Here’s the thing about childbirth: men can’t do it. We just can’t. It doesn’t matter how much our wives wish, um, interesting things on us when they are pregnant, it’s just not possible (bad Arnold Schwarzenegger movies aside). Of course, once a couple decides it’s time for a more permanent form of birth control, there is something the man can do. It’s also actually far easier for the man. Well, at least physically and financially. Emotionally is another beast altogether.
Once our son was healthy enough to finally come home, it didn’t take long for to realize we needed to look in to permanent birth control. “We” in this case meant I. Long before we had children, I rationally realized that it was far simpler for me to get a vasectomy than for anything done to her. For one thing, she would need major surgery and an overnight stay while I would only need an office visit and some frozen peas. For another, it seemed the least I could do after she birthed my progeny. It was easy to realize that long before children, but it was very difficult to think about when it was actually time.
I probably would have put it off indefinitely, but Chrisie kept subtly hinting I should take care of it.
“So,” she often asked, “When are you going to get snipped?” See? Subtle.
“Um, can we please not use the word ‘snipped’ when we talk about this?”
“Sure. When are you going to get fixed?”
“That’s not really better. I’m not going to a vet you know.”
“Fine, when are you going to the doctor.”
“I don’t know. I’m working up to it.”
“Well, work faster. We don’t want a surprise.”
“We are not having more children.”
“What’s wrong with four or five. I like fives.”
“I had to talk you into kid number two.”
“No, you just had to wait until I was ready. And now I want a house full!”
“So when are you getting snipped?” At least she didn’t say “fixed” again.
I really did need to work up to it. A vasectomy seems so simple on paper, but the reality seems more emasculating that it actually is. I wanted to do it for my wife since it really was physically easier for me, but at the same time, I really didn’t want to do it. At all.
I searched for the words to explain the conflict I felt, but never was able to adequately express everything. I must have looked a bit tormented because her voice softened when she said, “Honey, I know this isn’t as easy for you as I think it is, but it’s just a minor procedure for you and major surgery for me.”
“I know,” I said, “But in my mind there’s nothing minor about a scalpel near a major part of me. What if he slips and I live up to my old nickname?”
“Then I’ll love you anyway.”
“Or you could say, ‘that won’t happen!’ You really are terrible at building confidence sometimes.” But I smiled as I said it.
I tried to work up the nerve and finally did. Four months later. I called a local urologist and set up an appointment for a consultation on a Tuesday afternoon. I arrived for the appointment anxious. The office staff was very kind and calming. Then I met the Doctor’s assistant.
He was an ex-military guy who seemed born to be a late night infomercial pitch man.
“Hey, how are you doing?” he boomed with a larger than life voice.
“Uh, fine,” I tried to reply, but he was already talking over me.
“Great, great. First things first, I need you to drop your pants and your underwear.”
“Yep,” he said as he snapped on a glove, “I just need to do a quick check for cancer.”
I complied and he performed a quick examination.
“All right,” he said a moment later, “You can get dressed again.”
“You’re fine. Now here’s what we’re going to do.” He drew a couple of ovals on the back of the paper he was writing on and added a couple of wavy lines from each. As he drew, he said, “The doctor will sever the vas deferens like so,” he drew a straight line through each of his wavy lines, “and then seal them with titanium clips. You’ll still get a rush at climax, you just won’t release any actually sperm and you’ll have five years to reverse it. Any questions?”
It was a lot to process, but strangely, I had no questions so I shook my head.
“Great,” he continued with barely a bet, “So you want me to schedule you in for tomorrow?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said, “I just came in to begin to consider thinking about the possibility of maybe getting a vasectomy. I’m not ready for one just yet. How about a month from now?”
“Whatever suits you.”
We scheduled for Friday, October 29th, almost a month later. He prescribed a single Valium I was supposed to take one hour before my procedure, some pain medicine for after, and a printed sheet of instructions. I didn’t meet the urologist. I left and did my best not to think about it. I failed.
I went to work for a little while the morning of October 29th, then went home for a quick lunch and to swallow the important Valium. I had never had one before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I dutifully took it exactly one hour prior.
Chrisie came home shortly before my appointment to drive me. The doctor’s office was less than a mile from our house. This was good because it gave me less time to think about it (pity I had been thinking about it for a month already).
“Honey,” I said, “I’ a little worried.”
“Well, I took the Valium almost an hour ago and it just seems like I should be feeling, I don’t know, something. I fell perfectly normal. And worried. Normal and worried.”
“You’ll be fine, Baby. It’s just a quick two snips.”
“Will you please stop saying that?!”
“Sorry.” I really don’t think she was.
We got to the office and I waited in the lobby. Right before my scheduled time, the urologist came out and introduced himself.
“I see you wore really comfortable pants,” he observed. I wore plaid lounge pants with elastic. It seemed sensible. “The nurse will be out in a minute to get you.” He then disappeared into the back.
I waited a while longer and then it was my turn. I walked through the door the cute young nurse held open for me and followed her to a room.
“I’ll leave in just a moment. Once I do, completely remove your pants and underwear and get in the chair,” she instructed. She handed me a folded, blue paper bundle and continued, “You can place this over you for privacy and the doctor will be in shortly.” It seemed the wrong time to use the word short, but I chose not to comment.
I did as instructed and the doctor came in just after I arranged the drape for privacy. He immediately took it off and unfolded a new surgical drape. He chit chatted as he worked. Then he dropped the drape.
“Oops,” he said, “I’ll grab another.”
He dug through the cabinets for a moment, then said, “Wouldn’t you know it? We’re out of them in here. I’ll be right back.”
Just before he exited I realized that they did a lot of these procedures during the week and had the timing down like clockwork. I figured it out because in just about enough time for him to have unfolded and arranged the second drape on me, his cute young nurse walked back in the room.
“Oh,” she said as she walked over and stood beside my chair, “Don’t worry, he usually doesn’t drop things.”
“Good to know,” I replied.
We engaged in small talk for a few minutes until the doctor came back in. He carried a bundle of drapes and placed most in the cabinets before grabbing one for me. That was the moment it hit me. I was lying on a chair completely naked and exposed from the waist down, talking to his cute young nurse, and totally okay with it. I knew it should really, really bother me, but I was fine. I finally knew the Valium worked after all.
I made it through the procedure mostly fine (but never completely intact again) and Chrisie took me home. That’s when I discovered a side effect of my vasectomy I never considered. Chrisie treated me like a king for almost an entire week. She waited on me even more than she usually does and was considerate to a fault.
Even more incredibly, all my friends’ wives treated me like a king as well once they found out I made the step they wanted their husbands to make. Every woman I talked to said incredibly nice things about my consideration and Chrisie didn’t have a single complaint on me for that week. It was an amazing and wonderful time. I enjoyed the attention and accolades.
And then it was my turn to return to reality. But it was so good while it lasted.