“What if You Change Your Mind?” – Sterilized at 27

When I was younger, I always thought of motherhood in the abstract. There would only be one baby, for I surely did not want to manage more than that. I was curious to see in which funny ways my genetics would mix with another person’s. Would this kid have my temperament? My blue eyes?  Also, I knew my parents would want a grandchild, and I knew that society would expect me to do what women have done since the dawn of human existence. I would raise this child, make sure its basic needs were met, then send it off to college at the age of 18 and be done with my parental responsibilities forever.

I was not yet 18 before I realized that life didn’t work like that. At this time, I also became fully aware that I had a choice. I did not owe it to anyone to become a mother against my will. It would be a disservice to any potential child to bring it into this world when my motivations were clearly lacking. At this point, I made the decision that I would not have children. This was done with little fanfare at the time; I just came to this conclusion and went about my life.

I was 20 the first time I asked to be permanently sterilized. I knew my chances of getting someone to say yes were nil, but I figured I would start putting it out into the universe then. I did not want to spend the rest of my fertile years on hormonal birth control and constantly panicking that one small misstep could end in pregnancy.

I asked many doctors over the following 7 years and got many variations of no until September of 2015. I made the appointment and went in with my typical skepticism. My doctor walked in the room, and I braced myself. I gave my perfected, memorized spiel and then waited for yet another no. Imagine my shock when he told me that my reasoning was sound and that he felt that it was perfectly acceptable to help a woman like me in my quest for permanent birth control.

We immediately began discussing options. I could get Essure, a coil that induces fibrosis and blocks the fallopian tubes. I immediately discounted this, as I have heard of way too many serious complications resulting from the surgery. I could also go for a standard tubal ligation, a procedure that would involve clamping the fallopian tubes, but that did not seem to have the permanency that I was looking for. He then offered a new-to-me option – a laparoscopic bilateral salpingectomy, which is the removal of the fallopian tubes. This would bring my chances of being unable to conceive naturally to very-nearly 100%. Studies have also shown that there may be a correlation between this procedure and reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, since it is believed that many forms of the cancer originate in the fallopian tubes. My mind was made up pretty quickly; I wanted the salpingectomy. We discussed pre-op appointments and counseling, set a surgery date, and officially got the ball rolling.

This is my journey through the process of getting sterilized as a childless, single, 27-year-old woman. It will not be completely comprehensive, but in an effort to be an open book and be honest about the procedure I will do my best to cover as much as possible.

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The Culture of Shame

All of my good intentions for keeping this blog running on a regular basis seem to have failed. My life suddenly exploded with a new job, a move, and personal hardships. It has been a wild eight months – some good and some bad. That is all a post for a different time, though. I have finally been brought back to my blog because of a phenomenon that I find incredibly disturbing.


Over the past few years, I have seen several posts on Facebook that involve public shaming. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I am sure I have even partaken in this to some degree. You see someone who looks a certain way or is doing something out of the norm, you snap a picture on your phone, and you upload it to Facebook.

Some of them are posted with the intent of being humorous, such as People of Walmart (for those who are unaware, People of Walmart is a website where users can submit photos of people they come across shopping at Walmart who they find funny or ridiculous). The entire premise of the site made me slightly uncomfortable. While some of the people in the photos did seem absurd to me, I also know that I do not always make a concerted effort to look presentable if I am running to Walmart for a few items.

There was also the personal trainer who posted photos of an overweight woman at a baseball game. He commented on what the woman was eating and insisted that her lifestyle was not okay and could impede other peoples’ enjoyment of the event. I found that one downright disturbing as a woman who has struggled with weight issues nearly my entire life. I shudder to think of any of the times someone could have taken a photo of me to complain about me having the audacity to be fat in a public place.


The most upsetting instance of public shaming I have seen is parents shaming their children. Videos pop up on Facebook that show a man shooting his daughter’s laptop with a .45 caliber gun after reading a post from her complaining about the chores she has to do. Many of the comments commended the man for showing his daughter that her selfish behavior would not be tolerated. There are also several photos floating around of young men who were given haircuts to look like they were balding because, and I quote, “So u wana act grown…well now u look grown too” (sic).

