After the latest addition to his family, Christian Piatt decided it was time to retire “the fellas” and get a vasectomy.
Got some good news last night; the first printing of PregMANcy is finally in the warehouse. Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered for your patience. And for those who have yet to put in their order, what the hell are you waiting for?
In honor of the arrival of our newest bundle of joy, here’s one of my favorite chapters from the book. It’s a rather, um, personal look at my experience getting a vasectomy.
I’m thrilled to have Zoe in our lives. All of my concerns about worry overwhelming love and minutiae superseding the bigger picture of family thankfully were unwarranted. I should have known the love would come. I’m so crazy about this little girl it’s stupid.
That said, there’s no way in hell I want another one.
Though I’m glad Amy was able to deliver naturally and that there were few to no complications, it leaves me with no way to avoid going under the knife myself.
Amy is done with the pill; that much is abundantly clear. And unless I want the current sex drought to linger into my retirement years, it’s incumbent upon me to do something about it. First, I checked with insurance to see what part of a vasectomy would be covered. Even though we have major medical policies with huge deductibles, I hoped that it would at least knock out a big chuck of the annual portion that fell to us, getting us closer to actually getting some benefits, but they don’t cover a penny. Guess they don’t really care how many kids we have since they also don’t offer maternity coverage. Every new addition to the family unit is just another insured on the policy, so why encourage responsible family planning?
The first place I called wasn’t even sure what they charged, which I thought was a little weird. It was almost like they wanted a peek in my wallet before they quoted me a price, pushing to set up a consult, for which they would naturally charge me. Scratch that one off the list.
I went through several others without luck, but finally got a referral from a friend. He sent me to Dr. F. who is close to seventy years old, and by his own count, has done more than two thousand of these procedures in his career. As I’m not a fan of offering up my genitals for trial runs, this sounded pretty good to me. Plus he charged nine hundred bucks, which—although it still seems outrageous for one short office visit and a thirty-minute in-office procedure—was the best deal I’d found.
Generally, a vasectomy isn’t the kind of thing you want to bargain-shop for, but given this guy’s experience and considering we’re paying out-of-pocket for the whole thing, price does play a role. And at $900 for a half-hour gig, it’s not like these are Walmart prices anyway.
The older Mattias gets, the more he overhears and absorbs. We can’t spell anything anymore without him decoding it. I speak occasionally in broken Spanish to Amy, but he’s learning that too. Most times I just give up and accept that he’s a part of the conversation.
“Why are you going to the doctor, dad?” he asked, playing the Wii while eavesdropping on our chat about my research.
“I have to have a doctor check out my guy parts.”
“Why?” he kept flicking away at the buttons on his remote.
“Because mom and dad are done making babies.”
“Do you want more brothers or sisters?” I asked.
“Well,” I said, “we’re pretty sure we don’t so I’m going to take care of it.”
“How do you do that?” he stopped and turned toward me. Clearly he wasn’t going to be satisfied with generalities. He knew, more or less, how babies were made, but this whole how-to-stop-making-babies was new information.
“The doctor helps the sperm stay inside my body so they can’t fertilize any of mommy’s eggs,” I said, continuing to take baby steps toward the truth while trying to spare him the gruesome details.
“You can stop them?” he asked. “How?”
Fine, I thought, he wants to know, I’ll tell him.
“The doctor goes in with a knife and cuts my testicle sack open, pulls out the little tubes that connect the testicles to my penis, cuts them in half, and burns the ends with a little iron so the sperm are stuck in there for good.” The boy’s eyes looked like they might keep growing until they completely engulfed his entire head.
“You might bleed,” he whispered in awe.
“Yeah, a little bit,” I said.
“Maybe you’ll die.” He said, worry gnarling up his young face.
“I know it sounds really gross,” I said, “but it’s not that big of a deal. They do it all right there in the doc’s office, and I can even drive myself home after.”
“I don’t want anyone cutting on my testicles,” he said, stepping back away from me as if I was the one with the scalpel.
