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Scarred for life

Did you have your entire future reproductive history figured out in your early 20s?

I didn’t. In my early 20s, I had a vague notion that someday I might want a child or two, but I certainly couldn’t imagine motherhood as I understand and experience it now. It was impossible then. I was young, somewhat selfish, and made some stupid and short-sighted decisions.

There is a lot of arrogance in youth—the notion you have life figured out before you’ve figured out yourself is rampant and nearly universal in our culture. Granted, some people mature quickly because of life circumstances or inherent maturity.

I wasn’t one of them, which is why I am having trouble wrapping my mind around a blog post I read about a woman who allowed herself to be surgically sterilized at the age of 24. She has no children and feels she never will have the desire. Her name is “Jamie”.

She has the right to purposely scar her fallopian tubes into absolute oblivion. Just because I would never do that doesn’t mean she can’t. I like all the systems in my body to work. No other system in our bodies is as feared, misunderstood, respected, and disrespected as the reproductive system. I never hear of people obsessing over their skeletal system unless something is wrong. Only the reproductive system is manipulated, altered, or destroyed to prevent the functions it is anatomically created to perform—and most people applaud this in our society. Here I am, expecting my seventh baby, and I am glad for all the medical and surgical ways my body has been helped to achieve my family dream.

Left to my body’s wisdom, Beatrix would be dead due to her cord prolapsing during labor. It wasn’t going to sort itself out or go away. I was only 4 cm, nowhere near pushing. I had my first c-section to save her life. I’ll probably have another c-section. If that isn’t manipulation of the “natural” birth/reproductive process, I don’t know what is. So please don’t think I am condemning decisions to limit family size or undergo fertility treatments, either. I am not.

We think our hearts and our heads are in charge, don’t we? Really, it’s ovary and testicle that take up a great deal of our mental and physical energies, in the end. They bark the orders when we are adults, more than we care to admit.

Either Jamie is wise beyond her years, knowing with a deep and abiding instinct she isn’t mother material, or is a complete fool. There is no middle ground here.

44 comments to Scarred for life

  • Tracy - tjly

    I think she’s a complete fool. Things change when you fall in love with the right person. If she was already married and she and her husband made the decision together, that’s one thing. But what if her feelings change when she meets her future spouse and she decides she wants her husband’s baby? Obviously she can adopt, but she has foreclosed a path that could just break her heart someday.

  • Amen! Very well said, in your usual eloquent style. I’m sitting here wrestling in my thoughts as to whether or not I should add my own opinions. I think I will wait and sit and chew for a bit.

    Joanne’s last blog post..Thunk Thursday

  • It seems to me that her choice is more of an extreme kind of birth control since there are ways that she could still become a parent later on in life.

    It’s hard for me to fathom making that kind of decision at 24. I will say that if I hadn’t been married by that time to a man who wanted children, I can imagine myself making the same choice. However, by the time I was 27, the notion of parenthood seemed much more interesting. And becoming a parent is a decision I’ve never regretted.

    Stephanie’s last blog post..Offer

  • I was 25 when my third daughter was born. Per the hospital’s policy with third children, they asked me if I wanted my “tubes tied” after delivery. I remember being completely dumbfounded. I “get” that three kids is a lot, but knowing for sure I was done at 25 years old? I couldn’t imagine it! I’m glad I declined the procedure – and my two sons (aka: children #4 & #5) are, too!

    Stacey @ Happy Are We’s last blog post..Now That I’m Famous

  • I feel so saddened over the grief that Jamie will most likely experience as a result of her decision after she has grown up some. Over 30 years ago, my aunt and uncle decided that they didn’t want any children at a very young age. It wasn’t too many years after my uncle’s vasectomy that they changed their minds. He had it reversed, but it took nearly 10 years to conceive. Although they have always been great with children, having all the neighborhood kids hanging out at their house nearly every day, they were only able to have 1 child of their own.

    I could add more about my personal feelings about children being a blessed gift from God and the sad state of our nation as a generation is coming up who instead view children as inconvenience and a nuisance. I could say so much more, but I won’t. You are right, Gretchen. She may not realize it now, but she is indeed scarred for life.

    Lisa’s last blog post..Our little sorta-vacation 🙂

  • Wow. The comments on that article are stunning. Almost 100% in support – “her choice” “should be respected” etc.

    I agree that it is her choice, but does that mean it has to be respected? Does EVERY choice need to be respected? Are we never allowed to call a choice unwise or foolish?

