I don’t want children. I’m sure. I’m so sure in fact, I’m trying to get sterilised.

I’m sure because I know my own mind. I’m sure because I like my life, my partner and my relationship the way they are and I don’t want that to drastically change because of some tiny, unexpected human coming along.

I’m also sure because I’ve had a chance to try-before-you buy. I was a step-parent for several years and was actively involved in the upbringing of the child. I don’t mean the odd story or trip to the park, I mean changing nappies, potty training, getting up in the night when they were ill, cutting toenails, doing discipline, being sicked on…so I know what parenthood involves.

I know the strong bond you have with a child, I know what it entails, and I know how it turns your life upside-down. And now I have my life back, I like it. I don’t want to lose it again, even for a little someone I would love.

So why am I taking such a ‘drastic’ step? Well, for one thing, there’s the cost. I buy my pill privately. Because I run my packets together (why have a period if you don’t want to?), a six-month supply lasts me four. Given that the average age of menopause is 51 , I can figure on this level of expenditure for a further 27 years. Every time I renew my scrip, I pay out, then spend a week anxiously waiting for it to arrive, trying to figure out whether I’ll need to pick up alternative contraception if it’s late.

I could get my pill on the NHS and pass the cost on to the state, but I don’t. I don’t want the side effects of the coil and the thought of having an IUD or implant makes my stomach churn. Besides which, I flirt with the upper BMI boundary for implant usage so in a fat month, I’ll likely be declined.

The pill is great, but only if you take it properly- always remembering to bring it with you if you’re out late, compensating if you have a stomach upset, and so on. So it’s not a permanent solution. Sterilisation is. One op, and I’ll never have to worry about pregnancy prevention again. It doesn’t seem drastic to me.

femalse-sterilisation

According to the many people who react with horror at my decision, I must have come from an abusive home, (I didn’t), not have met the right person yet (kindly keep your judgements about the validity of my relationship for the occasions I ask for them), have something wrong with me, or just, plain hate kids.

I don’t.

I work as a swim teacher, with dozens of children, most of whom are perfectly nice. I also adore my nieces and nephew and dote on my friends’ kids. The key thing for me is that I can control how much of my life is given over to them. I can offer to babysit for an afternoon to help out a friend. I can join family in taking my niece swimming. But it hasn’t taken over my entire life, and I like that.

An alternative hypothesis is that I’m just the most god-awful, selfish individual on the planet. So I’m going to say this once. It’s not selfish not to want to procreate.

What’s actually selfish is having children you’re ambivalent about, then being a poor parent.

– Or pressuring and guilt-tripping other people into having children they’re unsure about.
– Or having children to prop up the ponzi scheme of a pension system, so you can retire on schedule.
– Or having children just as some kind of care insurance policy for your old age. Your kids might willingly decide to care for you when you’re old out of a spirit of respect and compassion. Or they might be caught in the trap of duty, waiting on faltering feet, resentful and guilty. Having children isn’t a guarantee of free care in your old age. Voting and campaigning for better social care, however, might be a good bet.

“But you’d be a great parent! You’re just the kind of person who should be having kids.

People who make value judgements over which kind of people should be allowed to breed? Stop. Don’t tell me that people like me (read middle-class, well-educated, fairly liberal, intelligent, and probably white) ‘should’ be procreating (against my will) while another undesirable group has their reproductive capacity curtailed.
If you espouse the view that some people have more right or duty to procreate than others, you’re an awful human being. It reeks of racism, classism and eugenics.

My fight is about me and my individual liberty to control my reproductive potential and order my life as I wish, not an attempt to engage in a social engineering project. And on the poverty argument, I agree. It is tough and certainly less than ideal to bring up a child when resources are tight. I’ve been there. I’ve been in a cold house with a child, wrapped together in three blankets at story time because we couldn’t afford to make using the heating a habit.

The solution to families going through these problems is not to vilify those who procreate despite poverty (which is sometimes permanent and sometimes temporary). The solution is to work towards a society where being poor isn’t dangerous. Where rogue landlords are prosecuted, welfare benefits don’t let people fall through the gaps, where there is a real living wage which allows people to have warm homes and good food and good basic opportunities; to offer young people trapped in poverty a means of escape and a reason to delay having children until they’re in a good position to provide for them.

“But aren’t you worried you’ll regret it?”

Not so much, actually. I’m making a sensible and well-justified decision now, in as objective a manner as I can. I acknowledge that I’m an emotional being (hello, P.S. I Love You), and it’s perfectly possible that I might regret my decision in the future. I can’t insure myself against that.

However, I’d argue I’m probably more likely to regret my decision due to the overwhelming narrative around childfree women being that we’re broken, sad, mad, and don’t know real love.

Also, when was the last time you asked that of a pregnant woman?

