Contributors come clean on how facing their fears and anxieties, and talking to their partners, helped them make a decision
“The penis is the dipstick of the body’s health,” says Dr. Harry Fisch.
That’s why messing with a perfectly running machine can be so daunting for so many men.For a procedure that takes under a half hour, and for a sex life that’s interrupted for less than a week, the biggest problem for most vasectomy patients is deciding on whether or not to get one. “It is the safest form of permanent birth control,” says Dr. Stephen Siegel, in our Q&A with him on the process. We’ve highlighted a few contributors responses on the decision process in the hope that it can help other men make what could easily be called the decision of a lifetime.
Enjoying Sex More—Laramie
We no longer have to worry about birth control and the sex is still amazing after all these years…Best decision we made for our marriage.
When Having Another Child is Not an Option—Matt Peregoy
My wife and I want to have more kids, but having another child is just not an option. Due to various health concerns, my wife would be at a very high risk for uterine rupture. So, instead of selfishly asking her to put her life at risk and suffer through a bed-ridden pregnancy that would ultimately end in another C-section (did I mention she equates her first one to a Saw movie?), I decided to take one for the team. I got the snip, and now she doesn’t have to take hormones every month to avoid a risky pregnancy.
Am I a hero? No. But I can’t pretend that this wasn’t a difficult decision for me. What if something were to happen to my wife? I would be unable to have children with a future spouse. I decided that I couldn’t live in the “what if?” I had to force myself to look at our situation in the context of the here and now, and, in the end, I believe I made the best decision possible.
Divorced Dad Considers a New Run at Fatherhood—Jim Gray
One part of my daydream scenario for becoming a father again had, in fact, occurred: I’d met a woman who was both close to my age and open to having a child. Mary calls me on my shit, wears almost no makeup, and occasionally snorts when she laughs. I fell in love.
But rather than enlivening the notion of having another child, meeting Mary prompted me to focus beyond the hypnotic hypothetical. Could I actually become a father again? Until then, I had held the notion at arm’s length, allowing me to gloss over my looming 50th birthday and already-too-small house and dog-paddling-to-stay-afloat life. How real was this idea?
I’d discovered years earlier that my capacity for loving children was greater than I had realized. Having another child, surely that love would stretch further and I’d once again find it impossible to envision my life without this new child, another member of the team.
But I began to see that having another child wouldn’t simply add a new player. Rather, it would be more like establishing another franchise, a spin-off team with a different set of coaches, and managing them both.
This image provoked a familiar feeling, one I’d long ago dismissed as the naïvete of a young parent—the feeling of betrayal. If I became a father again, how could I possibly direct any of my time or energy or love away from the two kids I already had?
After my divorce four years ago, the custody arrangements cut in half the time I now share with my kids. Suddenly 100 percent of my fathering felt compressed like a gas into 50 percent of the space. Contents under pressure. I became hyper-aware of being fully present with them, wanting to absorb all I could while giving them as much of me as the demands of daily life allowed. Yet driving home alone after a weekend together, “The Cat’s in the Cradle” buzzing like a mosquito in my ear, I’ll tell myself that I could have made time for a couple more hands of UNO, I could have added more pieces to the Lego creation du jour. Lack of enough time is the consistent theme of my parental Monday-morning quarterbacking.
Maybe I underestimate my ability to integrate a new player, to expand the roster and dynamic of the current team with the help of another head coach, someone alongside me to guide and instruct and love and grow with these little players. Maybe Mary is that coach. We’d talked about the kid issue before we even met. I had called the possibility of fathering again “a long shot,” yet I realize the decision to go through with the vasectomy was mine, selfishly mine, and not without some disappointment.
I’d kept the possibility of another child open just enough to bask in a selective vision of new fatherhood, some romanticized picture of the nuclear family. Being relegated to part-time parent by divorce had left a void in me. I was no longer filling bowls with Cheerios every morning or reading “The Stinky Cheese Man” each night before bed. The comfort from their day-to-day presence was gone. But parenting another child full time would not fill this void, regardless of the new love created. Instead, I’d be compromising further my time to focus on the kids I already have. As it is, my list of players is complete. My son and daughter deserve every bit of attention I can afford them. They come before anything else.
Me or My Wife: A No Brainer—Peter Ellis
After our third child was born, my wife’s strongly felt desire was that there not be more. That was okay by me. We had three children and all were fine.
