Reproductive Health Interrogation

I’ve decided to undergo tubal ligation at thirty-one – AKA I’m going to have my tubes tied. Cue the horrified looks and gasps full of simultaneous inquisition. I wish my reproductive health wasn’t of anyone else’s concern but for some reason we live in a society where a majority, whether consciously or not, believe that for a woman to fulfill her life, she must bear children and apparently that is everyone’s business.

I’ve had my fair share, from male and female interrogators, of the repetitive, “Do you want kids?” “When do you think you’ll have children?” One of the most laughable insinuations came from my maternal grandmother, and I paraphrase, “You know, in my day, your age was prime time for having babies.” And even though she has a daughter of her own who by grandma’s standards is “in her prime,” my aunt will occasionally joke, “When are you having babies? C’mon Linds, get pregnant.” And some of these may be all humorous, but I do take it seriously.

Most recently, I was confronted by an older gentleman whom I had only met once before – a half acquaintance, if you will. After asking me the monotonous, “Do you want children of your own” and then being met with, “No, I’m very happy being an auntie,” he proceeded to ask me my age. He followed this up by divulging his regretful youth as a thinly veiled persuasive speech in which if he could “do it over, he would most certainly have children.” If I were as uncouth, perhaps I would have asked him how he might have done so without the necessary reproductive organs.

But I’m not a rude person by nature and I am also aware that no one means any harm. I just wish that people thought more before speaking, attempted to put him or herself in the shoes of the person that he or she is addressing about such sensitive subject matter. I find it fascinating that when speaking on the subject of reproductive health, people behave as if a woman does not know herself – her mind, body and soul!

My intentions in sharing all this have nothing to do with explaining myself or justifying my decisions and everything to do with you, my reader – the single mother who has decided not to bear anymore children or the young, widowed wife who never had the opportunity to have children with her now deceased husband – Other thirty-one year old women, like myself, so deeply moved by the unknown and yet to be experienced, thirsty for life, cities yet travelled, places yet discovered and people yet met – And even that man, the one who’d wished he’d had children when he had the chance.

The most common question I have been met with since contemplating tubal ligation is, you guessed it because you’re probably wondering, “What if you change your mind?” Well, firstly, I won’t because tubal ligation is a very final procedure – but not irreversible as my doctor repeatedly assured me because he was probably thinking, “She may change her mind.” Secondly, I’m thirty-one years old, my biological clock is not ticking and the time frame for it to do so and become pregnant naturally is becoming slimmer and slimmer. What’s that you say? Sure, there is loads of progress in the fertility field and women are safely having healthy babies past forty now! But that brings me to my final and most important reason – I simply don’t want to have children of my own. This is the one that seems very difficult for people to wrap their brains around – and I’m always gawked at like I’m Pinocchio with a twelve-inch long nose after I state that very real and very primal fact.

I am very much a mother figure in various capacities, therefore, no, I do not feel as if I will be missing out on something. I am blessed with a plethora of nieces and nephews whom I love and adore and two cats who rely on my consistent care.

My own mother was so incredibly sensitive when it came to this subject and I’m forever grateful for her approach. She never once pressured me or made me feel like it was a destiny I must fulfill. With complete understanding, she exclaimed what a joy it would be for her to be a grandmother to my children, she believed I would be a wonderful mother but that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to and I certainly didn’t have to do it to please anyone else.

And I guess I lied when I said my final reason was that I simply don’t want to have kids. While it remains the most important, my final reason is that I don’t want to have children that will grow up without knowing their grandmother. I don’t want to suffer the dreaded morning sickness without being able to pick up the phone and call my mother to complain, gaining her much needed sympathy. I don’t want to go through grueling labor without my mother in the hospital room, by my side. I don’t want to raise another human being in this wild world without the ability to consult my mother’s wisdom. I don’t want to be a mother in a world that is void of my mother.

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Talk Therapy

It isn’t too late. Time is not running out. Your life is here and now. And the moment has arrived at which you’re finally ready to change.

Those were the words sprawled across the page I turned to in Cheryl Strayed’s, Brave Enough. Many would deem this happenstance though I happen not to believe in such an underestimation of the Universe’s magical workings. I turned to that page because those are the words I needed to read in that moment. Those are the words that I needed said to me – the words I needed to believe.

So many people who are not familiar with talk therapy assume that all we do is go into a room for an hour a week and tell a stranger all of our problems, then we conduct our daily lives for the following week only to return and repeat. It is so much more than that – I actually go twice a week, every Wednesday and Saturday, and those two, sometimes grueling, hours I spend in that private room per week are hard work extended into my daily life. The work does not stop.  It requires almost 24/7 self-awareness for it to be at all effective.  At times, my mind and my heart fight back in fits of anger because what is to be revealed is so painful that the anger becomes an automatic response, a defense mechanism.

All the discussion, the analysis, the tears, the revelations – all of it must somehow be applied to my daily life. It is essentially teaching an old dog new tricks and while extremely difficult it is not impossible if one is willing to learn.

Wednesday nights are especially challenging because they come after a long day at work and sometimes those days might be exceptionally stressful – the kind of stressful that makes one only want to withdraw to his or her home with a bottle of wine.  Alas, I must push on through and basically force myself to show up. In fact, I believe I have become, for lack of better terms, “so good” at therapy that I compulsorily talk about and say things that in a social setting would be judged completely absurd or inappropriate. I justify this otherwise uncomfortable situation with the fact that holding back is not productive thus I try and say all the things, no matter how dark and gritty, that come to mind.

If the above sounds simple, one would be severely mistaken in thinking so. In fact, there have definitely been times where the thought that occurs to me or the memory I recall is so intensely painful the only response I can enact is one of detached silence or a waterfall of tears. I’m not afraid to say, “I can’t go there right now” and I won’t – or I may force myself to.

My first experience with therapy began in 2007 when something, perhaps an inkling of identifiable depression, prompted me to call someone and tell her that I wasn’t quite sure why I wanted to see her but that I felt like I needed to. Fortunately, I was happy with the work we were doing in there but unfortunately I lost my job and thus, my insurance, in 2008 so our sessions seized.

In 2011, shortly after my parents’ death and living in New York City, I attempted therapy again only to be deeply disappointed by the doctor I had made the appointment with and inevitably discouraged from seeking an alternative one. During the darkest time of my life, it just felt like too much work.

I’ve been seeing my current therapist for three years. Initially, she was my marriage counselor. David and I would see her every Saturday up until we decided to end our marriage. I decided I wanted to continue seeing her on an individual level instead of seeking a new therapist because she already knew David and I knew he would be a recurring topic of conversation in those beginning months. About a year and a half into our one on one sessions, I began seeing her twice a week.

I’m constantly evolving, changing and this is thankfully, in part to the self-work I do on a daily basis, the therapy I regularly attend. The life I live here and now is work – enjoyable work much of the time but trying, nonetheless. There are no time outs no matter how much we may pretend. I know I can get caught up in that destructive thinking that “it’s too late” or “there’s not enough time.” Oftentimes, I hear my mother’s encouraging voice in my ear, “One thing at a time…” as I attempt to tackle a multitude of issues, racing the ticking second hand on the clock. I must live with me, and the only me I can stand to live with is the one that is proactively working on becoming a better version of herself.

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