Having a child is also life-changing and permanent. Very few people would dare tell a 24-year-old woman in a stable, loving, cohabiting relationship that maybe she was too young to be making such a permanent change to her life, and that she could always have an abortion. No doctor would make her wait until she was 30 to access fertility treatment if she couldn’t conceive, just to make sure she knew her own mind and wouldn’t regret her choice. Why then is this the dominant conversation when it comes to the childfree-by-choice?

Logically, it would make more sense to question the decision of the woman wanting the child. Giving birth presents a huge shift in your entire lifestyle, The Earth is already overpopulated and another little consumer is being added to continue the stripping of its finite resources.

Having children puts a strain on relationships. It’s a major financial burden. These are all factors that could stand some scrutiny but politeness holds us back, because having a baby is ‘normal’.

Life doesn’t have to be empty just because it doesn’t have a child in it. My life isn’t currently empty, and it won’t suddenly become empty at age 30 because I haven’t sprung a sprog. I’ll carry on doing my job, which I love, spending time with my partner, whom I love, and with friends and hobbies. These things are possible with children, but I can devote more time and energy and to all these things if I’m not worn out from mommying. Also, I can be an energetic and enriching aunt for my nieces and nephew, as well as spending time with my friends’ kids.

I don’t hate kids. It’s just I’d rather be part of the village raising the child, than being a parent myself. Mums and dads do a great job. So do firefighters and paramedics. I respect them for what they’re doing. I just don’t want to sign up.

I find myself thrust into the role of advocate for women’s rights to control their fertility in a permanent manner. I didn’t expect anyone to have to do this in 2016 – certainly not me – I don’t enjoy being a single-issue empty-womb warrior. It’s draining and makes me an angry, obsessive, boring person.

I’d like to get my tubes tied, have a week off work, and then get on with my life, but judgemental people, societal bias and state interference in my bodily autonomy have started this fight, and I’m going to see it finished.

For more information about Female Sterilisation, visit the NHS site, or visit your GP.

 

Sophie Merrick is a a swimming and lifesaving instructor, with a keen interest in health promotion, based in the Midlands. Sophie is also moderator of the Facebook group, The Positive Feminist.   You can find her on Twitter @MerrickSophie or Instagram @sophymerrie. 

 

 

 

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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. “Having a child is also life-changing and permanent. Very few people would dare tell a 24-year-old woman in a stable, loving, cohabiting relationship that maybe she was too young to be making such a permanent change to her life, and that she could always have an abortion. No doctor would make her wait until she was 30 to access fertility treatment if she couldn’t conceive, just to make sure she knew her own mind and wouldn’t regret her choice. Why then is this the dominant conversation when it comes to the childfree-by-choice?”

    YES!

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  2. I’ve been a member of childfree-by-choice groups for a couple of decades now, and I’ve talked with many older people who have decided not to have kids – there is very, very little regret there. When you make a considered decision to have or to not have kids, you’re doing better than the vast majority of the population who just do the default. Doctors and the medical establishment need to catch up with the reality of childfree people – there are many of us, and we don’t come to our decisions on a whim.

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  3. You forgot about the “you’ll regret it when you’re older” comment (I heard that numerous times). I too decided early that I didn’t want children (I was 14 when I originally made the decision) and was lucky enough to have a GP in my early 20s who was happy to refer me for sterilisation. Unfortunately, lots of things conspired to delay the operation and it didn’t happen but now, perimenopausally, I can honestly say that I have never spent one day regretting the decision to remain child free.

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  4. I dont get the point personalities Change, and why not leave the Option open to have children later? There are contraceptives that are nearly as effective as an sterilization. The sterilization failure rate is 0,5%, copper IUD failure rate is 0,8%. For that tiny 0,3% you’re making a lifetime choice? That’s Just hilarious

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    • Hi Maggie.

      Without speaking for the author, I think the point is, it doesn’t matter whether you ‘get’ it or not. It should be up to every woman what she chooses to do with her body.

      What it comes down to is choice, and we don’t have to personally understand why someone prefers one type of procedure to another, to agree that they should have the choice to go the route they feel most comfortable with. For you it may be copper IUD, for her it is not.

      As you have admitted other forms are only “nearly” as effective, as the author has written at length that she doesn’t want the “option to have children later” and as issues like this can have a big impact on a woman’s mental health I’d suggest that none of it is “hilarious”.

      Also, I will add that the author did mention her reasoning for not choosing other methods of contraception over sterilisation including copper IUD in the article (although for now she must continue the pill).

      Holly x

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      Reply
    • Hi Maggie,

      Author here.

      Copper IUDs are a great method of contraception for some people, but not for me.
      They are strongly correlated with adverse side effects such as very heavy, painful periods (which I already get and don’t want made worse).
      Insertion can be very painful. They are not permanent. You can bleed unexpectedly between menses.
      There are other even less pleasant side effects, although these are rarer.

      It’s also not always offered to nulliparous women (those who have not borne children), depending on which Clinical Commissioning Group you fall under.

      If you scroll back up and read the article, you’ll see that I really don’t want to leave open the option to have children later.

      Still, glad I could give you a chuckle.

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