Women Aren’t Taken Seriously When They Say They’re Done Having Kids
Nearly every prenatal visit started out the same. “You’re Shannon?” The nurse on duty would look around the room, confused.
“When the chart said 32, I was looking for someone more… well, you don’t look 32.”
I attended prenatal visits in three different states with about six different doctors, but every appointment started out this way. With some nurse looking for a more mature patient. I laughed it off every time and pretended I was lucky. Was I lucky?
I’m still not sure what I should have looked like at 32, nor what I ought to look like today at 36. But I still recall how much my pregnancy made me feel like such a baby. Mostly because no one would take me seriously.
Throughout my pregnancy, the overall message I got from everyone was that I was too old to be dealing with an unplanned, crisis pregnancy. And therefore they spoke to me like I was incredibly immature.
Even though I knew I didn’t owe anybody an explanation, and that no one was giving my ex-fiance such flack about the pregnancy, I felt engulfed in the weight of the situation.
I felt like it was my fault because society acted like it was. How could a 32 year old woman be so stupid and get herself knocked up? Didn’t I have any shame?
Even my mother who pulled me out of sex ed in school and refused to talk to me about sex beyond, “don’t do it,” commented that she couldn’t believe I was “too stupid to use ptotection.”
No one seemed to understand that the pregnancy was conceived within the context of a real relationship. I thought we were getting married because my partner talked about it all the time. Other people didn’t know how much I loved him, or just how much he manipulated me.
It was as if the entire world believed that a woman wills her body to get pregnant, and the poor man is simply stuck when he did nothing wrong. People behaved as if I wasn’t just 100% responsible for our birth control (as if my partner had no say in our decision), but they also acted as if I had gotten pregnant on purpose.
I have been pregnant twice, and both times were miserable. Extreme migraines, constant nausea, and painful cramping. My first pregnancy ended in an abortion, with the physician telling me it wasn’t a viable embryo anyway.
My second pregnancy was high risk due to prenatal anxiety and depression, PCOS, incompetent cervix, gestational diabetes, and severe preeclampsia. I was under constant stress and still reeling from the end of my relationship with the father. I was suicidal — particularly during the first trimester. And did I mention, morbidly obese?
The breakup and crisis aspect of my pregnancy meant that I moved around a lot. I lived in Tennessee, Iowa, and Missouri during those seven-and-a-half months. And so I asked OBGYNs in three different states if I could have my tubes tied after delivery.
Three. Different. Doctors.
All of my OBGYNs were men, and they all said, no — I couldn’t get the sterilization approved.
By the time I was settled in Missouri with my final OB, it seemed like a cruel joke. I had already been admitted to the ER six times and hospitalized twice. I spent half the time of my pregnancy on doctor-ordered bed rest.
I hated being pregnant and never wanted to be pregnant again. And you’d think that was a good thing, since at the time I was temporarily living on medical assistance, SNAP, and WIC. Unemployed, single, and living with good Samaritans — I wasn’t exactly the kind of person you’d want to keep having babies.
So I couldn’t believe that I was told no repeatedly to a responsible decision. A well-informed decision that impacted my future.
When I asked for a tubal ligation, suddenly 32 was very young. Too young to make my own choices about my reductive health.
“You know,” the third OB said, “you’re only 32. You could still get married to someone who wants children.”
Right. Because some unknown future husband’s wishes are more important than my life. Got it.
When I pressed my physician again, he informed me that there was no way I’d get approval because it was a Catholic hospital.
I wasn’t even Catholic.
So we can have separation of church and State, but not church and health?
It’s amazing. Urologists aren’t turning away men who request a vasectomy. But women are routinely told they might change their minds, or they’re too young to make that decision.
Yet these same folks have no problem placing every burden of conception and pregnancy onto the woman. Like it was obviously all our womanly faults.
And some people actually wonder why I became more of a feminist with this last pregnancy.
It’s pretty simple.
Pregnancy and delivery taught me that women don’t even have body autonomy today.