A Failed Vasectomy Changed My Life
I was nervous when I walked through the door of the clinic. I was even more nervous lying on the table in my surgical gown, legs apart as the nurse happily shaved my balls. Maybe they gave me some Valium. I really can’t remember. I doubt it.
But I do remember when the doc brought out the needle filled with local anesthesia. It was the largest I’d ever seen, and it would be inserted not once, but twice into my now clean-shaven, yes — those. “You’re going to feel a little pinch now.” Ouch. Thanks for that. Fuckers.
I didn’t pass out, perhaps because the doc and the nurse talked the entire pre-op phase about their weekend plans and how the local football team was doing. Do they even realize I’m lying here on the table, scared out of my mind? I figured they didn’t take the class on helping patients feel like you care about them.
Out came the snips, knives, surgical saws, and whatever else was needed to cut the vas, the tubes that carry the sperm to the launch pad. The docs continued their banter through all the necessary slicing and dicing. All of a sudden, it was over.
“Just put some ice on it and rest. You might get some swelling for a few days, but don’t worry about it; you’ll be fine.”
The whole thing wasn’t fun at all. What was fun was bringing in a sample a month later to check for live bullets. “Well, Mr. Johnson (HaHa), please be advised that you should not have unprotected sex yet. You’ve still got live sperm in your semen. This is quite normal. Please bring another sample in six weeks.”
Great. So I did. More fun. More samples. Same result. Repeat this for the next nine months.
Let’s back up now.
When the mother of my child became pregnant, I was overwhelmed. We were living hand to mouth. I was working at a bank soon to go bust. The baby was unplanned, and as much as I wanted children, the timing was a few years ahead of my master plan.
Nine months later, my daughter was born. I cut the cord and welcomed her into the world with loving arms, but I still felt overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising a kid. The thought of more was terrifying.
My wife at the time wanted another child. I certainly didn’t. We found some therapists, a husband and wife team, and got to work. After a few joint sessions, we split off. My therapist started to unpack my cluttered psyche.
“How is your relationship with your father?”
“Okay. Let’s start there.”
We talked, he got in my face, and I cried. I punched leather pillows from his couch and screamed at the top of my lungs. I journaled and then wrote letters to my father. We started communicating again, a little bit. Meanwhile, I’m bringing in semen samples, loaded up with live sperm.
After nine months, I brought in one last sample. It tested positive.
The fail rate of vasectomies is .2 %, which means one or two out of 1,000 don’t work. For whatever reason, the vas grows back together. Or, in my case, maybe my very attentive medical team never cut them at all.
After that last positive sample, I realized I’ve been working my ass off with my shrink to make peace with my father and prepare to… have another kid? Hmm. Maybe.
I concluded that my father wasn’t as bad as I thought. He was a charming, patriotic, successful, intelligent man and an aggressive, over-controlling, womanizing, perfectionistic racist. Still, he was my father, doing the best he could with the tools he had, which I came to realize weren’t many. I opened the door to forgiveness and the possibility of reconciliation.
I learned a lot from him and figured I could keep the good stuff — the value of hard work, storytelling, humor, persistence, and problem-solving — and eliminate the bad stuff. I felt a bit more prepared now to be a better parent. And guess what? Given the failed vasectomy, I now wanted to have another kid.
When my son was born nine months later, I was thrilled. All the pieces fell together: the bad feeling about the doc from the beginning; the vasectomy that never worked; the therapy to get my head straight and rid myself of my fatherly rage; the time I needed to want a second child.
I said to myself. Damn. The Universe. If it wants something to happen, it will. If it doesn’t, it won’t. For whatever reason, I was given a chance to be a father to my son—hopefully, a good one.
Call it what you want. Coincidence. Serendipity. Good luck. Bad luck. Destiny. For me, it was a startling reminder while I may want to take control of my life — and my sperm, damn it — guess what?
I don’t call all the shots. The Universe does. And it’s looking out for me, probably more than I’ll never know. I’ve got to do my part, trust the higher power, and fully accept what happens.
Morris West, an Australian novelist, describes the nature of life beautifully in The Shoes of The Fisherman:
It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price…. One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms.
One has to embrace life like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to the total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.
I vowed I would never treat my son like I was. We always stayed on the same side of the fence. I didn’t tell him to cut his hair, how to dress, or what music to listen to. Nor did I encourage him to fight in a war we shouldn’t be in or ridicule his personal choices. However, I’m sure I did some damage somewhere, so if he goes to therapy, he and the shrink will have plenty of work to do.
Shortly after his birth, I got another vasectomy. Different doc. This guy said, “Don’t worry, pal, I’m going to fix you for good.” It worked this time. Thank fuck.