I’ve known since I was 12 that I had no desire to be a mother.

by Barbara

May 11, 2018

I’ve known since I was 12 that I had no desire to be a mother. I’ve been on birth control since I was 17, when I became sexually active; I’m almost 45 now. My whole life I’ve tried over and over to get sterilized, only to be ignored or talked down to by doctors about what I do and don’t know about my own desires and body. I gave up trying to convince them around year 30 and just took the pill. I’ve also spent almost as long on medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis, so even if I had wanted kids, they made it really complicated. Those meds are guaranteed complicators.


But when I was 40, the birth control failed. Maybe I took a pill late. Maybe my hormones were whacko. Maybe another round of steroids for RA messed with everything. Maybe it just failed. Who knows. Doesn’t really matter, because what I do know is it took exactly 3 minutes to decide on an abortion. It was just another medical decision in a life of weighing risks and rewards of chronic illness versus the nasty drugs they treat it with. You get good at deciding from the hip with lots of practice.


The procedure day was stressful, not surprisingly. There’s a lot of baggage, personal and societal. By the time I hit mid-30s, my whole family was dead from sudden illness or accident, so I was essentially ending our blood line for good. If my mother had been alive, it’s the kind of thing I would have never told her about solely because she wanted to be a grandma. But I’d already decided to not be the one to continue the family when I was 12, and I have never wavered once in that feeling, even as the relatives fell away. So the stress that day was probably more about joining the dead relatives society too early via some freak medical accident, than the fact that I was losing a mass of cells from my uterus. Plus, while I waited with my partner of 14 years in the separate waiting room at Planned Parenthood, there was a young couple there too who weren’t handling the stress of their own procedure very well, and he was cracking crass jokes. The jokes were kind of awful and she just didn’t seem to be able to process enough to tell him to shove it. I tried to have compassion, but that was hard, I have to admit. It’s one of the things I remember most from that day. My boyfriend–the epitome of the quiet type–almost picked a fight. He was livid. I could tell the day was hard on him, too. But not because of the abortion–like me he had never wanted to be a parent and it was just another medical procedure–he was amped up because he wanted me to be ok.

And you know what? I was ok. I am ok. Despite the stressful day, it’s still a good decision, just like when I decided to not have kids and all those doctors ignored my convictions for years. Finally, last month, at 44, I got my tubes tied after having a hard time with my most recent birth control and just being done with the hormones. That surgery was an even better decision, one I wish I’d had the self-possession to insist on earlier. I wish I had listened to 12 year-old me sooner. She was wiser than I had realized.

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