In March of 1997, I was due to deliver my 4th child at the age of 28. After having three girls, we had learned through ultrasound that our fourth child was expected to be a boy. I had made plans for a tubal ligation after delivery because it seemed to be what was "socially expected" in our case - I can't tell you the number of times we must've heard, "Oh, you're FINALLY having a boy - well, I guess you two are finished now?" During discussions with my OB-GYN throughout my last month of pregnancy, we had come up with the plan that, when the baby was born, if it was indeed a boy, then I would have the surgery; however, if it was a girl, I KNEW I wasn't ready to be sterilized. In reflection on the whole situation, I know that I made a hasty, unwise decision. I didn't spend any time in prayer over it, nor did I search my heart enough or ask for my husband's input - I just assumed it was what he wanted, also. I let "everyone else" make a decision for me, based on their opinions, and didn't stop to consider what was best for me, my husband, and OUR family we had made together. We had a lovely family, children who were well-behaved and taken care of, and yet, I still remember my father-in-law asking, "You're still going to have 'that surgery' after the baby is born, aren't you?" So, the day after my son was born, the morning of March 19, 1997, I signed my final consent and was wheeled down to the OR to become sterilized...no longer able to bear children...and in my own eyes for months afterwards, no longer a "real" woman.
From the moment I woke up from the general anesthesia in the recovery room from having the tubal ligation, I knew that I had made a serious mistake. The physical pain from the procedure wasn't bad; it was my heart that hurt. Somewhere deep inside me, I felt empty. What had I allowed to be done? Why did I feel so empty when I had a healthy newborn waiting for me in the hospital nursery? With a heavy heart, I resigned myself to the feeling, as I knew nothing could be done about it, anyway. It was too late. For the price of a little "social acceptance" I had allowed myself to be mutilated. I had allowed a part of me that was working perfectly and exactly as God had designed, to be burned down and sealed off. I had signed a paper that stated that I understood a tubal ligation was considered "permanent." I also knew that the accompanying emotional pain would also be "permanent."
Almost from the moment I arrived home from the hospital with my new baby son, I began inquiring about whether a tubal ligation could be "undone." The answers I received from different sources were varied, but all were very discouraging. I remember asking my OB-GYN's head nurse about the prospect of having a reversal. Her answer was a laugh, along with, "Oh, no, dear..not Dr. G____'s tubal ligations! He burns 'em down so far there's nothing left to work with! When you get your tubes tied with him, they stay tied!" That statement alone nearly discouraged me beyond further investigating!
I began to get a glimmer of hope when I found out that a doctor at the nearby University of Arizona performed reversals. However, his prognosis for me wasn't favorable, either. Without seeing me physically, he told me on the phone that my chances for conception were more likely to be successful with IVF than with tubal reanastomosis. He went into detail about financial considerations, success rates of both procedures, and even my age - in his opinion, even age 30 was getting a bit old to have much hope for conception after a tubal reversal. I ended our phone conversation after agreeing to consider IVF. I may have agreed to consider it, but I knew that for personal and religious reasons, IVF was NOT an option for my husband and I. I still wouldn't give up, though. I was certain that somewhere in our great country, there MUST be someone who could help, and I was determined to find him or her.
By late summer of 1999, I had conducted enough searches on the Internet to finally know with some degree of certainty that a tubal reversal was possible for us - the only question remaining was how successful would it be? Truthfully, at that point, the issue of a successful reversal equaling a viable pregnancy didn't matter as much to me anymore. I wanted the procedure reversed because I wanted to be "whole" again - that was my primary consideration. At the same time, my reasoning was that, if I was going to even get it done, I wanted the best surgeon I could find. I knew by this time that there were no guarantees for another pregnancy, let alone another baby - but why not at least give everything the best chance possible? I set out to do as much research as I could before I made a decision. I found myself considering different surgeons from across the country, including California, New Mexico, Texas, and North Carolina. One thing that I noticed was that they ALL seemed to be quoting the same success rates. I thought this was especially odd, considering that they weren't even using the same surgical techniques. When I asked one nurse specific questions about the suspiciously high success rate the doctor was claiming, she reluctantly revealed that he had actually only performed 2 reversals and neither patient had conceived yet, but she assured me that my own chances were good. Disillusioned but not defeated, I kept searching.
I was delighted to call up a search one afternoon that listed Dr. Levin's website! Finally, my hope was restored! I particularly liked his consultation offer - someone with expertise was finally going to review my case and give me a more realistic idea of my chances for success. Whether the prognosis was favorable or not, I was satisfied to have someone finally make a professional judgement based on medical fact, not assumptions. Before I committed to the consultation, I e-mailed Dr. Levin with some basic questions, which I assumed would be handled in generic form by his office staff. I was so surprised when he called me personally the next afternoon to discuss my concerns that I must've sounded dumbfounded! A world-famous surgeon taking the time to call a prospective patient personally? I was IMPRESSED with his level of personal concern and care, let alone his medical experience, which was magnificent all by itself.
After all of my initial questions were answered, I decided to go on and schedule a consultation. I had obtained my surgical reports from the tubal ligation several months before, so that part was already taken care of. I knew that my tubal ligation was performed using Pomeroy method, where the tubes are first cut, then cauterized (or "burned"). Knowing ahead of time that I wasn't the "best" candidate for success, I really didn't know what my prognosis would be. The only thing to do was wait for Dr. Levin to review my reports and look forward to the telephone consultation.
