Thursday, July 19, 2007

Under the knife—a cautionary tale

Snip, tug, twitch: “Very minimal poke for the local anesthetic and one little, minor twitch at some point during the process, absolutely no pain at all, whatsoever. Not nearly as bad as I expected! In fact, it was easy!” And so my friend and editor, Dan, joins the rank of men who will nevermore sire children.

That was his quote, not mine. He privately confessed to having qualms about going public with so private a matter but felt that his experience would provide an important educational tool for couples seeking answers to the second most important decision on family planning, ergo, when it’s time to guarantee no more children come into this world, who goes under the knife—the man or the woman?

That’s what he said, anyway.

Phooey. Balderdash. Bunkum! Dan wrote it knowing full well my own experiences were diametrically opposite from his. It was gloating, pure and simple. Because of his Lutheran persuasion, his faith is mightiest when he witnesses believers being blessed and the wicked struck down. (Such a rare occurrence these days that anybody’s faith would be weakened, so this was a real treat.) And I was, literally, struck down.

He knew it, and his creed now rejuvenated, wrote with inspired fervor.

So in the interest of setting the record straight, to better inform couples struggling to decide which gender gets rearranged “down there” and to furnish men a better conception of what to expect (conception being deliberately and deliciously chosen in this case), I offer my own sad tale. But first a warning: The faint of heart, the squeamish, the fearful, should stop reading forthwith. From here we descend into the deepest, darkest depths of vasectomy perdition. It’s not a pretty picture.

It all started innocently enough. Some research, a question to a neighbor, his reply, an appointment with my family physician. Considering that the procedure is much less invasive for a man than it is for a woman, and certainly less expensive, I opted to be the sacrifice. My nervousness was assuaged somewhat by my neighbor, whose admonitions led me to believe the procedure was no big deal. “In fact, it was easy!” he exclaimed, or something to that effect.

Still, I dreaded it. When I entered the clinic there was an air about me of a condemned prisoner being led to his execution. Further complicating the mood was a repressive Baptist upbringing which conditioned me to be obsessively squeamish about letting strangers see me in my natural state. I was horrified when a pretty nurse asked me to disrobe and slip into a skimpy gown with barely enough material to cover my backside (shouldn’t it be the other way around?), but it was nothing like the jolt that froze my blood when I learned it was she who would administer the needle.

It was, she said, a local anesthetic, just a little sting, hardly any pain at all. She deliberately left out the part about her graduating with honors in Persuasion Skills from Torquemada University, a fact I was soon to decipher on my own. When the needle entered my body I stifled a scream as white light blazed through my clenched eyelids. I swear I heard her whisper, “Repent, infidel!”

When I regained lucidity the doctor was looking down at me. In his hand was an evil-looking scalpel. He smiled. “Ready?”

“Please, doc,” I panted, suddenly engulfed in terror, “whatever you do, don’t slip.”

“This won’t be nearly as bad as you expect,” he laughed, which was hardly comforting.
I stared at the ceiling while they went to work. There was a small tug, a pinch, and the sizzle of roasting flesh as smoke lifted to the heavens like a burnt sacrifice. “I’m cauterizing the tube,” the doctor explained. I was too busy hyperventilating to reply. A few minutes later he was finished. He told me to take it easy for a few days, no heavy lifting, and to return in a week or two to get the stitches removed.

Lori helped me to the car. “Next time you do it,” I snarled, and then realized there would be no next time. The beauty of a vasectomy is that it’s a forever thing: problem solved permanently. “Try childbirth,” Lori said, giving not an iota of sympathy.

It should have ended there, but it didn’t. Several weeks passed of painful crab-walking, and work was certainly no help. I finally decided what I needed was a full week of R&R, and scheduled a camping trip with my family on the Colorado-New Mexico border.

Days passed in blissful reverie. My nieces waited on me like royalty, my sons fetched me drinks and snacks, I read and conversed all day, and slowly, very slowly, I began healing. One morning I watched my son Joel playing army in a flowery meadow and minced over to join him. His weapon was a long gnarly stick which he swung like a broadsword, lopping off the heads of dandelions. How cute, I thought, just before he wound up and swung an underhanded homer that violently connected to that part of my anatomy the vasectomy was supposed to solve.

In agonized slow motion I put my knees together, folded together, placed my nose against my kneecaps and collapsed into a fetal position. My family rushed over to see if I was dying. “Go away,” I said through gritted teeth. “I’m going to lay here awhile.”

After several hours I unkinked myself and limped back to camp. After that, I was like a new man. Maybe it just took a good whack to get me back in shape.

Men, I heartily recommend this procedure. I realize my experience was an aberration, a worst-case scenario. You might only feel a minimal poke and a little twitch. It’s possible you’ll experience absolutely no pain at all, none, nada, zilch. It might not be nearly as bad as you expected. In fact, it might be easy!

And maybe not.

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