On the day of my operation I was up at 5am – partly because I had to be there early, but also due to sheer nerves. I’d waited eight years for this and I knew my mum was thinking exactly the same. Neither of us could quite believe it was happening.
First I had to have injections and a drip put in place, but the inexperienced student nurse struggled to get the needle into both of my hands. I was very distressed by the time she succeeded. My mum tried to calm me down. She told the nurse I had Asperger’s but that didn’t really help.
I was still very agitated when I was taken to a room with various people milling about. They were obviously all medics but no-one introduced themselves or explained what their role was. The staff ushered me into a gynaecological chair before they began to move my clothes and attach various wires.
Right up until I was given the general anaesthetic, I was asked if I had any worries or regrets. I didn’t.
They didn’t even ask if it was ok before they started undressing me, which made my anxiety worse. I tried to focus on finally getting what I wanted and held my mum’s hand tightly. Right up until I was given the general anaesthetic, I was asked if I had any worries or regrets. I didn’t. Perhaps I was being over-sensitive, but I knew nobody was pleased about carrying out the procedure.
When I woke up, all I felt was total relief. I’d got my body back after fighting for so long. Other people thought it was a controversial decision, but I believed it was the best thing for me.
There’s no way I should ever be a mother. Although people with autism are capable of being great parents, it’s not something I personally feel able to contemplate. I simply don’t have the reserves or instincts to look after another person properly. I still want a fulfilling sex life, though.
I’ve been convinced sterilisation was the answer since I was 16, but every doctor I asked tried to put me off.
I’ve tried five different types of contraceptive pill, but all they did was cause psychosis, violent outbursts and extreme behaviour.
The morning-after pill and even abortion are on offer, but no one would speak to me about sterilisation. I’d been convinced it was the answer since I was 16, but every doctor I asked tried to put me off straight away.
When I was young, I lived life at top speed. I did everything too early and was full of emotion. Both my parents have Asperger’s and suspected I did, too, but I was only diagnosed in January 2017.
I’ve felt different for as long as I can remember.
I was a weird kid, though I had friends. School wasn’t the best environment for me and I was expelled at 16.
I was a nightmare pupil – smoking, truanting and hanging out with older kids. No one understood me until I was sent to boarding school, where a teacher sensed I was on the spectrum and approached me differently. School improved after that but I was always in the throes of some destructive relationship.
At 15, I had unprotected sex while drunk and got pregnant. I had an abortion.
From the age of 15, my relationships were chaotic and damaging. I didn’t have a good sense of self, went for the wrong characters and became very needy. Nobody respected me and I blew up everything out of proportion.
Then something terrible happened. At 15, I had unprotected sex while drunk and got pregnant. I had an abortion, telling my parents a couple of months afterward. They were so sad for me, wishing I had told them so they could have supported me.
My mum remembers me saying at age seven that I never wanted children and although I was very young to think that, nothing has changed. I’m uncomfortable around children and being pregnant confirmed this was something I’d never want.
Sterilisation seemed the best option.
My parents understood, but I could never have imagined what a long battle I would fight before the doctors took me seriously.
I’d always felt I wouldn’t be a good mother for all sorts of reasons. This isn’t me being self-deprecating – I’m being self-aware, something I’ve had to be in order to look after myself and have good relationships.
All doctors would say to me was, “You might change your mind. You’re too young to decide something so major.”
I wasn’t seeking sympathy from the medical profession, but understanding would have been good. I started fighting for this surgery when I was 16. I first asked for it after the abortion, but was told flatly I was too young for anyone to even discuss it with me.
Every year after that, I’d calmly go back and ask again. I got nowhere. I was told I was too young, that no surgeon would carry out the operation. I pointed out that I’d paid 500 Euros for a private abortion. “If I did that with the hospital, repeatedly, you’d rather that than sterilise me?” I asked.
I got no answer, just puppy-dog eyes and sympathy – which ultimately meant nothing. I was even told that it was especially unjustifiable for a female surgeon to sterilise another woman.
So many people involved in the decision made it about them. It was hard not to get angry sometimes. Why should their opinion override mine?
So many people involved in the decision made it about them. The female nurses worry you’ll be back five years later, wanting a child after all. It was so hard not to get angry sometimes. Why should their opinion override mine? “Are you living my life?” I thought. “No. You’re female and you want kids – great. I’m female and I don’t. Simple.”
There should no longer be this entrenched, atrocious assumption that all women must want a family. When I did finally get to speak to the doctors, they said: “You might change your mind. You’re too young to decide something so major. Have you thought about different contraception?”
Pregnant women are offered screening and terminations for foetuses with genetic defects. Yet someone like me wanting to make sure they’re never in that position is regarded as strange.
Over the next six months, I had to convince a second doctor, a surgeon and a psychiatrist that this was the right decision.
I couldn’t believe it when a doctor finally listened to me and agreed they should consider my reasons for wanting the procedure. There was still a long way to go; over the next six months, I had to convince a second doctor, a surgeon and a psychiatrist that this was the right decision. And after they all agreed the surgery could go ahead, they still looked as if they were giving me the worst news possible.
Even then, even though they had agreed, I had to have the operation privately as the NHS wouldn’t fund it.
I like to think the public has a better understanding of people with disabilities these days and recognises that we also enjoy sex. I’m now in a good relationship with Rob, my supportive and understanding partner. He knew from the outset that I have Asperger’s and doesn’t make a big deal of it. It means I don’t feel needy – I feel like we’re a team.
We’re both into powerlifting in a big way – he’s the current Belgian champion and I have a vast following on Instagram. That’s very good for me and helps me feel better about myself. I can’t imagine ever regretting my decision not to be a mother and I’m very grateful I was finally taken seriously. I simply wouldn’t be a good parent, and it’s better for everyone that I can stop worrying about it.
Rose can be found on Instagram: @rose.to.recovery