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How To: Get A Vasectomy

Last month, my wife and I welcomed our third and final child into the world. Our new daughter is everything a baby is supposed to be. This is good for a variety of reasons, including how difficult actually having this third child proved to be. We are not religious people, so she’s whatever the please-leave-us-alone-about-religion version of a blessing is. After three, my wife and I decided to retire from having babies, and by that, I mean that I screamed, “Oh my God, ENOUGH!” and she said, “Yeah, okay, fine. We can stop.”

This is about what to do after you decide to get out of the game.

Step One: Schedule A Vasectomy
This is more complicated than you might imagine, mostly because there are a whole lot of people who want to make absolutely sure that you’re one-hundred-and-fifty-percent certain that you definitely want to do this to yourself. A strangely large percentage of people were apparently unconvinced by my, “Start cutting things in and around my genitals immediately!!!” I think that’s a fairly convincing, declarative sentence, but many other people aren’t convinced. (I ran into the same thing when my wife left our son’s circumcision up to me and I decided that there would not be a circumcision – medical professionals constantly assumed I didn’t know what I was saying.)

You’ll start with an appointment with whomever you usually see. This won’t be the appointment, but rather, a check of your mental stability. He or she will adopt a very serious doctor’s voice and say, “Are you sure about this?” You’ll nod vigorously. Then they’ll say, “But are you? Really? You know this means you won’t be having any more children.” Then you’ll nod more vigorously. That doctor will then send you to somebody who performs vasectomies. Your first appointment will involve several things: another very serious conversation in which another doctor asks you roughly thirty-six thousand times if you really want to sterilize yourself. “Yes,” you’ll say, having clicked the switch on the megaphone you brought with you into the ‘on’ position. Having answered this, you’ll be asked to drop your pants so that the-search-for-things-to-cut can begin.

Are you fond of being naked in front of strangers? I’m not. But, there you are, your pants down, people you just met taking a great interest in your genitals. As an added bonus, I live near a teaching hospital. This means visitors to our local hospital see not only doctors, but also student doctors, and as I’ve learned repeatedly, everybody’s gotta learn sometime. This is how you end up with two men on either side of you, each seemingly knuckle deep in your business, searching for one of your two vas deferens. Did you know you have two? I didn’t. But then I did, particularly as I laid there exposed on a hospital table wondering what exactly had happened to my life, my thoughts only interrupted by the the teaching doctor telling the learning doctor where exactly to search, and as the learning doctor went, “Yep, that’s it, no wait, yep, that’s it, no wait, yep, that’s it, no wait…” until finally, the teaching doctor assists in the discovery. Then, the teaching doctor will turn to you and say, “Okay, they’re there. We know where they are. See you in two months.” And you’ll pull your pants back up and leave.

Step Two: Makes Jokes, Have The Baby, Make Fewer Jokes, Discover That Your Family Isn’t As Vasectomy Enthusiastic As You Are
You can approach your vasectomy with the sort of grave seriousness that one usually reserves for the quiet consideration of death, you boring stick in the mud. Your other option is making jokes. Many jokes. As many jokes as you can. Jokes about the check-ups. Jokes about your retirement. Jokes about not expecting to be getting a vasectomy just after your 33rd birthday. Jokes about undoing God’s will. Jokes about everything. And even when you get to the hospital to have the baby that’s necessitating this vasectomy, you’ll get to joke around with the hospital staff when they ask you, “So is this it for you two?” because for some reason, nobody seems to want to believe that anybody else would ever want to stop having babies. You’ll insist that yes, this is it, and everyone will nervously giggle but occasionally look at you as if you just farted. People love babies. Like, really love them. So loudly exclaiming, “I don’t want to do this anymore…” doesn’t go over great.

