Ever been condescended to? Because you do not know the meaning of the word until you meet the woman I will call Dr. Duck.
I have never had a doctor address me as if I were a toddler before this afternoon. I don’t even remember the staff of my preschool speaking in quite that tone of voice. You know the one. Singsong, breathy, sweet. Snow White, M.D. I don’t know what prompted her to take such a tack with me. The way she sounded, she was obviously mystified that I’d managed to dress myself, never mind getting in the car and driving forty minutes to my appointment. If that was what she believed of me, I suppose she was justified in refusing to perform a tubal ligation on me.
No? Not realistic? Mmm, then she really was just an ass.
So I guess the whole practice has a policy of not performing tubals on childless women, especially under a certain age. This was news to me, given that the person who scheduled me said that I’d come to the right place. Why do you think I wasn’t hedging my bets and getting consults from other doctors? I distinctly recall pointing out that I had not had children and would prefer to keep it that way. Do I sound perimenopausal over the phone? I mean, there was the debt collector who mistook me for my mother some years back.
But rather than take my history and ask why I felt I was a good candidate for the procedure, she proceeded to reiterate the practice’s policy, as well as some sort of law against performing tubals on women under a certain age. If there is such a law within sniffing distance of New York State, you’d think I would know about it by now. Hearing that, I admit, was enough to shock me out of my composure. She then trotted out the semi-permanent options, because fecundity is all. I told her repeatedly that neither Implanon nor an IUD were acceptable alternatives. Naturally, she handed me a leaflet detailing my birth control options. Just in case a woman who very emphatically did not wish to be pregnant was also clueless about her options for preventing same.
At no point in the visit did she express concern that I might be too willing to subject my body to the strain of a surgery. No, she spent the entire visit talking about women the practice had treated who had changed their minds shortly thereafter. I offered to sign a CYA form. Not good enough. I told her I’d come back in five years still childfree, still wanting a tubal. I don’t recall whether she dared to contradict me on that. She dared everything else.
I am oddly proud that I didn’t cry until I got in my car. Then I sat in the parking lot for about fifteen minutes and sobbed. I should be used to leaving doctors’ offices feeling kicked in the gut. I suppose I’ve gotten soft. I called my parents, both of whom were enraged on my behalf. I debated driving up to see my mother, but her lunch hour was almost over, so I cranked the music and screamed along to my mix CD all the way home. That drive was sheer adrenaline. At least I didn’t have a panic attack. I’m proud of that, too.
And here I am.
I know what comes next. I have to actually find the number of the woman at Strong who might hear me out. I have to come up with a way to get through to her that doesn’t employ tears. I suspect I won’t actually get in to see her until the fall–I did book this appointment two months ago, at least–so I have time to see this new psychiatrist. I intend to gather evidence supporting my case. I am pretty sure I would lose what remains of my sanity if I got pregnant, and I am also pretty sure there are technical terms for that eventuality. I am on medication I cannot quit nearly fast enough to spare a fetus the effects, not without going inpatient. I know that until I am sterilized, abortion is my only way out, as I am entirely unwilling to hand over something I spent nine months gestating to someone I don’t know. Shonda Rhimes voiced the sentiment best through Cristina Yang: I would come to love my child. Unfortunately for that child, I would make a terrible mother, at least until it turned nine or ten. And I am not as sanguine about aborting as I used to be.
I would rather make the “mistake” of sterilization, which damages only me, than bring a “mistake” into the world. No child deserves that hell. There are plenty of children living in it already, and if I ever feel the overwhelming desire to parent, rest assured that one of these children will benefit.
I will not ask my partner to alter his body to suit me. He is unlikely to be my last partner, and there is always the possibility of rape. This is my decision, about my body. This is an issue of my agency as a woman, my right to choose. I am unequivocally pro-choice for all women, and this is mine. Laying aside all of the other reasons, guess what? These Fallopian tubes right here? They’re in my abdomen. They’re part of my reproductive system. That means I decide whether to have them severed, ligated, and possibly seared shut. In theory, this means Dr. Duck should have nodded, informed me that my decision was irreversible (lady, that’s part of the appeal) and plotted to separate me from my money and my fertility. So much for the capitalist model of medicine, eh, America?
But I am not done. Far from it, now. This just got so much bigger for me than avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. This is me standing up for my bodily autonomy. This is me not sitting down, shutting up, and letting someone who does not live in this body tell me what to do with it. I don’t care if I have to bring a lawyer to my next appointment, or possibly my nearest Catholic priest. The only thing I’m done with is hearing that I am too much of a child to make this decision. I don’t need to fling myself off a building to test whether I’ll bounce. I don’t need to experience pregnancy or labor to know that I want nothing to do with either one. This doctor would not have tried to talk me out of a pregnancy. Why is she allowed to talk me out of the opposite?