Before we were married, my wife used to save a bundle on feminine hygiene products: She only got her period twice a year.
Her menstruation was so rare and unpredictable, in fact, that doctors warned her she might never be able to have kids – which was ironic, considering.
Because instead of being a barren old maid, my wife turned out to be as fertile as a turtle – pregnant no less than six times in the nearly ten years that we’ve been together (sadly, the first three of those pregnancies were miscarriages.)
Right now, she’s seven months pregnant – and that one was the very definition of a happy (almost inexplicable) accident. We’d actually been discussing how the rigors of raising two rambunctious boys had completely torpedoed our love life, when she suddenly discovered she was expecting again.
So happy accident or not, when lucky number three came around, we both agreed something had to be done. I volunteered to “take one for the team” and get myself a vasectomy.
And it was a weird journey – a lot more so than I’d expected.
The logic behind me getting a vasectomy seems obvious. When it comes to permanent birth control, the options are a tubal ligation for a woman (a fairly serious endeavor, which usually involves general anesthetic) or a vasectomy for a man, which takes 15 minutes, and can be completed with local anesthetic.
On the surface of it, it seems like a no-brainer. Aside from the complexity (and expense) of a tubal ligation, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reports that the risks of an accidental pregnancy are about ten times higher after a tubal ligation than for a man following a vasectomy.
But weirdly enough, in the United States women are still twice as likely to have a tubal ligation than a man is to have a vasectomy. Despite it being more invasive, more expensive and ultimately less effective, women are still the ones who end up twice as likely to take responsibility for permanent birth control than a man is.
This is something I had trouble getting my head around – until I actually had my vasectomy, that is.
In the days leading up to my procedure, my wife announced her pregnancy to her family – and everybody was ecstatic, if a little surprised. Everybody kept joking about what a fertile couple we were – and how I must be a big, virile man to have “accidentally” knocked up my wife again.
At a family party, one of our childless female friends kept rubbing against me to see if “the magic would rub off.” My wife jokingly offered to “loan me out” to a female friend who was having trouble getting pregnant. Being virile, it seemed, was an attractive commodity.
Which is why I started to get cold feet about having a vasectomy.
My wife, who is the sweetest woman in the world, was similarly concerned. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she’d ask. She even warned me: “If you do this, and then we get divorced and you marry a younger woman, she’ll want kids, you know…”
(The fact that my wife is willing to look out for me even in my second hypothetical marriage is evidence of what a sweetheart she is.)
But in all things, I am a rationalist – and despite my growing discomfort, I went ahead with the procedure.
Now, for all you guys who are out there wondering, let me tell you how it goes down:
On the day of the procedure, my wife drove me to the doctor and sat in the surgery room with me while I stripped off into a paper gown. It was the first time I’d ever worn one; which made me think how undignified and uncomfortable it must be for my wife, who gets her ankles in stirrups at least once a year – or more if I’ve managed to get her pregnant yet again!
The doctor’s assistant was a pretty girl in her twenties, which yet again made me painfully aware of the fact that I – the big, virile, redheaded stallion – was sitting bare-assed in her surgery room about to effectively get neutered. I am an incorrigible flirt, but even I had trouble batting my eyelashes at a pretty girl when I was seconds away from her carving a hole in my ball sack.
When we got down to business, I laid back on a table and stared at the ceiling while she painted my balls in a warm, wet iodine solution. Then the doctor came in, and injected my privates with anesthetic while chatting about idle nothings. The tiny pin-pricks as the needles went in were ultimately the most physically uncomfortable part of the whole procedure.
And then he got to work, and we chatted. It reminded me of being at the dentist, actually – except this time I was able to reply when he asked me rote questions about where I was born, what I did for a living and what I studied in school. History, ironically – which led to a morbidly depressing conversation about The Holocaust while he was doing boy scout knots with my vasa deferentia!
It was over incredibly quickly. Just as I’d begun to get used to the numbness in my groin, the doctor was snapping off his rubber gloves and the pretty nurse was washing the iodine off my crotch. “You’re done,” he told me, shaking my hand and heading off to his next appointment.
There was no pain – just a moment’s horror as I sat up, looking down and saw the paper sheets beneath me bathed in red.
“That’s just the iodine,” the nurse explained, reassuring me that I hadn’t bled out all over the table.
I got back into my clothes, stood shakily to my feet and hobbled out to my waiting wife. From arrival to departure, the entire procedure had taken less than an hour.
But that, as I soon came to discover, was not the end of my mental or physical experience…