Then, your wife will go into labor, and labor will go very, very badly. Immediately after finally having a baby via an unplanned caesarean necessitated by adhesions that had developed after the last baby – adhesions that hadn’t been known about until more than 24 hours of labor in which your absurdly strong wife very slowly suffered her way into agreeing with whatever energy she had left to a c-section that she genuinely hadn’t wanted – the medical staff will change. Because of these adhesions, medical professionals will start saying things to you like, “If you’d been the type of people who delivered at home, your wife would have died.” And, “This is it for you two.” And that second comment won’t be said with the question mark, just the very insistent period that marks the finality of the situation.

The vasectomy will then go from funny thing to joke about to funny thing to joke about that has a slightly darker necessity to it. Still funny – “Some men will be prodding around in my testicular area for 45 minutes while a nurse looks on, ha ha!” – but yknow, a little bit less amusing.

Also, your family will suddenly decide that maybe you’re not done having children, even though you are, but what if you want to again a few years, even though you don’t, but what if things change, even though they won’t, but are you sure, even though you are already quite certain that this seminal* moment in a man’s life is already scheduled dammit.

Step Three: Discover That Everybody You Know Has Had One Done
All those jokes will suddenly reveal that everybody you know has already had a vasectomy. For example, my impending vasectomy came up on this website’s internal mailing list and we suddenly learned that many, many Ordinary Timepieces have had their deferens trimmed. Real life friends copped to the procedure too. Apparently, this is something that men don’t often speak of except to welcome new brothers to the fraternity.

Our gender is weird.

Step Four: Shave Yourself Bald
“When you come to see us, you’ll need to have shaved your scrotum from the penis downward,” you’ll be told, something you’ve never done before because you’re not a psychopath. This lack of experience will prove complicating though, as your first razor will be too dull, and your attempt to use a beard trimmer to clear the forest from the brush will also go badly, and your second razor will be quite new but you’ll be terrified because seriously? People voluntarily do this? Like, they willingly and routinely do this to themselves? Why? What is wrong with you humanity? Surgery is a great excuse, and a bit of maintenance is perfectly appropriate, but when you mow your lawn, you don’t burn it down to the scorched earth, do you? Perhaps the same should generally hold true for your nether regions.

And also, you’ll look absolutely ridiculous, what with your stupid hairless patch. And the aftershave just burns.

Step Five: Go To The Hospital, Get A Vasectomy
On the big** day, wear something comfortable, and take your tightest underwear to the hospital with you. You’ll be ushered into a room where a nurse and two doctors, the one you were recommended to see and yet another student of his, will ask you to undress and cover yourself in iodine in front of them. This is so they have something to laugh about after the procedure is over, because by this point, what is about to happen will have dawned on you and you’ll be very nervous. Like, hand-shakingly nervous. Like, “Hey, I got most of this, but then I dropped the iodine sponge thing.” Like, “Just lie down, we’ll do the rest.”

You’ll lay down on the bed, in your shirt and no pants, looking ridiculous, and the second search for the vas deferens will begin, and this is hurting now, and here come the numbing shots, and now you’re sweating quite a bit and things are kind of hazy and would you like a cold washcloth for your head and yes I would and I’ll just sit here and think of my favorite place in the world, which oddly isn’t anywhere this bed or this room or this hospital or these people or any of this. You’ll hear some conversation but it won’t make any sense to you, because you’ll be very interested in all off this being over.

They will have done one side and then the other and then they’re be done. It’s over practically before it started. There may be more details here that might be of interest to you, but I don’t have them, because again, I was doing everything mentally possible to be somewhere else. The entire procedure itself takes about forty-five minutes. You’ll also hear, “Well, that was quite a bit of blood,” which is a concerning thing to hear, but you’ll be told not to worry about it and you won’t worry about it until later.

After the procedure, they’ll say something about a clamp letting go, and they’ll talk to you about when you can get your semen checked for sterility. “Six weeks and twenty emissions from now. And not one or the other either. Both.” You’ll think about making, “I can do that in a weekend!” joke but you’re 33 now and the time for those jokes has passed, mostly because they probably weren’t that funny to begin with but also because that number is no longer achievable in a weekend. Even a long one. You also might get a warning that goes something like this – “You might feel something that feels like a third testicle in there. Give us a shout if you feel that.”

