The day before yesterday, I had surgery. This was no surprise to me, and nothing serious either, because I had already planned this operation six months ago. In January of this year, when I was also in the Netherlands for a while, I went for an intake at the Bergman Clinic. I wanted to be sterilized, and my research until then had shown that I couldn’t have that done in Japan, because they don’t do that there if you haven’t given birth yet. An “ordinary” Dutch hospital wasn’t really an option either, because it was hard to plan with them. So I went with the Bergman Clinic. Armed with a referral from my former GP, I went to the intake, actually expecting to have to fight to convince them. No, I really don’t want children. Yes, I’m sure about that.
What wasn’t too bad was that I’m already 38 by now. Had I done this ten years ago, I probably would have had more critical questions. And don’t get me wrong, I think that’s justified. Of course everyone is convinced that they know exactly what they want, but looking back over the past twenty years, my life has had some very different episodes, in which I was always convinced that I really wanted that place to live/relationship/job. But I never wanted children, and when I was in a relationship in which the other person did want them, that always remained a point of contention. “Okay, one then…”, I persuaded myself, only to panic, because no, I didn’t really want one either. I was busy enough with my own autistic ass.
The latter was probably also in my favor, now. It’s totally ableist according to the activists on the Internet, of course, but “I’m autistic” worked fantastically well as an argument. Of course I don’t want children. I can’t handle that at all. The family doctor confirmed my story and the clinic considered me a good candidate for the surgery.
What where how?
In this surgery, a laparoscopic sterilization, they remove the fallopian tubes through three small holes in your abdomen. The ovaries and uterus remain in place. As a result, your natural cycle and periods remain as before, but the egg can no longer reach the uterus. As a result, you can no longer become pregnant. More info can be found on the Bergman Clinics site.
But Toeps, how about the pill? Or an IUD?
Well, there’s a reason that this blog is number three in a series that began back in 2016. In Pill-o-talk, I wrote that I stopped taking the pill and switched to the copper IUD. In part two, I told how I did not like the copper IUD at all, how my skin became a nightmare and how I went back to the Diane pill, disillusioned. And so it remained, until early 2022.
By then I had decided to move to Japan, but I had also discovered that the Diane pill would be hard to get there, and that bringing a supply with me was officially only allowed with written permission from Japanese customs. Now the border situation was already chaotic and unpredictable enough, so I didn’t want any additional pill hassle. In addition, the Diane pill poses an increased risk of thrombosis, and since flying and certain vaccines also do, I thought it was getting a bit risky. So when I traveled to Korea in early January 2022 (for those who haven’t been following, before I moved to Japan, I was in Korea for two months), it was the ideal time to ban the pill. Also because my potentially exploding skin would be hidden under masks this time. I pushed myself to be more patient than last time. A year, or so. By then my body would have normalized, right?
Well, that normalization took a while. I didn’t get my period for months, and as expected my face looked like a crater landscape – but you saw very little of that. Using apps (first Clue, but when they suddenly couldn’t process temperature readings for days because of an update, I switched to Ovia) and ovulation tests, I tried to monitor my cycle as best I could, but my body behaved like a car that just wouldn’t start. A cycle of 160 days, a cycle of 83 days…. I had no idea what my body was doing.
And that’s quite irritating. Especially when you have just met a nice Frenchman named Jean-Jacques. Of course safe sex is always important, but knowing when you are fertile and when your period is due is nice. Besides… Condoms, ugh.
So on a cold morning in January of this year, I walked from my hotel in Amsterdam to the clinic, where I took place in the stirrups. On the ultrasound, we saw what I saw earlier in Zaandam as well; something that looked like PCOS. The doctor asked if I also suffered from excessive hair, but that was hard to say; the Diane pill I was taking was working against that. So was the increase in my leg hair due to PCOS, or was this just the normal leg hair state of someone with dark hair, and did I actually have very little hair during the years I took the Diane pill? Acne and the irregular cycle I did have, so the doctor decided to check my testosterone levels just to be sure. Hooray, drawing blood, love it. A few days later she told me that the testosterone levels were normal, but that the other symptoms pointed to PCOS. She advised me to keep an eye on it, and to take medication to induce a withdrawal bleed if I didn’t get my period for a while. Something about cancer risk.
My uterus and ovaries heard all this and thought, bitch bye. A few days later I got my period, and since then my cycle has been perfectly between 28 and 30 days each month.
In the past year and a half without synthetic hormones, I have learned so much about my own body that I now find it actually bizarre that we stuff young girls with this crap by default. I know, I’m almost sounding like a yoni egg using, manifesting goop girl, but I’m much more in touch with my body, my sexuality and my emotions now. Okay, I guess that was enough goopyness for this blog, back to the scalpels.
Wednesday morning I was expected at 8:30 a.m. at the clinic in Hilversum, where the surgery would take place. There were thunderstorms the night before and the NS (train company) was busy with repair work, so I was glad I had booked a hotel in Utrecht and didn’t have to travel all the way from Rotterdam. Way too early I took my seat in the waiting room.
A little after 8:30 I was picked up and taken to the recovery room. This is where I would return after the operation. I had to put my things in the windowsill and change my clothes for a blue robe made of that non-woven stuff they also make masks and cheap shopping bags out of. I was also given red non-slip socks, a green hairnet, and two wristbands with my name and date of birth on them – so they don’t accidentally operate on the wrong person, I guess. The nurse came to go over a final questionnaire with me, and was aware of my autism. She tried to explain everything as clearly as possible, which I really appreciated.
