“The doctor asked me no less than three times if I was sure I wanted to tie my tubes. I had to give her my life story and a bullet-point list of logical reasons why I didn’t want children.
“Even after all of that, she couldn’t help but write me two letters: one referring me for the procedure and the other explicitly stating that she advised against it and recommended an IUD instead…”
The following Letter to the Editor on a young woman’s attempt to make medical decisions related to her own body was submitted to Wired868 by Avah Atherton:
Let me back track. I managed to get a referral letter from the hospital in Arima. The doctor there asked me no less than three times if I was sure I wanted to tie my tubes. I had to give her my life story and a bullet-point list of logical reasons why I didn’t want children.
Even after all of that, she couldn’t help but write me two letters: one referring me for the procedure and the other explicitly stating that she advised against it and recommended an IUD instead. A small victory, but one I celebrated anyway, knowing the next part would be tough.
At my first visit to Mt Hope they just took the letter and told me to come back in three days time. Three days later, I’d only been there for five minutes when they told me to come back the following week to see the doctor and be screened. They could have spent five minutes making a phone call and I could have saved $15 in transport. Welcome to Trinidad.
It’s Thursday 11th October, International Day of the Girl, and I feel empowered. My appointment is at 8am but I get there on Trini time, half hour later. The waiting area has “No Eating” signs, so I stand further down the corridor and munch on a currants roll while waiting for my name to call.
The nurse asks me the same set of questions that I answered in Arima but I smile and answer them politely. I’m told there are no cups so I have to pee in the same pack they take the pregnancy test out of, in a unisex toilet with a broken door latch. No one walks in on me squatting over the toilet, so I’m still optimistic.
I saw doctor after doctor, four in all, each one asking the same questions.
I got my hopes raised when one of them started checking the books for an appointment slot for me.The next available date was month-end. They try to do one surgery every week, she said. She watch meh again, bawl, “yuh sure?”—and then, doubting her own authority, ran outside to call a senior doctor to pass it on to.
The currants roll already digested, I can’t go too far in case I miss hearing my name being called; and, even if I did get food, I can’t eat in that area anyway. So, all optimism gone; and worse yet, ah hangry.
Finally, they say they spoke to some consultant who doesn’t advise I get the surgery due to my age and possible future regret. Allyuh serious?
The consultant stands next to his underling and preaches to me, saying how it goes against his conscience to perform the surgery. I point out his position in a public medical facility, that any possible future regret is mine to bear, and that I know of all the other birth control options, none of which have the permanency that I want.
He says I’m making a rash decision, that I can’t force him to do it, I don’t know what I’m saying, there are possible complications…
I say that having a child is a huge complication that I don’t want to risk. He says he doesn’t like my attitude and turns to walk away. Wow.
“Don’t let a boy touch yuh, else you would get pregnant,” is one of the old people sayings. In a world where birth control is the sole responsibility of a woman and in a country where women with too many children are shamed for not being able to keep their legs closed, I’m not allowed to not have children?
One recurring point was my age. But I’ve been a legal adult for 11 years and I’ve been making adult decisions for longer than that. With all the side effects of birth control and all the social, financial and personal considerations regarding childbirth/childcare/children, I still getting fight down for a decision that only affects me and my body?
A decision that would have a profound effect on my goals, my life and my future? Trinidad is not a real place, nah.