I was sprawled out on a surgical table with no pants. In the room were two nurses and one short, chipper doctor. One nurse was blond, in her late 40s, the other was Hispanic and in her mid-30s.
This was the most people I can recall ever staring at my genitals.
I couldn’t feel pain, only pressure. I felt a pinch when the doctor gave me a couple shots, and a little burning as he injected something into me. Before the surgery, I was given a Valium.
I asked to be sedated, instead they gave me a Valium. The doctor also asked if I wanted to watch, and I asked again if I could be sedated.
“We don’t do that,” he said.
Then he asked me about my kids, and although this seemed like a perfectly reasonable question, considering I was there to get a vasectomy, there was something ironic about it. Is that the word I want? Irony. Maybe not. Perhaps it is finality.
The surgery was supposed to be performed by Doctor Hatchet. I met with her before, and although she seemed pleasant enough, her name was terrifying. Instead, I ended up with Doctor Fishburn, who was in his late 50s. He was short, with graying black hair.
He wore glasses, a red sweater vest, and a white shirt and tie. He smiled most of the time, and at first I couldn’t tell if he was just trying to keep things cool and casual, or it was just his disposition.
“I have three kids,” I said.
I felt some pressure. I felt something being cut.
“Oh… that’s wonderful,” he said. Then he told me about being in the military. About how when he got his vasectomy. “I tried to run the next day. I ended up with pain in my testicles for the next 25 years. I try to tell everyone this story so they will take it easy. Healing is really important.”
I’d heard this from a few people. I’d heard a mix of stories about getting a vasectomy. I’d heard people tell me about being shaved by a large black man with calloused hands and a far from tender touch. I’d heard stories of people who had to have the vasectomy done twice because it didn’t work the first time.
One friend told me about how he couldn’t take a bump on his bike for a few years because he’d be hit with a biting pain. It seemed like most men had a vasectomy story, and if they didn’t, it was because they’d refused to get one. Then they would tell me one of their friend’s horror stories about getting a vasectomy. I think this is part of the reason many men refuse to get a vasectomy.
In the moment, as the doctor worked on my body, we chatted about our kids. We shared a few stories. It was, for the most part, comfortable.
Well… at least as comfortable as I could be with without pants and on Valium. When I say it that way, it sounds very comfortable. But the fact is, it was more the thought of what was going on that made me feel uncomfortable.
We told a few jokes, the doctor and I. I told him about my blog. I told him that I’d appreciate it if he told everyone that I was so full of testosterone that I couldn’t be sterilized. I think that was the Valium talking.
And once it was all said and done, and I had my pants back on, and everyone was gone but the older nurse, who was reading a list of things I should know about aftercare, I suddenly felt really nauseous. I felt hot and tired and I had to lie down with a wet cool towel on my head.
The nurse kept telling me that this was normal. “Lots of men have this problem,” and it almost felt like she was trying to confirm that I was, in fact, still a man, and I got the impression that she’d been helping with vasectomies for a number of years.
“Do you have children?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “But they are much older than yours. My youngest is 15.”
She gave me a soft, maternal smile, and said, “My husband went through this, too. He survived. I’m sure you will, too.
“None of that really matters,” I said. “I know I will survive. My wife birthed the kids. I saw it all. It was horrible. The least I can do is have them mess with my stuff for a bit.”
I thought about that a lot as the doctor was working on me. I thought about watching three children being cut from my wife. I thought about the large incision below her navel. I thought about the air that got into her body after her last cesarean and caused her to feel tremendous pressure in her chest and shoulders. How she cried most of the night.
I tried to think about that rather than the horror stories. I tried to think about that rather than the pressure. Or nausea. Or the fact that although I was still a man, I was a man without seed.
The nurse smiled at me and nodded. Then I started gagging. I had to lean onto my side, but I didn’t throw up.
The nurse rubbed my back. I was sweating.
Then I lay back down, and she told me my wife was picking up my prescription and I needed to stay down until she arrived.
“You seem like a good guy,” she said.
“Thanks,” I said. “I needed to hear that right now.”
When he’s not saying insane things to his kid, Clint Edwards’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. He’s the author of the new book This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.