Cross-posted from FitFreedom: My personal decision to get sterilized

Posted on 17.06.2012

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(I wrote this for the fitfreedom site initially, but felt the need to post it here, too. If you are a follower of both blogs, sorry for clogging your inbox with duplicates:)

Hello everyone, I’m writing today to talk about a procedure I’m about to have done. It’s not something that a lot of people talk about, and I think that’s dangerous. I’m going to share my feelings and reasons here, and if you’d like to ask questions, please feel free. I’d like to state before moving on that this is my own, personal decision, and I don’t judge others for not having made a similar one. This is what’s right for me, and I’d never push that on anyone else.

Most of our regular readers might recall that I have a disease. I have multiple sclerosis, which is the same disease that my mother had. This is a scary thing, since MS is notactually a hereditary disease, although the body’s disposition to acquiring an auto-immune disorder is, thanks to one half of a gene that could be defective. The possibility of contracting MS (or any auto-immune disorder) lives in one half of a gene that is passed on from your parents. If you end up with that gene, as I did, and it is defective, then you have a chance of the disease showing up. Unlike other diseases, auto-immune disorders generally need to be triggered by some kind of trauma, whether that is physical or emotional (stress is often a BIG problem for MS patients). The potential for a parent to pass on MS to a child is .04%. So, you could say, I got really, really lucky.

My mother also had a few other diseases: she had epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis (thus upping my and Steph’s chances of acquiring an auto-immune disorder: she had 2!!), and contracted a lung disease shortly before her death. I won’t even discuss the health issues that cripple my father’s side of the family. It’s not a pretty picture when you put it all together.

Thankfully, Steph and I are living better and healthier than any of the family members who came before us, and as you can see, we’re both doing fine. I’m thankful every day that Steph doesn’t have MS. But as responsible adults, there are things we think and talk about together, and the topic of children is one of the things that I’ve been concerned about for a long time.

I’ve never wanted to have a baby. Ever. Not in my entire life. It is really frustrating to me when people give me a condescending grin and say, ‘oh, you’ll change your mind’. Wow, how insightful of you, a perfect stranger, to tell me that I’ll one day catch the baby bug! I’m 30. I haven’t changed my mind for as long as I’ve been aware of how babies are made.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of adoption, and have always, since I was a child, planned to adopt at least 2 children. Maybe I don’t want them yet, but when I do, I will be adopting children rather than making my own.

I’m a fan of population control. I’m a fan of being green. I’m also a fan of my own health. Women who have MS run a very high risk of possibly getting MUCH worse after having a child… which is funny, considering that while we are pregnant, we officially turn into superwoman and don’t even need our meds. But after the intense body trauma associated with childbirth (which, as stated above, is a normal MS trigger), many women see their conditions deteriorate. This means that there’s a possibility that if I have a child, I might not be able to actually care for it. I might not be able to walk, or see clearly, or hold a pen… much less my own baby.

While some people might think that’s a risk worth taking, it’s not something I’m exactly interested in. I really enjoy living my life to the fullest. To add to this, I believe that the best way to fight diseases like MS is to NOT breed them. I understand that there is a chance that my children might come out totally healthy and never contract MS, but that’s not a risk I want to take. I also understand that many people with a history of disease x or y in their family tree go ahead and have children anyway. That’s fine, that’s their decision to make and I would never judge a person for wanting to do what our bodies are officially MADE for. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’m doing the future, and American and/or German taxpayers a HUGE service by NOT creating more people who might require a lot of medical or governmental help down the road. This might sound like the beginnings of a lecture on Eugenics, but it’s not. It’s just how I feel.

So, a few years ago when I was back in the US, I started to talk to my gynecologist about sterilization. I lost one of my ovaries at age 21, just before graduating from college. I was about 25 when the topic of sterilization was first raised (by me). My gyno looked me square in the eyes and told me that there was no way she would do that procedure on me, disease or no, until after I’d had kids. I tried repeatedly to explain to her how important it is for me, and future generations, that I don’t have kids. And she didn’t even appear to be sympathetic. Instead, she told me I might change my mind. I found a new gynecologist after that.

The next gynecologist I met with, who actually performed another outpatient procedure on me himself, told me that it’s not something he likes to do until the woman is in her 30′s. Or has had kids. So once again, I wasn’t able to just get it done. Meanwhile, I’ve been on birth control SINCE I WAS 17. I’m clearly not interested in having kids. Couldn’t they, the ones prescribing my birth control pills for the past umpteen years, see how hard I’d been trying NOT to have them?

