Most women engaged in a battle with fertility are desperately clutching at the chance to have a baby. My fight is probably better described as an un-fertility battle, as I’ve spent the past seven years desperately trying to ensure I never have a baby.
I’m 29 years old and, while many of my friends are married and starting families, or talking about the families they want in the future, I’m still not in that place mentally. More to the point, I’ve never been in that place and I’m certain I never will be.
I have no wish to spend nine months watching my body morph out of shape. I don’t want to be responsible for another life and, in all honesty, I don’t think I’d be very good at it.
I’m constantly told I’ll change my mind, that my biological clock will ‘kick in’ soon or that I’ll want kids when I ‘meet the right man’. But I know I won’t. Not once in my entire adult life have I ever felt that longing for a baby — not even when I had a partner who already had a child. We were together for five years and his daughter was a lovely little girl, but I felt no maternal pangs.
Lottie Gross, 29, (pictured) vented the frustrations of being unable to have sterilisation, despite never wanting to have children
Yet, no matter how many times I’ve pleaded with them, doctors won’t countenance a permanent solution and let me have my tubes tied, even though it’s my body and surely I should be able to make decisions about it.
After all, a man can request a vasectomy. What’s so different about a woman asking for the equivalent?
I distinctly remember the first time I held a baby; I was around 18 years old and Mum and I had gone to meet my cousin’s new arrival. Mum cooed over him. They insisted I held him too, and he was thrust into my lap.
It was weird, uncomfortable and, in all honesty, I felt a little repulsed.
When my friends have babies I feel no pangs of envy or longing, and the thought of becoming an auntie to any future offspring of my older brother is more than enough for me.
There’s no deep, psychological reason for this. I was not a troubled child, nor did I have a challenging upbringing. Mum and Dad were excellent parents, supportive and loving, both brilliant role models. (Despite this, I don’t really believe in marriage — though I could be swayed if it was a deal-breaker for someone I loved.) I believe I was simply made this way.
I’ve always been honest and open about my child-free ambitions to my parents, who are as supportive as ever (if, perhaps, a little disappointed), and ex-partners have never taken issue with my stance.
Lottie (pictured) said in recent years she’s become more aware of how her lifestyle as a travel journalist impacts the environment
Most of my friends have been unsurprised, too — except one who told me I was being ‘irresponsible’ in my pursuit of sterilisation. Though I’d argue that an unwanted pregnancy is more so.
But my desire never to reproduce doesn’t just come from an ambivalence towards children. In recent years, I’ve become more aware of the effect my lifestyle has on the environment. I’m not an Extinction Rebellion ‘Birth Strike’ supporter, nor will I protest at your wanting or having children of your own. But I travel a lot — it’s part of my job as a travel journalist — and that’s not something I’m willing to stop.
So when I read that a 2017 study in Sweden showed that having one fewer child per family could save around 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions each year, it reinforced my decision to live child-free (I won’t use the term ‘childless’ because my life isn’t less as a result of not being a mother).
Now it’s more than personal preference: it’s a moral obligation. I’m not judging parents for their choices, I simply want to make choices I’m comfortable with.
But it seems the world isn’t comfortable with my decision.
I was 23 when I first mentioned sterilisation to my GP. I’d been suffering ill effects from a Mirena IUD (a contraceptive intrauterine device), which threw my menstrual cycle painfully out of sync.
For eight years I’d been searching for the right contraception. I’d taken and hated every pill and tried injections, which gave me a year-long period, while one terrifying broken condom meant I’d never be comfortable relying on them again. I was very much at the end of my tether.
After removing the IUD, my doctor and I talked next steps.
Lottie (pictured) who is currently single, said the idea of never taking another pill or having an IUD fitted is bliss
‘There’s another coil you can try,’ she began, but I cut her off. ‘Can’t we just tie my tubes?’ I asked.
‘No,’ she said.
It’s not a procedure that’s available to me. ‘You’re too young,’ was her reasoning. I was livid. Apparently I can’t be trusted to make such decisions for myself, yet a relative stranger can make assumptions about me — which is a travesty.
Aged 16 we can choose to have sex. At 18 we can drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, causing significant damage to our bodies. We can also choose to join the Army and learn to shoot guns that might eventually kill people.
Should I actually get pregnant, no matter my age, I can even choose to end the life of the child growing inside me. But even, at the age of 29, I can’t choose never to bear children.
I’m single now, but I will certainly have more long-term relationships in the future, and getting pregnant will remain a problem. So to me, the idea of never having to take another pill again, or have another IUD fitted, is bliss.
And, aside from unsavoury side-effects of the contraceptives I’ve used, and the suspected links to diseases such as breast cancer, it’s a waste of NHS resources to keep going like this. ‘Female tubal clip sterilisation is difficult to reverse,’ says The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. ‘Research has found that regret is common, particularly if women are sterilised before the age of 30, if they are childless, or if there is conflict between a woman and her partner.’
Lottie (pictured) argues she should be allowed to make decisions about her own future without being patronised
But let’s look at the facts: data suggests that post-sterilisation regret, as it’s known, is actually unlikely.
In a study of 3,672 women who were sterilised between 1985 and 1987, just 7 per cent wished they’d never had it done. In a 1999 study of women who were child-free by choice, only one in 23 had regrets.
In younger women, regret is more common, but research by American doctors, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, suggests that still only a fifth of people sterilised under the age of 30 tend to have regrets.
I have seen several GPs at various practices across South London and all bar one have rejected my request. It’s the same old story: ‘You might change your mind.’
Of course, it’s possible that my feelings will change. But I am an adult human being, and living with the consequences of my actions is all part of life. I should be allowed to make these decisions about my own future without being patronised. The only person to entertain the idea was a kind, young, male GP in my last practice in Croydon. ‘I don’t see why not,’ he said. ‘It’s your body.’
Finally, I thought, someone gets it. I left elated. I even called my partner to share the good news.
But the next week I was told the GP had moved on and I’d have to see someone else. So I found myself back at square one. I’m now stuck with a copper IUD inside me and agonising period pains.
Lottie (pictured) said research suggests women without children can feel happier and live a healthier lifestyle
To an extent, I appreciate their concern. They’ve got to be cautious around recommending such life-altering procedures. Although it can be reversed, it’s a difficult process and there’s no guarantee you will be fertile again.
But the UK’s General Medical Council says that doctors ‘must work on the presumption that every adult has the capacity . . . to decide whether to consent to, or refuse, proposed medical intervention.’ So I should be allowed a discussion at the very least.
For most women, the keyhole procedure is simple — many are in and out within the same day. Under general anaesthetic, a small incision is made near the belly button, then rings or clips are applied to the fallopian tubes to stop the monthly egg from reaching the womb (instead it’s just absorbed by the body). There are rarely complications and the surgery is 99 per cent successful.
Once you’ve had your first post-op period, you can go back to having sex. You don’t go into early menopause because your ovaries are still functioning.
There are thousands of women who desire a life without children — research suggests it can even make for a happier, healthier lifestyle, with the freedom of a worry-free life as a major benefit.
That’s all I want, really. A worry-free life. I love being a woman, but being a woman with a working womb makes me miserable. Why is that so hard to understand?