16 Apr A simple procedure
When Liz Wiener, co-founder of Wise Women Montreal asked me if I’d like to contribute to her blog, I was honored. I asked myself: what would be the best first topic for a mostly female readership?
Naturally, I decided on my scrotum. I am going to share my experience having a vasectomy.
Five years ago marked ten years of marriage, and we had two daughters. We had heard horror stories of friends who were on the pill, and got pregnant again just when they were coping as a family of four. I know of at least one “oops” that saddled a family of 5 with twins. Twins.
Given our very married sex life, I’m sure we could have taken reasonable precautions and been fine. But there was always that chance. We were already so traumatized by our two kids that any chance was too big. So I made a date with the knife.
Organizing the procedure was remarkably easy. A colleague recommended a specialist who had done him under general anesthetic, and I asked my family doctor for a referral. She complied, but scoffed at my request to be put under. She told me to get local anesthetic for a simple procedure like this. Sure, what did I know? I agreed.
The day came, and the nurse had me sign some papers. She was 60-something, with an accent I couldn’t place. She asked me some questions, like if my wife knew I was doing this. I said it was her idea. I was oh-so charming and upbeat. She smiled politely. She then said, “Come, we’re going to shave you.” Her words were reasonable under the circumstances, but shocking. “Now?” I asked. “You?” She motioned for me to follow her, adding, “You and I are going to be very close.”
I didn’t realize I was in the actual operating room when she had me lay on a seat much like you’d use at the dentist. She instructed me to pull my pants and underwear down to my ankles, and take my right leg out.
What was merely an awkward relationship to that point was about to go surreal.
This was it. I did as instructed, and presented her with my genitals.
The 60-something woman asked me to hold my penis away from my testicles. I’d love to tell you I replied, “If I had a nickel…” but in truth I couldn’t speak, so I just did what I was told. My spirit had already begun to break, and this was just the beginning.
She began scraping away my pubes with a 10-cent plastic Bic razor. She didn’t use any cream, yet it didn’t hurt. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of pain. Humiliated from having my balls shaved, but pleasantly surprised.
She scraped away as if peeling potatoes, casual as could be. She ought to have been whistling. The scraping sound was distinct. A bit like raking leaves. But with none of the lovely fall colours. Before long my scrotum had less hair than her chin. When she was done she left the room. Maybe to grab aftershave? Was there a special formulation for balls?
It only occurred to me recently that I have no idea where all the hair went. I sometimes wonder. Might it be used for crafts? A new hypoallergenic pillow stuffing? Mulch?? I still wonder.
None of that mattered at the time. I was alone in the room, studying my red shiny balls.
She came back with the doctor. This was our first meeting. He met me and my scrotum at the same time. He was all smiles, and commented with a chuckle that I was still clutching myself. He kept talking—he might have been confirming that I understood the permanence of the procedure. But words were now a foreign language. My anxiety was skyrocketing. I’m usually a calm person. But I wasn’t calm anymore. He lay a blue cloth with a balls-size hole over his target and painted my plums with a red liquid. I tried to keep breathing. I knew what was coming.
Suddenly, the laws of physics were suspended. I was lying completely flat, yet somehow I had a more clear, unobstructed view of my balls than I’ve ever had. They seemed to float. I stared at them, freshly scraped of all hair and dignity. They seemed to stare back, pleading. My balls were prepped for assault. This was the single most vulnerable moment of my life.
Doc then mentioned it’s natural to feel apprehensive. No shit. He explained that the male body has a primordial reaction to any threat to its sperm. Something about subconscious defences of future generations. He said other stuff too, but all I heard was I’m about to cut open your balls. My mind went to worst-case scenarios. I didn’t know this guy. What if he didn’t know what he was doing? What if he dropped dead mid-ball?
I should point out, I did myself a grave disservice by Googling the details beforehand. I went in knowing that while the doctor does freeze the scrotum, there is no way to freeze the tube he’s going to cut. For the heart of the procedure, it’s the wild west.
I’d like to share a few quick words about pain with the ladies. You give birth, and men will never understand that pain. I don’t dispute this. But there is a pain that you will never understand: trauma to balls.
And it’s practically inevitable because testicles have the worst real estate of any organ. The most pain-sensitive body parts ever invented dangle in a pouch. They exist a mere whisper from brutalization, whether from impact, or just being sat on. And the pain is indescribable and almost makes you throw up.
The moment was upon me. A syringe appeared in his hand, and he stabbed my red skin. It hurt. Then he had a scalpel. He immediately made a small cut where he froze. That also hurt. Hey, why did that hurt? Wasn’t that supposed to be froz—oh shit, what is that…WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? I was being kicked in slow motion. And squeezed. Someone was sitting on my balls. Panic and pain overwhelmed me. That most horrible feeling of testicular trauma was not ending. I clenched my jaw, gripped the armrests and moaned. Doc told me to hang in, that in 30 seconds I’d feel back to normal.
Let’s take a moment to talk about thirty seconds. Flies by right? Please do something for me. Pinch your arm as hard as you can for 5 seconds. Keep pinching hard the whole time. That’s one long 5 seconds, isn’t it? That’s FIVE seconds. On your ARM.
I counted to thirty in my head, and mercifully he was true to his word. Non-pain returned, and it was bliss. I don’t know if he sewed the incision or not, and I didn’t care. I was done. DONE. I guess it wasn’t so bad. Actually yes it was, but it now lived in the past, where it couldn’t get me. They were thirty horrible seconds that I would never forget, but now I could put this miserable experience behind me. Time to wish these two friendly sadists good day, and go home.
“Now we just have to do the other side and you’re all done.”
Take a moment to re-read that line. They’re only words on a page, and they’ll never affect you like they affected me, but please, give them another look.
I don’t know if I got sad, or angry, or despondent, or some other feeling I invented. I felt a misery I can’t describe.
The doctor was prepared, and deployed what must be his favorite line:
“I’ve had clients tell me at this point they are happy they don’t have three balls.”
How poetic. Before I could shoot him in the face and flee, he went back to work. Again I was counting…one…two…three hundred and four thousand, five thousand…. I remember sweating and shaking waiting for the pain to stop. Nurse Bic put a wet compress on my forehead, like Dorothy got at the end of The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy’s balls never hurt anything like mine.
After eternity, the bliss of non pain returned, and I was done. For real.
I won’t bore you with details of the healing process. You lie around for a week with a pack of frozen peas. There was the odd complication, the most notable being when my two balls seemed to become three. But all was remedied with a quick & humiliating doctor visit and some antibiotics.
So that’s what it’s like to get a vasectomy. And to write more about your scrotum than you ever thought possible.
Greg was born in Tanzania, where he lived carefree and barefoot until age three, when he was discovered by a talent scout one day while hanging upside down, red-faced, at a local playground. He was flown to California to audition for the Mark Burnett pilot “That Sexy Toddler,” and he got the role on the spot, effectively launching the worldwide Reality TV genre. When Greg was 25, he was abruptly fired. Their exact words were “you just don’t look like a toddler anymore.” He spent the next 10 years homeless, wandering from town to town. At one point he even caught up with London, that dog from The Littlest Hobo. They forged a close, weeklong friendship, until London was mowed down by a train while sniffing his ass. Greg eventually found his way to Toronto, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.