SWM 088 – My Vasectomy Experience
Last month someone emailed me telling me just how amazing they were doing after going through our Sexploration List. I posted some of their testimonial on social media (with permission). You may have seen it:
During their email, they also asked some questions, which I wanted to pick up here. Here’s the continuation of that testimonial:
But as we chuckled about 9 consecutive days of sex… we both paused…We are 42 and 43 yrs young… Having another child is not something we feel God is prompting us to do. We very clearly felt His timing for all 4 kids. We do not feel any direction that way right now. And so… the V-word crossed both our lips. At the same time. Vasectomy. And I’m not sure what to do… Natural Family Planning is hard when we are keeping each other aroused daily, lol.
Your post about your surgery is 5+ years old…. any updates, additional thoughts, additional things to research? Is there a certain “technique” we should look into (stitches vs something else I read about briefly?) dare I ask, has it affected your faith? We are Southern Baptist raised, and raising our kiddos Baptist/ non-denominational. In other words, denomination is not a factor in this decision. But there are so many opinions out there, I’m at a loss. I know that is what they are, just opinions. At this point, if I spend time in prayer and the Lord brings me peace… I’m going to trust God to give my husband the same peace. If not, we will go another route.
As the wife, even if we are both pro-vasectomy, I just don’t know how our relationship would handle the guilt if something did go wrong….Lydia
There’s an old joke that goes “What do you call people who practice Natual Family Planning?” The answer is “Parents”. That’s how we became a family of 5 kids.
So, today I’m going to share an update about what marriage is like post-vasectomy.
Why we decided to get a vasectomy
I thought maybe I should start with why we decided to get a vasectomy as a recap. I got my vasectomy done when I was 34 years old. Simply put, Christina, my wife, was done having kids. She had just our 5th in February and found that having kids was getting significantly harder with each one as she got older. The pregnancy was more difficult, birthing was more difficult and the recovery was longer and harder and, well, there are also a lot of other kids to take care of already.
As well, we simply felt “complete” as a family. After we had our 4th, we weren’t quite sure if we were done. As a result, we did nothing about birth control, and, well, that resulted in a 5th. But when he was born – we knew. It just felt complete. Now, maybe that was God signalling His will. Maybe it was just us being tired. I have no idea. I tend to lean towards God taking more of a permissive approach than a prescriptive approach to our lives anyway, so for us, it didn’t matter so much which it was.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I certainly feel God telling me to do something in particular, but the vast majority of the time, I think He cares more about where my heart is than where my hands and feet are if that makes any sense.
But, either way, we felt content with the decision to stop having kids. So, Christina asked if I was willing to get a vasectomy. Honestly, I didn’t like the idea at first.
What made me nervous about getting a vasectomy
The biggest thing that scared me was “what if something goes wrong”. We’d worked hard to improve our marriage and our sex life. Things were good, like really good. We’ve had the experience of the couple above, and while it’s cooled off a bit over the years (we’re not having 9 consecutive day runs anymore, but 4 is still fairly common), things are still amazing and getting better in many regards.
So, what if something went wrong? What if I couldn’t get erections anymore? What if it tanked my sex drive? What if sex hurts every time?
I looked around, read about people’s outcomes of vasectomies, and, yeah, some of them are scary.
Plus, well, it’s my penis, and the idea of some guy cutting into it and burning a part of it was just … well, ugh.
In addition to all this, my mother had a tubal ligation when I was a kid, and I grew up with her saying time and time again (probably when my siblings asked about having more babies, but I don’t remember the context, only the speech), that she got it done because after a certain age, it was difficult for women to have kids, but if she died and my father remarried, she wanted him to be able to have children if he wanted to. When you get told that over and over again (I don’t know why it came up so often) during your formative years – well, you sort of get the idea burned into you that it’s the wife who should get the permanent measures done. Not saying it’s the right idea, just saying it was there.
