Saturday, March 15, 2014

Looking Back (III)

As published March 23, 2006

Say hello to the Sunkist Man...

...all juice, no seed.
Yes, I had "the procedure" yesterday, the one where they 'fix' you. I still don't know why they say 'fixed' when they mean 'broken'. 
The transition of Ken Breadner to Scooter the Neuter began with our third and worst miscarriage. To this day, that story is very painful to narrate: suffice it to say that my wife went in for a routine ultrasound at the three month mark only to discover the baby had died inside her weeks before. I was regaled with stories about people who had miscarried umpteen times before delivering a perfectly healthy child (or, often, two, three, or thirty). Eva and I talked it over, and I decided I couldn't risk putting her through that ordeal again. Because of a myriad of complicating medical factors--polycystic ovarian syndrome, the diabetes it spawned, incompatible blood, just to name a few--"that ordeal" was, while maybe not assured, very likely.
And so we embarked on the adoption option...and, as an aside, we all know how that turned out.
No matter: the decision not to 'have our own' meant snippage was inevitable. 
I hemmed and hawed about that for awhile: like any man, I have an inordinate attachment to my genitals, and the thought of mutilating them, even to a good purpose, took some getting used to. Back in November, I saw my family doctor, and he referred me to thespecialist in town, a Dr. Hickman. This man's a nutcutter extraordinaire: outside his office, there for all to see, are the Golden Testes, with the motto below: over ten thousand severed. 
With stats like that, I thought, it's something of a wonder that those virulent anti-abortion wackjobs hadn't painted a big fat bullseye on the guy.
It took some doing, getting in to see him. His office lost my records twice, leading my G.P.'s secretary to dole out some harsh words. Finally, some four months later, I had my consultation.
My initial impression: Dr. Hickman is Boredom personified. His voice made a monotone seem melodious: you almost expected to see ticker-tape spilling out of his chest. 
Then he had me drop trou so he could examine my "area". I stopped being bored in a hurry as he poked, prodded, and punched around down there. Jesus, I thought. I feel like my nuts have just gone three rounds with Rocky Balboa, and this was only the consultation? 
Dr. Hickman informed me that I had the option of a prescription for Lorazepam, a.k.a. Ativan, a.k.a. the frying-pan-to-the-noggin-drug. He said that one out of every twenty men took the option. I thought about that for a while. If he had said nineteen out of twenty guys took the Ativan, or even half of them, I probably would have gone along. Instead, he said one out of twenty. I searched the monotone for signs of derision and found none, so I made up my own. Ha, I thought. That means one out of every twenty guys is a big PUSSY. I've always wondered exactly how many PUSSIES are walking around. Now I know. 
In a firm, very unPUSSYlike voice I announced that I would be fine without the drug. A few more robotic instructions (shave a week beforehand; wear light clothing, the room's hot) and the official countdown began: thirty six days until The Cruellest Cut.

Last Sunday was Shave Day. This was a first for me, and I don't mind telling you I was almost as nervous about this part of the operation as I was about the other. I trust my wife implicitly, but thanks to carpal tunnel her hands occasionally play dumb: the idea of those hands steering a bunch of whirling trimmer blades swashbuckling around my pubes at high speed didn't exactly put me at ease. All those verbs...too many things could go wrong...too many things that could force me to change my name to Kendra. If God had intended scrotal sacs to be shaved, He wouldn't have made them so wrinkly.
But the trim proceeded without incident until the very last stroke, when a tiny fold of scrotum was momentarily caught, causing me to shriek like a little girl. Some people actually find genital shaving sexy and arousing...freaks. 

I was treated to any number of vasectomy stories from people at work. One guy got infected--gee, thanks, I needed to hear that!Somebody else's friend's vasectomy didn't work the first time. One rep told me his doctor had asked if it was okay to bring a student in to observe. He said sure, and what to his wondering eye should appear but a cute co-ed, about 23. "If I get excited", he claims to have said, "do we have to put this off?"

Friday drew inexorably closer. I got to wondering whether I was, in fact, a member in good standing of tribe PUSSY, because I was losing sleep. Not over the vasectomy: that decision had been made and reinforced. No, I was losing sleep over my stupid macho insistance to undergo my alteration...unaltered. 
Every pubic hair emerged with a little twing! The itch was maddening at times. Each time I imagined the procedure to come, my testicles would shrivel up and try to run away like a couple of tumbleweeds. Miaow.

Comes the night before, and when I'm not laying awake, I'm dreaming. I dreamed that I was basking on a beach as far from Dr. Hickman as it was possible to get without a rocket, and suddenly some sort of strange eel was biting my scrotum. I dreamed that I was late for my vasectomy, and the doctor had, so sorry, freshly run out of anaesthetic. I dreamed that I entered the doctor's office to find him drunk out of his mind. ("Well, not completely out of his mind," said one of my colleagues at work the next day. "He was just half in the bag.")

"Break a leg", the same wag told me as I left work en route for Hickman's Hideaway. Before I knew it, I was staring at the Golden Testes again. Over ten thousand severed...

I brought a book in with me, Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. I have recently discovered this author, and really like him. The idea, of course, was to immerse myself in Stephenson's world so I wouldn't have to think about what was happening in mine. 

