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'No more babies, please, I’m 21'

 
Finding a doctor willing to sterilise you at 21 is hard, discovers Karen Meyer.
pram with dolls
By Karen Meyer

Pic: Shutterstock

Your 21st birthday is meant to signify your adulthood, your right to the keys to the front door. For me, turning 21 was also the end of my childbearing days.

My son was born twenty days after my 21st birthday. He was my third child. I had my first child at sixteen, my second at eighteen and at the ripe old age (or so I thought at the time) of 21, I had my third. At 16 I was a married woman with adult responsibilities, so I thought I was capable of making this life-changing decision. My gynaecologist did not agree.

“Sorry, you’re too young”

As I was giving birth to my son, I asked my doctor if he could tie my tubes, “while he was down there”. He thought I was joking and laughed it off. Later that evening I asked again, in a more serious manner, he refused. He said I was too young and he would not even consider it. I called him up a week later and pleaded my case, “But, doc,” I protested, “I have three kids already, THREE!” (I may have yelled out that last three, just for extra effect).   He said, he realized this, but he felt I was too young for such a procedure and he suggested I think it over and chat to my husband. I did just that, my husband at the time told me it was my body and he was fine with whatever decision I made.

I called the doctor again a few days later and pleaded my case. I told him that if I didn’t have this procedure done I would end up with ten kids before the age of thirty. This did not have any impact on the doctor and his reluctance to do the operation frustrated me. I thought of going to another doctor, but he assured me that no doctor would perform a sterilisation procedure on a healthy 21-year-old without a medical reason.

The “what ifs?”

For weeks this went on until eventually he said “okay”. I was overjoyed; I shared the news with my parents, who were not pleased. My mom tried the old, “what if you get broody in a few years time?” trick. I answered her by saying, “well I’m sure I will get broody, but I’ll get over it”. Then she pulled out all the stops. “What if your children die in a horrible car accident leaving you childless” she pleaded. I responded by reminding her that one child cannot replace another.

When my son was six weeks old I went into Newlands Surgical Clinic and had the procedure done. My gynecologist explained that it was an in-and-out-in-one-day kind of operation. In fact his words were; “you go under in the morning and when you wake up it will all be over, you can go dancing in the evening”. I did not go dancing that evening- in fact there was quite a bit of pain, but it only lasted a few days.

Broody, but no regrets

In the end my doctor said it was a compromise, because he didn’t perform a permanent procedure. He explained that he put a clamp on my fallopian tubes that would prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, and should I want to have more children at a later stage, I could have it removed: I would still have an eighty percent chance of falling pregnant.


My thoughts were that I can control the only way I know how, how many children I will have. I am now forty years old, I have two grandchildren and I have never regretted my decision. Sure, I have been broody from time to time, but I’m glad I did it.

Is 21 too young to decide to have no more kids?


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