Childfree By Choice: How Young Is Too Young To Choose?

Every year, I visit Planned Parenthood for my annual exam. And every year, when faced with the cost of another year of birth control, I ask the doctor, instead: how much would be be to have a tubal ligation?

And every year, the OB/GYN tells me that it doesn’t matter, because she won’t do it for me. Because it is irreversible, and because I am too young to make that decision. And I’m not the only one. But am I?

Usually, my doctor will select an arbitrary-ish number, which seems to be creeping up as I get older. At 21, she told me I’d have to be at least 25. At 22, she told me I’d have to be 27. Now, at 24, the answer is “at least 30.” Because she wants to make sure I won’t regret the decision.

Which sounds caring and cautious–but is, in fact, misguided. Relatively few women do regret opting into sterilization. In a study from 2002 (which is old, I know, but the numbers still stand), only around 7% of women reported feeling regret at their decision. But it’s not about numbers. Unless the number, it seems, is age.

And for the record, federal law states that you have to be 18. That’s about all. Other clinics and organizations, as well as states, however, set their own rules.

Being a biological parent will, I believe, never be the right decision for me. And it’s not because I don’t like children, or because I am selfish, or because of what any study about the happiness of non-parents says. It is because I genuinely do not want to bring a child of my own into the world. And yet, every single person I tell reassures me: “You’ll change your mind eventually.”

I don’t believe that I will.

Which is not to say that I haven’t considered adoption and fostering–I have, and I am comfortable in saying that, should the time come when my hormones kick in and I’m overwhelmed with the urge to nurture, that that will be enough for me. Because I think nurturing and learning from what raising a child–any child–has to teach will be fullfilling enough. I’m not anti-parenting. I just don’t want to have a child of my own. Not now, and not, I don’t think, ever.

For me, the most fundamental aspects of parenting are the ones that help shape a child into a functional, intelligent, well-adjusted, confident adult. That is the nurturing that I’d like to do–and I don’t believe I need my own biological child to do it.

Even still, I am positive that there are readers who will finish this article and, despite my reasons, decide that I am too young. And they will not be in the minority.

Articles like this one are always touchy, because there are plenty of people out there who feel completed by biological parenthood. Doubtlessly, there will be readers who feel that my decision is sad, pathetic, stupid, rash, inconsiderate, and selfish–just as many times when I tell someone I’m not having children, they have these feelings.

Which is fine. It’s something I’ve gotten used to, and I understand that my desire not to have children makes me an outlier.  I know that by writing about this personal choice, I am setting myself up as a target. There are a lot of angry, derisive childfree folks out there, who are angry because, time and again, their choice has been labeled “selfish” or “unnatural” or “pathetic.” I don’t want to be one of them.

I also understand that parents who feel that their lives have been exponentially improved by the birth of their children are concerned that my life will never be improved in the same way.

But I want to assure everyone–I lead a very fulfilling life. I have the career I have always wanted. I have a dog that I care deeply for (and who, while not as much of a responsibility as a child, is still more of a responsibility than many of my childless peers have), and a partner whom I love. And who has considered getting a vasectomy because, it will be easier, less expensive, less risky, and less prone to judgement for him to make this decision, than it would be for me to have a tubal ligation.

But regardless, there will always be someone who tells me I’m too young to choose not to have a child, and to take a decisive step toward making it a reality.

FOLLOW-UP: I Don’t Want Kids, And Neither Do Most Of The Commenters Below

Image: 3DDock / Shutterstock

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    • CC

      Great Post! Like you I am 24 and have known since I was a young child that I never wanted children. I don’t like being around them at all actually and the thought of having one of my own scares the hell out of me. It would be the biggest mistake in my life if it happened (which I wouldn’t let it happen anyway). I have been dealing with crazy hormones that past few weeks and that has pretty much showed me that I want and need to get Essure or some type of sterilization done soon. I just want to know that everything has been taken care of and I can get on with my life. I know I wont regret it, because in my rational state now I am making the right decision for my future. I am trying to find a DR to give me the procedure, however I get the same comments you faced “oh you’ll regret it”. Well with 93% of people not regretting it I think I’ll fit into that category nicely.

    • danica

      Thanks for your post, if this is really what you want I hope you can find a Dr. who will respect your decision and perform the procedure.

    • Amanda

      Thanks for this post. My husband and I decided we were not going to have children either. Most of our peers keep telling us that we will change our minds because we are young. It is nice to see other people have the same thoughts!

    • Nicole

      I think it’s important to note that if doctor’s allowed more young women to undergo the procedure, the percentage of women who regret the decision may go up.
      It’s also possible that it could go down, however unlikely that is.

      As well, regretting something that is a part the human life-cycle and that got our species this far is a powerful thing. While it’s still not really the doctor’s decision to make, no caring doctor would want to bear the guilt of preventing a wanting woman from birth. And if a Doctor is always supposed to do what’s best for the patient, is it really in the best practices to invite the possibility of depression later in life? Or is the Doctor just being selfish to protect their mental health? And is it really so wrong for a Doctor to protect their mental health?
      I don’t know, I’m not a Doctor and I want kids, but it is something to think about.

      • danica

        I see your point, but I think most doctors are just covering their own ass.

    • unbound

      What a honest piece of writing. You are brave to share your thoughts and personal journey with us. I, too, knew (not decided) at a very young age that having children would not be something that I ever wanted. I knew as a young girl and now at 37, my thoughts haven’t changed. I’ve suffered from the disdain of many, have been questioned by friends and family who know me, and strangers that do not, as to my ‘selfish’ decision to not have kids. I’ve been stereotyped, classified and judged for something that I have always believed in. But one thing is certain – I’ve never regretted it. I lead a happy, healthy, full life, child-free. Parenting is a great adventure for some, but not for me. I applaud you for staying true to your convictions and for knowing who you are.

    • Cat Casey

      Hi–May I ask what you’re reason is for choosing not to have a child (highly personal I know)?

      I am like you–and my reason to be perfectly blunt is because I’m selfish and my husband says he is too. We are far too selfish with our time to want to give up what we love (traveling, being together, exercising) to want to share that with children (who we may come to resent because of it). I feel much better knowing that i will have a life filled with what will make me happy–for some people that’s children, but for me it is not.

      Thanks for your honesty!

      • anonymous

        Um… you are just happy, not selfish. When you have kids, your free-time completely vanishes. So if you want to do something other than parenting for the next 18 yrs (or earlier, you know because of school and stuff) then maybe parenting isn’t for you.

        It is as simple as that.

    • Barbara

      I know someone who had their tubal ligation reversed. So that is not a valid argument by your doctor and a second opinion may be a good idea.

    • SST

      Thank you for this honest and straight forward article.
      My husband and I, we are also opting to be childfree. I agree with you and the other posters where the reason is that our life is perfect as it is and we do not need anything else. I have my husband which I love dearly and would not want to share it with anyone, even with a child. He has the same idea as well.
      We get a lot of people who just could not accept our decision and thought that ‘oh, you guys are not there yet’ or ‘you will change your mind’. But can’t they understand that we are not stupid and when we choose something it is something that we have think of and not a decision that comes from thin air. In this world, there are people who like children and there are people who don’t. There are people who prefer red than blue. That’s it.

    • Monique

      What honest writing! I am so impressed with your honesty. I am on the other side of the fence. I am 28 years old. Single. And want to be a mother. Eventually.
      Growing up, I always saw myself being a mother. And whether or not i bear my own children, i know that I want to raise a family. Its so refreshing to hear the other side of it.
      Its a completely different scenario and i still hear the same things: “You are too young”, “You will change your mind some day”, etc etc. And I feel the same way you do. Im an adult, I know what I want and there isnt anything that is going to change my mind.
      Kudos to you for knowing what you want and standing by your decision. Its your human right!
      There are people on this earth who really shouldn raise children but they do because they feel obligated to.
      Thanks for standing up for what you beleive it.

    • Rianne

      I’m sure it feels patronizing to have a doctor tell you that you may change your mind, but even though it’s your body, the doctor who would give you the procedure is also intimately involved–her professional ethics, livelihood, conscience, etc. are all at stake. Performing an irreversible, invasive procedure on a healthy young woman is a risk, especially when there are a multitude of other birth control methods and procedures available, at a time when more and more options are being developed. Maybe she has seen young women ask for the procedure and later change their mind during the course of their medical practice.

      To me, it is obvious you are making an informed decision, but I guess I’m just playing devil’s (doctor’s?) advocate here–that she also has the right to refuse this specific procedure when it conflicts with her professional judgment and when there are safer, non-permanent options to care for your health available. I hope you are able to find a doctor who assesses your situation differently.

      • sast85

        Agreed. While no one has the right to question one’s decision to remain childless it does not mean sterilization should be done on every patient who requests it. The risks of tubal ligation other than iatrogenic injury also include the potential for a lifetime of regret leading to more invasive procedures for reversal. Tubal reversals are difficult due to scarring. These risks do not outweigh the benefit of which there is only one, throwing out your birth control.

        We as patients tend to forget that physicians have the right to refuse to provide care that they feel is inappropriate. If a tubal is what you really want, go find a provider who is agreeable with your philosophy.

    • Eileen

      25 seems appropriate to me. I know more than a few young women who swore they never wanted children in their late teens and early twenties but wanted them by mid-twenties, so if I were a doctor there’s no way I would sterilize a woman under 25. But the procedure does exist for a reason, and I don’t see the point in waiting until a woman’s fertility has naturally decreased a whole lot to give her what is probably the most effective method of birth control.