You’ll nod a lot because you want to leave. Then you’ll get dressed, walk outside very slowly, and wait for your ride.

Step Six: Recover
Have you ever wondered what its like to put frozen vegetables on and around your penis? I’ve got good news for you; your wondering is over. You’ll be doing icing yourself a lot. Like, once an hour for at least 24 hours, except when you’re sleeping on your back and not moving at all because moving hurts. All nerves lead to Rome, as they say, except Rome in this case means your now severed vas deferens-s-s-s. How do you plural deferenss? I checked with Strunk and White and got nothing.

Lifting? No. Moving quickly? No. Mobility? No. Decency? No. Decency especially goes out the window quickly, because if you already have the children that necessitated the vasectomy in the first place, they’ll be seeing Daddy shove frozen vegetables down his pants, surely the sort of thing that later leads to many, many hours on a counselor’s couch.

After a few days, all that’s left is remembering that you had a vasectomy a few days earlier, something your body will happily remind you at most opportunities, like going up and down stairs, trying to pee standing up, walking briskly, or turning to face the water in the shower and learning that one jet is aimed lower than you remembered. Very funny life! That’s a very funny prank you’ve just pulled on me!

Step Seven: It’s Worth It
“Worth” here is a relative term, as my health insurance did everything but send a limousine to my house. Even the co-pay was waived. I know why this is of course – it’s much cheaper to pay for a vasectomy than for another delivery – but the bottle of champagne and the thank you card from the CEO was still a bit much.

After 10 days, your soreness generally will have gone away entirely. You’ll be focused on counting backwards from 20-to-0, to marking Xs on a calendar, and to your more sterilized future.

After recovering from this last debilitating delivery, my wife could opt to have her uterus removed. That’d be another six weeks of recovery on top of what she’s already gone through, which includes this last delivery, as well as earlier pregnancies. Or, you can be uncomfortable for the weekend and maybe for a few days after that. It ends up seeming like a small*** price to pay. I’ll say this as gently as possible: when a couple retires, men owe women this. It isn’t even a debatable thing. Getting a vasectomy is literally the least we can do. It is the smallest**** of imaginable gestures and in every way worth the brief discomfort.

Step Eight: About That Third Ball
Earlier, I mentioned bleeding, clamps, and a third ball. These things were mentioned to me immediately after the vasectomy.

When I showed up to my check-up, the doctor warned me about this again, slightly more assertively.

When I showed up for a “Hey, I thought I was supposed to be feeling better?” checkup again two weeks later, the doctor half-heartedly acknowledged that there had been a complication that occasionally occurs in these procedures, and by occasionally, I mean very, very, very occasionally.

Above, I made vasectomies out to be no big deal. They aren’t. But I say that as someone who did develop one of the procedure’s complications: a gentlemen’s region hematoma. This has not been as much fun as you might imagine, especially the “third ball” part. The medical professionals assure me that what happened in my case is quite uncommon. There’s only a 1-in-100 chance of a hematoma after a vasectomy. Of those, the overwhelming majority are pea-sized. In other words, I managed to hit two medical homeruns. Yay me! Fortunately, the cure for a hematoma is very manly indeed: tough it out. Or, in my doctor’s words, “Wait a few months. You’ll probably feel better then.” These things apparently fix themselves except in all but the most nightmarish cases.

If this conclusion concerns you, don’t do that. Let this calm your nerves instead: the chances are that you won’t know 100 people who get vasectomies, so I’ve taken the painful, post-surgery complications for the both of us. And 98 of our closest friends.

*I am not a proud man.
**Or, yknow, the medium, average, totally normal, it’s fine, seriously, let’s talk about something else day.
****No, seriously, it’s fine.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.rubylane.com/)

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24 thoughts on “How To: Get A Vasectomy

  1. full disclosure follows:

    Date: September 22, 1977 – had mine and have never had a single regret. (YMMV depending on how you feel about continuing your genetic heritage.)

