Snipped...10 Years Later Part 1

So ten years ago, I got a vasectomy...sometime around the month of June, I got the all clear from the doctor that I was in fact, all clear of the chance of reproducing.  The TLDR version of this post is: It's a decision that I don't regret and would make again in a heartbeat; if you're considering it, do it.  This first post will discuss some of the usual questions that I've gotten over the decade while the second post will discuss some of the deeper reasons why I chose to not procreate.   This is a 2-series and you can check out part two, here.  

“Did it hurt?”  

A pair of scissors painted on a road
That’s the first question he asks after I tell him that “I’ve been fixed.”  And yes, that’s the language I use.  “Fixed” because for me, it’s felt like the right decision at twenty-seven, and now just over 10 years later, I know it was. 

“Not really.  The procedure was super easy.  The needle was the hardest part--pun intended.”  I explain.  “The next day or so, it just felt like I had received a swift kick in the nuts, but it was pretty manageable.”  A shadow of uncertainty falls over his face.  I lean in a bit closer, making sure only he can hear me.  “Actually, you know what the hardest part of it was?”

Inevitably, he leans forward conspiring to know the reality of it.  He’s heard whispers about it, seen jokes on sitcoms about it, and may have a significant other encouraging him to do it.  “What?”  His eyes hint of worry or learning that this nugget of insight will reveal a horror that he may not be able to comprehend. 

“I had to go ten days without jerking off.”  He blinks, processing what I said.  He’s reassuring himself that I just said what I just said and that this indeed is the worst thing.  The comment breaks the tension enough and I turn a corner of my mouth in a signature smirk and add, “Truth is, I only made it seven days.” 

I’ve played out this conversation scores of times in the last decade and that is basically how it goes.  I got fixed at twenty-seven, it didn't hurt, and abstaining from masturbation for ten days seemed the largest hurdle to overcome.  That sums up my vasectomy.  Of course, if that was all that people worried about, it would end right there, but it doesn't.

The popularity and ease of the procedure can (unfortunately) be attributed to the eugenics movement and their perfection of sterilization; a fun and problematic fact I stumbled upon while reading Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen.  That said, when willingly chosen by individuals, it's a method that has kept unwanted pregnancies from occurring in millions of sexual interactions worldwide.  

 "Twenty-seven?  That's young!"

Another refrain I often hear: How did I know at twenty-seven?  Why not wait a few years?  Like many things, we often challenge those that we deem young about the implications of such decisions.  I get it, but I had not been one for rash decisions in areas of my life that concerned life-long consequences (or at least that's what I tell myself).  Instead, it was something I had thought long about and sat comfortably with. 

By why at that point?  For several years, I was well aware that I did not want to biologically reproduce.  It did not seem like it was the right decision for me.  It wasn't from a loathing of children; I had worked with and volunteered with children for over a decade of my life by the time I was 27 in one compacity or another (working in afterschool daycare, being a Big Brother, working in residential programs, volunteering at a kindergarten).  I had neither the drive nor the wherewithal to do it (not the only reason but probably the most important one).  

So I knew reproducing was not in the cards.  I was also engaged at that point to someone who was of the same view and therefore, saw no reason not to do it.  As such procedures go, they are ridiculously easy in many ways (in terms of getting it OK'd by doctors as well as the surgery itself) for men than for women; less invasive, easy recovery, and no real after effects.  It seemed a no-brainer. Thus, I went for it.   I have been asked a few times since my first marriage didn't work out if I regretted the decision.  Not in the least.  In fact, if you find yourself wondering if it's just this situation with this partner that would produce the desire to snip, it might mean it's not the right decision (either getting fixed or possibly the partner, but that's a bunch of other conversations to be having).   

"You'd be a great dad."

Maybe, maybe not.  If so, then it will happen through adoption at some later point.  The fact is that while I've put a lot of thought into this, the answer always comes up that if I play a parental role, it will not be to my own biological child.  As I've said, I didn't have the drive and for much of my life, I could not picture having the space (physically, mentally, emotionally) needed to support a child; it's been enough to find meaningful ways to care for myself and my partner (which is not to say I solely care for my partner; she amply takes care for herself but rather having the capacity to be a capable support to her).  And in truth, just because one might be great at something does not mean one should do it if one doesn't feel especially inclined to do it.  

"But what if you really want children?"

