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.