'I'm a Single Mom in Idaho. I Feel Forced to Get My Tubes Tied'

I always wanted to have five kids. I grew up wanting to be a mom. So, being pregnant was a really exciting time. I was 20 years old at the time, serving in the U.S. military in Virginia and I was married. My husband and I were actively trying to have a baby, so we were over the moon to be pregnant. We were happy, excited and prepared.

My son Demetrious—we call him Demi—was born in 2018. Everything was going great; he was meeting all his milestones, some of them really early. But between one year and 18 months old, we started noticing small skills, like blowing kisses and saying "bye," were starting to regress.

So then came early childhood intervention, recommended therapies and doctors telling us we should get his hearing and eyes checked, and anything else that could be the cause of his regression. But he got great scores on all the tests, so for the first two years of his life, we were just doing occupational therapy at home and I was working on developing and building his skills. Then, Demi's father was ordered to go to Italy in his role with the military. We realized that Demi may not get the best care overseas. So my son and I decided to move back home to Idaho to live with my family. A year after I got back to Idaho, in December 2020, Demi was diagnosed with autism. I was prepared for it; I kind of knew it was coming, but it was hard.

Demi is now 4 years old. He requires so much and sometimes just having me isn't enough for him. It can be overwhelming, because it's just me; my husband and I decided to separate a little after Demi's diagnosis. When Demi is looking for something to do, or someone to do it with, he comes to me. I have my family, because I live with them, but they are a lot older, and my son is really strong. So it's a battle. He's always hyperactive and he's always wanting to be on the go. Sometimes I feel like I don't have my own time. I'm responsible for him, so when I do things for myself, it makes me feel guilty.

Leslie With Her Son Demi
Leslie and her son, Demi, who was diagnosed with autism in 2020. Leslie Washington

I had just woken up on June 24 when I saw that Roe v. Wade had been overturned by the United States Supreme Court. It was unbelievable. I was shocked. That day on Twitter seemed like a day of division, it was really sad.

Of course, I started thinking, "What am I going to do? How am I going to prevent pregnancy?" I'm a single mom and I live with my parents. I am currently a student getting my prerequisites to go to medical school for radiologic sciences. So I wouldn't be able to afford another baby and I can't afford to travel for an abortion if Idaho's trigger law bans them.

It had always been in my mind that, if I did get pregnant it was OK, because I had accesses to a safe abortion if I needed it. So when I read the news, all I could think was: I can never be pregnant again. Because I know my son needs me.

I'm 26 now and with all of my son's needs, I don't have time for another child and I don't see myself having time for the next five to 10 years. So I have definitely looked into tubal ligation; getting my tubes tied. It's really something I'm considering.

I have tried birth control before but I have Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) so when I was taking birth control it was working, but it was messing with my menstrual cycle. I tried three different birth control pills, but it was not something I could rely on, and contraception, such as condoms, are not 100 percent effective.

Leslie With Her Son Demi
Leslie With Her Son Demi

I don't plan to move anytime soon because my family is here and they are my biggest support when it comes to my son and his disability. So I need to stay in Idaho, but I'm not going to have access to safe abortion. I wouldn't be able to travel to get an abortion and birth control doesn't work for me. I feel like my only option is to get my tubes tied. I've never felt so detached from what I thought was my freedom.

I feel like America is going backwards. We're not making progress. I feel like we are so focused on keeping things the way they were, that we're never going to progress. Women's rights are being stripped. It's almost scary to be a woman. Especially in a state like Idaho that's so Republican.

I go to a lot of support groups for moms with kids who have disabilities, so a lot of them are in the same situation as me. Other friends I have talked to just don't want kids, and that's OK. They should have that option. But the punishment for them having sex and potentially getting pregnant shouldn't be that they are forced to keep their child. That's not fair. My friends who don't want kids are even joking now about not having sex.

At the moment, permanent birth control seems like my only option. It does scare me and it makes me a little bit sad that I feel like this is my option.

Right now, I don't feel like I can even think about having more kids. But I don't know how much my son might progress. Maybe in 10 years time he will have made great progress, and I could think about having kids. But if I get my tubes tied I won't be able to. And that will be because I felt, when my freedoms were stripped, that I only had one option.

Leslie Washington (née Bullon) is a make-up artist living in Idaho with her son, Demi. You can follow her on Twitter @_campleslo.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.