I'm the kind of person who makes lists. Daily tasks, new years goals and resolutions, accomplishments, problems--I write them all down and sort them out. For years this has sat upon my list of goals, one of the more definite of the things I intend to do. A permanent alteration of my body. Specifically, a mutilation of my most feminine body parts for the purpose of ensuring that I will never conceive a child again.
The reasons for doing it should be obvious. I don't want any more children. I barely tolerate the ones I have. If I did get pregnant, there's no question I would terminate. What a chance to take, putting myself through that emotional turmoil, the guilt, the loss, the sensation of having life scraped away and sucked out of me, not to mention the relationship drama with whomever it was who knocked me up. I like to think I'm wise enough to take steps to spare myself that trauma, especially when it's an easy fix.
For various reasons, getting my tubes tied was never urgent enough to bubble its way high enough on my list to actually get done. Right after my divorce I still had an IUD which I kept for years until the heavy bleeding made me think about a tubal instead. When I had the IUD removed, my lover at the time had been neutered himself so birth control wasn't a pressing matter for me. My next lover was fertile and getting myself fixed bounced back up into my mind again. After the inevitable pregnancy scare that lasted for ten days while I waited and prayed for blood, I drew an underline under this item on my list and circled it. Get that shit fixed.
But then the man with living sperm was replaced with another vasectomied lover (same one as before, actually, redux) so the tubal drifted back down toward the bottom of the list again for another year or so.
Last month my period was two weeks late after at least a year of being regular as a Rolex. I've had a new lover now for several months, another man with the admirable quality of shooting blanks. But what if he lied about having had a vasectomy? Or what if one squirmy little sperm managed to get through his altered passageway and find its way into my body where it could ruin my life? So it seems that even having a sterile lover is not enough to keep me from worrying these worries when Aunt Flo takes her sweet time to visit me. Best to just get it fixed myself and be done with this particular anxiety forever.
So at my yearly pussy exam last week I asked the doctor for information on permanent birth control. Turns out there's something new since the last time I checked. It's called Essure, a procedure in which they block the fallopian tubes without any incision. It's done on an outpatient basis and no general anaesthesia is required. Short recovery time, you can return to normal activities the next day. What they do is, through the vagina and the cervix, they reach up into the fallopian tubes and insert a small, flexible device into each tube. The micro-inserts are made of polyester fibers and metals. As the doctor explained it to me, the body doesn't like these inserts and surrounds them with body tissue (or scar tissue), creating a mass that blocks the tubes within a couple of months. It is believed permanent sterilization is achieved in this way, but data regarding use of Essure beyond three years is not available. Reliability is comparable to a traditional tubal--less than 1% failure rate.
The doctor did not mention this to me at all, but common sense tells me that the chance for a tubal pregnancy must be very high during the two-month period while you're waiting for the tissue mass to form and block off your tubes. The doctor did say they give a Depo injection to cover you for that period of time.
So there ya go, a simple, nearly painless procedure that will not take more than an hour or so out of my day and will permanently remove this recurring potential tragedy from the horizon of my life. Covered by insurance too. So why didn't I make the appointment?
Initially I thought, well, I need to check my calendar and see when I can fit this in. I'll call to schedule it later this week. Not true, and I did not do it. This procedure is no more intrusive to my time than a dental cleaning, and I never need to study my calendar before scheduling that. After confirming that I can fit this in pretty much any time I want, I promptly turned my attention to other things and pointedly did not make the call. Staring at the words on my tidy little list, those words meant to remind me and insure that I would absolutely get this taken care of, finally, once and for all, I had to ask myself why I'm hesitating.
As most womanly issues are, the answer is rather complicated. My fertility, the ability to conceive and bring forth a human being from within myself, this is what defines me as a woman, is it not? It is the purpose for my vagina and my breasts. It is the natural biological purpose for the act of sex I enjoy and admire so much. When I think of my fertility in these terms, it seems really hard to give it up. I don't need or want my ability to conceive anymore, yet I still value it. What would I be without it? Less of a woman?
My friend Sissy pointed out a couple more reasons I might be reluctant to do this, and although these reasons are not as noble or defensible, I must admit she knows me well enough to pinpoint what is most likely the biggest factor in my hesitation. Power. Sure, there's the cosmic spiritual power of Woman's ability to bring forth life, but that's not the kind of power she meant. She knows as well as I and every other woman knows, the ability to get pregnant gives a woman power in a relationship. It's an ugly, manipulative power, but undeniably effective in forcing a change in the dynamics between a man and a woman. A woman has the ability to change a man's life whether he wants it to or not. She can force him to deal with her when he doesn't want to. She can sometimes even cause a man to marry her who would not have otherwise.
I don't believe I have ever used pregnancy in this way, but I do believe that I've had it in the back of my mind, as it must lurk in the shadows of the minds of all or most women at some time in their lives. This was a humbling realization, and not a very comfortable one at all. As Pat Benatar once indicated, love must surely be a battlefield if we tend to cling to our weapons of mass destruction even when we have no intention of using them.
The other element Sissy pointed out is drama. Nothing like a pregnancy scare to inject a little drama into a stale relationship. As Sissy well knows, I can be a Drama Goddess, and I don't deny it. I crave it at the same time that I seek to avoid it. This kind of drama--"oops, I might be preggers, honey!"--"whew! not pregnant! dodged a bullet!"--is appealing to someone like me because, as long as the outcome is a tremendous sigh of relief and not a bold pink plus sign on the end of an EPT test stick, it's harmless because it doesn't involve someone accusing someone of something, or confronting someone about something terrible, or stalking someone, or catching someone cheating, or any of a dozen other more destructive forms of drama. A pregnancy scare is (usually) neither parties' fault and both parties' responsibility. That's really interesting in terms of dramatic potential.
So yeah, I had to admit a twinge of regret at the thought of never again sharing that particular soap opera, even while I sincerely want to never experience it again. I guess I'd like to keep the "potential" for an oops without having the possibility for an oops to actually happen. The only solution would be to get myself fixed, followed immediately by some weird form of hypnosis in which I become convinced that I could still become pregnant. That way, I could still have the pregnancy scares without ever actually risking an actual pregnancy.
Or I could just grow up and stop looking for power to manipulate men and stop measuring the quality of my life by its potential for entertaining drama.