Warning: I am going to talk about male genitalia in this post. I will not be using cute words and will even being sharing a link to a video of a real operation on real testicles. If any of these things make you uncomfortable, this may not be the post for you.
As anyone reading this blog knows, we have four children and our fourth, Isabel, was not planned. Isabel’s birth was not an easy one (you can read about it here), and it’s likely Crystal’s body would not respond well to another pregnancy. Because of this we would have to do away with the idea of having another homebirth and likely have to go with a c-section. Since we already thought we were done having children before we had Bits, and because of the health risks it could pose to Crystal if she were to get pregnant again, we decided to take a permanant step towards making sure that doesn’t happen.
There are a lot of options when it comes to semi-permanent contraception. Most of them are left to the women in the relationship to take care of. These all typically work by changing hormones in the body which can lead to a whole host of side effects both physical and emotional. Women also have a surgical option with tubal ligation. Similar to a vasectomy, a tubal ligation can be a relatively quick operation, and have a quick recovery time (1-2 weeks). Tubal ligation can also come with some scary side effects like the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy if the operation fails, which can be life threatening.
While the risk of complications from tubal ligation is fairly low, when it came time to make a choice about birth control, we chose vasectomy. As a man I don’t have to deal with any of the pain of pregnancy or child birth. We’ve had four children, thats a lot of pain and discomfort. It’s only fair that when either one of us could get an operation to prevent future pregnancy, it would be me. The risks of vasectomy are lower, the side effects and complications are rarer, and really how could I justify putting Crystal through anything more at this point?
While I think it makes sense to get a vasectomy, it could be more expensive for you. Because of the current state of healthcare, sterilization operations are typically better covered for women. This means it could cost you some money out of pocket if it’s not fully covered under your insurance.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started researching vasectomy. After some reading I found most articles focused on a few common themes:
Vasectomy is the most painful and emasculating procedure a man could go through.
It’s not a big deal, you are back to normal in a few days.
I had seven days of recovery and I am going to whine about it like I was near death.
The first type of article tended to appear on sites dedicated to “Men’s Issues”, like which Rolex is best for you next dinner party, or tips on the perfect one-night stand. The second article tended to show up on medical sites, and the third was mostly found on sites dealing with men’s health, and were just frustrating to read.
In reality the experience was great. I’m not going to say I would go get it done for fun, but compared to what I originally thought it might be like, getting a vasectomy wasn’t a big deal.
I had Crystal drive me to my appointment, I was still a little unsure of how I would feel after the operation. From the time she dropped me off at the door, to the time she picked me up outside was about 40 minutes. Crystal had just enough time to go get some gas, grab some coffee, and drive back. The procedure itself was exactly what I expected thanks to the great video of an actual patient procedure on my doctor’s (Dr. Monteith) website.
Before he started I was given a local antesthetic from a special device that uses pressurized air to force the antesthetic into the skin. This was the most painful part of the procedure, and it was barely enough to make me flinch. After that I was completely numb and did not feel the rest of the procedure.
If you have any questions about the procedure I highly recommend checking out Dr. Monteith’s video series. He goes through the whole process including after care
Recovery was the part of the procedure I was most worried about. The weekend is really the only time Crystal can get any relief from the weekly circus, and I didn’t want to be stuck in bed or on the couch while Crystal wrangled the children. The weekend is typically packed with things like grocery shopping and cleaning, and it’s hard enough to get those things done when we are both in good health.
For anyone thinking about getting a vasectomy I can say that, in my case, a lot of the stories I had read were over exhagerated. Immediately after the procedure was complete, I can only describe the feeling I had as “moderate pressure”. It felt like something was squeezing my testicles. Not to the point of being painful though, it kind of rode the line between discomfort and pain. This prompted me to walk, as Crystal said, “like a cowboy”. Sleeping was a little difficult that night, but that was more because I was afraid of tearing open my incision.
The day after the procedure was the most painful, and the pain spread up into my lower abdomen. It was only a slight pain, and more of a tightness. If I sat down for too long and got up I felt like I had to stretch. Ibuprofen was enough to keep things at bay though.
So far the worst part about recovery was the itching. I hadn’t really thought about it before I started researching, but prior to going in, you have to shave your scrotum. This is to make it easier to perform the operation and also make sure nothing gets in the incision afterward. If you aren’t used to doing this it can be pretty awkward and uncomfortable. A key to staying comfortable is to keep your testicles as stationary as possible. This is why they recommend tight fitting briefs for the first few days after the procedure. I must have changed the type of underwear I was using about four times the first day, just trying to find something comfortable. In the end tighty-whities were a solid winner.
