A few months past my thirty-fifth birthday, on a warm day in August, I took a Friday afternoon off from work and had my tubes tied.
As abrupt as that may sound, the decision was, in fact, anything but sudden. I suppose I had been moving gradually toward it all of my adult life. The ironic thing was that I had always assumed I would someday have children. My first husband and I even decided that four would be a good number. We discussed whether they should be planned close together or far apart and we made up funny names for sets of twins. But the years went by and a “good” time to start a family just never came along.
Neither set of parents pressured us to have children. The only person who was really in favor of the idea was my doctor. (“When are you going to get pregnant? You young girls sure have an easier time of it.”) I felt a little envious when my high school and college chums started having children, but the combined problems of work, graduate school, and money made us keep postponing the decision. These same problems ultimately took their toll on the marriage, which ended, as do many first marriages these days, in divorce.
By the time I married again, in my early thirties, my life had changed substantially. Instead of a low-paying job I now had a well-paying career, the feminist movement had given respectability to women who choose not to have children, and I found myself in a role I had never expected: stepmother to my husband Tim’s three youngsters. Although they didn’t live with us all the time, they were a boisterous handful during their extended visits. Tim said that, frankly, they were all the children he could handle.
I had things that many women only dream of: a wonderful marriage, work that I really liked, nice kids who didn’t take up all my time, a comfortable house that just suited our needs and pocketbook. To me, it seemed absurd to tamper with such a perfect combination.
Besides, I was 35, and realistically or not, that age had always seemed the cutoff for childbearing. It was the age of increasing birth defects and difficult labor for first-time mothers. It was also the age at which women on the pill