My tubal laparoscotomy
On November 14, 2007, I received my tubal laparoscotomy. I was 27 years old, married for 6 years, and mother to one 5 year old child.
The decision to get my tubes cut was surprisingly not that difficult. During my pregnancy, in addition to the usual run-of-the-mill pregnancy issues, I dealt with the abrupt transition from several Category D medications to Category A and B medications, one of which had a side effect of weight gain. Soon after, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
The birth was difficult. I was induced and spent several hours in labor, after which they realized several problems:
- My son's heart rate was increasing during contractions
- My son was turned sunny-side up
- My son was facing the wrong direction
So I had an emergency c-section. Following all that, I suffered from post-partum depression. Luckily, my son was a brilliant infant, very sweet and quiet. He rarely cried and was very cuddly.
As he's grown up, he's proved himself to have a very easy-going personality with a strong inclination toward obedience. At some point, I realized I was really lucky to have a kid with such a happy-go-lucky personality. That's when I realized I really didn't want another kid.
My son was so good, yet I still found parenting difficult and confusing. What were the odds I'd end up with two extremely well-behaved children? Was it fair to my child(ren?), to my husband? Was it right to stretch myself to exhaustion and selfishly subject myself to ongoing stress? If I looked honestly at myself and my personality, could I handle the stress of multiple children and still be the kind of mother I wanted to be?
The answer was no. I realized I am simply not cut out to be a mother to many. I knew perfectly well that no matter what happened in the future, or what future partners I may or may not end up with, I never wanted to have another child, so I decided to get a tubal ligation. I talked to my husband about it, and he was on board (understandable: the other option we'd been tossing around was him getting snipped) with it.
My son was born in early 2002, and I decided to get the tubal ligation in 2007. That's a 5 year gap. We had been using hormonal (pill) birth control and condoms as a backup. When we decided it was time for me to get snipped, I went to the ob-gyn to set up the appointment. I was prepared for some difficulty, because I'd heard about resistance to younger women making this decision. Luckily I live in a fairly liberal area, so I had hope I wouldn't run into too much difficulty, and I didn't.
I only had to go through 3 counseling visits. The first was the discussion about whether or not I really wanted this, potential future regrets, etc. etc. I listed my reasoning behind getting the tubal, and pointed out that if I did (for some reason) ever change my mind about having kids, I still had access to foster care, adoption, and/or in-vitro fertilization (after all, my womb wasn't being removed; just the access channel). Still uncomfortable with my youth and the fact that I only had one child, the (very pregnant) ob-gyn insisted that I try an IUD.
So the 2nd visit was to insert the IUD. I spent it trying to convince her I really would not regret getting a tubal, and she spent it assuring me I'd be much happier with an IUD. Pretty quickly, there were complications. The IUD was actually sliding out of me; I could see it when I used the ladies room.
I made an appointment for my 3rd visit and went in. She looked up in there and said it appeared I had a shorter than usual vaginal canal and low cervix. She said, "I thought you had a son?" I responded in the affirmative, and she said, "Well, it doesn't look like you've given birth at all. Your cervix is undamaged."
I said, "Uh, because I had an emergency c-section? It's in my chart, or should be?"
She flipped open my chart, scanned it, and said, "Oh! There it is! Yes, you had a c-section. Well, that explains it -- usually, childbirth stretches and loosens the cervix. Women who haven't given birth usually have more difficulty with an IUD because of this."
Okay, so time to get the tubal ligation, right? Except the doctor wasn't quite ready to give up yet, so she tried to just . . . push the IUD back into place. Just shove it on up in there and make it stay. It was my screams of pain and a nurse rushing back that put an end to that. The doctor pulled out the (slightly bloody) IUD and said a little breathlessly, "Okay, well that won't work."
We scheduled my tubal ligation for November 14, 2007.
My husband dropped our son off with my dad the night before so we wouldn’t have to worry about dropping him off in the morning. We had to be at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. Not that early, but given that we had a 45 minute commute from our house to the hospital, it was early enough. We arrived with plenty of time to get lost and wander the hospital hallways, looking futilely for where we were supposed to be (we ended up asking a security guard for directions).
Since I’d pre-registered, we were shown to my room immediately, after which the waiting started. There was a lot of waiting. Actually, we basically just slept at the hospital for a few hours. A nurse came in and hooked me up to an IV (which I hate, because they have to leave that little plastic tube in you and you can see it there, under your skin, and feel it too. I hate those things). He actually did a really good job. He taped it very securely, yet it allowed movement. I’ve had lots of IV’s in my time, several which were not taped securely and have come out. Which is never fun. Then there were the ones taped so securely that it hurts to take them off. This one did not fall into either category, I am pleased to say.