    Very few 24-yr-olds are able to make pitch-perfect decisions about what they will want for the rest of their life. Just consider the divorce rate or the mid-life career change. The choice to break your body is so permanent, it is reasonable for doctors to demand some greater justification than “I’ve always known I don’t want kids.” At 22, I knew I never wanted to be married. At 24, I’d always known I wanted to be a teacher. Here I am at 36, happily married and NOT a teacher.

    I suppose if her family had a genetic history that meant she might witness the death of her child or some other great suffering, I would be more sympathetic. And I wonder how supportive all those commenters would be if her irrevocable decision were for something less comprehensible to trendy young people, like entering a convent or joining the military.

    Veronica @ Toddled Dredge’s last blog post..Maternity Fashion: If Toddled Dredge Wrote Fashion Friday

  • The thought of children for us was always kind of nebulous; we knew our parents wanted us to have them, and we thought we did. Sometimes. Sometimes we were pretty happy that we could go and do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Stroll around the house naked. Eat dinner on the couch while watching TV. Leave the silk undergarments draped over a lampshade, as a reminder of a wild night the weekend before.

    We really had no idea the height and breadth of the door we would open when we had kids. So many things changed in our lives, and almost every perspective I had on things was altered by one tiny little 6lb blob of life. Then we were lucky enough to have two. Now I really want three, but think that we’d be pushing the upper limit on reason, given our ages.

    But Jamie will likely never know that she’s missing any of the wonderful things that lie behind that door, because you really CAN’T know unless you open it and walk through. What’s bliss for one can be condemnation for another, and you just can’t predict which it might be for you until you’re in it.

    Clayjack’s last blog post..When Cornered, Use Misdirection

  • Excellent post and surprising news. I can’t imagine. And really it just makes me very sad. Not that I should assume she will someday want children…but 24. I knew nothing about what i wanted at 24 and I am a pretty together person. I honestly hope she doesn’t regret her decision.

    Beth – total mom haircut’s last blog post..Cherub One, Cherub Two

  • i was 26 before i even had an inkling that i wanted kids. before that i may very well have done the same thing she did. now i’m expecting my fourth. things change. dramatically.

    chickadee’s last blog post..The joys of pregnancy

  • Not everybody is meant to be a parent, and if she’s aware of that, or if she doesn’t want to uproot whatever plan she has for her life with accidental children, why would that make her a fool?

    Avitable’s last blog post..So. Exhausted.

  • Wow- I can’t imagine. And I don’t think I knew that you had cord prolapse with Beatrix! I am so happy all was ok.

    I am not for any type of elective surgery, so when we are asked (quite often) if this baby is our last, I have to say we aren’t going to do anything medically to seal the deal!


    Adventures In Babywearing’s last blog post..If You Have Wheels, Stay Far From Me

  • Wow, that is a mind-boggling choice… I can’t imagine making that decision at her age…

    Katy’s last blog post..Have you showered today?

  • Tonyia

    I had an unexpected gift from God at 19. At 19, I really didn’t want kids. I was happy and felt blessed with the one God had given me, BUT I hadn’t PLANNED to get pregnant. Even when my daughter was 2, 3, and 4 years old (and I was 21, 22, 23ish) – people would ask me when I was going to have another one and I firmly told them not until I’m 30. And I absolutely meant it. Well, now I turn 30 in a month and a half, my husband and I have been trying to conceive for 4 years now. We miscarried last year and haven’t had any success in conceiving again.

    I can not call the girl a fool. I am certain that SHE is certain she’s doing the right thing for herself and to me a fool is the person who knows what they are doing is NOT the right thing, but does it any way. It is not my place to judge her, though I wish I could talk to the girl. I would tell her I felt the EXACT same way, but that the blessing of being able to bear children is indeed that. A blessing. I would do anything moral and legal to be able to give my husband a child. I just hope this yound woman is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN in her decision and doesn’t regret it later.

  • I was a big old selfish mess at 24. Still am a bit of one at 33, 2 kids later. It amazes me that in our early 20s we have such a strong sense of “how it will be” I hope by our 30s, we have realized that is seldom the case and stop making decisions strictly based on that.

    Most likely she will regret it and I am wondering where all those “choice” cheerleaders will be then. It seems so sad to me that the cool, trendy choice right now is to be childless.

  • I question the judgement of a doctor that would do the procedure. I didn’t want kids at all in my 20s or 30s. Having had my first and only in my mid-40s, I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this and I’m so glad I never crossed path’s with a doctor that would left me do something irreversible and foolish. (My Good Houskeeping article from last summer is titled Scarred For Life – Jamie should read it.)