    Complications: None. Ever. Except that I was a surgical orderly for a few years and had assisted my doctor on quite a few of these and so, despite there being no discomfort or any pain, I knew precisely what he was doing at any given moment. Which I wasn’t wild about.

    Most interesting fact: The surgeon that did mine, did his own. Yes, you read that right.

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  2. Many condolences that your initiation into Ordo ex Ovis Abscisa was not smooth.

    For me, the sensation of post-operative swelling was the enduring memory. They felt like they were the size of cantaloupes, for days. The swelling wasn’t nearly that bad, of course; it only felt that way. I was walking slow for quite some time.

    That, and nearly fainting when the doctor waved his hands about while speaking with my wife, permitting me a view of my recently-severed and strangely-gray vas deferens and my blood still on it. Felt ashamed at that: ridiculous, perhaps.

    Actually, the mind and the heart conspire to gloss over the worst of it. As I sit here now, what I remember most intensely is my wife sitting next to me and holding my hand during the procedure.

    So yeah, I recommend getting one, if you’re ready to become Darwin’s very happy cat.

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  3. Congrats!
    I also don’t see what anyone could complain about. At three kids you’ve already fulfilled even the social conservatives general parameters for your obligation to society.

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  4. Welcome to the club (unlike Burt, I’m not a lawyer, so I’ve got no Latin).

    For me it went very smoothly, except for one error of my own. So please allow me to add this bit of advice. Do not skip the frozen peas down your pants the first 24 hours, even if there’s no initial swelling or pain. You. Will. Regret. It. (Trust me, I’m an expert.)

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  5. huzzah! mine was fine. as an RN i’ve worked with the urologist who did mine. we shot the breeze the whole time as if we were having coffee. glad to hear you took the steps necessary. too many men won’t, thus ‘forcing’ their wives/partners into the more invasive, higher risk procedure.
    high five.

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  6. Welcome to the club. Mine was done at the Kaiser clinic, not even a hospital trip. No complications. No particular discomfort, although the bruising looked like they ought to hurt a lot. My wife said that the weirdest thing for her was knowing that a female doctor and female nurse were going to be messing about down there.

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  7. I have a somewhat related story about the you-must-want-to-make-children attitude of some medical professionals, and maybe about health care costs in general.

    I had testicular cancer three years ago. I go in, get left testicle removed, OK. When I go in for first checkup a month or so later, the oncologist and her assistant say to me, “would you like to get sperm frozen, in case something happens to the other testicle? It’s covered by insurance”.

    I said “no thanks, I’m good”.

    Well, you should have seen the look on their face. They were aghast. They asked again, noting insurance covered it, I said no.

    They then grabbed bullhorns out of the desk and blasted me, “HELLO!!!! IT’S COVERED BY INSURANCE. YOU CAN GET THIS DONE AND INSURANCE PAYS. INSURANCE PAYS. ALSO, INSURANCE”.

    OK, I made up the bullhorn part, but still, I suspect I was the first person to ever refuse this insurance-covered sperm storage. Maybe it’s even more general – maybe I was the first person to turn down *any* insured procedure.

    And now, three years after that, what am I doing? Considering a vacectomy.

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  8. Congratulations on all counts!

    I was in my urologist’s office two weeks after we learned that we were pregnant with #2. He was an older doctor and he knew what he was doing. I experienced no pain before or after (aside from a bit of pressure during in which I was convinced that he was attempting to just pull both vas defrens s s s out of my body, and a brief moment on day 2 when I felt good enough to pick something heavier than a coffee cup up. Oops!).

    Also re: Step 5: My urologist prescribed me Valium (just two) to be taken the morning of the procedure. I was so relaxed I probably couldn’t have spelled “anxiety.”

    My only complaint about the whole ordeal? I was required to get my wife’s signature on a “consent” form which explained what I was doing and ensuring that she knew it. Something something reproductive rights something something.

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