    • RedFishBlueFish

      Great piece of writing! I too have known basically forever that I didn’t want kids. I just don’t like kids enough to want to be a parent, and I enjoy spoiling my friend’s kids, but love to leave the parenting to them. My hubby and I started dating when we were both 27. I gave him “gut checks” about every year to decide if not having kids was something he was ok with. He shared my opinion all along anyway, but I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I’m 41 now, and have spent my whole life with people telling me I’d change my mind, or I’d regret it someday. To those younger than me — if you know your own mind, you won’t. And it’s also important to know it’s OK to change your mind if that happens. Just be true to yourself and you won’t regret it either way. My hubby and I have as full as life as any of our friends with kid-it’s just different. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Ashley

      Excellent post. This is one that hits home for me. While I am still young (23) and am a mother (of a 4 year awesome little boy), I got clipped when I was 21. My reasoning for wanting my tubes tied were many, but my doctors wanted to hear none of it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do too much searching (although my BF did get in a fight with one of the female OB’s about it and she told him to just get a vasectomy). However, with the third time being the charm, I found a doctor who easily scheduled the surgery and I was in and out in no time!

      And in all honesty, I have been told by more people than I can count, including teachers, day care providers, and medics, that I made a very smart choice!

      More power to you for wanting to make that choice! As a side note, vasectomies cause an increased chance of testicular cancer (to which my BF is already very high risk…so why make it worse?) and getting your tubes tied is only about a 20 minute process ;)

      P.S. I can hook you up with a great OB who’ll do it no questions asked if you’re ever in Ohio! :)

    • LB

      I’ve known from the age of 11 that I didn’t want to have children, for a myriad of reasons. Now I’m 48, and I couldn’t be happier. Some people don’t change their mind, but it’s too bad our litigious culture fosters an atmosphere where doctors are afraid to peform procedures that patients request.

    • Jenna

      Thank you for your post and for everyones comments, it’s truly nice to hear that others are in the same situation. My fiance (23) and I (22) have decided not to have our own children, for personal and medical reason, but our families continue to gladly ignore us by saying “You’ll change your mind” or “You’ll feel that mothering urge someday”. I have no doubt I will have that ‘mothering urge’, it’s basic evolution, and as hard as we try, we can’t escape basic instincts. But as Hanna stated, getting that urge to care for and nurture a human being into adulthood should be the same whether its my own child or an adopted child. In fact, there are so many orphaned children in foster care/adoption systems around the world, I personally would feel more selfish caring and nurturing a clone of myself rather than raising a child that needs that nurture and care more. Being in the foster system is a huge risk factor for juvenile and adult delinquency (I know, I just took two classes on it this Summer!). Those in the foster care system are also less likely to graduate from high school, let alone succeed to college, than those who are connected to their biological families. So for those of you who think that not having your own children is selfish, you clearly were never adopted, orphaned, part of foster care, or know someone who has.

      As for the medical perspective, getting your tubes tied, as minimally invasive as it may be, the procedure is STILL invasive. Although, I’m sure there are doctors out there that are simply just trying to cover their ass, it is still and always will be in the patients best interest to be persuaded towards less invasive treatments. Those women who hear, “you’re too young” from a doctor and are determined to get the procedure, will find someone to do it, regardless. The question is, rather, are you willing to go the distance to get your tubes ties, or find your doctor trustworthy enough to follow their advice in waiting til a certain ‘appropriate’ age.

      Also, statistically speaking, if 93% of women do not regret their decision, tha’s pretty damn good. Just saying.

    • Mattie

      I am a 60 y/o woman who decided to have her tubes tied when I was 31 y/o.
      I had many b.f.’s during my day but none that I would ever consider re-producing with. I knew that they not only wouldn’t take care of the baby and me, that they wern’t good mating material period.
      I saw what my friends were going through with their children and husbands- none of them possessed the ideal scenerio that I wanted to follow. Most of the men bailed on them and they had to chase these clowns down for child support. Some played vicious games using the child or children as pawns.
      The women had to work full time in jobs that they detested. They had kids that were unattractive emotionally and socially and came to the table er’ the fast food restaurant with all sorts of issues. Some of the grown kids are well turned out- sort of and some of them are in prison. Many have burdened their parents with their own offspring with history repeating itself and needing dole outs to boot. No thanks to all of this! I am content being an Aunt and a friend to my friend’s children. I spoil them rotten when and if I feel like it. It is a huge decision to make- this idea of bring a human into the world. You can’t throw it back! It is equivilent to taking all of your money and putting it on a number in Vegas. So many things can go wrong physically in the reproduction phase. I get so curious why women just wing it and have a baby. I do respect motherhood and it’s constant changing world. I respect men and women who want the best for their kids and work hard to see to it they develop into a decent, law abiding citizen but my dogs are just as cute as any kid I have ever seen and they are guaranteed pleasure and only for a max amount of years. I had 500 reasons for not having a child and one or two for having one. I had a list. I thought it out. I also had no trouble finding a physician to do the tubal ligation. That was years ago. btw, it is reversible.

    • anonymous

      I had myself sterilized when I was 24 after my second child. I am now 60 and have never regretted it. In fact, over the years, I recall a number of friends and relatives who not only regretted haing children but ever getting married or into a relationship where having children was a issue. Frankly, children are a tremendous burden that lasts a lifetime. MOre often than not, they are ungrateful and unaware of the sacrifices a mother makes raising them. I say “Mother” because regardless of what popular rhetoric suggests, women are still the primary caregivers. In less than ideal situations, women are the only caregivers. I highly recommend sterilization as a preferrd means of birth control and even suggested it to both my children.

    • christine

      nice to see so many people chiming in in support of the article. i used to want kids when i was younger, before anxiety took over my life and i met my bf who suffers from general anxiety (hypochondriac, etc.). i have enough trouble taking care of myself sometimes, much less having to take care of a child’s physical needs, not to mention emotional.

      i get where people are coming from when they say we don’t know what we are missing. but that’s exactly it.. you can’t miss something you never had and don’t really want. i’m sure having a child is amazing and life-altering in a positive way, but i am also very pragmatic and know that the sacrifice and heartache and work that goes into raising a child is too much for me.. i’m sure if you have a child, the positives outweigh the negatives, but i’m already at the point where my decision’s positives outweigh the negatives, so why change my situation to have what i already have… (if that makes sense).

    • Cicily

      Yup, wanted tubal ligation at 20, got an IUD instead. No regrets, and still no children at 40. Total lifetime cost will be less than ligation. (About $1000 to replace every TEN years.) Surgery-free. Hormone-free. Pill-schedule-free. Stress and worry-free. Pregnancy-free! But if I should change my mind (not likely, and running outta time here, anyway, haha) I could just have the IUD removed and give it a whirl.

      As far as the mommies and daddies accusing the childfree of being “selfish” for not having children, are they those same people who bring people into this world without really having the ability to properly care for them, or who do it for vanity, to see themselves in miniature instead of reaching out to give their love to young people who are already here and in desperate need? If so, who’s really being selfish? Non-parents have always been a vital part of the “village” and are often found in elder care roles when they aren’t found caring for others’ children. I’ve provided elder care, disabled care, housesitting, and other types of care that meant I had to travel or be somewhere full-time that would *not have been possible* if I had kids. We belong, and are valuable members of our society. Acknowledge us, breeders!

    • Amanda

      Finally! I’m 27 and have known since I was a teen that I didn’t want my own children. I have been lucky in love and found someone who feels even more strongly about this than I do (he can’t stand children. at all.) I love being an Auntie, spoiling the nieces rotten and giving them back for the parenting and hard stuff! I enjoy being around kids for small amounts of time, but am just too selfish in my life to raise one. It would be a poor decision on my part for both myself and the child- and I’d never do that to a kid.
      I’ve discussed the procedure myself, and my partner has discussed a vasectomy however as of yet, we’ve not found doctors willing to perform either because of our age. Bummer. One of these days, I will find someone! Our families have just finally accepted that we won’t be changing our minds, which I am so thankful for, because it’s stopped most of the “you’ll change your mind, you’re just too young now” remarks. Good luck to you!

    • Carole

      I had a tubal in 1975 when I was 23. I’m 59, and have never regretted it. I like other people’s kids, but I never wanted the 24/7 work involved with kids, not to mention the risk of a damaged child. I had a gyne who asked why my husband didn’t get a vasectomy, and I said that it was I who didn’t want kids. He might want them someday. I had my laproscopic surgery the next week. But so far, we’re childless and together and very happy with our “selfish” life. It’s a good thing everybody doesn’t feel this way!

    • LH

      My story tracks yours, yet comes out the other way. I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I didn’t want to have children. I was adamant about it, and would get very indignant when people told me I’d change my mind. I read all the books and studies and researched all the pros and cons. I warned every man I dated early on of my decision.

      Well, lo and behold, I turned 25, and BAM. I’m not baby-crazy, but I can tell something in my body shifted and it now desperately wants babies. I can separate what my body wants from what my head wants, and my head still knows all the reasons why being child-free is a good idea. But my body has reasons of its own, and hormones have a way of changing the way you think without you even knowing it.

      So anyway, I’m not saying you’ll change your mind; many posters above didn’t, and remain happy with their decision. I’m just saying that I did, or at least I think I have, and it’s a confusing place to be.