    Antique Mommy’s last blog post..HFM: Tax Dollars Well Spent

  • Absolutely heart breaking! At the age of 27 for me and 30 for my husband at the time and already having 3 children, we made the horrible mistake of a vasectomy. Now 6 months ago we had a vasectomy reversal and I beg God daily to bless us again with a child, it is absolutely heart breaking to think that at 24 and childless a woman thinks she has made a great decision, it wasn’t even a year before we knew we had made a horrible mistake. And I am not saying that all woman should be mothers because all should not. Time changes so many things as a small group leader in our church I have expressed the pain this has caused us to many woman and a few have because of our story decided against a vasectomy and one of them is pregnant now and very thankful for waiting!

    Happy Mommy’s last blog post..I can’t beieve I did this.

  • My best friend just had her first baby at 41. For twenty years she was ‘Jamie’ – absolutely sure she would never want children. I just feel so sad for that girl and for the probable, maybe even inevitable pain she will have to go through in ten years.

    For someone who is deeply saddened by the end of her child-bearing years, it just seems so unfair. (Yes, it’s all about me!)

    nutmeg’s last blog post..Hiatus

  • “I can not call the girl a fool. I am certain that SHE is certain she’s doing the right thing for herself and to me a fool is the person who knows what they are doing is NOT the right thing, but does it any way.”

    I agree with Tonyia. We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have, and our history & desires do affect our choices.

    What is foolish is making decisions without taking into account that we are changeable, fickle human beings who don’t always know what is best for us. However strong I may feel on an issue or choice, I know that my views may change in ten years or ten days. We did make our BC permanent, but only after 3 children and prayerful consideration.

    Angela’s last blog post..I Never Left the Nest – It Left Me!

  • I just don’t see her point. So she doesn’t want kids… just don’t. There’s more than enough ways to not have kids, that is not so permanent or life – damaging should she change her mind later on.

    Melany’s last blog post..Brain

  • Well, even though I don’t consider this to be the wisest course of action, at least “her decision” it doesn’t require a human life to end.

    I wonder if she will regret “getting fixed” one day, though. She may be getting a lot of public support for her decision now, but if she grieves over her empty womb sometime in the future, it will be a bitter grief, indeed.

    Jamie’s last blog post..Hot.

  • Rachel Chip

    It’s so ironic to me. I’m 24 and just two weeks ago I had surgery to deal with my pregnancy loss and infertility. Because I WANT to have a family. I do agree with the comments that say that you don’t know what you want for the rest of your life when you’re 24 – but then would that mean that I can’t know what I want, and that I shouldn’t have had the surgery that I had? I can say that I always notice that I am the youngest paitent in the waiting room of my reproductive specialist. There aren’t many 24 year olds that are interested in (or even aware of) dealing with infertility quite yet.
    You are so right in saying that only the reproductive system is the most obsessed about system in the body. It’s such a tricky thing, isn’t it?
    I am certain that I did the right thing in having my surgery, and I hope Jamie is just as certain about her surgery.
    Thanks for sharing such an interesting story.

  • Yes, minds and priorities change, which is why I’m surprised I’m the first to comment about adoption as being an option for her later in life, if she so chooses. Having your tubes tied doesn’t mean the end of your dreams of parenthood.

    We know many preferential adopters (people who chose to adopt as a first choice instead of having biological children). Most we know made this decision due to health and/or genetic concerns, but not all.

    I became a mother through adoption. And, though I would never dream of making Jaimie’s same choice (I’m sure anyone who struggled with infertility understands that), at the same time, I’d much rather a person make this decision instead of aborting or biologically having a child they were unwilling or unable to parent.

    Adoption is wonderful and NOT second-best, but it is also rooted in loss for all members of the adoption triad (biological parents, child, even the adoptive parents). So, should Jaimie change her mind later, adoption wouldn’t be an easy road, but it WOULD be a path that leads to parenthood.

    And who’s to say that she WILL change her mind? Not everyone wants to be a momma… I surely did, but Jaimie isn’t me.

    Tonggu Momma’s last blog post..OC’s Boardwalk

  • Wow Gretchen, some powerful and well worded thoughts in your post. “I certainly couldn’t imagine motherhood as I understand and experience it now.”

    Amen. Good stuff.

