Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mack The Knife


Some of the stuff in this post is a little personal, maybe a touch graphic, and probably considered, in 'tween lingo, "TMI".  If you don't feel like we have that sort of relationship, or you don't feel comfortable with that, then please stop reading now.  By no means will I be offended.  I debated on whether or not I should post something about this, and in the end I decided I would.  But not because I wanted everyone to know exactly what the experience was like, rather to examine the larger picture of how this particular thing fits into our lives socially and culturally.  And because there is a some humor in it as well.  While I recognize that by putting this out there, it will be "out there" and be forever existing in the abyss that is the world wide web.  And someday, my kids may stumble upon it and say, "Dad, what the @%$#!?  TMI!"  Or whatever the kids are saying at that time.  Over the years I've somewhat perfected the art of self-embarrassment, so this will just be channeling that expertise.  I figure if you're going to laugh at someone and aren't very good at laughing at yourself, you might as well laugh at me.

Don't say you weren't warned.

With Guthrie's arrival two months ago, we now have three kids under five years old.  We are finished having kids.  All of our upstairs bedrooms are now occupied.  We have one extra seat in the van, but we'd like to leave it vacant just in case we pick up any hitchhikers.  After Havi had her first birthday, we briefly started having conversations about a third.  I told my wife that while I didn't think we had things under control with two kids, it was at least manageable.  I felt no need to have a boy to pass along the family name, and I was perfectly fine with two.  Jess said she didn't feel like she was done, but wasn't ready quite yet.  Maybe when Isla was in kindergarten.  She was actually looking forward to 2014 being a year where she wasn't pregnant or breastfeeding.

Well, 2014 obviously had other plans for us, and shortly after we found out baby number three was on the way, we mutually decided that was going to be it for us.  Even though Gus was born on Christmas Day, he was not created by immaculate conception.  If you've been through middle school health class or watched "Teen Mom", you're likely familiar with the biological process for creating a child.  I'm not sure when we had the conversation about permanent birth control, or if it was even a "conversation" or my wife informing me that I would be getting a vasectomy, but it must of come up at some point.  Of course we would wait until our little boy joined us to move forward with any permanent measures.

After little Guthrie graced us with his presence and the dust had settled, it was time to revisit the topic.  I had no qualms being the one undergoing the procedure.  Jess was fortunate enough to have three pretty uneventful vaginal births, so for her to undergo a tubal ligation was incredibly unnecessary, especially considering the risk, recovery and effectiveness stats.  We figured eventually we'd want to be sexually intimate again, maybe in like 18 years when the kids left the house, but decided it should probably be done sooner than later, just in case.  Considering we were 1 for 3 with "planning" our offspring, we weren't really interested in playing the odds.  So calls were made and appointments were set-up.

The first time I probably ever heard the term vasectomy was likely from the TV Show "Home Improvement".  Episode 16 of Season 5 to be exact.  The episode aired in 1996, when I was 13, so at the time I'm sure I had no idea what a vasectomy even was, or how to pronounce it.  In the episode, Tim is obviously apprehensive to Jill's suggestion that he get a vasectomy.  He comments to his neighbor Wilson, that despite knowing a lot of guys that get them, he's "just not one of those guys".  You know power tools, cars, "arh, arh, arh" - or however you type that sound he makes.  Wilson, ever the philosopher, empathizes with Tim, pointing out that "in many cultures, men are measured by their ability to pro-create", but also suggesting that there are a number of other ways that make you a man, including your commitment to your spouse/partner.  Ah, Wilson, so wise.  It doesn't seem that Tim is totally sold until his buddy Harry confides in him, only after ensuring no one is in earshot, that he had the procedure done.  Harry's final selling point is telling Tim that a vasectomy is actually better for your sex life - "anytime, anyplace".  Of course sex sells.  Even sterilization apparently.

I think we've come a ways in the last 19 years; advertisements for low cost (and minimally invasive) vasectomies were probably the fifth most frequent billboard we saw along the interstate on our road trip to Florida (adult video stores and strip joints were ahead of it, so maybe we haven't come that far).  After a little internet research, there seems to have been a number of sitcoms that have done a spin-off of the "Home Improvement" Vasectomy Episode - "Two and a Half Men", "Modern Family", "Brooklyn Nine-Nine", "Californication".  The common theme throughout those episodes though, is that there is also a significant amount of humor involving the procedure and a certain amount of convincing that needs to happen before anyone agrees to have it done.  While I didn't need a ton of convincing, there was a fair amount of humor involved during the lead up to and actual procedure itself.  I joked about it with my wife.  I joked about it with the nurse.  I joked about it with the doctor before, during and after the procedure.  Sometimes I use humor as a defense mechanism.  I don't think I'm alone.

