Every vasectomy begins with a conversation. My husband and I knew we were done having kids, one and done was always what we wanted, and after our first child that thought never wavered. Our family felt complete. However; how we were going to move forward hadn’t yet been discussed. When I broached the subject of a vasectomy, I did so cautiously. I was concerned he’d act like I was sending his member to the guillotine. Luckily for me, it was met with “I agree, and I’m happy to book it” and I let out a sigh of relief, the hard part was over, for me at least. Now the ball was in his court, so to speak.
Off he went to his consultation where they discussed the procedure, how it would be done and what to expect. The doctor jokingly asked, "Does your wife know you’re here?" and before my husband could answer, he’d moved on.
Nothing came as a surprise. The instructions were basically, trim your nuts the night before, wear tighty whities, and he was given a prescription for a Valium to take before the procedure. It all seemed very simple and straight forward (There was possibly more discussed in his meeting, but communication isn’t my husbands’ strong suit so I got the broken-telephone version).
If you're wondering what questions to ask the doctor during your vasectomy consultation, click here for a list of the most common questions.
I did some research to see what could go wrong, and let me tell you, it's not a lot. So let’s talk about all that is right with having this quick and easy procedure:
- It’s 99.9% effective, with no chance of human error (unlike the birth control pill)
- It does not effect your sex drive, hormones, erection or ability to ejaculate
- It’s permanent, so you will never need to consider birth control again
- It’s free in Canada, and inexpensive in the U.S.
The day of the procedure was just as simple. We went to the outpatient clinic and he signed in. I gave him a kiss and away he went. It was over in the time it took me to purchase a coffee and do a 2 minute google search of “Can you die from a vasectomy?” (No reported cases. Ever.) I hadn’t even had a sip of my coffee by the time I got a text message from him saying, “Where are you? I’m done.”
The whole thing was 20 minutes, beginning to end.
On the drive home I got the full valium-induced description. “The doctor pulled on my goolies a bit. He pinched them, and that was the worst part. There was some tugging, but it went fast.” His highly scientific description can be translated into: The doctor feels around for the vas (the tube), injects anesthetic into the scrotum, makes a small slit, splits the tube, seals the ends back up and off you go. There is also this method.
I’ve since spoken to several dads who've received a vasectomy and overall, it seems to be described as uneventful. In many ways, it seems no more invasive than an annual pap smear. Some dads I’ve spoken with described it “It wasn't very painful at all. The surgery was more uncomfortable than painful” and “It just feels like someone that didn't like you kicked you in the walnuts”
As my husband’s recovery process began, I too started to process what had just happened. I wanted to make comparisons; to compare his pain to childbirth but I bit my tongue. Everyone’s pain is relative I told myself. It’s like comparing a papaya to a meatball. The comparison between giving birth and a vasectomy is obviously one that I’d win, it’s a big difference… a vas deferens if you will. Besides, he wasn’t being much of a baby. So, my prepared 'watermelon through a fig' speech wasn’t needed after all. I'm happy he didn’t whine about it, because after going through many invasive procedures for our family, his complaining would have left a bitter taste in my mouth (and while we're on the topic, here's an often disputed fact for all the men out there: having a vasectomy does not change the taste, colour or consistency of your semen).
When chatting with his guy friends, they said things like “good for you!” as though he had just performed an altruistic act. He was being perceived as a hero for taking reproductive responsibility for our family. I’m happy he did this, too, but I held this responsibility for many years, and never once did I get praised for being on the pill. Find me a woman who hasn’t at some point struggled with birth control, it ain’t easy!
Other friends (who have not had vasectomies) sarcastically said that he’d diminished his manhood. Although they were joking, I wondered if they actually believed that? So, I investigated the rates of men having vasectomies. In the US, the rate is low, it hovers at around 10%, and around 20% for female sterilization. This is baffling me because from what I’ve seen, it was simple, he took it like a champ and now we never have to worry about accidental babies. It was win-win for our family.
There appear to be many reasons men aren’t opting for vasectomies, but if it really is less about the surgery and more about their manhood, then we really need to take a good look at what’s considered masculine. For me, watching my husband hold frozen peas over his tighty whities and knowing I never have to take the pill again WAS very masculine and sexy. No, it does not make him a hero, but it does make him responsible and mature, and isn’t that where we should hold masculinity?