    Heth’s last blog post..She Just Wanted To Help

  • We had some friends do this (married couple). He got a vasectomy in his mid-20s because they were sure they would never want kids.

    I didn’t want kids either, at the time, but even to me it seemed a rather drastic move.

    I no longer keep in touch with that couple. But having three kids of my own now and seeing the tremendous joy they bring, I feel sorry for them. I hope they are at peace with their decision.

    Kelly @ Love Well’s last blog post..Summer Makes Me Forgetful

  • I’m reading all of these comments, and it’s just amazing. It’s not that it’s trendy to be childless – some people just don’t want children. They don’t want the responsibility. They don’t want the burden. They don’t want to contribute to the overpopulation. They like their lives the way that they are. She might regret it, but she’ll also regret many other things in life, like taking a different job, moving to another location, buying a different car – it’s all part of life. Everyone has regrets, but this choice is just as much a right of her as it would be to choose the color of her next car.

    Avitable’s last blog post..Yay!

  • Michelle

    My sister is 45 no kids(desided early in her 20’s). Is she a fool no, is she wise, very much so. She is very happy and content.

    Bitting my tongue on saying more.

  • Gretchen

    I don’t think anyone is saying Jamie is a fool for not wanting kids.

    I think the main concern is that she is young and is permanently altering her body in a way she may deeply and bitterly regret someday. Michelle—your sister doesn’t have kids. She is childless by choice. It doesn’t make her a fool at all. Nobody is saying she’s a fool for not wanting to be a mom.

    From what I see in the comments, people are struck by a young woman who permanently scarred her fallopian tubes with metal springs/screws. She can do that. Should she have done it?

    She may not be a fool…but has she made a terribly foolish choice?

    Jobs can be changed. Divorces can be obtained. Cars can be traded in. People change their minds all the time.

    New fallopian tubes aren’t on the shelves at Target or found in courtrooms or the local community college. Sure, you can get a reversal, but from what I’ve read her particular chosen method of sterilization is extremely hard to successfully reverse.

  • Someone may have already said this, but it seems to me that Jamie, being unmarried, has no reason to even be worrying about motherhood unless she is choosing to have sex outside of marriage. I think it is obvious that the driving force here is her ability to have sex without the pesky outcome of parenthood being any possibility.

    Obviously I’m hopelessly old-fashioned, but the surgery seems not just a bad idea, but a needless one at that. Reproductive choices are best made by grownups who take their hearts and souls into account as well, not by children in adult bodies who view sex is a hobby.

    Jenni’s last blog post..An opportunity I could not resist

  • …sex AS a hobby…sorry…

    Jenni’s last blog post..An opportunity I could not resist

  • Melissa

    Hi, this is Melissa from Mile High Mamas. Amber has asked me to try to track down e-mail addresses so she can send out an e-vite to everyone for our dinner on September 12th. Would you mind sending me your e-mail address? Please also include the name of your blog so I can keep track of who is who! Thanks! My e-mail address is melissabhowell (at) gmail (dot) com.

  • I am 24, married for five years, and have a 2 year old son. I am currently finishing my bachelors degree and then I will get my master’s. I am very mature for my age and always have been. After my son was born my husband and I agreed we wanted no more children. I discussed getting my tubes tied but have not done it yet. I am happy we still have that option but in the end we are complete and happy with being a family of three. What i am trying to say is some 24 year olds are mature enough to make decisions. Who are we to judge b.c she might realize she is not mothering material, has ambitions, etc. I love kids but does not mean I want 10 or another one for that matter. We all have to live with the choices we make in life good or bad. She might be completely happy with her decision for the rest of their life or not.

  • edj

    Interesting post (where DO you find these stories, Gretchen?) and comments. I agree that adoption is a wonderful choice for some, but I also think of myself at 24 and how much I’ve changed since then, and I’m glad that the few long-term decisions I made then (like getting married) were ones that I still rejoice in today.

    edj’s last blog post..On the Road Again, Just Can’t Wait

  • That was so tactfully said. I still can’t wrap my brain around it though.

    Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart’s last blog post..Six Months

  • I do know someone like that. She tried to have her tubes tied when she was 19 (and every year thereafter); no one believed her, though she never changed her mind. She’s now in her late 40’s, and I haven’t spoken to her in years, so I guess it’s a non-issue now. The truth is that she just didn’t want to be a mother. Sadly, she had a few “accidents” after at least one birth control method failed (she used them all). And, true to her word, she never became a mother. So very sad.

    midlife mommy’s last blog post..Babytalk

  • I am disturbed how judgmental many of these comments are about a person they have never met. She isn’t hurting anyone except maybe herself by doing this. And it bugs me that a group of people (moms with many children) who feel condescended to because of their reproductive choices would be so ready to condescend to someone else because of her reproductive choices. I guess it’s really true that a lot of the social pressure on women comes from other women–from whom we would think we have the right to expect some solidarity.