And lastly, I’d be lying if there isn’t a bit of me thought, “but will I feel like a man still if I can’t potentially have kids?” I think deep down most men don’t really know what it means to be a man, and we’re always wondering, “Am I a real man”? And anything that casts doubt and increases that insecurity is very uncomfortable.
Overcoming my own objections
First, I did more research, and I found that the chances of something going wrong are extremely small. The highest risk (other than simply a failure to sterilize you) is that of chronic pain (1-2%) which people usually said went away after a while. Alright, so, little risk.
Now, compare that to a tubal ligation which requires surgery, general anesthetic, and a lot more potential for complications.
So, it made more sense to get a vasectomy than for Christina to get a tubal ligation. Now, if she was already having a c-section, that might have changed, but we didn’t need a c-section for the last birth, so that wasn’t on the table, and we weren’t going to purposefully get one if we didn’t need to.
Now, in my pre-vasectomy post comments section, someone argued that tubal ligations have a lower chance of having a complication than ruining sex. I countered with they also have a higher chance of a complication ending in death, which would effectively end your sex life with them as well.
And lastly, probably the biggest thing that helped was my wife saying that even if something went wrong and we couldn’t have intercourse again, we’d still find ways to have sexual activity.
The method of the vasectomy
As for stitches vs other methods, I purposefully found a place that did a “no-scalpel vasectomy”. It was a bit further from my house than some other places, but they also said I would have no trouble driving myself home afterwards.
As for how it works, I’m going to blatantly steal from their website as I don’t think I could say it better:
With a “No-Scalpel Vasectomy” only one small opening is made by means of a puncture at the midline of the scrotum and spreading the skin open. Each vas is carefully lifted out, one at a time, and blocked. At the end of the procedure, they are allowed to slip back deep into the scrotum where they naturally lie and the opening is covered with ointment and a piece of gauze. No stitches are required.
Once the vas has been reached, it is blocked by one of several ways with either procedure, which is why the success rate is the same. The big difference is how entry into the scrotum itself is made. With the “No-Scalpel Vasectomy” there is much less trauma to the scrotum. This shortens the healing time and significantly reduces the risk of complications.https://sosimplevasectomy.com/#no-scalpel
Now they don’t mention it there, but the method they used in my case to seal the vas was cauterization. But, I felt no pain, no discomfort during the procedure. The slight scent of burning during it is a bit weird though…
Anyways, the doctor was nice, talked through the whole procedure to distract me, and all in all, no complaints. There was no scar, no large incision to heal – everything was done through what basically amounted to a pin-hole.
After the procedure, I honestly don’t remember how long, maybe a month or 6 weeks(?), I had to do a sperm count test to ensure it was successful, and it was. We didn’t bother doing a test prior (some do) because, well, we’d had 5 kids without trying, so we were pretty sure everything was at least normal there, if not better than average.
People at our church would joke that if I even looked at Christina, she’d be pregnant again. I mean, we were like clockwork every 2 years for nearly a decade except the last one, which was 3 years behind the previous. The middle three were even all born in the same month.
Now, some people had questions about “gathering a sample”, and I wrote a post about that called Is masturbation for medical reasons okay? If you want to check it out, but, the short answer is we engaged in some mutual masturbation and just made sure it went into a cup rather than anywhere else.
Recover and Complications
Recovery wasn’t so bad. In TV shows and movies, you see guys laying around on the couch for days with an ice pack between their legs. It wasn’t that bad for me. I bought the icepack in preparation for that, but never needed it. I went for a run a couple of weeks later – which was honestly a mistake and made me a bit sore, but it was doable. I probably should have waited a bit longer, but I wasn’t laid up for days in pain. Just some discomfort and tenderness.
That said, that discomfort and tenderness lasted quite a long time for me. I don’t remember exactly how long, but months later, occasionally I could still feel some twinges. As well, anytime I would have experienced “blue balls” (a fairly rare event), was much worse for a while. That did eventually go away, but it was quite uncomfortable. Also if we had a lot of sex (like multiple times per day for a couple of days), that would get sore as well, but that was also fairly rare at the time. These days, that’s no problem.
