“So you got a vasectomy. Well, bully for you!” I hear you cry.
Oh, come on. It’s got to be a more intriguing post than my usual Friday fodder of a few links or an obscure black metal band I’m way too old to be listening to.
Anyway, if you’re a dad of a certain age and with a certain number of kids, this is bound to be something you’ve thought about or even had done.
Supermum and I began discussing more permanent ways of contraception a year or two ago. She’s been on a particular kind of pill (Yasmin) for about three years and there are a number of good reasons why she shouldn’t carry on putting additional hormones into her body (e.g. the additional small risks of cancer). On top of that, we’d agreed after Little Elf that we wouldn’t have any other children. I’m in my late 40s and supermum is only five years younger so the idea of going though another couple of years of sleepless nights and mayhem, let alone dealing with the physical impact of another pregnancy on her part, didn’t appeal. Also, there’s the matter of age. I don’t want to be retiring just as the third one starts agitating for college fees. And I don’t want to be playing catch in a Zimmer frame.
Condoms split, coils are icky, sterilisation for supermum wasn’t something I ever considered at any point other than typing it out right now and as for the rhythm method, I’d rather trust “Am I fertile?” answers delivered by cutting a deck of cards and assuming the answer is “No” if its spades or diamonds*. So that left vasectomy if I wanted us to carry on having sex. Which I did.
After a chaotic attempt to have a vasectomy through the NHS ended up in their moving the appointment forward two months to an impossible date with no notice and substitute offered, I checked out how much it would cost to go to a Well Known Provider of birth control. It wasn’t insignificant but it wasn’t bank-breaking. I booked and today I showed up and had the deed done.
The particular branch was apparently where M**** S***** moved her first clinic in 1921, a narrow Georgian townhouse near Fitzroy Square. I hoped, as I read the blue plaque, that they’d updated the equipment since. Across the road, a lone anti-abortion protestor knelt, clutching a set of rosary beads. I passed him on the other side of the street and we eyed each other up warily. He was surrounded by scattered plastic baby limbs which (a nurse told me) he’d try to press into the hands of already stressed women on their way into the clinic. A kind of emotional terrorism of a deeply unpleasant kind. I went and got a sandwich and by the time I came back, he’d evidently gone for lunch.
Inside I checked in, paid the balance of the fee and was soon taken into the basement to the pre-op/recovery room. Two other men were already resting on the blue recliners there. We all avoided each other’s eyes. A nurse took my blood pressure, explained the procedures to be followed after the operation and went through the consent form. Then I waited, Classic FM softly torturing my ears. I twittered a little and reviewed the kindly thoughts of my Twitter followers:
And my favourite:
Soon after, the surgeon came out to collect me. I think he was Nigerian and, whilst I’ve no doubt he was fully qualified**, his English wasn’t entirely up to speed. His first question was
“Tell me about your history of heart problems.”
That nearly started a history of heart trouble there and then – I’ve so far never had cardiac problems of any kind. I think he heard something in my tone as he quickly rearranged the question as “Have you ever had any heart trouble?” which made much more sense. After that, he left the questioning to the lively Chinese nurse. I mention their nationalities specifically as I found it interesting that the medical and surgical procedures were carried out by foreign nationals whilst British staff dealt with all the admin.
The other thing I noticed as soon as I entered the small surgery was a strong smell of burning.
Anyway, the nurse had me take off my trousers and lie down on the padded surgical table with my underpants about my ankles. It was all too business like and matter-of-fact for me to realise that a strange woman was looking at my penis and a strange man was apparently carrying out some form of genital origami before it was too late to argue. The surgeon (who was highly professional and inspired a lot of confidence, despite his English) warned me that there’d be a scratch. There was. “OW!” I said. He ignored me and carried on manipulating my scrotum. I suspect he was shaving it. I haven’t dared look properly yet. The nurse engaged me in cheery, hairdresser like conversation (“Do you have children? Do you work near here? How old are they?…”) as various weird prods and sprays and twists carried on in the by-now numb area of my groin.
“This will scratch a bit more…”
“OW!” That was the main local anaesthetic.
“Do you have a boy or a girl?”
“Ah…one of each…What exactly is he doing down there?”
“He wants to know what you’re doing down there.”
“I’m looking for your tubes.”
I didn’t ask any more questions.
That’s it? My underpants apparently weren’t supportive enough so they provided me with a fetching pair of briefs in white netting.
“All the way from Harrods! High Fashion!” the cheery nurse chuckled. The only evidence of the surgery I’d just had was a white pad of bandages. I felt nothing in my groin whatsoever.
“Thank you,” I said. “But that burning smell is a bit off-putting.” The nurse nodded sympathetically.
“I know,” she said. “We’ve tried to get rid of it but nothing works. And we have to work with it all day!”
She had a point.
Afterwards, I hung out in the recovery until the light-headed feeling generated by the local anaesthetic went away and then I went home to lie on a bed and feel a bit sore.
I wouldn’t take it up as a hobby but it was ok.
*Look, if you’re interested in trying out this method, I accept no responsibility. But let me know how it goes.
**I’ve had occasion to work with non-UK medical staff in an NHS context. Current GMC requirements are very rigorous and anyone who doubts a Nigerian or Indian doctor’s professionalism is reading from a Daily Mail script of misinformation.