These stories always made me uncomfortable, but a recent story has completely turned my stomach and broke my heart. A young teen was filmed by her dad after he hacked off most of her hair. There are also (unconfirmed) rumors that her father then went to the school and had the principal pull his daughter out of the running for student council in front of classmates because of her behavior. That afternoon, the girl jumped off of a bridge to her death. While there were probably many factors leading to this suicide, it is not illogical to believe that this public shaming was a catalyst for this tragedy.

Being a preteen and a teenager is hard. Puberty kicks your butt, and you are dealing with all new emotions that make you feel like you’ve been dropkicked out of orbit. These feelings almost universally lead to acting out and pushing boundaries. Teens will make highly overdramatic statements. Here is an actual quote from an online journal I kept as a teenager:

I could punch my parents right now. It is SATURDAY. Jesus. Mom actually came in and woke me up at freaking 9 o clock, and the second I got downstairs Dad starts harping on about all the crap I have to do. Shut up shut up!!! It is the weekend. I don’t have to do shit for you.

And that was just the beginning. I was furious that my parents expected me to take out the trash, vacuum, and mow the lawn before I went to the mall (all chores that I surely had the entire week to do and had continually put off). Looking back, all I can do is roll my eyes. I was young, selfish, and lazy. My parents were teaching me responsibility, but I just wanted to complain about how awful they were and how they didn’t understand and how terrible my life was.


As sly as I thought I was, I got caught plenty of times and was punished in a manner befitting the crime. Usually, I would get computer privileges revoked for doing stupid things online. It annoyed me and ticked me off, but it did not humiliate me. I can only imagine how I would have reacted if my parents put out a video or post on the Facebook-equivalent (possibly LiveJournal since my teenage years were before Facebook) about me. It would not have been pretty.

There seems to be this mentality of “Don’t dish it if you can’t take it” when it comes to teenagers, but there are so many factors in play. According to scientists, “It has emerged that the emotional region of the brain develops to maturity ahead of the part of the brain that controls rational thought. In other words, teenagers have well-developed emotions and feelings but have still not acquired the ability to think things through.” As the adult parent of a teenager, you need to use your fully developed rationality to see the long-lasting, damaging effects that public shaming can have on preteens and teens.

And, back to the original point, it has an effect on us all. Even those of us with supposedly fully developed brains can still be deeply wounded by public shaming. Nobody wants to be made fun of, and the internet has enabled this shaming on a global level. The next time (because, sadly, it will continue to happen) you see a morbidly obese person unknowingly photographed and posted online or a parent recording themselves punishing their teenager, reflect on the damage and negativity it brings to people. Don’t enable or encourage it. Focus on making social media a positive presence and not a tool for humiliation. Plenty of people deserve to be called out on their behavior, but public shaming and everything that comes with it is a punishment that seems overly harsh for the crimes of being fat, odd, or a rebellious teenager. Let’s leaving the online shaming for funny pictures of animals who have misbehaved.

I will end this with one of the best Ted Talks I have ever seen. It is Monica Lewinsky talking on, “The Price of Shame.” I highly recommend it!

A Few Words on Don Nultemeier

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things. But, vice versa – the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things. Doctor Who season 5 episode 10 “Vincent and the Doctor”

When I made the resolution to blog more, I did so with the intentions of blogging about books and school and other fairly inane things. I never anticipated the need to write a blog such as this, but it is the least I could do for a man who did so much for so many people.

My mother informed me when Don Nultemeier was admitted to the hospital four months ago. I was surprised and incredibly concerned, but it never once crossed my mind that he would not come out. I figured he would be out and fully recovered before it was time to start throwing his summertime pool parties. Every time she went to visit him I sent her along with my well-wishes, figuring I would get to see him at some point in the future. The news that he has passed away has left me extremely sad – a sadness that cannot be fully expressed on an online blog, and my heart aches for his family. He has left behind a massive community of people who loved him and will miss him dearly.

I transferred to Princess Anne High School about nine weeks into my ninth grade year. I wanted to get into the chorus program because my best friend was already there. Mr. Nultemeier did not grant me permission to transfer in once the school year was well underway. I was miffed; I did not think a high school chorus was a big enough deal to warrant the attention he seemed to think it needed.

Anyone who has been in one of Mr. Nultemeier’s choruses understands just how wrong my original thinking was. He wasn’t a ‘teacher’ as much as he was a powerful hurricane in teacher form. Immediately after chorus started up my sophomore year, we were off and running. A Don Nultemeier chorus was not your typical “stand up on some bleachers and sing a bit” chorus. It was a production. There was singing, dancing, acting, costumes appropriate for a professional theatre, incredible lighting and sound, special effects, and more. All you had to do was look around the chorus room – it was decorated with photos and trophies from his past triumphs. This was a man who played to win.