I’m not going to argue: Birth Control Pills are wonderfully cost-effective, if you’ve got good health insurance, which I had and still have. They are far cheaper than a sterilization procedure, even when you quantify that cost over years. The only issue I have with them is that they’re not always 100% effective. They mess with your hormones, and, you know, I have to take a pill every day until I hit menopause if I don’t want to get pregnant. Awesome. Why not, I already take an injection and vitamins every day, what’s one more little pill? My BCPs look a lot like my Vitamin D tablets.

It is amazingly frustrating to be told by strangers that you’re wrong, or are going to change your mind, or that you don’t know yourself. I can’t describe how completely offensive it is. I know I don’t have to, because we’ve all been there at some point or another.

So when I came to Germany and found a gyno here (frauenarzt, or ‘women’s doctor’), I immediately began talks. I didn’t know what to expect from him, but it was a huge relief when he said to me ‘of course you want to be sterilized, you have a disease that is somewhat hereditary. Want me to set the procedure up for you? We could do it next week’. What a breath of fresh air!

And now this means that things are happening. And now it means I have to think about what comes next. I’ve planned to have it done this summer, for many reasons, but mostly because work is slower in the summer and it’s expected that I’ll have to take a week or 4 off of training (budo), since no one should be kicking me in the uterus for a while as I heal. I don’t know if I will get clamps or cut, but I think these days it’s usually the clamps. I’d feel safer with the cutting, personally. NO CHANCE, then, you know? I’m going to request it and hope they oblige.

I usually have to take a month off in the summer from training because it’s just too hot for me to handle it, so now seems like the perfect time to do it. I’d be back to fighting form by the time August rolls around and we go to Sweden for a budo seminar. I’d prefer to do that, since it’s only in the 70′s during Swedish summers. It’s perfect training weather for me.

Speaking of timing, my boyfriend is gone for another 4 weeks. Now would be the perfect time to get this done, as usually another part of the healing process in these types of operations is ‘no sex’. Well, that’ll be easy enough to handle when he’s not around.

I also have to think about my hormones. I haven’t been without birth control for about 13 years. And if what I saw two months ago was any indicator, my hormones are pretty normal when they’re not being regulated by the BCPills. Will I go off of them? Probably not, as I’m prone to cysts and the BC keeps those in check, too. No cramps here! Maybe my hormones will be fine… or maybe I’ll end up really taking BCPs until I hit menopause.

Also, I have to think about fitness. If I can’t train or do budo for 4 weeks, will I be allowed to run or do at-home workouts? Yoga? These are the questions I need to ask when I go in for my scheduling appointment. What can I do, if I can’t work out? Well, I guess, I’d have to cut my caloric intake to reflect NOT burning a billion calories a day, and then maybe do floor work. Swimming? Can I run? To be discussed.

I know this isn’t something that people talk about often. I know it’s hard to read when you love your kids, or kids in general. I am not one of those people. I don’t really like kids, although I love the kids of my friends. I just don’t want them for myself. There are already so many children in the world without families, that it just seems so counterproductive to make any more. I felt this way before my diagnosis, and having a (currently incurable) disease has only strengthened my feelings on the topic.

I have a lot of respect for my friends who are parents. They are all great parents, and I learn so much from them in that role. But that’s not a role I want for myself, at least, not yet. And to have this procedure done will be taking a huge weight off of my shoulders. I’ll never have to worry about it again.

When I lost the first ovary, I really felt like it was the universe’s way of looking at me with a raised eyebrow after all of my ‘I don’t want kids’ talk and saying, ‘are you sure?‘. And for a while, I wasn’t sure if I was sure. Even though I knew deep down, that I was sure. Entirely, no questions asked. I just felt like something was wrong with me for not wanting to make a baby.

The only thing I can say against this, as to why (maybe), is that I’m an artist. I create EVERY DAY. Sure, a baby is alive and turns into a person. But the act of creation is something I already do with regularity, and I don’t feel the need to do it in this way, in the same way that I don’t feel the need to make a sculpture, ever. I am not a sculptor. And I’m not really a parent, either. A teacher, yes. But a parent, maybe not. Definitely not now, but maybe not ever. And I am ok with that.

When I got diagnosed with MS, there was a brief moment when I felt a little pang of sadness, because it was then that I knew I would never have a child. My mother didn’t know she had MS when she had me, but she did have epilepsy at the time. I am thankful for my life, but I find her decision to have children to have been majorly irresponsible and almost selfish. Being a parent and passing on your genetic makeup is a huge responsibility, and it’s not one that I am comfortable with taking on. I would never forgive myself if my child ended up having my mother’s version of this disease. Mine is bearable, for now. But her disease… it was heartbreaking. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

So I’m having this procedure done. And I am absolutely excited to do it.

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Posted in: life, MS