      • Lorna

        Have to say I don’t believe you. What you mean is you were kidding yourself, for some reason (who knows what).

        Because nothing changed in you, there’s no such thing as the biological clock in that sense, nothing suddenly makes you want children and nothing increases the yearning for children. It has been scientifically shown that there are no changes whatsoever in a woman when she starts ‘feeling broody’ or feeling her ‘biological clock’. What is it? Well, it’s the knowledge that fertility decreases with age coupled with the desire (no matter how well hidden) to have children some day. No mystery, and no change.

    • Rich

      My wife and I both knew before we met each other at age 22 in 1979 that we were not going to have children. We heard all the same things such as selfish, misguided, “who will take care of you when you are old” etc. from our Mothers and some friends. Other friends told us that we were wise in our youth. 30 years have passed, and we still feel the same way. We do not regret our decisions at all, and have had a full and happy life.

    • OG

      I’ve always known I wanted kids. Always. It’s never changed. Somehow that thinking is acceptable, but making the decision not to have kids is controversial. I can understand the caution regarding permanent surgery of any kind. With that being said, if I haven’t changed my mind why would I assume you would?

    • Jennifer

      It seems pretty discriminatory (and condescending) that women without kids under the age of 20 can’t easily find doctors to sterilize them. The ‘you might regret it’ argument holds no water for me. Obviously, doctors don’t refuse to let women have children on the grounds that they might regret having had them! I think it would be a lot easier to fix regrets about not having children (adopt, foster, volunteer, mentor) than regrets about having them. And, hey, there are lots of sound environmental reasons to enable people who don’t want children not to have them.

      I am 28 and have known since I was 10 that I never wanted children and would be a terrible parent. I joined the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement at 14 and have never looked back. If I ever feel any maternal urges, I will sign myself up for a whole season of fostering kittens.

    • Traci

      I run into the very same problems. I’m 25, and have never wanted children of my own. I don’t rule out the possibility that I might change my mind about having children in general later on, but I can adopt or foster in that event and I’ll be fine with that.

      I don’t understand the logic of others when it comes to this. If I am a legal adult in my country, then why is it anyone’s business why I want the surgery that I want? If they’re sure it’s a mistake that I’m making, that’s their right. But, it’s MY mistake to make if it is a mistake. And MY mistake to regret if I do regret it. Not theirs. As an adult, I’m responsible for myself and my own actions and decisions about myself.

      And the, “do no harm” thing that I hear people who defend doctors who come up with such nonsense is not a good excuse. If that was true, then the majority of elective plastic surgery (something done because the patient wants it done, not because of a disfiguring accident or birth defect) would be refused as well. But, somehow my life decision is up for debate? It shouldn’t be. This decision affects no one but me.

      If I find a partner later who wants children, he will know right away that I cannot have children and not want any of my own, but might be open to discussion for adoptive parenting or fostering. If that isn’t good enough, and is a deal breaker, then we weren’t meant for each other and we should both be fair to each other and look elsewhere for a partner.

      And I think its just bizarre that there is such a double-standard. When it’s a woman who wants to sterilize herself, she’s weird and needs to wait and rethink things and not do it. If it’s a man, then he hardly has to worry about finding a doctor who won’t do it for him. All of these surgeries are potentially permanent. Sure, you could pay to try to get your tubes untied or your vasectomy reversed, but they tell you not to count on it working. Personally, I don’t want a tubal ligation, since those aren’t fool proof (and neither is a vasectomy). But, I do want a partial hysterectomy. Not that it matters, finding a doctor to give me a partial hysterectomy is just as impossible as finding a doctor who will give me a tubal ligation.

    • Kelly P

      I first asked my Dr when I was 23. He literally laughed in my face saying that I wouldn’t be able to find anyone who would do it. his reasons were my age, i was “single” (I had been dating my now husband for three years) & I didn’t already have kids. My husband (then boyfriend) asked his Dr & got a similar answer. Last year my husbands Dr finally gave him a refferal. Early this year at the age of 36 & after us being togther for 15 years, married for 5 he had his vasectomy. yay!!
      I don’t want to think about how much money we spent on condoms, birth contol pills, depera provera shots & nuva rings in those 15 years.

    • Ilene B

      I am 58, terminally single, and got my tubal ligation at age 30. The “family doctor” who gave me the referral was honestly sad, because he really loves children. Oddly, though, he asked me, “Are you a lesbian?” Gee. If I were, how would I get pregnant? I told him I knew I didn’t want to be a parent, and I wouldn’t want to face an abortion if there were an accidental pregnancy. That stopped him (I would have gotten one had there been an accident).
      That was in Boston in 1983. I didn’t know before that I could insist on getting a referral to someone who *would* do it, if the first doc refused.
      I am sure I lost one great guy over it. But hey, now he’s a bitter divorced guy with a 16-year-old beloved son, so who knows.
      For the record, I am told I am “very good” with older children. I am- I think they should be treated with respect if I must be around them, but I avoid children as much as possible. I find babies and toddlers repulsive and have no idea what to do around pre-verbal kids. I am anything but selfish- I work in healthcare, contribute to many charitable causes (because I *can*) and adopt senior mutts. I have known since childhood that I would not be a parent and that has never budged an inch.
      Regarding why people and doctors don’t say “You’re too young”if you want a child age 20 or 24 or whatever,” the answer is “It’s natural,” therefore it’s unnatural to know you don’t want to do it.
      Rinse, lather, repeat.

    • Shiz

      Thanks for this. I am 27 and I have never once had the desire to be a mother. I don’t see that changing in the future, but I am open to the idea that one day I might change my tune. However, I doubt that I will ever want to have my own children (for many reasons – one being the idea of being pregnant and giving birth TERRIFIES me). Adoption would be the path I would take, were I ever to suddenly want to be a parent.

      My husband and I have looked at other birth control methods – like a vasectomy – as I don’t want to be on the pill forever. I can understand doctor’s positions on things like tubal ligation or even vasectomies, but it feels like there are so many hurdles to jump through to make either happen for a young(er) couple that wants another option besides hormonal birth control – an option that also doesn’t have a sketchy failure rate.

    • Nichole

      I have always hated the comments such as, “You’re young, you’ll change your mind.” Why is it that I’ve heard KIDS (I’m talking under age 10!) who talk about how they want kids, and nobody ever says, “You’re young, you’ll change your mind.” However a 20-something who has a much better grasp of the real world and says they DON’T want kids is the one who apparently doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That seems a bit backward to me.

      It’s also irritating how some people will use the phrase, “WHEN you have kids…” to a child. It should not be a “WHEN” situation; it should be “IF.” (I feel the same way about the whole marriage thing, too. It should be an “IF.” But that’s a whole other discussion.) It’s a major decision, not an inevitability!

      I’ve also heard people who don’t want kids referred to as selfish. I don’t think I’m being selfish at all just because I don’t want kids. Like someone commented already, it’s selfish to have kids when you can’t properly care for them. I even saw a girl on a talk show whose mother said, “It’s selfish of her to not want kids, because I want grandkids and she should give that to me!” Uh, sorry…WHO’S the selfish one?? :-/

      • Lemmy C.

        Let me just say that being confronted with the differing opinions of other people about something you are still completely free to do or not do is very, very much a first-world problem.

    • Lemmy C

      I support her right to make this kind of decision. But I also want socialized medicine. If we do get socialized medicine, the right to challenge / question these kinds of decisions takes on more import. When would public resources be appropriately used for these kinds of decisions? Would they be used to pay for reversals?

    • Matt

      I went through the same thing as a man asking to get snipped. I’ve known my entire life that being a parent was not what I wanted. I first asked my Dr. at 21 about the process and got so much pushback I just shelved it.

      I FINALLY got the procedure done at age 41. Twenty years of telling a Dr. every other year that I wanted the procedure done.

      I am sure I could have done it sooner if I was pushier, but it was just frustrating that every single Dr. I spoke to about this thought they knew me better than I knew myself.

    • Deb

      I’m glad you wrote this because I totally agree. Thankfully, living in NYC helps assuage some of those pressures but when I traveled to Thailand, I had many conversations about how I was getting old and that being unmarried and childless was bad.

      However, I have never had much of a maternal instinct and I realized from an early age that I did not want to be a mother. Over 20 years, this has not changed. I think, for me, to bring a child into this world is unconscionable. My generation and future generations will be saddled with the debts of older generations. Given the way the world is going, with the violence, the hatred, climate change, overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, widening disparities, and economic upheaval almost every other day, who would want to have their child inherit that kind of world. I think not having a child is the most responsible thing a person can do in this day and age. And going against the grain takes a thick skin and a lot more courage than people who feel the need to cave to societal expectations.

      • Tessa

        “I think not having a child is the most responsible thing a person can do in this day and age.”

        Yes! Thank you. This is exactly how I feel and all the reasons you listed sum up why I believe that the decision to not reproduce is the morally correct one.

    • Tracy

      Totally respect your decision and don’t think it’s selfish at all. But what’s wrong with waiting until you are 35 and know for sure you wo’t be one of those 7% who regret their decision?

      • Inga

        She shouldn’t have to wait just on the off chance that she’s one of a very small minority that regrets the decision to have a tubal ligation. Asking the other 93% to wait just to ensure that they don’t regret their own decision is patronizing. Plus, when you consider the hundreds of dollars that women often have to spend on birth control, asking her to wait another ten years likely means lots of money + the risk of a pregnancy if she has a birth control failure. When you figure that men almost never have any pushback against getting a vasectomy, it seems grossly unfair and kinda sexist.

