The Vasectomy Dialogues: Chatting with Michael

Recently, I was able to catch up with Michael and he was kind enough to be open about how he made the decision to get a vasectomy and his thoughts on the experience.  He’s 38, self-employed and living in St. Louis.  He got his vasectomy in Fall 2009 at Planned Parenthood’s North County location.

Q:Would you talk a little bit about what made you decide to get a vasectomy, when did you start thinking about it, how did you get the idea?
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A:  This goes back to the decision of whether I wanted to have children or not.  For pretty much all my life I had that ‘I’m going to have children someday target” I hadn’t really thought about that that much, I think most of that had just been societal pressures and all the examples that I had seen.  But at some point I started questioning whether that fit into my life and what I wanted.  It was about 2004 when the scales really tipped on that one.  At first there were some hurdles to go through and there was still doubt.  At that point, a vasectomy wasn’t even an option. Later my decision became more firm, and at that point it became a real option. It was about 2004/2005 when I could say ‘I don’t foresee a time when I would change my mind about having biological children, and even if I did decide that I wanted children, it would be better for the world if I adopted.’
Some of the biggest hurdles were the time and the cost.  Not having sick days, being self-employed, days off, plus the cost of the procedure, made it quite expensive, actually.
Eventually, it worked out that I had a period of time between projects and that’s when the timing worked out.
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Q: It sounds like a good 2-3 years decision process.  Was it conflicted for you?
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A: I wouldn’t say it was an active process the whole time. There were some ebbs and flows with me thinking about the options and such.
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Q: People, when they have any kind of procedure have completely different experiences. Would you share what it was like for you?
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A: The procedure was pretty efficient from my perspective. I went to the clinic and waited for quite a while, but once I got back there it was pretty quick.
It was fairly straightforward.  You lay back and they put the cover over you with only your scrotum and penis exposed.  They did all the prep, used some kind of sterilizing spray.  The doctor came in and gave me a local anesthetic.  He was really cordial, and talking to me.  After he gave some time for the anesthetic to kick in, he and the assistant did the procedure.  I was laying back and couldn’t see.  It took less than 20 minutes for the actual procedure and there was conversation going back and forth as he’s working away. In a way, that gave me a lot of comfort, but then part of me thought “shouldn’t he be focusing on me and not talking” but I was never really uncomfortable.  They have this cauterizer they use in the procedure. There’s a little burnt flesh smell, and the doctor warned me about that.
Then he finished up, and told me about post-op care.  The nurse came in after about 15 minutes and helped me get up and pulled up my jock strap, she had obviously done this before. It was a fine procedure, very smooth, very efficient.
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Q:  Did you have to do any pre-counseling or anything like that?
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A: Absolutely. That was well before – you have to do a counseling session to make sure you’ve really thought through things.  They do make an effort to make sure that people have thought about their options and their future.
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Q: Would you talk  a little about the recovery process?
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A:  The recovery wasn’t that bad. It was worse than I expected but I want to emphasize it wasn’t that bad.  I had the procedure on Monday, and thought I’d be back to work by Thursday, but I wasn’t. There wasn’t anything physically really bad about it. It’s just I’m an active person and it bothers me to not being doing things for that long.  There was some swelling and bruising for quite awhile, but I’ve had twisted ankles that bothered me more. The thing is to set appropriate expectations.
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Q: What does having had the procedure contributed to your life?
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A: The main thing for me is a peace of mind. I don’t want children and after I got to that decision point, my big concern became, what if one of my partners has a pregnancy.  What if we’re in that percentage of contraception that doesn’t work? This has taken that away.
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Q: Can you imagine ever having regrets?
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A: I can’t imagine ever having regrets.  My only regret is not having had it sooner, that the decision process took so long.
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Q: What about the social aspects of this? Have you told other people that you’ve had a vasectomy?
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A: I’ve always been open socially with the fact that I do not want to have children but I tell people about the vasectomy only when it’s appropriate. For me, I don’t tell most people.  The people I’ve told have been friends. Family – that’s something we don’t discuss.
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Q: Does this change the way that you view sex and relationships, or how you feel about sex?
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A: I can’t say that this changes how I approach sex and relationships, but it affects it because it is sexual. I couldn’t say specifically, that I do things differently, but it changes it in positive ways. It goes back to that peace of mind.
One thing it does for me is it lets me take responsibility for the long-term conception control.. . I like the fact that it’s me and I’m doing something.  There’s the impression that it’s the woman’s responsibility and that’s a stereotype of what men think.  I like that it takes me out of that stereotype.  I like that I’m not putting that responsibility on my partner, I’m walking the walk.
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Q: What conditions made having a vasectomy a good experience for you?
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A: The timing , and not  working made it good for me, being able to have that time off was a convenient thing for me.  There was value in the longer thought process. I didn’t force anything. The length of time contributes to my confidence in the decision.
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Q: What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about getting a vasectomy?
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A: If you think you might want to have biological children someday, then this is not for you. You need to be in the camp of “I don’t want to have biological children” then this becomes an opportunity.You have to be able to try to project 10, 15, 20 years in the future.  It all boils down to how well do you know yourself? Have you had enough ups and downs in your life that you feel you have a good grasp on who you are and who you are going to be, that you can make that decision?
Also — this was one of my highest stress points in the whole process — after your procedure, definitely get a sperm-count test.  When I went back for my first test, it didn’t come back ‘clean’.  Mine came back with some dead sperm. That can mean several things, but that is just usually because you just need to clear the tubes. I went back a month later and it was clean. Know that that first test may not come back clean. I had a little mental crisis, and that wasn’t fun, and I wish I had prepared myself for that better.
Check back Monday for the last installment in our V-Dialogues series.
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