    William the Coroner

  7. There are separate issues here. I agree with you on the wisdom of deciding to be sterilized when young and childless, but it should be up to the young, childless adult.

    This is especially true in cases like Spoon's.

    full disclosure: I was divorced and 28 with custody of two kids when I got a vasectomy, I got mine as soon as I started dating again, intentionally before I had a partner who would have anything to say about it.

  8. Doctors should not make these decisions for women. It is the same logic as patronizing anti-abortionist, 'you don't know what you are doing so I will make the decision for you'.

    Even if she does regret it, it is still her decision to make. We make decisions everyday that are irreversible, with consequences and regrets.

    Its only because this is about baby making that doctors feel they have the right to step in and do something for a woman's own good.

    I think there perhaps be some law in place that prevent people from suing their doctors for a decision they made themselves, or maybe a grace period to think it over, but it shouldn't be denied outright.


  9. Having a child is just as permanent as getting sterilized. Are infertile people in their early 20's also denied treatment until they get a bit older? If not, why do we assume people will only change their minds in one direction?

  10. Wow, way to just write of the childfree community entirely. Yes, there are a lot of us who like to hate on kids, but some of us just quietly know that we never, ever want to raise children. We should be able to make that decision without people (and doctors) like you insisting that EVERYONE will want kids some day.

  11. Anonymous 1 - Your mama was a breeder-in-training.

    I didn't wish misfortune on anyone.

    Strings - I can't track anonycomments individually. It doesn't much matter anyway.

    William - The paternalistic thing is an issue, but on the other hand medicine usually isn't practiced as direct fee-for-service-no-questions-asked. "No worries, I can't get sued for this" is kind of a bad basis for doing something you don't feel is in the patient's long-term interest.

    Lance - No, I wouldn't deny the fertility treatment, mostly because there are so many people that age having kids naturally and the only difference between them and the patient is physical. I don't require every decision in life to be fully reversible, I'm just weirded out by early-sterilization because it sometimes seems unnecessary and drastic.

    Anonymous 2 - Wow, way to not read the post. Of course I don't think everyone will want kids. I'm just saying that in your early twenties you don't know for sure if you will or not.

    Yes, there are a lot of us who like to hate on kids, but some of us just quietly know that we never, ever want to raise children.

    Then why are you a community? I don't ride a motorcycle, but I'm not a member of a "bikefree community" because there's not much to say about something I don't do.

  12. Hey, I wonder if this is the same anonymous who went back a few posts and posted:

    I hope Benny treats you as the convenient hole you are.

    Because they seem like a really kind well-adjusted person who has simply made the rational decision not to have children.

  13. I never want kids, ever.
    I know that sounds harsh, but with my lifestyle and the way I am, I know that I will never want to have children.
    Sterilization is something I have though long and hard about, and really want. It would save me money, worry and possible guilt.
    I would not be able to raise a child. I would not and do not want to.
    Though I am hoping my siblings and/or best friend will have kids, I'll make a great Auntie!
    But I have yet to find a doctor who will do it for me.
    I'm 23. I know what it's like to make a permanent decision, I wish someone would let me make this one. It makes me very sad that a doctor will not respect my choice in this matter.
    Just saying...

  14. I don't hatekids, just don't like them very much. At 44, it's fairly certain I'll never reproduce, nor want to. I agree, though--sterilization in one's twenties is presuming one never will want them, & that's way too big a jump for me.
    I can't comprehend the "childfree" movement. To me, your comparison to bikes is spot-on. I love to ride, so I'm a member of several bike-based web communities. I don't golf, so I don't even think about golf, let alone ramble on & on about how I still don't play.

  15. The concept of not being allowed to do exactly as I like with my own body makes my blood boil, frankly. No one else and no damn doctor has the (moral) right to make my medical decisions for me unless, like, I'm in surgery and out cold so I can't be asked.

    I'm unable to have biological kids due to a hormone imbalance when I was little (too much testosterone, too little estrogen, ovaries never developed) and even though I fully expect I'll want kids someday and it'll make me very sad that I can't, I don't think it would be worse if it had been my decision. Moreover, even if it WERE worse, people have the right to do dumb shit with their bodies that might make them sad later, like get tattoos or go skydiving.

    And men don't have nearly this trouble getting vasectomies.