      • Mike

        Didn’t you read the article? She’s tired of paying for and dealing with birth control. It’s not 100% effective, it costs time and money, and there are significant side effects for many women.

        What’s so difficult to understand?

      • Lorna

        Well in my case I have been forced to do exactly this by doctors who apparently know their own minds but don’t trust anyone else to know theirs!

        What it has meant for me (given that I would happily have had a hysterectomy 14 years ago, I’m now 35) is an extra 14 years of constant pain, often excruciating, that and an immune system that gets worse with every passing year and various other related problems. ALL this could potentially be taken off me by a hysterectomy. There is a small chance it won’t be, but there is no other option so what exactly am I meant to do? I’ve never wanted kids. You don’t wake up and decide you “don’t want kids”, you always know deep down, those conversations other kids have never seem quite so interesting to you, those comments of “when you grow up and have kids” register with you far more because you think “who says I will?” You KNOW you don’t want kids. And yes, there are those who try to kid themselves they don’t want kids (to seem cool or whatever) but they would have to be amazingly stubborn to go through with any permanent procedure. I would happily go through with a permanent procedure, but it seems I’ll be made to wait till I’m 40, just in case I ‘change my mind’. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

    • Sue

      What percent parents regret having had kids? Seven percent? More? Which is worse: Regretting not having kids or regretting having kids? (I posit the latter.)

      We all make decisions that we might someday regret. We live with the risk, and we may have to live with the regret. Not up to my doctor to “protect” me from this. I have had doctors tell me how I should feel about my health (not childbearing, specifically). I found a new doctor.

      • Lily

        Ann Landers did a survey in the 70′s show that 70 percent polled regret having kids.

    • Adam

      It’s understandable that the author would fail to realize something important about this decision, but many of the commenters are old enough to know better: When you are 24, you are borderline mentally disabled. It is for this reason that a 24 yo should avoid making any decision that has a permanency to it. Don’t get tattoos, don’t get married, and for god’s sake don’t get your tubes tied.

      • DebMoore

        Not all 24 year olds are boderline mentally retard! First of all that was mean. 2ndly I was 23 when I got married and 24 when I had my daughter (my husband 21 and 22) 11 years later we are still happily married, both us have good jobs, own our home, and are rasing a bright, great to be around daughter. So there!

        We made the decision to only have one child and over the last 10 years we have heard it all -we will change your mind, we are selfish, we are harming our child (really? because she is the only only child ever in all of history?) so I do understand how you feel and think it is really rude of people to tell others how to live their lives (and these comments came from family, friends, a doctor and strangers.) Frankly I feel to have kids or not or how many is up to the person who has to live through their own lives. And while I agree my daughter is the most important thing in my life (besides my husband!) I can see where if you do not want children, you don’t want them! It’s not for you. So people back off! It’s not like there are not an abundance of people on this earth already!

    • annonymous

      Simple solution. Harvest some of your eggs to be stored when you have your tubes tied. That way, if you do change your mind you can still have children via IVF, with your own eggs. Same goes for your partner with his sperm if he opts for a vasectomy.

      • bobby

        Sure sounds great. So where can I pick up my free $20k check to pay for all that?

    • Katie

      I mean, it’s not that I think everyone ought to have children or want to, or that you will inevitably change your mind, but it just has to be the case that a lot of people don’t want children when they’re young and then change their minds. If all of these people got sterilized without any push-back from their doctors, I’m sure the percentage of people who regretted the procedure would go up very fast.

      None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be able to run your own risks. By all means, make decisions you might regret. People are allowed to smoke and get obese, after all. But I am still going to give you a hard time about it, because I just don’t see the point in depriving yourself of the ability to change your mind. Tubal ligations are quite expensive, invasive, and not 100% safe. You’d get the same result with an IUD or two for the next decade, and probably for less money. You don’t have to worry about it for 5-12 years after the procedure is done and these things have ridiculously low failure rates. Why so eager to make an irreversible commitment?

      • bobby

        First of all, you clearly have absolutely no clue what you are talking about with regards to the medical procedures…

        Second, adoption/foster care is a very viable alternative. You want to know what is irreversible? HAVING A KID. You can’t test-drive that thing and when you find out that this whole parenting deal really is not your bag take it back. You are legally obligated to care for that child until they are 18.

        Why are so many people so eager to make that irreversible commitment?

      • Katie

        Because there’s a potential payoff?

        Look, as I said, I don’t necessarily think making babies is this wonderful sacred thing that everyone (everyone!) should try. It’s definitely a huge commitment and people should think long and hard about it before they go there. But ultimately, you take a risk and hope that baby-making is as wonderful as it’s supposed to be. That’s a pretty huge payoff. What’s the payoff in getting sterilized at 24 as opposed to 34?

        Not having to bother with birth control? Get an IUD. Mine cost $90 with insurance (~$600 without), and it will be five years before I have to worry about birth control again. Which is definitely less than what you’d pay for ligation, a surgical procedure most often done following a CS birth. And yes, surgical procedures are invasive. And expensive. (My sister paid $2000 for hers.)

        I just don’t see why anyone would want to limit their options, except to make some sort of statement. I like to have choices.

    • anonymous

      I essentially get the ”you are a male and thus completely immature and can’t make a decision like that until you get married, settle down and start making babies, at which time you will feel complete happiness because now you have children (have fun raising them!)” line whenever I tell someone about it, or it comes up in conversation.

      (insert long, long rant here)

      Now, if only I could meet one of you lovely ladies in the real world. Every girl I have dated has the baby-fever… truly depressing.

      • HS

        Trying meeting men who don’t want kids when you’re a Muslim! I swear, it seems like every one of them wants at least 5 kids. It’s even more of an anomaly in the Muslim community to not want kids; practically sinful, actually.

    • MJ

      If you do change your mind, adoption is a most excellent option. Win for you, win for a kid who needs a home. This decision is not as irreversible as your critics are making it out to be.

    • danielle

      Hanna, I support you, 100%.

      i’m 51, childfree, separated from my husband of 28 years, and i had a hysterectomy at age 25, after 2 years of marriage.
      we knew we didn’t want children, and we ‘shopped’ for a doctor who would cooperate. i can still vividly recall one doctor telling me ‘no’ and turning to my husband 3 feet away and telling him that he could have a vasectomy asap if he wished. the irony was lost on the dr but we were furious.

      i blamed it then on living in 1980′s mobile alabama, hardly a bastion of liberal /feminist/ childfree choices. but i’m saddened and shocked that it’s happening to you, now.

      … luckily …? i had insane endometriosis; after a new gyn came to town, she eventually agreed to perform a hysterectomy. it was wonderful to lose the pain, and only slightly less wonderful to lose the worry of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.

      there have been moments – literally minutes – in the intervening decades when i was sorry i hadn’t had children. but on the heels of that came relief that i hadn’t.
      along the way, my husband and i, separately and together, had children in our lives. some were related, some not; all benefited from extra attention. several of them needed a village, and it has been our honor to be part of that village. we could not have done that had our lives been focused on our own children. to this day i have a ‘son’ who calls me p3 – third parent.
      my husband has gotten a vasectomy now that he’s left and he discovered [when i told him] that his girlfriend was trying to leave her options open for kids.

      it’s a good life. i hope you have one of your own, with your own choices, supported by your chosen medical professional. and on that – get a new one. someone who will not respect your wishes ought not to be sharing in your health care.


    • Brandon

      Man oh man, nobody has it worse than the childless! Constant harassment, am I wrong? All of this well-meaning advice and all-too-knowing smirks from the parents of the world amounts to oppression! Right? Who’s with me?

      Tough to be upper-middle-class and dependent-free these days!

      • Brandon W.

        Man oh man, nobody has it worse than the pathetic, bitter little internet troll. Having people you’ve never met calmly, reasonably stating their opinions in THEIR OWN COLUMN, which nobody has forced me to read, amounts to oppression! Right? Who’s with me?

        Tough to build flimsy straw-men and utterly distort other people’s cogently presented arguments these days!

    • Jennifer

      I’m 43. I tried throughout my 20s and 30s to talk my doctor into tying my tubes. I finally gave up and my husband got a vasectomy last year so I could stop taking the pill. I have never wanted children. I also lead a very fulfilling life, full of travel, interesting work, weekend adventures, friends, and family. I enjoy my friend’s kids but have zero desire to have one of my own. I always found it pretty insulting when people have told me over the years “oh, you’ll change your mind” or insinuated there’s something wrong with me because I don’t want children.

    • eve

      I am childless by choice. I do not regret not having children. I’m 59. I didn’t decide until I was 35 that I didn’t want to have children. I like children. Always have.

      I have several childless friends. None of them regret not having children. At all. It’s very likely if any of us did have children we would not be able to imagine life without them. But honestly, I’m glad I didn’t have kids.

      I know one group of six women a few years older than me that have been friends since high school. They all decided to not have kids. I once asked a friend who was 90 at the time if she regretted not having had any children. She told me no, that it didn’t bother her at all. It’s just not that rare for women to prefer not to be a mother.

    • Gern Blanston

      I got married at 26, and got a vasectomy a few months before the wedding; my then-future-ex-wife and I agreed we didn’t want to have kids, and she cited the same difficulties finding a doc who’d do a tubal ligation as others here have described.

