I started asking my husband for a vasectomy when I was pregnant with my second kid. The pregnancy wasn’t hyperemesis gravidarum-level bad, like the ladies who have to get a PICC line put in, but it wasn’t easy either. Bad carpal tunnel kept me from sleeping. I had a 45 minute commute which was murder on my sciatic pain. We had a scare early on after a visit to the genetic counselor and I had to have amniotic fluid pulled from my belly via a needle. I was dischargey and felt generally disgusted with myself all the time. I had a toddler and none of that first-mom excitement about the mystery. I’d had a rough first birth and was scared of going through it all again. My therapist diagnosed me as depressed and had me start antidepressants the day after I’d give birth.
My husband semi-jokingly asked if we could wait until after the baby was born at least and I said fine, but I was back to mentioning the vasectomy while I was in the delivery room, with a balloon in my cervix because my blood pressure concerned the doctors enough to induce me two weeks early (this happened the first time, too.) Unlike the first birth the epidural was more effective at mitigating the pain but this time around it made me feel uncontrollably itchy. It was easier than the first time but still not as easy as not giving birth.
He got an appointment for an interview for a vasectomy eight months after the baby was born. We found out that it took awhile to get on the doctor’s calendar, and that you have to go a type of counseling session before the appointment to learn what goes into it. The actual appointment came three months later—the baby was 11 months old by this point.
I went with him to the hospital on a Friday and he was out of the appointment before I had finished a medium-length New Yorker article in the waiting room. We went home to begin convalescence.
I gladly took over childcare and dropoffs while he recuperated. They say it takes a weekend to recover but it took him almost exactly a week to get over the pain, which did not sound incidental. He showed me his stitches and while the incision sites were small and neatly stitched up, it’s still stitches ‘round your nether regions. I know, from experience, that that’s no party.
But he got through it with video games and couch time and ice packs and some painkillers. He told me about some Baby Center-type message boards he’d visited talkin’ vasecs. He told me about the posts he’d seen from women who regretted their husband’s vasectomies due to their week of pain, and men who balked at the notion of sacrificing their manhood. I was very grateful not to be married to one of those people.
That week was the nicest I’ve ever been to my husband when he wasn’t feeling well. We’ve had fights over the years over my caretaking style, which is more practical than sweet and maternal (unless the person in question is actually my child), but this time around it was easy to be nice to him. I appreciated what he had done and also wanted him to recover completely and peacefully.
The procedure wasn’t completed after that week, of course. A guy has to deplete the rest of his viable swimmers before he’s no longer fertile, and submit two samples to determine so. That was where we ran into some fresh fights. My husband didn’t submit his samples on schedule because he said he was embarrassed to go into the hospital and do that. To be fair, I have never had to go to the hospital and do that. I’m sure it’s weird. But I had very little sympathy. After my traumatic first birth, after the birth control pills that made me suicidal, after even just 20 something years of routine Pap smears, I was pretty pissed that he couldn’t go in for that, to close the loop and make sure that the vasectomy had been done correctly and we were safe. I told him to get over himself and that nurses, on a routine basis, deal with much more embarrassing and intimate and disgusting things than that. “You should be grateful that you’re not going in for something like chemo,” I spat.
Finally he discerned he could do a home test (🙄) and there we were. Free and clear. He jokes about getting it reversed when he marries his second, 18 year old wife.
I definitely judge fathers who are done having kids but don’t get vasectomies. This applies to some men I know and love and I’m sorry if this is you or your partner. But I get heated at the idea of a man who witnesses his partner go through a pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, childbirth, postpartum depression, breastfeeding, and/or the emotional, physical and professional toll of motherhood and then say that he’s scared, or will be less of a man, or clings to scant, disproven research about links between vasectomies and cancer (unless maybe he takes zero other cancer risks—and also has weighed the vasectomy risk against the various cancer risks for women on hormonal birth control). Even for women who don’t give birth, there is still the process of acquiring birth control, maintaining the birth control, the financial and physical toll of periods, yearly gynecological appointments, and then the slide into perimenopause and menopause when fertility is erratic and the physical and emotional discomfort continues. A cis man who knows he doesn’t want children who has observed what women go through and have to fear, the ever-present threat of a rollback of control over our own bodies, the shame we are made to feel over periods and abortions and miscarriages, the disparities we continue to endure in the name of either raising families or family planning and still says “That’s her job” or “It’ll hurt” or “My nuts!!” or “I don’t have time”? Get the fuck outta here, dude. Even if your lady is on birth control or had her tubes tied for her own comfort or peace of mind, I still think you should get a vasectomy out of solidarity. I’m only kidding a tiny, tiny bit.
But you guys who have gotten a vasectomy, or are getting one? And better yet, you who are happy to talk about it to normalize it? You get one of these:
And also, hot unprotected sex.
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