  • When I was in my early 20s, I was told that I would have a difficult time getting pregnant – or that I would never be able to get pregnant at ALL. Okay, I thought at the time.

    I didn’t know. I was only in my early 20s.

    Rebecca’s last blog post..It’s a holiday!

  • I had my first just a few months before I turned 24. I can’t imagine ending it all at that age. I planned on having 4, that somehow was our “magic #”, yet we have 5. 🙂 I hope she does not have regrets later.

    I watched the other day how at some abortion clinics when they do late abortions (22wks) some of the babies are born alive and they let them die in a back room somewhere. I guess, I have to give her kudos for keeping herself from letting THAT be done instead.

    I guess there is good and bad, but in the end they are her reasons and she will pay the consequences later.

    Shelley’s last blog post..Never had a boy before

  • Clare

    I’m with a few of the other commenters here…why do people always feel the need to judge others? Especially when the person being judged is harming no one but possibly themselves.

    Maybe I think having 4 or 5 kids is selfish given the state of the natural resources available to the world’s population now. People are starving all over the world. We are running out of all sorts of resources, and Americans use more of them than any other country in the world. If one woman decides not to have kids at an early age, that’s her business. But if a bunch of American Moms have 5 kids…think of the effect that has on the world. But no judgement. Right?

  • I can’t contemplate or imagine having made such a choice, either. Even now, having 8 kids, being older and having some health issues, I couldn’t permanently sterilize myself or my husband.

    Paula’s last blog post..A Driver!

  • I’ve known several women who just, for whatever reasons, never wanted kids. They’re still happy and fulfilled and have full, happy lives. It IS hard for me to relate to, since I adore children, and I love being a mommy. But I can certainly understand leaning toward permanent sterilization. I had the exact procedure done that was mentioned in the post – Essure. I had it done because the Catholic hospital I delivered at wouldn’t do a standard tubal ligation and I had to go back some months later to a different hospital. They didn’t buy into my “but I’ve had two sets of twins in seventeen months! I don’t want any more kids!” argument at all. Weird.

    Laura’s last blog post..Was this what you were looking for?

  • Wow, what a sad situation! I would say that there’s a third option, that she’s just completely brainwashed. I could have seen myself making that decision at 24, because I grew up in a culture that told me that children ruin your lives and are horrible burdens. Not having any other frame of reference, I believed it. I’m so glad I didn’t go Jamie’s route.

    Congrats on #7, BTW!

    Jennifer (Et Tu?)’s last blog post..Fear is the absence of love

  • MM

    I’ve struggled with infertility and loss for over a decade. I have been brokenhearted over my body not working the way it’s supposed to. While I would never make the decision Jaime made, I feel it is her right to make it. And I have to say I’m a little disappointed with the fact that so many “Christian” women here are quick to make judgements over a woman that they don’t know, don’t understand, haven’t heard her history, don’t know her purpose in life. Has it ever occurred to anyone that this choice she’s made could possibly be God’s plan for her? But so many are quick to judge her negatively. I’m sure all of you women have made perfectly wise and mature choices at every point in your lives. I’m sorry to say that I’m not that perfect.

    It’s the judgemental attitude I’ve seen here that makes me question whether or not I’ve made the right decision to tie myself to Christianity. This is not who I imagine Christ being happy with and it’s not who I really want to be tied to.

    Sorry Gretchen. Sorry others. But this whole comments sections has mde me a little ill. Talk about a bunch of pharisees.

  • Marisa

    I feel also that it is her decision to make, young though she may be. She will have to live with the consequences of that decision, but it is not for anyone else to determine if it was a right or wrong.

  • I haven’t read any of the comments here…I’m too tired tonight.

    But – this post has a LOT of food for thought in it, and I’m deeply glad I read it. I recently read a heartbreaking article about women who choose abortion or permanent ends to their fertility for environmental reasons – they say it’s irresponsible and selfish to give birth to ANY children at all.

    I don’t understand that, and I never will.

    Either way – your post was a blessing today. Thank you.

    Tiff @ The Faery Inn’s last blog post..Who Said It?

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