      Of course, a few years later she decided she wanted a kid after all, while I have not wavered from the desire to be childless I’ve had since I was 14; she’s now married to somebody else and has a son, I’m in a great relationship with a woman who has no desire to reproduce. She’s 10 years my junior (29), so I suppose I’m running the same risk of mind-changing, but I have reason to think otherwise. Or so I tell myself…

    • eve

      I want to add that if makes me furious that a doctor tells you you cannot make this decision and that they will make it for you.

      You are young. However, you are old enough to make your own mistakes. They have no right to make medical decisions for you.

      Not implying it would be a mistake for you to have the surgery. Just saying it’s your life and your choice.

      • Sarah

        “However, you are old enough to make your own mistakes.” YES EXACTLY. Even if one believes you ARE too young, 24 is generally regarded as a make-your-own-mistake age in EVERY OTHER CAPACITY, including life-or-death situations.

    • bgno64

      I respect your decision and think your doctor should go along with it, though I’ve got 3 kids of my own.

      But I do have to flag this line:

      “For me, the most fundamental aspects of parenting are the ones that help shape a child into a functional, intelligent, well-adjusted, confident adult. That is the nurturing that I’d like to do–and I don’t believe I need my own biological child to do it.”

      No offense, but to say that parenthood isn’t your thing and follow up with “…but my ideal of parenthood..” is kind of ludicrous to those of us with kids. Because parenthood is a package deal. You don’t want to be changing diapers for several years, don’t want to be woken up a sick child in the middle of the night, don’t want to have to sacrifice a fabulous life of travel and excitement or whatever to stay home because you can’t find a sitter: I get that.

      But all these things, the responsibility of raising a child along with the joy of nurturing a child, the burden that comes with the love, these are the things that make us not only parents, but human. Having a child, or many of them, is an integral aspect of the human experience.

      • Lorna Hamilton

        No it’s not! What an absolutely atrocious thing to suggest. It is an integral aspect of YOUR human experience. Thankfully we are all different.

        We don’t choose not to have children we are born without any desire to have them (and quite frankly, I’m grateful that I was born without that desire). For you to basically suggest that we are less human for not having children make you inhumane!

    • JJ

      People have a right to make whatever decisions they want, even stupid ones. Tattoo a swastika on your forehead! Why not?

      Of course, this woman can go through her entire life childless and think the whole time that she made the right decision. That is what people do: justify their stupidity.

      I had no plans to have children all through my 20′s. Had my first child at 30, my second at 34. Those two events are the most shining, brilliant experiences of my life (including of course being their father for two decades). My life would feel empty and meaningless without them.

      At 24, I was foolish and ignorant, just like this woman. Glad I didn’t make any irreversible decisions in my 20′s.

      • Joetta

        Holy smokes, this seems like a very rash response.

        Perhaps what you meant to say is that you respect each woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, but that you share her doctor’s concern about making an irreversible decision when you yourself experienced a reversal of opinion.

        Perhaps that’s what you meant. Unfortunately, it’s not what you said. You basically said that you were stupid when you were her age, and that she probably is too. I wouldn’t be so certain.

      • Lily

        “Foolish and ignorant”? You sound pretty judgmental to me, bub. It is not “stupidity” that some people don’t want children–it’s just a feeling. You may not have had children in your 20′s, but you weren’t childfree, youw were childLESS. You probably didn’t plan your two kids, but it happened, and now you’re stuck in that situation, as what happens to people who parent. I’m 34, and I don’t want kids, ever. It is not stupid, foolish, or ignorant, since I know quite well what happens when you have children.

      • HS

        Your comment is more than a bit rude. She isn’t attacking your choice to have kids, why are you attacking her choice not to? Just because having kids was the “most shining, brilliant” experience of your life doesn’t mean the rest of us feel that way, and just because you recognize that you were a dumb, ignorant kid at 24 doesn’t mean that someone else is.

        Frankly, I’d be questioning my life and purpose if the greatest experience I’d ever had was popping out a couple of offspring.

    • Neil

      Are some doctors being encouraged by the pharma companies that they have strong relationships with to refuse young women this service?

      I don’t know the answer, but it would seem that if pharma companies can steer doctors toward prescribing one drug over another, it wouldn’t seem too far fetched that they’d be incentivized to refuse to perform a surgery that could deprive them of many years of drug sales.

    • DRK

      I had a tubal ligation at age 26 (after 2 kids) and have never regretted it.The doctor didn’t give me grief about it, but there were special circumstances.

      In general, if the guy is willing to get a vasectomy, go for it. A vasectomy is a procedure with much less potential complications than the tubal ligation. Also, in case you do change your mind, it is much easier to reverse.

      The only reason I got sterilized and not my husband is that I was taking medication that could have caused serious birth defects, and I was suffering from a potentially life-threatening disease, so I wanted him to be able to have more kids if he wanted to, in case I died and he remarried.

      • Crimson Wife

        A 26 y.o. mom of 2 having a tubal is much less likely to change her mind about it than a 24 y.o. childless woman.

        I know a bunch of women who never imagined that they would ever want kids until they reached their 30′s.

    • Lisa

      I completely agree with the original poster. I had a total hysterectomy at age 23. I am 48 now. Back then…endometriosis was not treated the same way as it is now. I was told…after having 2 surgeries to remove grapefruit size cysts off of my ovaries, I had one last chance to have a child because the surgeries would continue due to my condition and destroy my ovaries and it would eventually result in a hysterectomy. So they said…. “you will regret not having a child so pick a donor and go for it. Then we will take it all out”. I was single and had no business having a child at that stage. I had the hysterectomy and married an amazing man. We talked about adoption but have been so satisfied with nurturing our nieces, nephews, god-children, pets and those around us…we never felt adoption was necessary.

      We have had SOOOO many people look at us with sad eyes and say “you don’t have any of your own children?” LOL! As if it’s a death sentence!! You can nurture and care for many in your life. Just because you don’t push them out of your body doesn’t make your love for them any less and just because you did push one out of your body doesn’t make you any more loving than those that don’t.

      Find a doctor that will listen to you. I know enough people and read many articles that cite parents as saying “if I had to do it all over again…I would have not had any or stopped at one”. Don’t let those who believe that having a child defines their own lives talk you out of what you feel is best for your life.

      Good luck to you!

    • Leslie

      Great article, Hanna!

      I was an “early articulator.” I never had any interest in having children as far back as I can remember. I viewed having children as a choice, as a very serious responsibility, and there were too may things I wanted to do…

      I married a man who also did not want children.

      I got a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy. It took years to find a doctor who would do it. For years, I endured the patronizing behavior of physicians… even though I was willing to hire a lawyer to absolve them of any litigation and responsibility!

      I am almost 50 now. No regrets, none whatsoever.

      And kudos to OG: “With that being said, if I haven’t changed my mind why would I assume you would?” I am so glad here are people like OG in the world.

      For most CF people, the state of our reproductive organs is personal, and to question it is offensive. The same reason we do not ask parents “Why do you *want* to have children?”

    • Jyl

      I’m going to be forty in six months. I cannot tell you how annoying this is to me. I have never wanted kids. Ever. I have known this from a young age. I am very happy and very fulfilled, and I get really irritated by people who suggest that I am shallow or selfish because I “don’t get it.” I also can’t count the number of people who have told me I’d “change my mind someday” (I look younger than I am so this hasn’t entirely stopped). Stick to your guns, and consider the IUD if you can’t find a doctor who will do the surgery (there are possible hormonal side effects that I found worrying which is why I went the IUD route). And then, when some jackass asks you why you don’t have kids, think up a really great and possibly horrifying answer that might shut them the fuck up.
      “I can’t because I was raped when I was seven and it ruined my uterus”, maybe?

    • IT

      i hear myself in this. Never wanted kids,never liked kids, and never regretted not having them. Never regretted the hysterectomy at 35 for fibroid tumors. Now a very happy childless 49- year old….

    • Tanya

      I too knew at the age of about 4 that I never wanted to be a mom. I hated dolls and loved my stuffed animals. I told my parents that all I wanted when I grew up was a live pet who would sleep with me. Now I am nearing fifty and my husband and I sleep with our three cats. He has a vasectomy, we have no kids, and isn’t that the best thing that we had the choice to be childless? I want all kids to be loved; those of us who don’t feel up to the job should be commended for recognizing that we aren’t up for the job.

    • Suzy

      Yes, you have the right to make this decision at 24, and you should see another doctor if yours really is refusing to cooperate. On the other hand, please don’t be too smug about it. If you’re serious, surely you already know that a tubal done at age 24 is more likely to fail than one done at, say, age 44. A tubal is simply one method of birth control among others, some of which will have just as low a failure rate as the tubal, but with less dangerous complications in the event of such a failure. So your doctor has reasons to raise questions about your decision that have nothing to do with treating you like a child. The fact that you don’t mention any of this makes one wonder how well you really do understand the consequences of your choice. Why do you need THIS method, as opposed to another? Yes, it’s your choice, but at least you should have a clear sense of what is at stake.

      The doctor also has a duty to treat patients in the broader context of her expertise, so she would be remiss to ignore the fact that many people DO regret having a tubal. Maybe you have a clearer head and heart and know yourself better than other people do, but the doctor can’t automatically assume that. She has to inform you about the risks, including the desire many people later have to reverse the procedure.