  16. "The concept of not being allowed to do exactly as I like with my own body makes my blood boil, frankly. No one else and no damn doctor has the (moral) right to make my medical decisions for me unless, like, I'm in surgery and out cold so I can't be asked."

    Now we get into interesting territory. Just as Jess believes that it is morally wrong to prevent her from doing what she will with her body, a doctor may well believe that sterilizing a healthy young adult to be morally wrong. Seeing as how you can't force the doctor to sterilize you and you can to it yourself, the best, and in fact only solution to this dilemma is to find another doctor. I wish you luck in that because I haven't a clue how difficult it may be.

    As for me I am 25 years old and do not ever want kids and do not like children. Hell I didn't like children when I was a child, so I am certainly not going to start now. However I can not fathom the "childless community" Holly describes here. I admit that I get perturbed when children cause public disturbances and whatnot. In such cases my anger is directed towards the parent, not the kid. I should also note here that I have seen the childless attacked to. Being accused of being selfish and unproductive because you do not have or want kids is rather unpleasant, especially coming from ones own mother.

    Lastly I must admit that this all makes my pregnant girl fetish that much harder to bear. Fruit forbidden not by law, social customs, or my own morals, but by selfish desires to spend all my money and attention upon myself.

  17. Sterilization is a topic I haven't entirely made up my mind about yet. I think I would like to have my tubes tied as soon as I'm old enough (which, in Norway, is at 25), but sometimes I'm not certain.

    I'll own that it's possible I may someday change my mind about not wanting children. The thought absolutely terrifies me. I know myself well enough to know that motherhood wouldn't agree with me. It would more than likely make me miserable. I don't like children, and I don't see the appeal of having them - and I'd rather make a rational decision on that subject than theoretically succumbing to the biological clock sometime in the future.

    Honestly, I would much, much rather regret *not* having children than regret having them. The idea of ruling it out forever appeals to me.

  18. I agree that people should have the right to do whatever they damn well want with their bodies. But I also agree with the main point of this post, that you might just plain change your mind -- even about something you thought you'd feel forever. I have a friend who asked a doctor to tie her tubes when she was in her 20s, he told her no responsible doctor should do such a thing, & she ended up having a baby at 37.

    Doctors ought to give people a very stern and heartfelt talk about possible problems with sterilization, then let them come back after a lengthy waiting period if they're still really sure. & it ought to be equal for both sexes; AFAIK now, getting a vasectomy is no big deal, while getting your tubes tied is almost impossible.

    Of course, an IUD is a pretty reasonable option for women who never want kids. It lasts for freakin' 10 years and you have to see a doctor to get it reversed.

  19. IUD do not work for everyone - I have a friend who is here because her mother's IUD did not work for her. They are also hella expensive, like I'll get a IUD and not eat for two months expensive (at least where I am).

    I'll also add my voice to the choir: It seriously pisses me off when doctors and 'society' decide what is 'best' for a woman. Men can get a vasectomy in their 20s no questions asked. But a woman has to fight for 5-10 years to get a doctor to believe her when she says she wants to be sterilaized! Even in cases where it could kill the woman to have children, in cases where the woman's quality of life is seriously reduced because her reproductive system is against her, it is STILL a fight.

    What's wrong with this picture?

    If it were the same for both sexes I would have less issues. But it's not. Only women are told 'you don't know what's good for you', and it burns my keester, damnit.

    People make stupid life decisions all the time, both sexes should be allowed to make them. If they regret them later, well, that's life.

    I never want to have children. I've felt this way since I was 13, I"m 30 now and I don't see it changing any time soon. I have friends with children, and I'm happy they are happy, but it sure is hell ain't for me.

    I also really don't understand the idea of a non-breeding community. It seems very odd to me. Wisihing harm on strangers, be they children or not is just not healthy. So much hatred, why? I don't get that.

  20. I knew at 17 that I didn't want kids; I still know that at 40. And at 28, when I'd gone through all the other birth control options [except the IUD, which I am happily using now], I had a female OB/GYN tell me that because I hadn't "had four abortions," she wouldn't tie my tubes. Apparently if I'd been less careful up until then, it would have been fine. *headdesk*

    (Also, I like some kids quite a lot. I'm childless by choice, not "childfree" - I agree that they are a mystifying clique of haters!)

    Anyway, I'm glad you changed your mind on this one! :-) That in itself is a rare and wonderful thing to see on the Intertubes...