“Join the club, dude.”
I remember the first time I drove a car. I was so excited and paranoid at the same time that I could hardly think. Over time though, it’s become pretty much second nature. It’s not until I have a kid in the car to ask a thousand questions about how it’s done that I realize there’s actually quite a lot to it.
I like to think that Dr. F’s cavalier approach to vasectomies is kind of like the way I approach driving. The guy’s sliced four thousand vas deferens in his career—though there was one dude with three vas deferens—so let’s say four thousand and one. But for me, they’re the only two I’ve got, so I’m a little bit concerned about how it all goes down. I suppose the conversation we had during the consult was supposed to reduce my anxiety, but it actually had the opposite effect.
“You hear all kinds of stories from other guys,” said the doctor, rolling back and forth on his backless chair. “I don’t really know why guys like to pass along these overdone horror stories, but they do.”
Really? What horror stories? I thought. But I just nodded as if I knew what he meant.
“Despite what you hear, you do not experience impotence or a reduction in sex drive afterwards.”
Whew, that’s a relief.
“You won’t experience phantom pain in your scrotum for years following the procedure.”
Hell, I’d hope not.
“And your testicles will not swell up like melons.”
Now what is this guy talking about? How do stories like that even get started? Maybe some guy, somewhere does have balls the size of cantaloupes? Maybe it’s rare, but who would just make something like that up?
“The myths about increased cholesterol, heart problems, and other metabolic issues related to a vasectomy are really just myth.”
Now I was getting a little worried. None of this stuff had even occurred to me before I came into this guy’s office. Now he had my head filled with all kinds of horrifying images.
“You can even go back to normal sexual activity the following day, provided you’re up for it,” he said. “Just no Olympic-style mounts and dismounts for at least a week.”
Does “normal sexual activity” generally constitute mounts and dismounts? Did I miss a memo? I mean, I made two babies so I know I’m doing something right, but I have no leotards, no hand chalk, and certainly no scorecards around when this kind of thing takes place.
“Now it’s important to keep in mind,” he warned, “that you may still be fertile for some time after the operation…”
Sounds like the opposite effect I’m going for, doc.
“So you’ll want to perform a minimum of fifteen ejaculations alone or with protection before we check to make sure all your little swimmers are out of commission. I’ll give you a jar to take home after the operation that you can use to bring a sample back to the lab for us to check out once you get to fifteen.”
“You have to get the sample here pretty quickly after you produce it though, because those little buggers start to liquefy in about an hour or so.”
No pressure there. Just goo in a cup, then race across town to let a team of strangers dig around in it, making sure you don’t stop for coffee along the way.
“Sounds good,” I lied, and walked back to my car wondering why I was talking about paying 900 bucks for a guy to hack away at my nuts.
I had to pay up front, in cash: no checks, no credit cards. Bills only. I felt a little like a Mafioso, coming in the morning of the deed and plopping an envelope full of hundreds on the counter. I might have made some joke to that effect, but I was too busy thinking about the procedure.
They called me back, had me strip from the waist-down, and “cover” myself with a giant napkin that was supposed to lend some sense of privacy.
“By the way,” the nurse said, “that’s one way glass, so no one can see in. But if you’d feel more comfortable, we can close the blinds.”
“If someone can actually see in here and has the stomach to watch,” I said, “they get what they deserve.” She left me alone, my bare ass sliding down the sloped table covered with wax butcher paper. The bench was just long enough to support me to about my knees, and the raised back combined with sitting on wax paper made for an awkward situation. I tried to kind of pucker up my butt to grab hold of anything I could, but the only solution was putting my feet up on the corners, which stuck my bare ass straight out toward the door.
Then I waited. I know it was only ten minutes or so in human time, but my balls were sure it was an eternity.
You can still back out, they said to me. I’m sure they’ll give you your money back.
I can’t, balls. I promised Amy I’d do this.
But what did we ever do to you—aside from give you two great kids, which is what you wanted, right?
