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I Didn’t Want More Kids But I Still Didn’t Get My ‘Tubes Tied’

Nov 23, 2021

When I was eight, we went on a Chinese bus tour to Disneyland.

While my sisters, mom and I got to sit with each other, my dad was stuck sitting with a man who had horrible breath.

For an entire week, I remember my dad offering him gum on several occasions but the man repeatedly declined. I found it hilarious and we still joke about it at my dad’s expense.

Despite the jokes, I didn’t want my future family to have an odd one out. I wanted to tag team with my husband on a level playing field where it was really us versus the kids. No ganging up. We’d each have a little buddy and they would have each other.

So during my second pregnancy, when my doctor asked me if I wanted any more kids, I knew exactly what my answer was. But then she asked if I wanted to have the tubal ligation procedure performed after giving birth. She explained that it would save me an additional trip to the hospital since I’d be there already, prepped and ready to go for surgery. She needed to know in advance so she could have it in my file for whoever was delivering my baby.

I froze. I hadn’t thought about this part so I told her I needed time to think about it.


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A Big Decision

Do I want to permanently get rid of any chance I could get pregnant?

Why was this decision so difficult if I was so sure I was done having kids?

So one night at family dinner, I brought it up with my mom. I knew she had the procedure after having me. I wanted to understand her experience and how she made the decision.

When I asked her, she took a deep breath,

“I didn’t want to get my tubes tied.”

I was confused. I thought the whole time it was her decision.

So I asked, “Then why did you do it?”

She put her hands over her face and shook her head, then explained:

“At the time, I was all alone. You know how my mom died before meeting any of you girls. I didn’t have anyone there to support me. I wasn’t thinking straight. I didn’t know what I wanted. Your dad’s parents pressured me and told me what to do. They said after having three daughters and no son, it was time to stop. As the woman, I had to do something about it."


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Regrets

She continued, "I was certain I didn’t want more kids but I wanted to do it on my own terms. I already had a third-degree tear from labour. The additional procedure made recovery even longer. If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have done it. I would have asked your dad to do something instead. I was naive and easily persuaded, letting them make decisions for me. I wasn’t strong enough. I regret not standing my ground.”

That night, my husband and I talked about my mom’s story and what I wanted to do. We weighed the risks, costs and benefits of each procedure. Ultimately, vasectomies are safer, simpler, quicker and have a shorter recovery period. And they don’t run the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

We agreed he would get a vasectomy but he would do it on his terms, on his timeline and when he was ready.

I completely supported his decision.

I empathize with my mom’s pain. Back in the day, it was a different time. It was more common for women to get their tubes tied than for men to get vasectomies. In addition, it was not as socially acceptable for men to get it done. From myths about its effect on libido to misconceptions about how painful it is, there was a stigma associated with the procedure. Birth control was, for many, seen as a woman’s responsibility.

And sadly, it still feels like it. For the rest of my pregnancy, I was asked about a dozen times by my doctor and gynecologist whether I wanted to get my tubes tied. Even at the last minute when I heard my son’s first cry, my doctor asked me whether I wanted it done.

When we mentioned my husband was planning to get a vasectomy, he was given a pamphlet and told to do the research himself. In British Columbia, vasectomies are not covered under the Medical Services Plan. Clients are required to pay out of pocket. My husband and I are fortunate we are financially secure enough to afford the procedure, but I can appreciate how this isn't the case for everyone.

As someone who’s worked in the healthcare system for over a decade, I understand the immense complexity and exponential cost of medical care. It’s not as easy as flicking a switch, changing a couple of words on a policy plan and letting men come through hospital doors. It takes time, social movement, cultural change, political influence, cost-benefit analyses, allocation of funds, resources and a whole slew of moving parts to make a change.

By sharing my story, I hope it empowers women to discuss different family planning options with their partners and their healthcare provider so that they can make better-informed decisions.

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Article Author Katharine Chan
Katharine Chan

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP, is an author of three books and a Top 30 Vancouver Mom Blogger. She has over a decade of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system, leading patient safety incident investigations, quality improvement projects and change management initiatives within mental health, emergency health services and women's health. Her blog, Sum (心,♡) on Sleeve is a raw and honest look at self-love, culture, relationships and parenthood. She shares personal stories to empower others to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hides them. She’s appeared as a guest on CBC News Radio and Fairchild TV News and contributed to HuffPost Canada and Scary Mommy.

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