A cute nurse named Carol came in and gave me a heat pack to shove down my underwear. My mind oscillates back to the story from that Christie's rep...might she be looking in? Am I to be granted that special Penthouse Forum moment that all man yearn for and so few attain?
She left, taking my disappointment with her. Fear swirled around in her wake, with a renewed sense of PUSSYness. 
Then came the doctor, done up like a sterilized Grim Reaper. He swabbed and lotioned and--what the hell is that, a condom? Carol, get back in here! Oh, never mind. 
"Okay, you're going to feel a little pinch here", said Doctor Hickman, and yup: little pinch. Pshaw. Did I lose sleep over this? I went back to reading, but soon noticed the strangest pulling sensation. 
"Do you feel that?"
"Yeah. Weird feeling. And I feel like I have to urinate, but I don't."
About ten seconds later a wave of pain came out of nowhere and threatened to carry me off. I hissed and tensed and tried not to cry. 
"Does that hurt?"
"Yah-HAH!" Why the hell do they ask such stupid questions? Naw, that doesn't hurt at all, and if you get just a little closer to this fist here, I'll show you how much it doesn't hurt.
The pain went down to a dull roar, and I went back to Neal Stephenson. I found myself reading the same damn passage over and over with no idea what it said, so I put the book down and tried not to think about the feelings coming from between my legs. 
It's strange. You feel everything except the pain. Somewhere in the back of your head a voice is niggling away, going you know, this should fucking HURT. But it doesn't. Instead you just feel heavy, as if your basket had been replaced with that of an elephant. 
Snip. At one point it sounded like he was using some kind of rachet. Don't think about it.
Presently, an announcement: "Right side's done." I asked him if I was going to feel another blast of pain as he started the left side, and he replied that I would feel some pain, but it shouldn't be too bad, as he had re-applied freezing. Sure enough, the left side didn't hurt near as much. I picked up the book again and breezed through a couple of pages, snip ratchet man do I have to piss!
Then I feel the curious and not-entirely-pleasant sensation of skin being folded back into place.
"There. Finished."
"Well, that wasn't such of a much."
"No," he said. "There was more pain than usual on the right side--the freezing didn't take right away, for some reason. There's no bleeding from the vas, which is good"--d'ya THINK?--"but there's a bit of bruising on the right. Shouldn't be a problem, though."
I thanked him and he bustled out, soon to be replaced by Carol, who didn't look half as cute now that I was, in the words of Pink Floyd, comfortably numb. We chatted for exactly twelve minutes and then an oven timer DING!ed. Time to go.

One last thing to dread: the wearing off of the anaesthetic. As it turned out, that wasn't so bad, either. I was told that the aftermath would feel just like I'd been kicked in the nuts. That's about right--but it takes two hours for the freezing to abate, so at its worst, it feels like you were kicked in the nuts about two hours ago. There was a scrip for Tylenol-3's in my post-op kit, but I didn't need them. 

Today I feel a little tender--occasionally, how do I put this, my nuts pucker a little. Sitting's fine, standing's fine, getting from one to the other is a bit touch-and-go. My biggest complaint, though, is not being able to shower until Monday night. I feel dirty already. But I also feel relieved. You could say, in fact, that there's a vas deferens between the fear and the reality of a vasectomy.


I didn't gloat about it much at the time, but I'd like to remind everybody here that the anaesthetic didn't take. He started sawing into my scrote while I could still feel it. I hereby claim many MAN points for stoically withstanding that kind of pain. Oh, for sure, tears ran down my face...but they ran stoically. I cried out in pain, yes, but in a very stoic fashion.

This post dovetails neatly with the last one, about our failed adoption process, in that this too was a very firm decision about a lack of children in my life. Only this time it was a decision I made myself. 

The closest I've come to regret at the vasectomy, both before and after, was the recurring thought that I'm the end of the line. If my dad is disappointed at this, he's never said it...which hasn't stopped me from hearing it, in my imagination, at times.

Admittedly, I've never felt the biological imperative to create carbon copies of myself. I was not an easy child to raise and I'm not an easy man to live with and I've known both of these things almost since I've had a sense of self. The thought of raising another me, even one tempered by Eva's passed-down charms, fills me with a sense of existential dread...which is why adoption was such an inviting prospect, until it got yanked out from under us. I still think I'd do well with kids, just maybe not "my own". And at 42 going on 84, I'd feel more like Grandpa than Dad. 

But that, again, is a passing fling of a thought, usually triggered by children behaving adorably. Children behaving badly--and I see more than enough of that, working where I work--make me want to run away. I will say this: not once have I ever thought of reversing the vasectomy. 

I do wonder what sort of person I'd have turned into if I'd gone down that other road, though. I can't help but think about that every once in a while, and it's not the sort of question that can really be answered. I read a study recently that showed that parenting is the source of life's greatest joys and its greatest miseries...parents live an amplified life. I strive above all else to maintain an even keel, so either I'd succeed and be the same rock-in-the-storm I pride myself on being...or I'd crack, which is something I'd rather not think about.

Once again it's time to bring Douglas Adams out: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be."


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Ken! Not everyone who has had a vasectomy would like to share his experience, even with close friends. Perhaps many of those who underwent with the procedure can relate to your story. I also loved your reason of getting one, which is to prevent your wife from having another miscarriage. All in all, we need more stories such as this to advance the idea that a vasectomy is an acceptable way of birth control. Thanks!
Harold Judelman @