scissors, colourful, vasectomy, snip, cut

The Mid Man: To snip or not to snip

Last year I started to think about having a vasectomy. I’m in my mid 40s. I have a wife and two children, with no plans to have any more of either. A simple decision you would think. Here is how my wife and I negotiated that discussion:

  1. “Oh fucking SHIT.” My wife is unhappy. “I’ve just checked my dates, I’m on day 11. FUCKING shit. Why is always the woman who has to deal with all this bloody stuff…” 
If your partner is on the pill/the coil/insists you wear a condom/wants to have nothing to do with your manky penis, then this outburst possibly won’t mean much to you. But to anyone whose partner, like mine, is a loyal follower of the rhythm method of contraception – estimating when she is ovulating – then a naked, post-coital row over an iPhone calendar in the dark of your bedroom is probably a regular fixture.
 “All right, ALL RIGHT,” I say, gallantly. “I’ll get a bloody vasectomy, Jesus, sodding CALM DOWN!” In these situations it really pays to be sensitive about your partner’s needs.
  2. My wife is not pregnant, which is good news. But I consult widely with male friends whose opinion and judgement I trust about a vasectomy. The result is a frank, robust and strikingly ill-informed shoutfest which leaves me bewildered and a bit scared.
  3. I Google ‘vasectomy’. It all looks quite simple. A choice between two types of operation, each pretty straightforward, each usually under local anaesthetic. It then takes ’20-30 ejaculations to clear the tubes of sperm’. I didn’t realise that the NHS prescribed courses of intense and regular masturbation.
  4. I Google ‘vasectomy problems’. Haematoma (a blood clot in the scrotum). Sperm granulomas (in short, testicle lumps). Long-term testicle pain which, according to the NHS website, affects one in ten men. I uncross my legs and cast my eyes wistfully towards my love noggins.
  5. I need to talk to my GP. Decisively, I set an alarm on my phone: ‘Make vasectomy appointment!!!’ After three weeks of my phone going off daily at 11:45, my colleagues/friends/family who often end up turning the alarm off conclude a) that some part of me really wants to make a vasectomy appointment and b) another part evidently doesn’t want to make a vasectomy appointment. I return to the FAQs of the NHS website, particularly: “Could being sterile affect me emotionally?”
  6. I try to imagine being affected emotionally by the prospect of not being able to add to the two children I have. The emotions I imagine are ‘joy’ and… actually, it’s mainly ‘joy’.
  7. Entry no. 1 above is repeated, with slightly different swearing.
  8. I make the appointment with my GP. I am a modern man. I’m relieving my partner of the burden of contraceptive responsibility. I’m about to relieved of my biological destiny.
  9. That night, my wife returns home from a night out with friends and wakes me getting into bed. I mumble that I’ve made the appointment. There’s a pause. “I’m not sure about the vasectomy,” she announces. “I just feel weird about having a husband who makes himself sterile. We won’t be able to have more children.” Eh? But we don’t want any more children. Each time we spent any time with families of three kids or more, I recall quite a lot of smug relief on our part. Even some unacceptable air-punching. So we start a conversation in which it turns out my wife wants me possibly to be kept on fertility standby until she (in her early 40s) makes a decision about child no. 3. I’m bewildered and a bit scared. I was made redundant last year, and my wife is now the breadwinner. Am I just a sperm donor who can, handily, get through three loads of laundry and two school runs a day? My wife is confused.
  10. We agree to discuss this when she’s not half drunk and I’m not half asleep. Watch this space…
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