I thought regular chorus practices were tough, but they were nothing compared to preparing for the musical that he put on every year. Monday evenings were already accounted for with regular rehearsal, but the plays demanded eight-hour Saturdays and countless evenings. Mr. Nultemeier would not present a play that wasn’t perfect. I was in Princess Anne High School’s production of Grease. I cannot remember how many times Mr. Nultemeier would stop us a few bars in to whichever song we were working on. “No, no, stop! That SUCKED! Do it again!” So we did it again. And again. And on and on until we were exhausted and it was perfect. As frustrating as it could get, there was something amazing about pulling off a wonderful finale and hearing the audience begin to applaud uproariously as the curtains closed.

(I’m in there somewhere!)

It was during this time that I got my mother involved with the chorus. Mr. Nultemeier was in need of people who could sew, and I knew someone perfect for the job. I dragged my mom to a rehearsal one night (to be honest, it was most likely done in an attempt to gain some brownie points). She got on really well with Mr. Nultemeier’s wife Sharon, and the next thing I know one of my mom’s best friends is my teacher’s wife. It was really one of the best things that could have happened. My parents now have a whole circle of friends that came from Mr. Nultemeier, and they have been presented some amazing opportunities as a result.

It wasn’t just concerts and plays at the school, either. During my time in chorus I got to sing on a Caribbean cruise boat and visit the amazing New York City. My parents went on several of the trips after I left chorus. They’ve been to New York City multiple times, Orlando, and Las Vegas thanks to Mr. Nultemeier and his “go big or go home” attitude towards life.

I was only a member of chorus for two years, one of which was spent behind the scenes doing spotlighting. I was never going to be a star. Singing was enjoyable to me, but I did not have the passion or commitment to succeed in Don Nultemeier’s chorus. My singing was best kept to the shower and the car. I’m perfectly okay with that. Chorus was intense. It could get frustrating and maddening. There were times when I hated chorus. It was so much work. I didn’t care about being the next great musician; I just wanted to sing a bit. Even though I was not suited for the chorus, I still maintained a massive amount of respect for what he was doing. I continued to accompany my mother to chorus rehearsals as a helper my senior year of high school and through college until Mr. Nultemeier retired.

Nulte created and nurtured stars (and a few divas, but that is the nature of the business of course). He could spot talent from three miles off. He knew exactly what needed to be done to make a show perfect – even if it was as simple as moving someone a few feet to the left during a number. You could practically see the smoke from the gears turning in his head as he stared at the stage. You may have wondered what was going on in his head, but soon enough he’d begin shouting his new ideas to make everything better. And it was always better.

As time went on I began to know Mr. Nultemeier more as my parents’ friend than as my former chorus teacher. He was clearly a magician because he got my father, Mr. “Football, Fishing, Hunting, Art is for Girls,” into musical theatre. He had his dream pool installed in his backyard, and I have spent several enjoyable summer nights at a Nultemeier backyard party. He had this twinkle in his eye and a great belly laugh that could be heard all over when something amused him.


(4th of July at the Nultemeiers’. See the sign in the background? Someone – a former student, I believe – hooked Mr. Nultemeier up with a 42nd and Broadway street sign. That thing made him so happy!)

The older I got, the more my fondness and respect grew for this man. He has inspired so many people. His death was announced this morning, and already dozens and dozens of people have expressed their sorrow on Facebook and beyond. People who have not seen him for two decades are reminiscing about being a part of a Nultemeier chorus. His name will be known to more people than I can even imagine. I bet former students will be telling their children and grandchildren years from now about Nulte. His legacy will live on.

I want to revisit the quote from the beginning of my blog. The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things. But, vice versa – the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things. It is from one of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite shows. The episode is equal parts beautiful and tragic, and this quote sticks with me. Today has been full of bad things. We lost a great man today, but he did so many good things that we cannot forget them in our sadness. Throughout all of his years as a teacher, a family man, and a friend, he added so much to many peoples’ “pile of good things.”

So thank you, Mr. Nultemeier. Thank you for being a such a powerful teacher. Thank you for being a wonderful friend to my parents. And most of all, thank you for being absolutely and unapologetically you.