I have, at no point in my life, wanted to be a parent. The “you’ll change your mind” argument that is so popular with horrible people was actually anxiety-inducing. What if, by some chemical curse planted like a time-delay bomb in my uterus, my entire sense of self shifted and I wanted children? I mean, that’s what general society constantly warned me. That even if I felt like I knew myself, my body would commit treason, because that’s what bodies with uteruses do.
Around my thirtieth birthday, braced against the unknown, I realised the depths of the lie. It would take more than “hormones” to make me, a person who had never wanted children, who had nightmares about their body becoming pregnant, to udnergo such a dramatic about-face. Despite what I’d been told most of my life, I knew myself, and I knew I did not want children and never would.
Just so you understand how hard it can be to get people to comprehend that I don’t want children, I’ve said with full seriousness things like, “I’d rather not be able to walk than to bear a child” and still not had people believe me. And yes, that statement seems overly dramatic until you realise that not only have I actually had difficulty with mobility but I’m super toning down my actual feelings about the body horror of pregnancy.
So it was with the joy of a dream coming true that I learned my work’s insurance would cover getting my tubes out. With luck I was able to find a doctor and get things scheduled. I made the appointment in the summer and the closest open dates for surgery were in late December or early January. Knowing that my job is hellish in December and that I’d need to quit smoking two weeks before the surgery, I scheduled things for mid-January. That would allow me to keep my bad habits over my annual new year trip, which would be my first bit of vacation since the spring weekend we went to Seattle and our car was broken into.
Though I wanted to get my tubes out for utterly personal reasons, the world kept going a route that made me glad I’d be rid of my body’s ability for betrayal. Between the world and work, giving up cigarettes for two weeks first thing in January became quite the stressor. See, I’m fully aware that Smoking Is Bad, as I’m an actual adult. However, it’s a key part of how I manage my anxiety and other issues.
For the first little bit I took kava-kava extract to tone down the boiling ants of stress and worry beneath my skin, but it turns out you have to discontinue use of kava two weeks before surgery, so I soon found myself very much in a shit creek without a paddle or even a fucking boat. When or if I decide to quit permanently in the future, it will be in a structured way and a better environment, not in the sort of mess that I ended up in.
Let’s set the stage. It’s Tuesday, a week before my surgery. I’ve successfully made it a full seven days without smoking and have left the favourite of my two jobs at noon to go in for my pre-op appointment. For some reason a part of me kept expecting to be told “no, we won’t perform this surgery” which of course doesn’t happen, because not everything in life is run by super villians. It’s a great appointment and check-in with my doctor. My darling friend who is also my manager and a very sensible person tells me to just take a damn day. So I do.
I have a fucking great day. I take myself to lunch, I wander shops I like. I spend way too much time at the mall under the pretence of looking for comfy pants for post-surgery. Snow is sprinkling a bit, but it’s no big. I finally realise it’s getting dark and that I should get home, so I catch the bus as the snowfall starts grow steady. The bus is mad packed and after a while I crane to wipe a condensed window clear to see where we are on the line. And the world is coated in white.
After a million years I get to my apartment and it’s just shit out. My partner is out in the western suburbs for work, and if you’re not familiar with the roads around Portland, there’s exactly one way to get into the city from that side and it turns into a bottlenecked nightmare at the drop of a hat. He’d actually had to stay at a co-worker’s the last time it snowed heavily. I keep myself busy by clearing the steps and cleaning house and hating everything. But he gets home safe and sound, if white knuckle horrified of his fellow drivers, and we get on with our evening and go to bed.
The offices at my second job are closed the next day because the entire city is solidly coated in a frozen, powdered mess. I do a bit of work from home but again my friend who knows me better than I do tells me to try to have a relaxing snow day.
So I do my best to chill out and make things. It’s a nightmare of impassibility outside and our weird house with poor insulation is stupidly cold. But we have food and there’s a dreamy fantasy tinge to every hour, like we’re living some sort of existentialist parable. My primary job, stationed in an unreachable neighbourhood, cancels all but a skeleton crew for the next day.
And the next.
With my ice cleats I make it into the still frozen and slippery outside world to fill a backpack with groceries and get my prescriptions filled. People are driving again, their terrifying patterns of carelessness echoed perfectly in the supermarket aisles. I get back to the house and hope the weather figures itself the fuck out before my surgery in three days.
I make it into work the next day as does my partner, who takes the bus out to the suburbs to document mundanities for a dying newspaper. We both get back safely and spend the next day, Sunday, at home. The depths of snow from the first deluge are still stacked around us, compacted to impenetrable ice in some places, softly piled knee high in others.
The day before my surgery, Monday, we both have to go out to our distant offices again. The little exclamation point icon that has been a permanent fixture on all our weather apps pulses with a fresh warning: ice rain. This cements a plan we’d half formed, knowing the weather would make early morning travel to the hospital for surgery a hero’s quest.
My partner books a room at a hotel near the hospital and I’m thankful for the hundredth time this month to be working two jobs and have the money to handle surprises. I leave work early to make the trek home (with a stop at the supermarket for toilet paper) and pack up our things. I think, as I’m packing my backpack and a shoulder bag, that I won’t be able to carry this after and how weird that will be. I’m the one who loads most of a month’s worth of laundry onto my back to carry upstairs, my own weight doubled across three bulging Ikea bags.
Back onto the bus, to wait at a Starbucks by the hotel until my partner can get there to check us in. Nothing seems real. I’ve been in the office one and a half days in the past week, I’m having surgery in the morning. It’s been two weeks and I want a fucking cigarette.
When my partner texts that he’s close by it’s like sun melting ice. I can stop worrying about traffic and stranded buses and slippery walks. The hotel he chose because it was closest and cheapest is a beautiful absurdity. We’re old, we remember when it was condos, back when Portland yuppies were a little more novel. But now it’s this earnest Rocco’s Modern Life totem to the crayon box interior design of the 90s and we feel honestly blessed for the unembarrassed ridiculousness of the place.
The inconvenience of the hotel room is balanced by the absolute joy of being too warm and a night sleeping somewhere that isn’t mouldy. We’re up too early and pick our way across the ice to the hospital where everything goes joyfully and smoothly.
While I finished putting on my clothes I listened to the couple in the recovery bay next to us discuss the incoming ice rain. The attending nurse stopped by and started to remind me I could take a wheelchair but shrugged when she saw how mobile I was and cheerfully waved goodbye as we left.
After all the stress leading up to it, everything around the surgery went as smooth as possible, including catching a ride with the nicest possible Lyft driver. As he carefully navigated the unnerving traffic through the weather, we chatted about how messed up the yuppies in our neighbourhood were, how much we preferred the suburb he lived in, and how honestly fucked classism is. It was a nice conversation and a good end to a weird but wonderful morning that ended with my ability to get pregnant removed forever.
At some point in the whole mess, I said that it was as though Fate was fighting back against me removing my ability to have children. “If they’re that determined I birth the next messiah,” I added, “then let them inhabit a cat.”
Also published on Medium.