      I’m in my 40s with 3 kids, recently had a tubal, and my doctor gave ME a hard time about it. He apologized for having to ask so many questions about my certainty, but he then outlined some of the many situations in which he has had patients come back regretting the decision. So try not to take it so personally, perhaps? If you’re right about yourself, then you’ve been annoyed or inconvenienced a little by those who want you to be super sure. If you end up changing your mind, then you can see why they were willing to risk annoying you. Lots of people think they don’t want kids, and a lot change their minds. Even if you’re in the group that doesn’t change, it’s not crazy to suspect that you might, given the high odds and the high stakes. In short, don’t be too quick to label reasonable concern as condescension.

    • Jenn

      I’m 42 and got the same reaction as you did when I was in my late teens and early twenties and late twenties and then by my mid-thirties I stopped hearing it. I never changed my mind. It’s the presumption that they think they know me better than myself that really gets my gall.

    • Mark

      I sure wouldn’t want to be a member of that 7%.

    • Steve

      If you’re old enough to pay taxes, serve in the military, own property, drive a car, own a firearm, and drink…then you’re old enough to make an informed decision as to sterilization.

      As a man I wanted to take control of my birth control responsibility…I had a vasectomy at 30. The doctor and nurses counseled me at least three times on it…saying I was awfully young. They made me sign a release. However; they let me have the surgery.

      Our bodies. Our choice.

      • B.

        Same thing I told my doctor. He’s like, “having an unnecessary spleen removal is a bad idea.” I’m like, “My body, my choice. Now open ‘er up.”

    • Jim50

      Go to a different doctor, dumb@.

    • L-Dub

      People who know themselves well enough to choose not to reproduce should be commended. There are too many adults who have children, unconsciously, because it’s the “right thing to do”, when they’re not truly fit or psychologically ready or able to be good parents. The kids suffer, and the parents suffer.

      Adults who recognize that the desire to have children does not reside in them should be appreciated, rather than harassed, in my opinion.

      As a clinical psychologist, i have worked long term with several women who have been very adamant and conscious about not wanting children. As their work progressed, a couple of these women found that the desire to procreate did develop later on during the course of their treatment. [It is worth noting-- in both cases, these were patients who had not been nurtured enough as children, and who had been given too much responsibility to care for other siblings during their childhoods. As they developed more compassion for their early pain, the interest in having children did evolve. This is not to say that that is the dominant reason for why people choose not to have children-- but it can be one of the reasons.] For both cases, they had not had TL, but it was “too late” for them to get pregnant, secondary to their age. Although they were “early articulators” , they did indeed change their mind. And truthfully, they did agonize about the loss, once the desire developed and could not be fulfilled.

      It’s likely that the doctor that refused to do the tubal has had exposure to patients like the ones i reference above. Like the 7% that the studies reference, it is extraordinarily painful to experience this type of regret. But, irrespective of the reason why some adults don’t want children, women should have the right to make this decision, and should be supported when they want to make this decision.

      In my practice, i also see patients who had children under the wrong circumstances. Their children have been tremendously impacted, often neglected and/or abused. This is the real “wrong” in our society– wish there would be more focus on getting this population to slow down and think things through, rather than on those who choose to be child-free.

    • Morgan Sheridan

      I knew I didn’t want children by the age of 10. I’m 57, married 26 years and have had no children. Fortunately, a rapist infected me with an STD at the age of 13 that, due to lack of preventive treatment in the hospital where I was taken, left me blessedly infertile.. I have absolutely no regrets. It is total arrogance when people insist that “you’ll change your mind”. Doctors need to listen to their women patients who want tubal ligations and do it. I for one, am sick to death of the cult of immaculate motherhood and the idea that all women secretly want children — look at the numbers of women in prison for abusing or killing their children! Their numbers are NOT going down. They’re going up!

      • Anna D.

        This is exactly what I try to point out to people. Not all women who are mothers want to be mothers–shouldn’t you let the women who know they don’t want children make that decision for themselves? Think of how many lives get screwed up when it turns out that motherhood is not as fulfilling as all your friends claim.

      • Lorna

        I know far too many people who ‘caved’ (society was even worse back then) and had children when they knew they didn’t want them. Thankfully since they are good people they have been good parents and they love their kids, but they still wish they had stood their ground.

        It’s disgusting to tell anyone “you’ll change your mind” especially when it is never said to people who are trying to conceive. If we can change our minds then of course they can change theirs. And the latter would pose a far bigger problem and harm children!

        Where I live sterilisation is done on the NHS at your average hospital (not at abortion clinics or anything like that) and yes I am well aware of how much money the taxpayer will save if the NHS agree to sterilise me instead of forcing me to go another 2 decades on the pill (my only option). The fact that the NHS will not choose to save that money because their complete strangers apparently know my mind better than I do (!!!!!) is disgusting.

      • Jessica Leland

        I’m very sorry that you suffered from rape and disease, but very very happy for you that these terrible things ultimately gave you the infertility you had always desired. Peace to you.

    • GM

      I knew from about 8 or 9 years old that I didn’t want kids, and that feeling never wavered. I always got gratification taking care of all the little kids in my life, and I have been a mentor to a young person for many years which is hugely rewarding. I am an “aunt” to my friends kids and I love that too. I wanted to get sterilized for a very long time, especially after every boyfriend I’ve had refused to get a vasectomy. I couldn’t afford it, but I finally got my state to pay for it (at age 31) since I’m unemployed. My friends were the only ones that really gave me grief about it when I discussed it, but the medical professionals and my family were all really supportive. Eventually my friends came around too since they saw how badly I wanted it. I am so grateful to be in charge of my own body! With abortion and sterilization I’ve never had any regrets.

      • Trish

        I dislike this comment totally, i do not see abortion as taking control of your body. It is a matter which should not be treated lightly. Abortion is not birth control for those who are just having sex and do not want the consequences. It was crass to expect previous partners to have a vasectomy to prevent pregnancy. To be in charge of your own body means not taking the risk of getting pregnant. You seem totally selfish and very flippant in your ways, i am glad you will not become a mother.

    • Adam

      Knowing you don’t want children and making the effort to make sure you don’t have children is not selfish at all. I wish more people made the effort to not reproduce… I am certainly not EVER planning on having kids, which is a good thing, I’m a great uncle but would be a horrible father.

    • soheifox

      Red vs. Blue said it best. The best reason not to do something this permanent is as follows: You are a fucking idiot and this can be proven mathematically. Take your current age, subtract 10 years. Did you know anything about what you wanted in life back then? No, of course not, you were a fucking idiot! Now look ten years to the future.

      • nikki

        i think your comment is extremely rude. what’s so idiotic about her choice ? the fact that she’ll never have to deal with the physical and emotional stress of parenthood? not to mention all experience the joy of spending thousands, upon thousands of dollars on stuff like daycare,school supplies, medical care of your child and so on. yeah, your right. she’s a fucking idiot.

    • JustSaying…

      I don’t mean to sound disrespectful or anything… but it seems kinda young to me as well (not that my opinion is that relevant). A couple of observations…

      1. The study you quote is only part of the data. The study didn’t include those who sought sterilization and ended up NOT having it… who turned out to be very glad they didn’t. The 7% tells only part of the story. It should also be an age adjusted study. I’m guessing the ‘regret’ rates were directly related to the age at which they had the surgery (younger women probably had a higher rate or regrets). Just hypothesizing a bit.

      2. Again, I can’t say for sure, but I’d bet a paycheck that those who are suggesting you wait are generally a bit older than you. Why? Probably because they have lived through the changes of those years and have a pretty decent perspective on what it’s like on the other side of the decate.

      I’m not suggesting you are wrong or right. Yes, it’s your body. And you may never change your mind. But there is value in listening to the counsel of others. Particular those who ‘are’ where we will be in a few years (our elders).

      The other thought is that I believe folks are offering their caution out of a sense of wanting the best for you. It might not actually ‘be’ the best… but I believe their intentions are sincere. And it seems like you have taken them in the spirit intended. It’s nice to see a ‘respectful’ disagreement (although not all of those commenting have been particularly respectful).

      Ultimately, it’s your call. And I’m sure there are those who would do the surgery for you. But find a GOOD one or you very well may have serious regrets!

      Have a GREAT life (either way).

      • Dartigen

        Yes, but ‘best decision’ relies on someone fully understanding the situation. Few doctors will allow you more than 2 words to explain your decision.

        And hey, you’re allowed to join the military or buy a house or move overseas or have ANY other surgical procedure performed at that age…what’s so wrong with sterilization? I would think that potentially losing your life in combat or leaving your home country forever are just as serious, if not more serious decisions. Yet we allow people at 21 to make all of those decisions without question.

        At 21, you are considered by society, an adult – who can make their own decisions and who is fully aware of the consequences of those decisions. Except, apparently, the decision to have children.

        It’s not a matter of ageism only either – it’s sexism too. Most men who have had vasectomies did not have nearly as difficult a time – they may have had a few questions, they may have been reminded ‘it’s permanent’, but they generally only had to ask once. Women are forced to insane lengths – changing doctors more times than they can count, travelling interstate or even overseas, some even resort to lying about medical conditions – just to make the exact same decision.
        It’s sexism. If it was just ageism, men would get the same level of crap.

        It is a matter of respecting people’s choices and not acting in a condescending and frankly insulting manner.
        But, well, there’s always other countries that do respect people’s choices. (And foundations like Marie Stopes.)