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  22. Sorry, that was a double comment post. But just to blather on a bit more - my first IUD ended up costing me about 1/10 of what sterilization would, and was outpatient. So if anyone else is in this "fix" (so to speak), I recommend looking into your IUD options.

  23. The problem is, of course, is that women are a protected class, and CAN turn around and sue the pants of the doc that did the sterilization and get a boatload of money for anguish and lost reproductive opportunities.

    It is just not worth it. Unless women are willing to take responsibility for their actions, too dangerous for the doctor.

  24. Meh. I absolutely knew I wanted kids when I was seventeen and did not have that desire change in any way; I find it utterly implausible that I could exist and that people who knew they didn't want kids at seventeen don't. (And when I posted in my webjournal about this recently, I got an, "I'm not surprised you always wanted kids; I always knew I didn't" from a childfree friend.)

    Either seventeen's old enough to have a good sense of this or it isn't; whatever one might think best practice might be in the abstract, I still exist, and bitflipped-me logically exists.

  25. Dw3t-Hthr - I "knew" a lot of things at 17 that aren't true of me now. Also some things that didn't change. But I had no ability to tell the difference. All I ever know is how I feel now, and I can't project into the future with certainty.

    Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm immature or a dilletante, but... when I've had the sense of knowing something for certain about myself, it's often turned out to be an illusion.

  26. Honestly, I think there are a lot of ranges in this sort of thing. I've known people who felt that all of their personal options were open, or at least that they couldn't eliminate possibilities without further experimentation; I've known people who've had a bunch of Sure Things in how they felt they had to deal with the universe that were very strong, very immutable, and very clear.

    I suspect many people fall broadly somewhere along this spectrum, and then it kicks in independently on each sort of thing individually.

    It actually took me running into someone who was talking about polyamory in terms of "Really, how can you know it doesn't work for you unless you try it? Isn't it best for your spiritual enlightenment that you put in the effort and try? You can stop if it doesn't work" to actually articulate this thought. Some stuff just doesn't fit some people, and sometimes it's obvious. I could look at that and see whole worlds of things that I knew wouldn't work without trying them, and so I started to work on blithering thoughtfully.

    So yeah, people change, but for me, losing the whole wanting-kids thing that I've had would be like losing the whole men-are-sexually-attractive thing; not only is that a major change, it's one that comes completely loose of the bearings of how the world appears to work for me, and is thus roughly as unanticipatable and unplannable as being hit by a meteor. If I didn't do anything that might cause me difficulties later on the hit-by-a-meteor odds things, I'd never do anything of consequence.

    And the impression I've had from people I've seen talking about wanting sterilisation at age 24 or whatever is that, for the most part, they're in that hit-by-a-meteor place. Sure, it happens, but that's not the point.

  27. Yeeah, I'm pretty sure I don't want children, but I'm not willing to go to the hassle of fighting with doctors over it, in part because I know I could change my mind.

    I don't think it's right for doctors to refuse to help a young person who wants to be sterilized; I think they should either make very sure the patient understands the procedure and its potential consequences before doing it, or, if they're really not comfortable, they should refer them to someone else. But I do question whether some people may regret getting sterilized.

    Luckily I have a kickass doctor who is right on the same page as I am; she suggested an IUD at the exact same time I was opening my mouth to ask about one. It's a very effective, fairly longterm solution (I'm sure I don't want kids in the next five years, and if for some reason I do, it can come out) but I'm not stuck with it if pigs fly and I suddenly develop maternal instincts.

  28. @ Dw3t-Hthr -- "hit by a meteor," exactly!

    My speculations on why I *might* want kids have always run along the "but what if there was a plague that killed 98% of the world's population?" lines and, from age 17 to age 40, my response has *still* been pretty much "ehh, I guess then I might let them harvest some ova?"

  29. The doctor in the comic is the same one that said adoption "isn't the same".
    I have the best mom in the world, and I didn't come from her loins. She scooped me up from some 20-something who made a mistake and got pregnant, and raised me with an almost psychotic level of love and devotion.
    I have, however, decided that I don't want children. I am a member of the childfree community, but we are not all "haters". I dislike children, admittedly, but almost got into a fight on the subway when some woman back-handed her kid.
    I feel that having a kid when you are not absolutely sure you are ready is far more problematic than someone 24 or so deciding they never ever want children. The sterilized person can adopt.

    This, of course, is from someone who had to hear "no, I mean, did you ever meet your REAL mother" my entire life.