As I said, there's always adoption.  Some people roll their eyes at this or rephrase it as "children of your own" (which connotes so much in so few words about how they see children).  To which I answer, if somehow in the future, I have an inexplicable desire to recreate my own genes; well, I better be damn sure and will have to go through many hoops to get there.  I have to be truly determined to do so; it can't just be on a whim.  And I'm totally fine with that; I wish it was the way it could be in many ways--that there were ways to self-check.  If half of the pregnancies are unplanned, I wonder how the world might be changed if the on-switch was something more deliberate.  

"How did it affect your manhood?"

Men are often less comfortable asking this one and more interested in the following question.  But for this one, I would say not in the least.  Of course, my manhood is already its own strange mix, so this couldn't really do much to more to stir up the pot.  Once I healed, there was no perceptible difference for me in how I acted or how manly I felt. 

"How did it affect your sexual activity?"

For me, it made heterosexual engagement more enjoyable to know I was entirely shooting blanks.  There was an empowering piece to this in knowing that once cleared by the doctor (about 3 months after the procedure) and barring somehow regeneration (super extremely rare), I was shooting blanks and that accidental pregnancy was something that I or my partner would never had to worry about.  Obviously, I'd take appropriate and sexually healthy choices around protection and while STIs can be serious, they are the known risks between two adults consenting to sex.  What was now never in play was making another person (the child) pay for the failure of contraception or the woman whose life is inexorably made more complicated and put at much bigger risk through pregnancy.  

But who will take care of you when you're old?

This last-ditch effort to justify why I should have children is cringe-worthy and frustrating.  While I'm making a huge assumption about my ability to continue to be mentally and physically healthy member of society for years to come, I think it's more problematic to assume that a means of self-care when I am in need is by literally breeding my help and expecting them to do it.  I don't know what I will do should I become incapacitated; I work to save some resources for just such an instance.  But reproducing as a method to address that doesn't seem like a good reason to bring a child into the world.  

"What was the process?"

Overall, super easy. As I said at the time, I had a fiance and so when we booked the appointment, she came along when I booked an appointment with a urologist as some strip-mall.  We met with the doctor for a consultation.  I explained I wanted a vasectomy.  He might have asked once if I was sure, but I don't recall.  There was no significant hesitation or questioning on his end.  We covered what the procedure would look like in terms of process and recovy.  We made the appointment.  A few weeks later, we drove to the same place.  I was escorted into the room where they did the procedure and changed up.  I got on the table and waited for the doctor.  He came in, re-explained the procedure.  He anesthetized the area with something (I forget what) and then went to work.  That needle was the most painful part of the process; of course, more psychologically painful than actually painful.  Once the area was numb, I didn't feel any intense pain; minor discomfort and some moving about. The whole thing took no more than 15 minutes.  They took out two little tubes and stitched it back up.  

I was out pretty quickly and went home for the day.  I felt a little raw for the rest of the day but nothing extraordinary.  I took some Tylenol for the discomfort.  The next day, I had to walk lightly but I wasn't incapacitated from work.  About three days after the procedure, I actually gotten on a plane to Puerto Rico for a week-long visit.  When I came back at some point, I revisited the doctor to remove the stitches and submit a sample.  I submitted a sample three months later to the get the OK that I was entirely clear.  

What's been the funniest part of it all? 

Ok, no one has asked me this question but I think this is a telling anecdote.  Three or so years after, I went to a chiropractor.  They asked about a kind of procedures or surgeries that I've had and then did an X-Ray of my full spine.  When looking at the X-Ray, we both noticed two small slivers in the groin area.  And it took me a few minutes to realize that it was the staples from the vasectomy.  It was a funny moment in that I had all but forgotten the process and couldn't for the life of me figure out what was there.  

Final Thoughts

Hands down, if you're in a committed relationship long term, if you're done with, or if you're not having children, get it done and I encourage the male to do it.  It's much less invasive, much less dangerous, much cheaper, much easier to recover.  It will be a   

For me, it was a pretty simple and clear thought.  Did I have any business being sexually active and potentially impregnating a woman (after all, all contraception is has some failure rate, no matter how small), if I had no intention of having children?  I realized that I needed to be responsible for my sexual activity.  If I didn't want children, then I had no business engaging in sexual activity unless I was certain no child would come of it; it would be unfair to myself, my partner, and whatever potential child.  

Checking soon for Part 2 where I talk a bit more about the philosophical reasons why I did it.

For those that are not having kids, what kinds of questions/challenges do you get? How do you deal with them?  

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