    • Tone

      I am sympathetic to your decision not to have biological children; I am an adoptive parent and can assure you that you have excellent options later on in life.

      The only part of your argument which raises some concern is your opening paragraph where you state the sole reason for choosing this specific method of preventing pregnancy: money!

      “And every year, when faced with the cost of another year of birth control, I ask the doctor, instead: how much would be be to have a tubal ligation?”

      Justifying such an important decision solely on the basis of a cost trade-off triggers a bit of a warning bell. At Planned Parenthood prices, a tubal ligation is worth about a 10 year supply of birth control pills. Assuming you’ve potentially got another 25 fertile years, the present value of all those future pill payments becomes almost equivalent to the cost of today’s tubal ligation (the concept that interest rates always make it preferable to spend a dollar 20 years from now than a dollar today.)

      There are risks and complications both with the pill or a tubal, and that might also influence your decision, but your argument doesn’t touch on these issues. By your own admission, your choice of birth control method is solely driven by your perception of cost. As admirable as the remainder of your impassioned post is, the initial premise disarms much of that passion.

    • Joe

      The reality is, it is a Planned Parenthood Doctor, they make the big bucks from the abortions they provide. By her own admission she doesn’t want kids, so she becomes a perfect candidate for an accidental pregnancy resulting in an abortion. It’s not rocket science why they won’t shut down her baby making machine. There is no money in pregnancy prevention, and life doesn’t matter to the baby suckers of Planned Parenthood.

      • Tone

        @Joe – some proof of your “big bucks” assertion?

        Nor is it rocket science to see that these docs do it for the thrill of a high risk lifestyle: the opportunity to be murdered, assaulted, kidnapped, bombed, and subject to bioterror (anthrax, etc…) and arson. I can just imagine all those medical school students thinking to themselves: “Oh yeah! Here’s the road to the really big bucks. Forget about dermatology, I’m buying my bullet proof vest today and signing up for the good shit!

      • lily

        Only 3% of what PP does is abortions. So obviously, Joe, you’re just a moron

    • Roxane

      It’s not just Planned Parenthood that won’t do it. I wanted mine done when I divorced my first husband at 30 years old. My doctor would not do it. I had a primary care physician at the time with my coverage through my employer. I KNEW I didn’t want kids and wasn’t about to change my mind. 13 years later I still don’t want kids but haven’t explored the option of having surgery in about 10 years.

    • J

      I’m 26 and I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I never want kids. I’ve been waiting for years for this so-called biological clock to kick in, as I’ve repeatedly been told it will. Yet I still haven’t experienced a shred of desire to have children. I’m the sort of person who likes to keep her options open, so personally I wouldn’t opt for tubal ligation, but I fully understand and support your choice (or rather, your wish, since apparently it’s not your choice).

      I don’t see how this is any different from other reproductive rights like abortion and birth control. It’s a matter of the right to control what happens to your reproductive organs. And what you’re getting from your doctor is not just “reasonable concern” as Suzy calls it, since the doctor isn’t just making sure that you’ve thought it through (which you clearly have): she flat-out refuses to perform the procedure.

      As for everyone who believes they know you better than you know yourself: People shouldn’t generalize from their own experience of changing their mind about wanting kids, nor should they condescend to tell you what to do with your body.

      Some women don’t want kids. Get over it, people.

      • Roberto Sarto

        Why do you insist a doctor do what he/she doesn’t want to do? Go find another doctor and get on with your narcissistic life.

      • Lipstick

        J. My niece is a lesbian. She met her cousins new baby last Christmas and was enthralled. No baby had ever touched her before. Now she is thinking about motherhood. She’s in her mid 30′s. Her parents would love a grandchild. You just never know where or when or what circumstance will hit you and change your mind. Hope you don’t have to regret a decission you made earlier. Myself I only wanted one child. I had one. Now he’s in hias 40′s I truly regret not giving him a sibling to be close with. I regret not having at least 2 children. Good luck with your life’s choices.

      • Lauren

        I’m 26 and also have never wanted kids, and can’t imagine choosing to have any in the future. I wan’t going to respond to posts and was just going to write my own, but I felt as though you were being attacked and wanted to let you know you are not alone at all.

        I agree with everything that you wrote. It’s a choice to have children.

    • Julie

      I have known I do not want children my entire life (currently 35). My husband and I looked into tubal ligation for me. True to your post, I met with resistance from my gyn. What really pushed us toward the vasectomy is how much more invasive tubal ligation is compared to a vasectomy. My husband and I went to couples counseling regarding the choice of procreating and we are on the same page. We decided to freeze some of his sperm and that he would have a vasectomy. I highly doubt we will change our minds, but the sperm is there as an insurance policy. Also in case, gods forbid, we get divorced or I pass away he would then have the option to have biological children with a future partner if they wanted to.

    • Monica

      Thank you for this article. I too, have decided not to have children of my own. I am 36 years old, and have also known since I was a teenager, that kids were not for me. I love kids. I am the best Aunt in the world, and I wouldn’t have any other way.

      My husband and I are happily child free, and have been for the past 12 years. Like you, everyone kept telling me, “you’ll change your mind” and “nothing can complete your life like the love of a child”. Talk about selfish. If you are looking for anyone to complete your life, be it a man, woman, or child, *you* are acting out of selfishness.

      I get that a lot of parents are totally happy they made the decision to have children. Kudos to them. As we know, if we allow ourselves to think it, not all parents are happy with their choice to have children. What a rotten life that must be for them, *and* their kids.

      It took our families many years to understand our decision, but fortunately they finally did. But friend’s, and a lot of folks we hardly know, they are more difficult.

      No matter what our reasons are, and how many times we say them (1. we love our life the way it is, with just us, 2. we can pick up and go anywhere, anytime on a moment’s notice, 3. we have all the love between us we could ever need, 4. (maybe one of the most important) the world is overpopulated enough….and on, and on, and on. You do not have to like our reasons, or even agree with them, but they are our reasons and not up to your judgement).

      What is truly amazing to us though, is the reaction that it must be *his* choice not to have children, because a woman can’t possibly feel that way. Most folks are floored to find out that I want kids even less than my husband does (not that he wants them by any stretch…but if I did, he would be fine with it). When new folks find this out, I get “the eye” from them. Suddenly, there is something wrong with me. I must not be right in the head, I am not normal. Like, it would have been ok if it was purely my husband’s choice, they could say “Oh you poor thing”. That they could understand.

      Fortunately for us, I never had to fight with a doctor to get a tubal ligation. My husband got a vasectomy instead. It made more sense, as it was a small “procedure” as opposed to an actual surgery that I would have had to undergo. It just made more sense.

      I too know that if we ever change our minds (which is not going to happen), we can adopt. Plenty of great children need great homes. In the mean time, we will have to “settle” on being the best Aunt and Uncle to all of our wonderful nieces and nephews, and keep living our wonderful life together. A life we chose, and continue to choose every day.

      • Lemmy C.

        I both support your decision to be child-free (as if you need support) and, more to your point, affirm that you do not need a child to live a full, happy life. But…

        I used to think that the expression “nothing completes you like having a child” was as rude and silly as you describe. Now that I have a child, I understand what that means.

        It doesn’t mean that we have a child-shaped hole in our souls waiting to be completed. It means that we were children: we were, for better or worse, “raised.” Being on the other side of that equation – experiencing closely and intimately the process by which we became who we are (and changing it, of course) completes our understanding of who we are, and it also “closes the circle”from the child-who-was-parented to the parent-of-a-child. The insights into our selves, our relations with others, and our values – especially our values – which emerge from the process of parenting are much more concrete: as a non-parent adult, my values were, most of the time, mere opinions. Now, they create a world (both in their successes and their failures.)

      • Monica

        @Lemmy C.

        I understand what you are trying to say, and can appreciate it, as it comes from someone who now, has children.

        The “nothing completes you like having a child” comment is rude. Whether you now understand it or not, does not make it less rude. It is essentially telling someone they are making the wrong choice. I understand what you are saying, and maybe I am picking nits, but the comment, to me, is incredibly rude. Someone is essentially telling me my life is incomplete, when in fact it is not.

        You said, “The insights into our selves, our relations with others, and our values – especially our values – which emerge from the process of parenting are much more concrete: as a non-parent adult, my values were, most of the time, mere opinions. Now, they create a world (both in their successes and their failures.)”

        Your insights, relations with others, and values may have been mere opinions or less concrete, because you changed your mind and are now looking at them with the eyes of a current parent. Your values may be more concrete because you went through the process of parenting, but it is not something anyone can say I or other childfree adults lack because we are not a parent. We, as childfree adults, can still help to shape the world. We are involved deeply in the lives of our nieces and nephews, as well as plenty of other children, born to our friends.

        We have a small business, and have had several groups of children come through. We like to think we say something every time that will stick with them. Because that is our goal. To help create a better world for the next generations, even if we are not going to participate in adding more people to those generations.

        In the end, I think my point is that *your* life was more complete because of a child. You fulfilled the “circle of life” so to speak. What I am trying to say (maybe not using the best words to do so), is that I am no less of a complete person, with complete values, complete insights, and complete relations with others, than you or anyone else because I chose not to have children.

        You chose to be a parent, and thankfully it worked out and you are happy with that decision. I chose not to, and thankfully it worked out and I am happy with that decision.

