A Momentous Decision…And No Regrets

In 1977, I was 28 years old.  I had been married for four years, and my husband and I lived in Seattle fairly happily.  I was a hospital pharmacy technician, and he was a transformer winder for a company that made industrial transformers.  Neither of us really knew what we wanted to be when we grew up (I had a Master’s degree in psychology that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on). We didn’t earn the big bucks, but we made enough to get along nicely.

My momentous decision at that time was the decision not to have children. My husband was OK with that, and we had some deep discussions over what that would mean to our lives.  We would have more disposable income, and more freedom.  We liked to say that instead of kids, we’d have cats and cars (he liked nothing better than working on one of his cars, and he remodeled our basement into a home auto repair shop).

I had been taking birth-control pills since before we were married, and had no health complications from that.  However, right around this time, some of the adverse side-effects of the Pill were just being discovered and publicized, like blood clots.  I decided that, in order to make my life less complicated, I wanted to have a tubal ligation, making the permanent decision to remain childless.  My husband agreed that it was what we wanted.

The over-arching reason that I decided to remain childless was that I had had a most unpleasant childhood, and I didn’t want to make any child of mine suffer the way I had.  My mother for all of my childhood and young-adult life had made my life miserable, and I determined that I risked being the same kind of parent if I had my own children.  I have always been high-strung, and unable to tolerate much in the way of disturbances in my environment.  I was, and am, sure I’d be driven crazy by a crying baby, since I’d probably end up with kids with my own temperament.  I had tried baby-sitting as a teenager, and I was really terrible at it!  I just considered that I’d make the world a better place by not making some innocent child as miserable as I was.  I decided I would not be a fit parent.

At this time, I had employer-sponsored medical insurance with Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, and I discussed our decision with my family physician.  She was OK with my decision, but she said that Group Health had a policy that anyone under age 30 seeking surgical sterilization was required to have a consultation with a psychiatrist, to make sure that the decision was not taken rashly, since at that time it was irreversible.

So I duly made my appointment with one of GHC’s psychiatrists.  That interview was the most extraordinary interview I had ever, and have ever had with a mental-health professional.  For some reason that I never figured out, my decision to make my childlessness permanent just drove this psychiatrist off the deep end.  He not only disagreed with me, he positively screamed at me, gesticulating wildly and telling me in no uncertain terms that he would never approve of my decision, and would not authorize the surgery.  I left his office shaken and angry myself, and it took a day or two for me to calm down.  I had witnessed totally unprofessional behavior, from someone who should have known better.  Unfortunately, his decision stood, and I was not allowed to have the surgery at Group Health.

I remained firm in my decision, however.  The following year, I changed jobs, and had new insurance.  I found myself a new physician, who agreed to do the surgery.  So, at the age of 29, I had my tubal ligation.

I am 66 years old now, and never once have I regretted this decision.  My life has taken some unfortunate turns, and through it all, my decision to remain childless has been the right one.  I went through a difficult divorce (my fault, and difficult for me), and many bouts with unemployment, as I navigated through a career change.  As a divorced person, all my problems were mine alone, and no innocent child had to suffer from being moved around and neglected while I was at work long hours.  Sure, I don’t have grandchildren to spoil, but I have never really missed that.  I like children, and I enjoy being around my friends’ and relatives’ kids.  And I admire friends who have big families.  I am comfortable enough now that I feel capable of handling anything the rest of life might throw at me.  My second husband (since 2003) and I are happy and prosperous, and we love being owned by our black cat.  I believe that, at age 28, I made the right choice for myself, and have never looked back and said “I wish I’d had children”.  I just told my friends “Have one for me”!

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