Yeah, thanks for that. But consider yourself retired.
What about condoms?
No chance, said the penis.
The doc finally came in, and I wasn’t sure he remembered what he was there for. I expected him to be in scrubs or to at least have on a mask or something. But he was dressed more like he was headed to a business meeting. He even had his wristwatch on. It’s not like I expected him to lose it inside my scrotum or anything, but it seemed an awfully casual approach to an event over which I had lost no few hours of sleep.
“I’m going to shave your scrotum before we start,” he said, grabbing disposable razor from the tray next to him. “If I sewed a pubic hair up in your incision, you’d know, pronto.”
“I would think so,” I said, as he scraped at my sack with the razor. I was oddly impressed with how dexterous the guy was with a blade. I mean, it was a full-on dry shave, but he didn’t knick the skin or anything. If you’re going to have a guy fiddle with your hardware, better one who knows what he’s doing, I say.
“Now we’ll numb the area with Novocain,” he grabbed a syringe. By then I had accepted that this guy was old-school enough that he was not likely to offer me a Valium or anything to calm me down, but now he had a needle in his hand and had yet to do anything to numb the particularly sensitive area he had in mind to poke with it.
Oh, hell no, said my nuts and started a full-on retreat.
And as you might expect, getting poked in the testicles several times with a needle is not the most comfortable sensation you can imagine. Thankfully, Novocain is fast-acting, so the sting went away within thirty seconds or so. In the meantime though, I had to hold tight to the sides of the table so I would not give into my reflexive impulse to whack him across the back of the head.
I guess everything relaxed down there after that because the left side went fast and pretty easy. I could feel some tugging up in my abdomen, but there was nothing I would consider to be overly painful. After about ten minutes or so, I had even gotten used to having a dude fondling my goodies, especially now that I couldn’t feel it.
The right side was not so cooperative. It turns out, as the doctor later explained as he peeled me off the ceiling, that the second side often pulls back, to the point that the testicle is up inside the body when it gets wind of what’s happening to its little buddy. This means that he’s got to reach way up in there and do some pretty serious tugging to get at what he needs. Apparently, as I also learned, there are some nerves further up in there that don’t benefit from the local anesthetic applied to the scrotum.
“Wow,” I said, trying not to close my knees against his temples. “That was, um, unexpected.”
“Sorry about that,” he picked up his cauterizing gun. “Sometimes the second one’s a little more stubborn. Tries to run and hide on you.”
Oh, and in case you were curious, the smell of burning vas deferens is not particularly pleasant. I was hoping I’d be able to report something glibber about it smelling like chicken, but no deal. It smelled about how I thought burning balls might smell.
Before sewing me up, he left me with one final parting gift by grazing me with the cauterizing gun.
“Hey!” I squawked, “I think you burned me there.”
“Hmm, yeah. A little bit there,” he said nonchalantly. This is probably less than shocking, but there is nothing minor about any incident wherein your scrotum is burned with a hot iron. Maybe he thought it would be numb so he had some room for error.
Not so much.
He gave me a giant ice pack and a three-inch thick pad of gauze to stick in my shorts. He called it a “shock absorber.”
“Make sure not to let your little ones hop on your lap for a few days,” he said, handing me the container for my soon-to-be-spermless sample. “Take some Tylenol if it starts to hurt and try to stay off your feet for about twelve hours.”
Three days later, things are starting to look much more normal down there. Mattias has been very curious about my progress and he understands that a leap on the lap will be cause for immediate grounding. I’m back to being able to pick up Zoe, which is nice, and I can help with most of my basic duties around the house.
As for the whole sex-the-next-day thing, that didn’t happen.
I have to admit that the long-term prospect of pressure-free intimacy for the rest of my life feels pretty good, and I’m glad to take my share of the responsibility for our family planning. I just hope some day that my boys will find it in their little hearts to forgive me. It’s been a good run, fellas, but your work here is officially done.
Photo credit: Flickr / Pink Sherbet Photography