        One does not have to raise a child to complete the circle of which you speak.

        ps – thank you for taking the time to give me your opinions :-)

    • Cyn Stern

      I had mine done when I was going on 22. I was shocked that I wasn’t hassled about my choice, as I’d heard horror stories such as yours (“You’ve gotta be married, over 35, and have at least 6 kids already!” was the typical story I’d hear from my gal pals).

      And I had it done a long time ago: I am 58 now.

      I have to say that getting a tubal is probably the ONLY life decision that I’ve made about which I continue to have absolutely NO second thoughts. I’d even go so far as to state that it’s the ONLY truly intelligent decision that I’ve made in my life.

      I had mine done at Kaiser Permanente. I don’t know whether or not they’ve changed their policies since back in that day…

      BTW, I had a feeling that the OB/GYN with whom I’d consulted secretly didn’t want to do the operation on me, because when I showed up for the appointment, a resident popped up and said that he’d be doing the surgery, if it were OK with me, as my doc was not available. I mention that only because lots of folks (mostly Fundamentalist Christians) feel that medical personnel and pharmacy workers should have a right to refuse to participate in “enabling” their clients’ “objectionable” choices. I have very mixed feelings about that. If there is another worker available to step in when someone is morally-conflicted, then there’s no harm done. But I also tend to feel that if a job requirement might occasionally call for one to participate in acts that one feels are “immoral,” then choosing a different profession might be a better course of action!

    • A

      I knew since I was a child that I never wanted kids, EVER. I remember telling family and friends at a very young age that I never wanted children and was laughed at and told I would change my mind. Here I am 36 been married 18 years, we both knew what we did and didn’t want in life and it’s working out for us. I will never change my mind.

      I see so many of my old friends totally 100% miserable AFTER having kids and I think more women need to take the time to THINK long and hard before having kids. People just think: “Well now I got married, now I should have kids”, without actually making it a choice, they might feel like that’s what is expected of them. Now those same women are jealous of the fact that I don’t share their “burden.” It’s all about choices, don’t hate me because I thought mine more threw than yours.

    • Amy

      I had the same experience when I was 25 and my doctor lectured me on and on about how much I would regret my decision and that I will change my mind. A year and a half later I was pregnant (while practicing safe b/c suggested by my doctor) and had an abortion. I wish I had a doctor with my insurance who would listen to what I actually want for my own body. Kids may be amazing, but I have young (18+ yr) sibling with a disability who claims that place of my heart.

    • SaEL

      My homegirl likes to say, this is not a bakery. I’m not trying to do the honors or anything, but I counter, why waste your DNA?

      Do what you feel.

    • Zayza

      How much does one year of birth control cost? Why isn’t it free to anyone who wants it? That’s what I want my taxes to go for!

    • ehartsay

      Simple. If you are too young to choose not to have a child, you are too young to choose to have one. Having a child is just as irreversable as a tubal – if you decide it was a mistake, it is not like you can just stuff it back where it came from!

    • Elle

      I think this all boils down to the fact that, as a society, we do not believe for even a moment that women are capable of making decisions about their own bodies. We cannot conceive (pun intended!) of woman deciding, completely by her own volition, to do something outside of the norm. So, doctors, family members, random jackasses on the internet, all chime in to tell her how silly and dumb she is and that she’ll fall into line eventually like a good little girl. People get mad about the idea of a voluntarily-childless woman because we know that we own her and her body, and that her decision to do something different is threatening.

      Also, where are the doctors, family members, and nosy strangers telling women who want to get pregnant how permanent, life-altering, and highly-regrettable the experience can be? Where is the advice to think seriously and hard about whether it is wise to be bringing another being into the world? Where are the relatives saying “You know, you might change your mind down the road. Don’t do something you’ll regret.” for those women?

      • rudegubmintworker


    • Lorna

      There is no such thing as ‘too young’ as long as the person is being completely honest with themself. You are born wanting children or not wanting children and as long as you can be sure you’re not lying to yourself or being swayed by the mucho social indoctrination then you know whether or not you want kids and that won’t change. The ‘biological clock’ doesn’t exist.

      As for people saying things like “go to a different doctor” I think they fail to understand how difficult it is to find ANY doctor that will sterilise you when you are still young enough to conceive!

      The very sad thing is that it is wannabe parents that should be having their motives questioned and their ability to know their own mind questioned, goodness knows enough of them are crap at their job that THEY should be made to think twice!

    • Andrea

      Ever since I was 8 I knew I didn’t eant to either have kids or even marry. I’m 26, and I love being single. Everyone goes at me saying that I’ll change. SO far I’ve proven them wrong, as most of my old schoolmates are already married and with kids, and I’m the only one who hasn’t had a boyfriend. No one can choose over us. No one has control of our wombs.

    • Taryn

      It’s retarded how we can get a sex change but we are denied the right to get sterilized. No brats for me, thanks.

    • Shannon

      Thank you for writing this. I’m trying to find a doctor willing as well, it’s not proving easy. My local planned parenthood won’t even do the procedure, joys of the bible belt.

    • becareful79

      I had a vasectomy when I was 23 years old I was certain at that point that was the right thing to do. and for about 8 years after that I thought it was. I had 1 son when I was too young and I didn’t want to risk screwing up my future. which looking back on it I think was stupid to think that very selfish. I hit 30 and suddenly my brain started changing my feelings started changing. I remember somebody telling me shortly after I had my vasectomy done, that I told them why I didn’t want to have any more children that I wasn’t ready to have any more. he told me my parents probably weren’t ready for me either or my sisters, but I didn’t care I’ll still doing my little dance knowing that I was now permanently sterile. now I’m 33 years old, I am a Muslim convert. and though I did take my Shahada and I am forgiven by Allah of my old life I still fear Allah despite this.

      now perhaps you’re not religious I don’t know, but the reason I inform you of my religious belief right now it’s because I wasn’t before. in fact I was an atheist, 10 years ago if you had told me I was going to be a Muslim I would have laughed at you. so I encourage you never to look too far ahead in your future.

      now religion to the side, I am now engaged. but I will never give my beautiful fiance a baby now unless I have this reversed inshaAllah.

      do not live with regret that you don’t know you might have in the future. and always remember that your road will always change your path will always change. who you are now is not who you will be in 10 years

    • Lori

      I had a TL done at 22 when my 2nd child was born. I was 100% sure it was what was best for me and talked my doctor into it but now at 34 I have spent the last 10 years wishing I had listened to my doctor and waited until I was older.

    • Anon

      I’m so glad you wrote this. I have an appointment to try and convince the clinic that at 25 i’m perfectly sound of mind, intelligent and considered enough to make my own decisions about my own fertility. Reading things like this help me keep up the ongoing fight for control over my own womb.

      The biggest problem with people being so closed minded and sensitive about young women choosing sterilisation, is that it makes it impossible to have a reasoned adult conversation about how it feels, and what you should do. They just push and push their own views, and any conversation about it is seen as proof that you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s so isolating.

    • Nancy

      I am 23, single, no kids and I am getting my tubes tied in two weeks. The first and only doctor agreed to do it for me. There is a plan and a process to getting your tubes tied. Go to my blog at

    • Nicole Pacinello

      Not decided on the kids thing yet…but holy shit.. Who CARES if someone doesn’t want children? Tie them tubes up! Snip ‘em! Burn ‘em! We have way too many people traipsing about the planet already, we should be celebrating those who have the inclination toward the childfree/non biological child life. Unpleasantly amazed at the socio conformative attitude of doctors.

    • Tim Jones

      I lucked out @ 22 with a great doctor. Now at 53, best decision I ever made.

    • moviegeek

      All through my 20′s, I asked my doctor to PLEASE give me a TL or some other form of sterilization, and every year he assured me I was going to change my mind. I’ve never been interested in kids, and I knew I never would be. As I got into my 30′s, I became resigned to the fact that no matter how many times I asked, the doctor was never going to go with my wishes because certainly he knew my mind better than I did, the old git. I didn’t want to bother trying to search out a doctor on my insurance who would, so I just thought I’d stick to the birth control and play the waiting game until my body was done with the whole reproduction part of my life.

      Last Fall, the doctor found masses on my ovaries, and only through cancer was I able to get a hysterectomy! Can you imagine that? That CANCER was what ended up having to happen to get sterilized?! But at least I am now, and I am VERY happy with that, and things are looking up, otherwise.

      As for the religious convert below, shame on you! Foolishness like yours is why so many others who know their own minds have to suffer. Does it sound like I’m mad? Good! I am. I know a lot of Childfree women who have had this very same struggle, and it is all because of people like you. The 7%ers have ruined it for a lot of people. You can’t give your woman a baby? With all the unwanted children in the world in need of love and a family, ADOPT! It has to be genetically yours? How selfish is that! You have no sympathy from me!

    • Interested Reader

      Some women are satisfied with being stay-at-home moms. Some women are happy to work and be mothers, some women don’t want ANYTHING to do with raising a child, and some women choose to consider that hard yet wonderful path of taking in a child that doesn’t have anyone else and loving them. Every choice is strongly judged by the rest of society, though they really shouldn’t be, and every choice takes strength to stick with. If you do not feel the desire to bring your own children into the world, you have every right to make that choice, and you have every right to make sure that you don’t get pregnant. I suggest considering a different doctor, one who realizes that your choice is your own and is just as valid as a woman’s choice to give birth to as many children as she can possibly love.