The consultation with Dr. Levin exceeded all of my expectations. He thoroughly reviewed my medical history and surgical reports, answered all of my questions, and gave me hope. He even respectfully handled my religious objection to the required semen analysis. I was so very impressed with his medical expertise and professionalism, and reassured by his caring manner - I had no lingering doubts once our consultation was over.
Finally, the big day arrived - time to fly from Arizona to Louisville, KY to prepare for my restoration! Due to personal circumstances, we had decided that I would go alone and leave our 4 children behind in the care of their father (my husband). It was a tough decision to make either way, but my going alone was best for us. I arrived in Louisville on Sunday evening, settled into the Hampton Inn and tried to rest before my scheduled surgery the next morning. Transportation to the hospital was provided, so the next morning I checked into the surgery center. After a short wait, I was taken back to prepare for surgery. Dr. Levin came to check on me several times, to reassure me and let me know how long I should have to wait before my actual surgery time. The nurses all treated me kindly and with dignity. At last, it was MY turn to go. The next thing I remember is, waking up in recovery and feeling so peaceful. Before I had even talked with Dr. Levin after my surgery, I could just tell I had been physically restored. It's very difficult to describe, but I felt "whole" again. Dr. Levin came to talk with me after I had been transferred to my hospital room (I elected to stay overnight since I was alone). The thing I will always remember is his honesty and candor with me from the beginning. He detailed the way my OB-GYN had cut one of my Fallopian tubes crooked...in fact, I believe his exact words were something like, "It looked like he had been standing sideways when he did your tubal ligation!" He was able to repair it, but he also gently told me that because of that, perhaps my prognosis wouldn't be as favorable as he had initially believed. Part of me was disappointed, but another part of me was grateful for his blunt honesty. After all, the other side HAD looked pretty good! I remained cautiously optimistic, because for me, the goal was to be physically restored, not JUST to have another baby. If I was able to conceive again, that would be the ultimate in happiness, but if not, I still had come out of it all feeling like I was a woman again. By having my tubal ligation reversed, I felt like I had made peace with myself, and with God, for initially destroying what He created. I knew that the rest would be up to Him.
Tuesday morning, I returned to my hotel room and was given excellent care by the nurses on staff at the Inn. I felt like I had enough privacy to relax and heal, yet help was literally just around the corner if I needed it. I experienced some degree of post-surgical pain, but it was nothing that wasn't easily managed with Motrin. On Thursday morning, I went to Dr. Levin's office to have my staples removed. I was afraid that it would hurt, but he removed them effortlessly. By Thursday afternoon, I was on a plane back to Arizona. Less than a week after my reversal surgery, we made a trip to Texas because my husband was getting out of the Army. We had scheduled the reversal to coincide closely with the move, so that we could take advantage of my husband's leave time. I personally would not recommend a major move and 12-hour car ride across the desert 6 days after having the reversal surgery, but in our case, we had already made plans which could not be changed. My pain was managed well with Motrin and as much rest as I could get, and healing soon followed. I thought that I would find my reversal surgery scar hideous; instead, I admire it as a badge of victory! It isn't very noticeable except to myself, and I actually smile when I take the time to purposely look at it now.
In late December 1999, about 3 months after my reversal surgery, we conceived a new life! I was so ecstatic when I went to the doctor on January 13th, 2000 and learned that I was, indeed, pregnant! Many ultrasounds were taken to ensure the pregnancy was not ectopic, but as soon as the embryo and sac were visualized in the uterus, everything from that point was a "normal" pregnancy. Or maybe I should say, everything was "normal" medically, but I was riding on Cloud 9 during my whole pregnancy. I had been given a second chance! I told my husband I felt like Michael Jordan, after he retired, and then started playing again. Every kick from my baby was a joy - every time I heard his heartbeat, I cried tears of happiness. I savored every moment of a pregnancy I thought I would never again experience - my barren womb had life in it, and to this day, just thinking about it makes my heart soar! On September 12th, 2000, I was admitted to the hospital, and Andrew Joseph was born on September 13th - one year to the date of my reversal! I had an unusually long labor with him - and he was born at 1:09 a.m. on the 13th, as if he had been waiting for the calendar to turn one more day. His brother and sisters and Daddy were all in attendance during my labor with him, and patiently awaited his delivery. I have cherished memories of everyone anxiously waiting for him to crown, and then cheering with joy when he emerged from my formerly-barren body. He was 8 pounds, 7 ounces and was 21 inches long. I was 32 years old, and 3 1/2 years had passed since I gave birth to his older brother and had my tubal ligation...what a victory, Dr. Levin!
Andrew is now a healthy, active 10-month old, and every day I thank God for His miracle...from guiding me to the best surgeon in this country for my reversal, to allowing me to even conceive, to letting me give birth to a healthy little boy who is cherished by all of us. I have no doubt that God has given a gift to Dr. Levin - his surgical techniques, abilities, knowledge and expertise - and Dr. Levin gives a gift back to his patients not only in successful reversals but in his caring and compassionate manner. I felt like Dr. Levin was right there along with me as a cheerleader whenever I would e-mail him news about my pregnacy - he shared in our joy. He will always be remembered as an important part of my family. I have told countless people about him, about my reversal, and about my little miracle. Thank you, Dr. Levin.
Mark and Christi Harris - Springtown, Texas
Kathy (10), Sara (9), Rachel (7), Tony (4) and Tubal Reversal Baby Andrew (10 months)