So, the recovery wasn’t quite what I expected. Expected a lot of pain at the beginning that quickly healed after a week or two. Instead, I got some discomfort that lasted months. Not enough to make me regret it, but it was just irritating and some days I wondered if it would be permanent.
But, it wasn’t in my case. Eventually, it subsided and I have no lasting ill effects.
Has it affected my faith or our relationship?
That said, I would highly suggest you come to terms with that aspect before deciding to go ahead with it. In my pre-vasectomy post, I had a bit of a back and forth about what one person called “a selfish alteration to someone else’s creation”. You can read the entire thread here if you like, it’s not that long, but it basically consisted of him saying he had a vasectomy and regretted it because he felt he violated God’s sovereignty.
I feel no such conviction, but I’m not going to suggest you simply follow my beliefs. You have to act in accordance with your own. I may write a post later about God’s sovereignty, His perfect will vs. permissive will, predestination and freedom of choice, but it’s a bit of a big topic to handle in this post. But, if you’d like to bring up a point in the comments about how this is a violation of God’s will, please do so.
How do you handle the guilt if something goes wrong?
Now, whatever you feel convicted of, I believe you should be sure you’re both in agreement before the surgery, because, yes, if something should happen to go wrong, it has to have been “our decision” not “your decision”. That’s one of the reasons I booked the appointment myself, I drove myself there, and I drove myself back. I didn’t want a leg to stand on if something went wrong for my brain to try and blame my wife for it. You can’t say “you made me” when you did all the planning, organizing and logistics. I also wanted to mitigate any guilty thoughts she might have if something went wrong.
How has it affected our sex life?
You didn’t ask this question directly, but that’s what most people are curious about. The answer is – not as much as you might think. I mean, we hadn’t bought condoms in years already, because, well, we were in the baby-making phase of our marriage. We weren’t terribly concerned about getting pregnant because pregnancy and breastfeeding worked fairly well as birth control for us and when they didn’t, we were ready for another pregnancy.
That said, there was a span between the 4th and 5th child when we weren’t sure yet if we wanted more or were done. During those times, yeah, we tracked her cycle, and generally followed Naturally Family Planning methodologies while we delayed the decision. Then we had a 5th because NFP = parents as stated earlier and our decision was made for us. That worked out well for us.
So, there is a bit of a difference now. We still track her cycle, but more so we can anticipate periods and mood shifts. Also, it is nice not to have to worry about getting pregnant, that way you can just enjoy sex for its recreational and relational aspects.
It also makes it hard to tell the difference, because the last time we used birth control (other than Natural Family Planning), our marriage was radically different than it is now. That was more than 16 years ago when we first started having kids and we were in a clinically sexless marriage. However, I can imagine that if we were using condoms these days, it would be annoying. I don’t want to have to think through all the ways the logistics of wearing one would negatively affect our time together.
We also know from experience that hormonal birth control and my wife are a bad combination. Neither of us would even consider that an option.
Should you get a vasectomy?
I don’t know. You’ll have to make up your own decision on that. As I said, make sure you’re beliefs are in order and aligned with your spouse so that you can make a decision together that doesn’t violate your convictions. I would recommend the no-scalpel approach as I’ve heard nothing but good things and had a good experience myself. But I’m also not a doctor, so don’t take that as medical advice. Do your own research.
And yeah, if you keep improving your marriage and sex life and want to have care-free weekends (in terms of birth control) where you’re having sex a dozen times between Friday night and Monday morning so you can go to work feeling exhausted but exhilarated and connected like never before, or those weeks when you’re seeing how many days in a row you can go before one of your taps out – I’ve found a vasectomy works pretty well for those.
I hope that answers all the questions, if not, ask in the comments below.