After having two children and happy with our tribe numbers, my wife asked me to get a vasectomy. A rush of different emotions came over me and I was not sure how to respond. So I did what most men would do in the situation:
I asked for a solo fishing trip to Alaska after the vasectomy. (That is what most men do, right?)
Birth Control Pills
For years our family planning required her to be on the pill. During this time she experienced many of the side effects one experiences while being on oral contraception: headaches, mood swings, severe cramping, inconsistent or excessive bleeding, etc. She was not only done with having children, but more importantly could not wait to be rid of all those negative symptoms that were impacting her life. Plus, no longer taking a daily pill would be such a relief!
Vasectomy for Birth Control
At the time, I was armed with a decent amount of knowledge about vasectomies. After all, I am a physician who understands the procedure. I was well aware that vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure for permanent contraception.
The entire procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes, and the recovery is typically a few days. It can be done via the no-scalpel no-needle technique under local anesthesia.
Sterilization procedures for women, on the other hand, are usually performed at a hospital or surgical center. They are invasive and require general anesthesia. Of course I did not want my partner to go through this, but I still had to take the time to think about vasectomy for myself.
It took me two full years before I got snipped, and recently I have been thinking about the reasons why men can be so hesitant to get a vasectomy. I hope to convince you that getting a vasectomy is an act of true love.
Less of a Man?
It's a known stereotype that men don’t go to the doctor, and national data actually does support this trend. I believe that the reason for this is self-preservation. As men we are trained by cultural and societal norms, and this lifelong training comes with expectations. So after a vasectomy you may feel that you are losing part of your identity as a man.
Rates of vasectomies in the US are much lower compared to other parts of the western world. That’s despite the procedure being less complicated than a tubal ligation and less cumbersome than most other methods that mostly involve women.
In many cultures the definition of a man is to “make” lots of offspring. Of course, this runs deeper into evolutionary theory and thus we are somewhat wired like this. Yet we should view family planning needs in the modern era, in a partnership. We need to realize that true love and commitment to our partner trumps our evolutionary needs.
We have come a long way since high childhood mortality rates in the 1800’s and we don’t need our own labor force to work the fields. We do not need to bring a large number of offspring into the world to ensure that some will survive to carry on our name and fortune.
Once you and your partner have decided that you have enough children, the manliest thing to do is to actively participate in family planning decisions. It's ok to sit with thoughts such as, “What if my partner leaves me?” or “What if I lose my family and don’t have the ability to start a new one?" or “Will I be seen as or feel less manly when I am unable to have children?”
I want to reassure you that your feelings and questions are valid. I myself went through them. In the end, realize that family planning needs to be considered in the modern era, in a modern partnership. True love and commitment to our partner trumps our evolutionary needs.
Two Years of Consideration
After I sat with these questions for two years, I realized my act of true love and commitment was to get my vasectomy. I decided that I would be ok with all the outcomes I cannot control and that closeness in a relationship required me to take a leap of faith and take full responsibility for the overall well-being of my partner.
It has been many years since my vasectomy, and in the intervening years I started to perform them at our family residency program at San Joaquin General Hospital. Then of course, I opened Tri-Valley Vasectomy, which specializes in the no-needle no-scalpel method.
Oh and yes my sex life...much better and we don’t worry about accidents! I do still have to visit Alaska, and I know it will not be a solo trip.