Then there was more waiting and the sleeping.
Finally, the doctor came in. There was palaver and chit chat, and she left. The anesthesiologist came in and asked me a few questions. He made sure all my jewelry, including my tongue stud, was off. I don’t know why my tongue stud had to be out. I wish I’d asked, because now I’m all curious and stuff. Anyway, then he headed to the operating room.
Finally, a nurse came in, which was when my one and only question was answered. I was too embarrassed to ask it, but when she saw I took Topomax (which has a side effect of making one need to pee every hour, it feels like), she just volunteered the information. They drain your bladder during surgery, so I wouldn’t accidentally wet myself! Hey, don’t laugh. This is apparently a huge concern amongst women about to go into surgery.
The nurse was the one who pushed me into the operating room. May I say now that operating rooms, at least for outpatient procedures like this, look absolutely nothing like the huge, dramatically lit rooms on television shows like House MD. It was clean, but it was rather white and green and brightly lit, with lots of those papery curtain dividers. It also looked somewhat crowded, what with all the trays and hospital beds. Oh, and it was cold. Very cold.
Anyway, they shifted me onto the operating bed/table and belted me onto it, then started strapping me down. I felt this stinging in my right hand as the anesthesiologist started the drugs, and they put an oxygen mask over my face and told me to breathe deeply. I felt them lift my left arm, which was dangling over the edge of the table, and put it on a support of some sort. I remember staring up at the lights and feeling perfectly awake and clear-headed. It was so strange, because I knew that I would be out cold in moments, but it was hard to comprehend when I was so awake at the moment.
When I woke, I was shivering horribly. As I mentioned, it was really cold in there. The procedure was over, and I was lying on a thin mattress, wearing a thin cotton hospital gown under a double layer of thin cotton blankets. Think thin, think cold. Very cold. I actually woke up because I was shivering so hard. The nurse asked if I was all right, and I said, “C-cold.”
She laughed. Laughed! Then she said, “Oh, right. Sorry, I forgot,” and grabbed this hose thingy that she stuck under the blankets. It filled the space under the blankets with warm air, and the cold seemed to just evaporate. It felt so good it almost hurt, at first. Anyway, I relaxed into the heat and fell back asleep.
Before all this, the time of the procedure had been explained like so: 2 -3 hours wait time prior, 45 min for the procedure, 1 hour to make sure I was recovering well, wheel me back to my room and wait for me to pee, then send me home.
So as I warmed up, I was in the “recovering well” phase. Apparently, I recover well. They wheeled me back to my room and asked how I was doing, and quite honestly? I was bit surprised at how good I felt. There was a little tenderness around my tummy, but it was not all that bad. I’ve had cramps worse. My shoulders kind of ached. That’s because during a laparoscopic procedure (I had a tubal laparoscotomy), they fill the organs with a gas in order to enlarge them for the procedure. At least, this is what they told me. Anyway, they try to remove all the gas afterwards, but they can’t always get all of it. It travels through the bloodstream, and since it’s a gas it travels upwards. The mind reads it as a pain signal, so you feel pain in your shoulders. Interesting, huh?
Anyway, so that’s that. No more pregnancies for me!
That was a little over 5 years ago, now. I'm 32 as of the writing of this. I don't regret the tubal one bit. The peace of mind this has brought to my life is indescribable, and I find that I am more able to be patient and understanding of my son's quirks without that subconscious fear of having to do it all over again lurking in the back of my mind. Plus, with the subconscious fear of pregnancy removed, my husband and I have found that our intimate life has really picked back up -- instead of just once a week or so, we've really gotten back into the pre-baby swing of things.
The only side effect I wish I'd been prepared for in advance was the potential I would develop menorrhagia. I think my ob-gyn forgot to mention this side-effect possibility because she was so focused on getting me the IUD. She did mentioned, several times, that I might have to deal with an ectopic pregnancy, but I knew the probability of that was relatively slim. I find it amusing in a sort of ironic way that I've been prescribed hormonal birth control to deal with the menorrhagia resulting from my tubal ligation.
My sister in law also got her tubes tied, in 2011 after 2 children. She said the procedure to give a woman a tubal has evolved even further and no longer requires a hospital stay (no matter how brief) or anesthesia, so my experience may no longer even be relevant to women seeking a tubal ligation. Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to share the information.