The question then was, her or me? My wife was pragmatic, and realized that it was a “big thing” for a man to have his ‘manhood’ taken away. She figured, too, that she might need a medically required hysterectomy at some point in her life, and sooner was probably more sensible than later, when her body would be less able to recover. It would put her through a very significant operation, while a vasectomy was a ‘trivial’ operation by comparison…
The problem came later in the week[of the procedure], when my boss scheduled a team-building retreat. I took a small pack of pills to dull any residual pain and though everyone knew I had an operation, they didn’t know what. We were to do an outdoor team effort climbing around on low ropes and walking along boards between low logs. No way! I had to say so, and despite the giggling comments, the women and men were understanding. I sat it out, and offered encouragement from a chair.
My temporary discomfort and embarrassment was nothing compared to what I know my wife would have had to go through. The choice was a no-brainer that I have never regretted.
Worried That My Loss of Fertility Would Make Me Feel Less Virile—M. Tucker Bradford, a sailor living on the seas with his wife and two children
I did not want to get a vasectomy. My anxiety stemmed from two issues. First, my best buddy had one and got horribly infected. I knew the statistics(< 5% complication rate in every category), and could reason my way out of it, but the emotional impact was harder to shake. Second, I was worried that the loss of my fertility would make me feel less virile. As a result, I had a complete emotional block.
My wife had been on the pill until our first child was born, then she had an IUD. The IUD caused unexpected spotting and a wacky (short) cycle. The pill had really messed with her libido, and tubal ligation is a serious surgery. We knew that we had to try something else. I had to seriously consider the vasectomy option.
I wasn’t ready to give up my ability to reproduce. I was worried that I would feel impotent. I was worried that I would somehow not be as good a lover. I had these reservations even after the surgery.
I’m here to tell you that it all worked out… eventually. After the surgery, I didn’t test clean; I still had some swimmers. I hate to admit it but I was half elated. I knew that it didn’t mean that I was fertile in any useful sense of the word but I had a swollen (excuse the pun) sense of pride that “even modern medicine couldn’t keep my boys at bay.” Granted, this is not a healthy way to feel, but it was beyond my control. In any case it didn’t last long because I quickly realized that if I didn’t test clean I would be condemned to condom use indefinitely, and we would have done all that for nothing. The thought of my wife having to endure a tubal ligation on top of my vasectomy was almost too much to contemplate. I called my urologist.
He told me to ejaculate 40 more times and go in for another test. This sounded like the biggest “take one and call me in the morning” b.s. I had ever heard. Still, it wasn’t a bad assignment, and I took my work seriously. It was a balm on my raw psyche.
40 ejaculations later, I tested clean, and felt really good for the first time. My wife, who had been amazing through the whole belabored process, showered me with gratitude. Unencumbered by worries of having a third child, our sex life began a renaissance that is still going strong a year later. I now feel no sense of loss, and no reservations. I wish I could go back and tell that pre-V-me that it was all going to work out better than I could have imagined.
The Decision NOT to Get Snipped—Jason Fisk, writer and teacher
Last summer, we had a scare that resulted from not thinking. My wife was on antibiotics, thus possibly negating the almighty power of the pill. The scare lasted for three weeks, four days, and 55 minutes. I’m ashamed to admit that during that period of time, all I could think about was finances. We were just getting to the point where paying for two kid’s daycare, school, and before and after care was not seriously impacting our finances. We could eat out more than once a month and not feel guilty about it. That wasn’t our first scare, but I wanted it to be our last.
My wife and I had a number of discussions about who should have what done to whom. My sister was an IUD baby. So, despite any advances that may have been made in IUD technology over the past 34 years, that option was taken off the table. I wasn’t really a fan of being snipped either, but I had no solid argument.
I made an appointment and visited my doctor on the way home from work one day last month to get a referral for a vasectomy. While I was in there, he told me about his vasectomy, when a former female resident worked on him. All he could do was blush. I laughed. On the way out, he apologized for maybe sharing too much. I shook his hand with both hands and assured him that he made me laugh, and that was just what I had needed.
On the drive home, referral in hand, the idea of not ever having another kid hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought about how we had been strapped for cash before both of our kids were born, and we somehow had made it work anyway. I thought about how much joy and meaning my kids have brought in to my life. Needless to say, the referral has been sitting in the same cubby as my wallet, keys, and loose change for the last month. I should really check to see if there is a date that it expires, but there’s no hurry, right?
—For more, there is an excellent discussion going on about how to choose permanent birth control at Dads Round Table. Talk to your spouse/lover; talk to your doctor.
—Photo by laszlo-photo/Flickr