While I submit that humor is good, a procedure of this nature is definitely not a joke, especially considering the permanence of its nature.  And I think that can be a big contributor to some of the stigma that still exists around a procedure like a vasectomy, or men's reproductive health in general.  Men are not prone to talking about personal things, especially not something as personal as their reproductive health - unless of course those males are disclosing the volume and attractiveness of the women they've slept with (which is likely a blatant lie).  Instead, Tom Green has to write songs to encourage men to check for testicular cancer.  Maybe The Divinyls did the same for breast cancer in a more subtle way.

Now, I'm not advocating that we need to round up guys and start doing mass vasectomies.  Apparently there is already a World Vasectomy Day in November, on which a British morning talk show actually aired a live procedure this past year (likely in effort to out-gross Katie Couric's colonoscopy back in 2000).  But if you look again at the numbers from the NPR Article, you'll notice that worldwide, sterilization on women is done almost 8 times more often than it is done on men.  In the US, more current research puts it at 2-1 difference (2 female sterilizations for every 1 male sterilization).  That still seems like a significant difference, considering that vasectomies are widely accepted in the medical community as safer, more effective and generally less expensive.  Everybody's circumstances are different, and there are certainly times with female sterilization would make more sense.  But when would you ever buy a more expensive car that didn't work as well and was more likely to get you in a car accident?  Oh, you drive a full-size SUV?  I see.

I'm speculating that a mindset similar to Tim's back in 1996, and the other protagonists on the more current TV shows, is still commonplace with a lot of guys today.  Being against a vasectomy, when it would be beneficial to your relationship with your partner, because you're "not that sort of guy", is caveman mentality.  And don't feel like a "hero" if you get it done.  Do you think your spouse felt like a hero after she delivered your newborn son or daughter?  I actually hope she did, because to carry a baby for nine months and then make it through the delivery, with or without pharmaceutical assistance, is an act of true heroism.  I'm sure she didn't feel like a hero.  She felt exhausted and like a mom.  And that is what mom's do, because they are heroes.  You may be "taking one for the team" by helping ensure she hopefully doesn't have to endure that experience again if she doesn't want to, but it is a small gesture.  You still have to change diapers and get up with the baby at night too.  Post-procedure you will be granted a few days to recover and lay around all day, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Don't let me bully you into though.  I'm not on a mission to sterilize every man on earth - just the ones who may someday show any interest in dating my daughters.  I just hope guys consider it, and talk about it with their partners, and not just crack jokes that you're going to lose your manhood if you get it done.  Your testosterone levels are in no way effected by the procedure, and the FDA just released a study that said too much "T" might be a bad thing.  Given the choice, I'd take living and less testosterone over the opposite.  And don't let your partner bully you into, either.  That's a common survey response (if accurate) by men who regret having the procedure.  But if your partner wants you to consider it, you better have a solid defense for not wanting to have it done - "I'm just not one of those guys" is not going to work.  Have an honest conversation about it.  Yeah, it can be awkward to talk about.  But if you already have kids, odds are 80% of your conversations already revolve around poop, so how awkward can it really be.                      

If push comes to shove, and you really can't bring yourself to do it for your spouse/partner, channel your inner Louis CK, and man up and do it for yourself.   At least it would be for a selfish reason, which shows you have some balls.  Pun intended.

No photos this time.  You're welcome.
I'm sure you can find some on the internet if you are really interested in visuals.  
Or, just watch that live procedure.  I didn't so I can't vouch for its validity.


First, I have to thank my wife, who is a hero (even though I don't treat her like one).  She waited on me hand & foot when I made glaringly apparent that the doctor's orders post procedure were to "Lie flat and only get up to eat and use the bathroom".  She actually made it so that I only had to get up to do one of those two.  I'm assuming you can guess which one.

Second, I have to thank my mom, another hero.  She took our two oldest girls for a couple of days so they didn't want to energetically jump on my lap whilst following doctor's orders.  She also purchased three bags of frozen peas for me, since she heard they were a good thing to use - probably after spending too much time on WebMD.

Thirdly, I have to thank my kids for being so cute.  Because of this, amongst other reasons, we decided to quit before we got an ugly one.  I'm kidding.  Calm down.  

Lastly, I have to say thank you to the doctor who performed the procedure.  I hope he doesn't read this.  A very down-to-earth, good humored guy, which is great to during any procedure, but especially when the only part of you exposed during a procedure is your reproductive anatomy.  I'm thankful that he put up with my many annoying questions and bad jokes, while avoiding saying anything along the lines of "whoops" or "interesting" during the procedure.  I'm also thankful that he warned me in advance that I may see some smoke, but that it is part of the procedure.  Apparently when working with plumbing, human or household, there at times is some soldering involved.  

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