The surgery would be done under full anesthesia, and I had never experienced that before. I always thought they administered the anesthetic with some kind of mask in front of your mouth, but apparently it’s through an IV. So when I was taken from the recovery room to the prep room, not only was I given stickers with sensors taped to my chest, but also an IV hookup plugged into my hand. Yikes.
The operating physician also came here to introduce herself, as did several assistants. Everyone was super friendly and clear, though I had already mentally surrendered to the process. I waited in the prep room until the operating room was ready – I heard instructions about cleaning and prepping, which already made me suspect it was almost my turn. Not much later, my bed was wheeled into the operating room, with me on it. I was allowed to climb over to the actual operating table, whereupon they found out that my legs were too long for it, and that they were going to put stirrups on it anyway – not because they had to be between my legs, but because at least then I would lie properly. I chatted a bit with the staff about Japan and my books, and then the anesthesia went in. I got one of those caps with oxygen for my mouth – turns out I hadn’t seen it all wrong in all those TV series – but the anesthetic fluid itself went through my hand. I literally felt the stinging substance travel through my veins, at least as far as my forearm, because then I fell into a deep sleep.
Ice pops and endometriosis
When I woke up, I was back in the recovery room. What happened to my throat?, I thought. A nurse asked if I wanted an ice pop. I raised my thumb. My body felt like it was still asleep, or like I had set the alarm at three in the morning to catch a flight. Whenever I lifted my arm, a wave of nausea shot through me. Talking was difficult. Only my thoughts were crystal clear.
The ice pop was because they had stuck a breathing tube down my throat. So that’s why my throat hurt so much. And why did I have a busted lip? A little later I was given something to drink and two sandwiches. Since I had to appear at the surgery sober, and it was now around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was quite hungry. At the same time, I was so nauseated that I struggled to eat one of the two Nutella sandwiches.
“You have to go and pee,” the nurse said. Oh yes. During the surgery they had also rammed a catheter in, and to prevent cystitis you have to pee properly afterwards. I drank some more water. I still didn’t know how I would be able to walk to the bathroom without passing out and puking, but ok. I was going to do my best. At 3 p.m. I would be allowed to leave, provided I had peed and the doctor had seen me.
I managed to walk very slowly to the bathroom and pee, so that mission was accomplished. I looked at my freshly operated body. For a moment I thought I had been in the sun too much during my little brother’s wedding in the south of France, because my whole belly and upper legs were pink like a British person on a holiday. But that turned out to be iodine. On my belly there were three bloody patches. They had made three holes to perform the surgery, and pumped my belly full of air to get good access to everything. Two friends had told me how unpleasant this felt (“I looked like I was pregnant!”), and although I was dreading this quite a bit because of my eating disorder history, I found this bit to be really not that bad.
I messaged Riemer, who was also being kept up to date by the clinic’s app system, that he could start driving. I asked the nurse to grab my airpods from my bag (“in the flap, in the pink case” – oh, how I love my organizedness at such times) so I could listen to music, and a moment later the doctor was there. “Everything went well. We also found some endometriosis on your ovaries and intestines, so we took that out right away too.”
My autistic brain was momentarily confused. Endometriosis? Huh? And you took that away just like that? Hands off, that’s MY endometriosis! “Oh, that didn’t bother me at all actually?”, I said. “It could get worse,” the doctor said. “Then you might have to go back on some hormones.” Um. Yeah no. Why am I here then? Surely not to start taking hormones again?
I’m still a bit puzzled about the endometriosis. You would get very painful periods from that, right? But my periods, since they are regular, are fine. Only my ovulation is sometimes painful. And my bowels, yes, they do bother me. I asked if that could be because of the endometriosis, but the doctor didn’t think so. I already had bowel issues when I was on the pill of course. Well. We’ll see.
Well, by then it was 3 p.m., the doctor had seen me, Riemer had arrived at the clinic by now, and I really wanted to leave. But there was still a disconnected IV attached to my hand, and the nurses were just changing shifts. But half an hour later, I was finally able to go. I asked the receptionist downstairs for a paper or plastic bag, and was given a barf bag. Obviously, I was not the first with that question.
In the car, I sat with my eyes closed nauseously for half an hour, and then, in the middle of the highway, it magically subsided. I sang along with the songs on the radio, as best I could, because that breathing tube in my throat had disabled the entire mid-range of my voice. At home, we threw a pizza in the oven and I plopped down on the couch. Usually I feed Riemer the last piece of my Ristorante, but this time I ate the whole thing. Of course, I had only eaten one sandwich with Nutella.
And now? Now we are two days down the road, and everything is going fine. I am not yet allowed to lift or do very active things, so I am stumbling around the house in my bathrobe. The wounds seem to be healing well, and my stomach is barely hurting at all. The busted lip and my sore throat are the most annoying. Crazy. And then there’s the realization that this means I really can’t get pregnant anymore. It will take a while before the safe feeling really lands, but yay. Worth it.
And for those of you thinking now, how much was it worth? It cost about 1,800 euros, I believe, plus some extra for the intake. I have to pay that myself, because I live in Japan and thus no longer have Dutch insurance. (They wouldn’t have covered it at the time, by the way, because you have to have additional insurance for that). I found the cost was not too bad, and although a friend told me that a Mirena coil would be cheaper, I am glad that I am now done forever.
PS: The header photo of this blog was made with Midjourney. Since I’m bored at home for three days while I’m not allowed to do photography, I decided to check out AI. Actually, all I wanted was two cut flowers, but AI turns out to be a bit retarded. It can’t count to two, and removing that pair of scissors also proved impossible. Oh well. Laugh along.