"Did you watch the match last night Mr Anderson?"
I'm not a huge football fan, so I don't really know how to answer that kind of question. Doubly so when the person asking has your scrotum in one hand, and a scalpel in the other.
I hope it goes without saying, this was not a typical Thursday morning for me. A normal Thursday would see me sat at a desk, using a computer, not lying on an operating table, naked from the waist down, whilst a nurse grasped my testicles so that a surgeon could inject some anaesthetic. But hey, you only get a vasectomy once. This is the story of mine.
My wife and I decided that we didn't want to have children. There are numerous reasons for this: lack of parental instinct; a belief that bringing a child into a dying world would be cruel to the child, and environmentally negligent; a commitment that if we ever did want children, we'd foster or adopt an existing child that needed a family, rather than creating one "just because we could". Before we got married, one of the bridesmaids set up a game of "Mr & Mrs" where one question was "Does Paul like children?" My wife got the answer spot on - "yeah, they taste great with BBQ sauce". That just about sums it up.
Birth control is fine for those who do not want children for the time being. But for those of us who do not want children at all then sterilisation is a pretty good option. No pills to remember to take, no prophylactics to remember to buy. But who should be sterilised? With a choice between a major surgical procedure, with the possibility of horrendous complications, at exorbitant price for my wife, or a quick cheap day procedure for me... well, that wasn't any choice at all.
I opted to have my vasectomy through Marie Stopes, who by luck were offering the procedure at almost half-price (cut one vas deferens, get the other cut free?), but there are a variety of providers out there. By doing it privately, I also had the advantage of speed and convenience.
I called them on a Tuesday, and was offered an appointment two days later, with no problems. The closest thing to a problem was the realisation that I may not get the time off work at such short notice! When I called they took my details, identified my closest Marie Stopes Clinic, and took the deposit. I received by email details of my appointment, and leaflets about what to expect before, during and after the procedure, as well as a frequently asked questions list about vasectomies.
Thursday morning rolled around. There were no major preparations I had to make. I didn't have to shave anything, avoid eating etc. They advised wearing tight fitting underwear (to provide support afterwards) and to arrange to be collected after the procedure, as driving puts too much strain on the area.
So I arrived half an hour early, as they advised, and sat in the waiting room until I was called. First up was my consultation. This could be with an administrator, a doctor or in my case with one of the nurses. We discussed my decision to be sterilised, reiterated that this was permanent and though reversible it was difficult and not guaranteed, and to ensure that this was a decision I had made myself, and was happy to proceed. Then we discussed my medical history, and only once satisfied was I cleared to have my procedure, and sent on to the pre-surgery waiting room.
I sat in a comfy chair, reading magazines, and waiting my turn. I was called forth, and walked into the theatre to meet my fate.
If it weren't for the fact that a strange man grabbed my junk and used a scalpel on it, it would have been the most unremarkable 15 minutes of my life.
I was asked to remove my jeans, hop onto the operating table, and pull my underwear down to my knees. The surgeon scrubbed up, the nurse brought him his equipment, and we began. First came the initial anaesthetic injection. It stung, about as bad as the initial injection at the dentist. He paused, we chatted for a minute or so, then he checked whether I could feel anything. Confident I couldn't, the incision was made. There may have been a second injection, I couldn't have told you. I felt nothing other than the odd sensation of pressure as the surgeon fished around to pull out and cauterise the vas deferens.
Some people claim there is a slight burning smell, but for me there was no smell. The nurse engaged me in polite conversation about Scotland. The surgeon talked about football. Then he said "now this might hurt". He was about to start on the second vas. And it did. "It always does, for some reason" was his considered opinion.
Gentlemen, a word here about pain, for those who may be wincing or crossing their legs. Any of you who have played sports, had older or younger brothers, hung out with cruel friends, or been particularly clumsy, will have experienced "the nut shot". In fact if there is a man out there who hasn't taken a shot to the guys, then you sir are fortunate, and in the minority. So, since we're all aware of what it feels like, then the pain you will feel during a vasectomy... is far less. It's a mild, dull pain, as if someone had tapped gently on your testicle with a tiny hammer. Who knows, maybe that is the procedure?
Anyway, the second vas was sealed, a dressing was applied, and the procedure was finished. I pulled up my pants, put on my jeans, and was led out to the recovery zone to sit back on a comfy chair, put up my feet, and drink coffee and eat biscuits. The main reason for keeping you around for 30 minutes after the procedure is to check you don't have any adverse reaction to the anaesthetic, but it also gives them an opportunity to go through recovery, and give you your aftercare pack.
For 48 hours after the procedure, you should stay off work, keep your feet up, and relax. Keep wearing snug underwear, and try to keep the area dry for 48 hours. That's sort of difficult with showers, but not impossible. Fresh dressings are provided, but if you need any more, then surgical dressings are available at all good pharmacies. You shouldn't do any heavy physical exercise, or sports or heavy lifting for about four weeks.
The good news is you can have sex as soon as you feel well enough, but you have to keep using birth control until you get the all clear from your semen tests. Trust me though, you won't feel well enough until the pain and swelling disappears, and the wound heals. Yeah, remember that thing about pain? That only applies for the duration of the surgery. Once that anaesthetic wears off? Imagine taking a shot to the balls every time you move wrong. You've just gone through a surgical procedure that involves pulling on and squishing your tackle. That causes bruising, and that's why they advise you to take it easy. So do yourselves a favour; take the advice, and kick back and watch some TV. Your nuts will thank you for it.
The procedure I had involved a small incision and no stitching, so you go home with an open wound. It can bleed (hence the dressings). It heals pretty fast though. Itches like hell and you can't scratch it, but it does heal fast.
Then they called me a taxi, and sent me home to recover. 16 and 18 weeks later you have to provide semen samples for a sperm count. This is because live sperm can remain in the seminal vesicles for up to 83 days. But if you get two negative results at 16 and 18 weeks after your procedure, you're now free to have sex without contraception.
It's been six months since my procedure, and three months since the all clear, and I'm happy with the results, and have no regrets. For anyone who has decided to be childfree, then I can recommend a vasectomy as the ideal solution. It is simple, low-risk, and far less traumatic than the equivalent procedure for women, which is a major surgical intervention, with the risks that entails.
But guys, don't let on that this is so easy. You get 48 hours of grateful care from your other half. Milk it for what it's worth, you won't get another chance!
Some final words of caution. Although I've said "you're now free to have sex without contraception", that only applies in a committed and childfree relationship. A vasectomy offers no protection from sexually transmitted diseases, so be sensible guys and use condoms in all new relationships until you are both checked out.
This is also a surgical procedure, and as such there are possible complications afterwards, including infection, bleeding, haematomas, long-term pain and possible failure. You will be warned about the risks of these during your consultation, including what to look out for, and further information will be in your aftercare pack. But as with all surgical risks, the chances of these affecting you are low, and outweighed by the benefits.