More American women are choosing not to have children. Kelsey Silverstein, 27, is one of them. When she got married and realized her husband felt the same way, she decided to have sterilization surgery at age 24. Her experience with multiple doctors surprised her, but she has no regrets.
Kelsey shared her story with TODAY:
I was probably about 16 the first time I considered not having children. I was scared about becoming a parent and failing. But I was a teenager so the idea fluttered into my mind and disappeared just as quickly.
By the time I turned 18, I had learned there was a procedure that prevented women from getting pregnant and I wanted one. During my annual exam with my OB-GYN, based in New Canaan, Connecticut, I asked if I could have a tubal ligation, a permanent way of preventing pregnancy by blocking, clipping, removing or tying the fallopian tubes. She quickly refused. She said I was too young and it was a procedure reserved for women in their 30s or 40s, who had at least two children and knew they were done having children.
Every year during my annual exam until I was 21, I asked for one and my doctor always said no. I realize I was ambitious in approaching my doctor at only 18, but I was certain that I did not want to have any children.
I took the birth control pill in the meantime. When I became sexually active, I felt constant worry. If my period was even a little bit late, I rushed to the grocery store for a pregnancy test — just to be sure. I fretted about becoming accidentally pregnant and needing an abortion.
As I aged, my thoughts evolved and I knew I never wanted children. I did not feel maternal and if I did change my mind, I could always adopt. With so many people straining the planet’s resources it felt irresponsible for me to bring another life into the world. And, I have a family history of illnesses, such as depression and Parkinson’s disease, that I did not want to pass onto a child.
When I met my husband, Mark Donoher, and he admitted he did not want children, I was even more certain. I wanted to undergo a tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy.
When I was 24 years old, we moved to Nashville and I realized I only had one more year before I was going to lose my health insurance. I was self-employed at the time, and was going to lose the coverage provided by my parents' insurance plan. I visited my new OB-GYN and took a stand: I told her I wanted a tubal ligation before being without health insurance.
She told me that I had to bring my husband into her office for “permission” for a tubal ligation.
I was stunned that as an adult woman I needed my husband’s blessing to make decisions about my body. But I wanted this bad enough to drag him with me to talk to my doctor. I went home and wrote a pros and cons list, including all my concerns and the benefits of having permanent birth control. As I read it, I felt more confident that permanent birth control was right for me.
At the appointment, with Mark in attendance, the doctor suggested he get a vasectomy. But I wanted control over my body. I plan on being with Mark my entire life, but what if I’m raped and become pregnant? Or what if something happens and I can no longer be with him? Having a tubal ligation was something that would help me feel more comfortable in my body.
We had to agree that we would adopt a child if we changed our minds and wanted children. After securing my husband's permission, sharing my list of pros and cons and agreeing to adoption, I underwent the outpatient, minimally invasive procedure, where my doctor clipped my tubes to permanently prevent pregnancy.
Recovery hurt more than I thought it would, but I have no side effects from the procedure and the tiny scars have mostly faded by now.
Three years later, I have no regrets. At the time, I hesitated to share that I had undergone tubal ligation surgery. It felt so dirty. There seems to be a taboo when women admit they do not want to have children. But I enjoy life as it is. Mark and I love spending time with our three adopted dogs and I look forward to the day when I can be an aunt and spoil nieces and nephews — and then send them home.
Kelsey Sullivan spoke with TODAY, following a post she shared in the private Facebook group Pantsuit Nation.