Over the next several days bruising really started to show, almost to a worrying amount. More than half of my scrotum was bruised, but after some reading online it seemed the amount of bruising I saw was normal. By the end of the fourth day the bruising had subsided and the itching died down; I could barely even tell I had anything done. We went grocery shopping a week after the procedure. I thought I felt fine until I pushed a full shopping cart (with Bits riding along) up a small hill. I definitely felt a dull pain after that. It wasn’t bad, but it was there to remind not to overdo it. It faded away quickly and I was back to feeling mostly normal.
It is now three weeks after the procedure and I feel completely fine.
Everyone is going to have a slightly different experience, but I think in general I can give you a few tips if you plan on getting a vasectomy:
Make sure you can take it easy the day of the operation and the day after, no heavy lifting
Stairs can be a little awkward, so if you can do anything to avoid them on the first two days I would
Wear the tight underwear! Keep your testicles as stationary as possible
You are going to have to shave your scrotum. If this isn’t something you normally do, do it a few weeks in advance to get used to. The last thing you want is to cut yourself a few days before you have your operation
Feeding a big family is no joke. Do you know that kids want you to feed them every single day? At least three times a day! No one told me this when we had our first. I mean, I guess I knew they’d need to eat, but it is constant. In our family, we eat at home a majority of the time. We have food allergies, so grabbing a quick meal out isn’t something that we can just do easily. It takes research, planning, and there’s always a fear of the unknown since it didn’t come from my kitchen. So we cook and pack lunches 98% of the time.
As our family has gotten bigger it amazes me how much food we consume. My kids aren’t those kids that just eat a tiny amount of food at meal times. Zoe eats more that Mark and I do, Oliver isn’t far behind, and Isabel can pack the food some days as well. Want to make breakfast? That’s 14 eggs and the big two always ask for more. Were making 5 chicken breasts for a meal, 8 chicken thighs, a whole package of hot dogs (don’t judge, so gross, but so delicious.) A standard sized bag of frozen veggies are not enough to feed all of us anymore. Just today, we bought a bag of fresh asparagus at Costco, I was thinking that I could split it in half, which I did, but it didn’t look like enough so I used more and I have an awkward amount left to use, because its not enough for a meal. AND Zoe asked for more. The kids go through about 3 loaves of bread a week (Mark and I are Gluten Free) and they’re giant loaves from our bread machine. The fruit….. we go through so much fruit. We buy a boatload on Saturday and some weeks by Wednesday or Thursday we’re out. I think you can get a general idea of the sheer volume they eat.
We live in a rental here in Raleigh, so I don’t have any control over things like refrigerator size and pantry space. Let me tell you, there are time when we get back from the grocery store and I’m seriously worried its just not going to fit. We bought a chest freezer before Isabel was born in case we had to store breast milk and I didn’t thing we’d ever fill it. One trip to Costco and we have that sucker packed. It took me years to find a fruit basket big enough and even then its overflowing onto the counter. The pantry is a disaster, it starts out organized, then we go shopping and we just start shoving stuff in and hoping for the best. It kills me a little inside to live like that.
Speaking going to the grocery store, something that we have been doing for the last two years or so is going to the grocery store as a family. It is absolutely mass chaos. I am pretty sure that when people see us, they start thinking about permanent forms of birth control, things like celibacy. I don’t care how well behaved your kids are, there is something about being in a grocery store that makes them lose their damn minds. Some weeks, I’m not entirely sure why we do it.
So we don’t lose anyone in the the store, Isabel is worn in a toddler carrier, usually on Marks back. Eli rides on the cart, which he cries and protests about every.single.time. It never changes, I am not sure why we have to go through it every Saturday. I spend the entire trip telling the big two to watch where they’re walking, move to one side, stop yelling out random items they think we need, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP PUTTING YOUR HANDS ON YOUR FACE! DO YOU WANT THE FLU?? Also, telling them to stop fighting and that we aren’t going to the bathroom. It’s pretty awesome.
By the time we get to checkout our cart is overflowing and at least one parent (we take turns, its why we work so well together) and 2-3 kids are losing their minds. Isabel particularly hates this part, sometimes we can trick her into holding it together for 10 more minutes by putting her in the seat of the second cart we inevitably need. We have a knack for always picking the slowest cashier who doesn’t know the code for a green pepper and doesn’t have the damn cheat sheet. When they get to ringing up my wine and Mark’s beer they always give a knowing nod. Its like they’re saying “You’ve earned this, you need this to be better parents.” at least that’s what they’re saying in my head.
Eventually, we get out to the car and the kids take longer to buckle than it takes us to load the groceries. We get home and they run under foot, whining about how hungry they are while we try to get it all put away. Usually Mark unpacks while I take care of anything that needs prepping. Pre-cutting produce, taking things out of the package etc. Somehow every week Mark does some sort of freezer magic to get it all to fit.
Then we have 6-7 days before we do it all over again, because by Friday we will have nothing to eat.