Each time my mother had a child, all of us by C-section (which at one point was pretty much the most common way to give birth), the doctor offered to give her a hysterectomy. The doctor made this offer while her children was being born, when she was under the influence of local anaesthesia and perhaps thinking that never having to have another child might be a good idea.
I can only imagine how I would feel in that moment.
When she had my youngest sibling, she agreed. She had a hysterectomy, a completely unnecessary operation that was nonetheless urged upon her as a good choice.
Aboriginal women and poor working class women were routinely bullied into these kinds of decisions at that time (late 70s to mid 80s). There are many cases where the decision was not made by the woman, but the sterilisation occurred anyway. I know a number of women my mother’s age who discovered this. Who do not remember giving consent. Who do not even remember being asked. Most of them shrug their shoulders because that’s just how it was done back then.
My mother has suffered many health problems as a result of her hysterectomy. I was terrified of going into a hospital because of her experiences. I was terrified of being bullied into have a C-section, into being offered such a drastic operation in a moment of supreme weakness. This happened to my mother, and my aunties, not to women many generations ago. My fear was based on attitudes and procedures that were in place when I was in the process of being born.
The full realisation of what was done to my mother and to so many women like her, has probably never truly hit my mother’s generation. It was so prevalent that they normalised it. For me, it is a thing of nightmares.
So when I had both of my daughters without drugs, without a C-section, and without having a doctor suggest that perhaps I should consent to sterilisation, I feel like I survived something I wasn’t sure beforehand that I could.
They sterilised my mother.
They will never, ever sterlise me or my children.