The Vasectomy. The big V. The Snip. Most blokes I know think of it as the "You must be joking, no way any quack is coming near me with a sharp knife".
The online resources I've seen, as good as they are, tend to be about everything except what it's like to have a vasectomy. A quick Google for "vasectomy FAQ" brought up some fairly dry information ("the likelihood of having an allergic reaction to the anaesthesia") or some medical clinic advert that has a happily married man gazing out from carefully arranged family photos (the wife, two children aged about six and ten, possibly a Labrador) with nary a pained look on his face. He doesn't even have the decency to look sheepish.
I've been married for a million years and we have two gorgeous kids but frankly if we have any more we'll have to buy a people mover, you know, one of those seven-seater bus things with the high sides and the small wheels and you just know it will steer like a cow, and if we do that I may as well just take out my testicles entirely.
So we had The Conversation about various forms of contraceptive and that never gets old, right? And so it was off to the general practitioner's office I go. Went.
My GP is Dion and although he never prescribes drugs when I want them, we can talk about these kinds of things. He laughed at me, which I find oddly reassuring in a health care professional.
There's no way I wanted him telling me to drop my pants, but I wanted him to refer me to someone who would – someone whom I would never ever have to deal with ever again. Ever. For any reason at all. It was my only requirement and Dion understood completely.
Dion referred me to Gerald Young at Auckland's City Med clinic. Sadly, Gerald is exactly the kind of doctor I like – chatty, casual, practical. He has a great line in one-handed jokes (they come in handy later) and I would be happy to go back to see him as a doctor, but sadly we can't do that now that we're intimate, as it were. Sorry Gerald.
Gerald gave me a booklet, set a date and talked me through the process. I'd have to be picked up afterwards as the drugs can make you a bit wobbly, take a couple of days off work, wear two pairs of underpants for the support for a while (no boxers!) and come back in a couple of weeks with a sample. If all was clear, resume normal conjugal activities. If not, wait a while, come back with a second sample and they'd take it from there.
That was fine but then I read the booklet.
The day before surgery I would have to remove all body hair from the surgical site. Gerald translated that for me so I could understood what it meant. Unhappily, I understood what it meant. I would have to shave my scrotum.
Allow me to pause here for a moment while you take a breath or two. To make it easier for you to read on let me just say this was the worst part of the whole thing. The absolute worst bit. Apart from writing about it for a general audience, but that's another problem entirely.
Off to the chemist my (oddly gleeful) wife went to get me some mysterious pottle of depilatory cream. Some fun with a spatula later, I was unimpressed with the results. It's not as if that particular part of the male anatomy is up for any prizes in the beauty stakes at the best of times but the porn star treatment made it worse.
Now for some serious consumer advice. Buy the cream a week or two ahead of V-Day and try it out on a delicate part of your anatomy. You should do this because I didn't and I waddled in on the day with quite a nasty rash. Apparently I should have chosen a more delicate cream and once he'd finished hooting with laughter at my distress (told you he was a good bloke), Gerald wrote out a script for some kind of soothing balm.
Onward to the job in hand. As it were.
I was to go into a little room, take off my trousers and shorts and leave them in a pile, wrap the sheet around my waist and then head into the theatre. A nurse would be organising stuff around the edges but she'd leave before we got down to business. The whole thing should take about 20 minutes at most. Did I need to go to the bathroom for a nervous one, asked Gerald? No, I'd already done that.
Gerald gave me a couple of pills which was very nice of him. I have no idea what they were but by the time I'd taken off my pants I was quite relaxed. Actually, very relaxed. Gerald brought me through to the table and explained that he'd have to "tape this out of the way so it doesn't try to get involved" and we had a jolly good laugh about scalpels and whether a two-for-one deal on circumcision/vasectomy couldn't be arranged. Oh how we chortled. Gerald asked me my views on a particular car and while I was describing its road handling abilities versus its fuel consumption (I know nothing about cars but didn't let that stop me) he interrupted to show me a piece of macaroni. I was unsure why he would do that but he explained that he had me so drugged up that he could "pretend" to do the procedure and send me on my way and I'd be none the wiser and this was proof that he'd done something. Then it dawned on me what he was showing me and frankly if it wasn't for his lovely pills there would have been trouble.
Instead I was simply mildly surprised because I had no idea we'd even begun the procedure. Gerald doesn't use a scalpel at all – he has a one-handed instrument thing that looks like it would be good at a barbecue. There's no pain, no fuss, just some tugging and the odd sensation of having your penis taped to one side. Unless that's a regular thing with you, of course.
Suddenly we were done. Gerald was helping me up off the table, I pulled on my underpants (both pairs) with no real problem. Gerald explained there could be what would look like bruising on my scrotum but that was quite normal and to take it easy for a couple of days. I asked about coming back to take the stitches out and he told me there weren't any – the holes in the underside of my scrotum were too small to stitch!
And now we get to the best bit. I think my wife must have put The Word on the kids because when they arrived to pick me up they were silent and big eyed all the way home. I was put to bed and told to rest but it was about four in the afternoon and while I appreciated the gesture, I got bored so went out to the lounge to watch some TV with the kids. I had the next day off work but when I woke up I felt fine – just a slight twinge in my lower belly. I went out and mowed the lawn. Either way I was ferried cups of tea and generally treated like lord of all I survey for quite some time.
Two weeks later I took my sample in for review. It's not as entertaining as you'd think, whacking off into a plastic cup, and was a tad painful in a "ripping a sticking plaster off in one quick motion" kind of way. Otherwise, job done.
Would I recommend it? If you're done having kids then yes, resoundingly. But here are a few words of advice:
1: Get the gentlest depilatory cream you can.
2: Find a doctor you never have to visit again.
3: Don't let on how easy it is – wives need to know you're going through a major psychological event so they can give you the maximum brownie points for your efforts. I know one guy who got a surfing holiday for his troubles.
4: When someone asks you to write about it for a magazine, don't commit to any deadlines. It's taken me about four years to write this.