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Davastated After Having My Tubes Tied

QUESTION: After having our second son, I had my tubes tied, at my husband's request. I was twenty-four. At first it didn't bother me -- I could reason that it was a smart choice. As time passes, I feel that I've made the biggest mistake of my life. The desire to have another child is so overwhelming that I cannot even hold anyone else's newborn without physically aching. My husband is insensitive to the pain this is causing me. It has affected our sex life, although he doesn't know this is the reason I'm uninterested. I don't want to spend the rest of my life angry with my husband. Does it get any easier?

ANSWER: It seems unfair to assume your husband is "insensitive" when you have done nothing to communicate your feelings to him except to stop having sex. You were a participant in the decision to have your tubes tied and now regret it. Your pain and anguish at recognizing your "mistake" is understandable. But blaming your husband is not only unfair but can lead you down a path of marital troubles to boot!

Consider the fact that you, too, thought your decision to be a "smart choice". For whatever reasons, you were not able to predict your future reaction or the pain it would cause you. If you could not foretell the extent of your own distress, how is it that you expect your husband to take responsibility for your resulting emotional agony?

It is heartbreaking for you to discover that you may not have made the right choice for yourself. This was a significant life decision. No wonder you are upset! Still, reflect on your own actions. Perhaps you desired to "please" your husband, but this was still your choice. Take responsibility for your own choices and any mistakes you made about your own readiness to have a tubal ligation. Depth of character is not built from making only "perfect" decisions, but on how we choose to face our own mistakes.

It is all right to grieve the decision you made, and it is even possible to consider the potential to reverse the operation, or look into other ways you might be able to become pregnant with your husband's participation. But first, you need to be able to express your feelings honestly to your spouse and without blaming him for agreements you made together.

It is possible there is something very important to learn from this experience, not only about yourself, but about your decision-making process in your marriage. If you feel your husband overwhelms you with his needs, or is unwilling to listen to you and work together as a team, this is a wake-up call for your relationship. Identify whether he steamrolls you, and/or whether you like to "go along" with decisions he makes because you do not want to feel responsible if something goes awry!

Talk with your husband about your feelings, now, and trace the steps of your decision-making process that occurred in your marriage before the operation. How thoroughly did you explore this important life decision? Did you research and discuss all of the options -- the pros, cons and possibilities of wanting more children in the future for any number of reasons, including loss of a child or remarriage? Did you and your husband consider that he get a vasectomy and freeze some of his sperm? Why did you choose to have a tubal ligation, when this is (usually) considered a more difficult operation than a vasectomy and possibly less reversible?

Evaluate your decision-making process with an eye towards improvement. Having in-depth discussions may have offered other options you neglected to consider together. Problem solving this situation cannot take place if you are unwilling to share your feelings.

Seek the support of your husband through this very trying time. Admit your feelings, but do not scapegoat him for your pain. You have made one precipitous decision that has resulted in regrets. Do not make another mistake. Your pain will not get any "easier" by blaming your husband, nor will you be able to entertain discussions for problem solving.

Approach your husband as your partner, instead of your enemy. Share your pain and face this mistake together, before it drives you further apart!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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