Two days ago, I had a bilateral tubal coagulation, more commonly known as getting my tubes tied (even though there is no tying involved). Before requesting the procedure, I talked to many friends and family members who had chosen it for themselves, to gather as much information as I could. I have decided to share as much of my own experience as I can, in the hope that it might be helpful to others considering this method of permanent contraception for themselves.
The intake appointment
I had heard that finding a doctor willing to perform a tubal ligation can sometimes be challenging, but I figured that at 37, with two school-aged children, my chances of finding a sympathetic physician were good. My own family doctor was completely supportive, and I didn’t have to justify my request for a referral to her at all. When I met with the gynecologist, however, I did have to make an effort to convince her I was ready for this. “You seem like you’ve thought this through, and you’ve considered all of your options, but I’m going to do my due diligence anyway.” She proceeded to tell me about the risk of regret, my other options (she’s very pro-Mirena IUD), and yes, she talked about what might happen if my current or future partners might want to have children, or what would happen if, Gd forbid, one of my children died. For what it’s worth, I am familiar with the possibility of regret, I know all about my other options, any current or future partnerships would require a time machine for me to be okay with having another child, and if one of my kids died, I wouldn’t be looking to have a replacement baby.
In the end, she saw my resolve, and scheduled the surgery date, in spite of telling me she never ever schedules surgery at the first appointment.
The next day
I did have to return to her office the next day after all, however. As this is a procedure many women rethink before the surgery date, the office requires that everyone pay a $150 deposit to cover the anesthetist cost. If I go through with the surgery, I get the money back. If I don’t, the anesthetist still needs to get paid (and as it is a pay-per-procedure set-up, the gynecologist would be on the hook for that cost if I didn’t cancel with enough notice). This may not be the standard practice for every gynecologist, but it’s worth asking before setting a surgical date, in case it takes some time to get that kind of money together.
I called the day before my procedure to find out what time I was to go through Admitting. I was told 9:30am, which meant that the “nothing by mouth after midnight” edict wouldn’t be too terrible. The morning of the surgery, I got a call 10 minutes before my partner arrived at my house, telling me that I’d been bumped to 11:30. That gave me some extra time to putter in my house, work through some last-minute anxiety, and do a bit of extra housework. I had purposely chosen a date during which my kids would be visiting my parents, which made all of this a lot easier.
We got to the hospital, and did a lot of waiting. I got an IV, waited some more. I curled up in an oversized chair with my partner, and talked with him about the surprising emotions I was feeling. Not regret, just … hard. Had my life gone differently a few years ago, would I have wanted to have another child? Honestly, yes. I really would have. But I’ve always said I wasn’t comfortable with having babies after 35, I didn’t ever want to be the single parent to another baby, and my own kids’ needs are only increasing as they get older. The path my life has taken has made the choice for me, and sterilization is still the right choice. Not easy, but right.
Around 2:30 or so, I finally made it into the operating room. My doctor asked if I had any second thoughts, I explained my emotional state, and she compared it to a divorce – not something you really WANT to do, but something that makes the most sense anyway. For my experience, that’s pretty accurate. I awkwardly jumped up on the table, trying to not rip out my IV in the process, and put my head down. Arms out of gown, blood pressure cuff on one arm, pulse monitor on other thumb. Oxygen mask over my face. Sudden horrible painful burning in my hand as the anesthetic goes into the IV port.
I woke up about 3:45, asked for my partner, the time, and something to read. I then complained that I couldn’t see clearly, which just made the nurse laugh. She reassured me I wouldn’t be in there long enough to need anything to read, and suggested I relax. I was fighting some nausea, but was also bored, so I reached up and grabbed my chart off the side of the bed. I read that I’d been given 5mg of morphine about 15 minutes before they’d woken me up, which explained why I wasn’t feeling any pain in my belly. I was, however, experiencing a really sore right shoulder. I found out later that this is a normal side effect after laparascopic surgery.
Eventually, I was wheeled back into the post-recovery area where I was reunited with my partner. He curled up with me and snickered as a series of less-than-lucid statements came out of my mouth. I was given some Gravol (which helped the nausea, but in no way contributed to lucidity), visited by my doctor (who told me that my insides were incredibly boring), and was eventually discharged.
I’m not sure why I didn’t know to expect this, and no one else had mentioned it would happen, but there was some vaginal bleeding after the procedure.
Upon discharge, I was told to alternate between Tylenol and Advil for pain. For the most part, it’s been enough to manage the pain effectively. The night and morning after surgery were challenging, and I was grateful to have someone there to make sure I got drugs in time, talk me through the anesthetic leaving my body, and feed me and my cats. Today’s been better, and I suspect I’ll be more or less okay by the end of the weekend. I have a stitch inside my belly button, and a teeny cut surrounded by a bruise on my left hip. That’s it, that’s all. I can feel some pain in my belly button, and on either side of my pelvis. I still have some shoulder pain. But it’s not terrible.
I have to book a follow-up appointment for six weeks from now. I don’t anticipate any issues with healing. Emotionally, I’m feeling good. I’ve grieved the loss of what I wanted my life to look like a long time ago. I’m relieved after making this choice, and how it fits into the life I actually have. Yes, there is a very small risk of pregnancy (as we all know, exclusive lesbianism really is the only foolproof method of contraception), but I’m far more comfortable with the odds I have now versus three days ago.