Getting Snipped

ted_coxBy Ted Cox

It must have been two-for-one vasectomy night. During the day, the clinic is usually brimming with apprehensive-looking teenage girls and young women. But that late in the evening, it was all men with their wives or girlfriends. OK, not all men had their wives with them. I was there with my best friend, Tony. Like the other men, I was at the clinic to get sterilized. Snipped. Neutered. Liberated.

When you are about to undergo a life-altering procedure, you can’t help but wonder about your decision. By the time of that warm San Diego night in 2006, I had not wanted children of my own for many years. I had no desire to be a father. Without consulting me, my parents had made me the oldest of seven children, and I raised my siblings as if they were practically my kids anyway, a fact my sixteen year old sister confirmed last Thanksgiving when she said, “We’re practically your kids, anyway.”

It’s not that I don’t like kids, it’s just that I don’t want any of my own. This is something that baffles most parents I know. Sitting on a dark porch one warm Sacramento night, Michelle, a mother of two, couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want kids, and she was pissed about it. She played with her frazzled curly blond hair while she glared at me.

“Because, Michelle, by age eighteen, I had changed more diapers than you ever will,” I explained. Again.

“But Teddy,” she protested, “It’s different when they’re your own kids.”

I had heard this line before. And I was a little annoyed at her combative tone; I don’t give people grief for choosing to have children.

“What’s so different when they’re your own?” I retorted. “Do they cry less? Do they poop less? Cost less? They don’t stay up all night with fevers? Can you pass them off to other people to do whatever you want whenever you want?”

She sat in silence, sipping her beer and puffing a cigarette. And then, just to be an jerk, I concluded, “It’s not different when they’re your own, Michelle, it’s worse.” I think some parents, in some way, are a little jealous of my decision. Surely they can think of the many ways their own lives have been altered or put on hold because of their children. But something about our evolutionary biology keeps them from ever admitting it publicly, or even to themselves. The clue is when someone says, “I love my kids, but….”

I had tried to get a vasectomy a year earlier through my regular primary care doctor. A round man in his late 40s, he clutched my medical charts and folded his arms while he thought over the reasons I had given him. My pants and shirt were folded over the chair in the examination room while I sat on the table in one of those never-adequate medical gowns. He then told me I should wait until I was in a relationship. After all, he said, what if I met the “right” woman and then suddenly wanted to have children with her?

I wasn’t able to answer him. I put on my clothes and went back to work, mulling his words over the entire next year. I dated a couple of women during that time and hid my cringing every time they playfully mentioned what “our kids” would be like. My pal Tony finally resolved the doctor’s question for me a few months later:If she wants kids, he explained, she obviously isn’t the “right” woman. I contacted the clinic.

In researching vasectomies, I learned that very few doctors or clinics will perform the procedure on young, single, childless men. (This makes no sense to me. I should be able to decide if I want to reproduce or not.) So on the way to my consultation, I practiced my cover story: I was a married father of two eleven year old children. The twins had been born when I was eighteen years old and while my wife and I loved them, we knew we wanted no more children. We were enjoying greater freedom now that they were growing up and were looking forward to them getting ready for high school and college. I even procured a fake wedding ring.

My interviewer was a cute twenty-three year old Latina. I had to keep myself from flirting with her. (I wondered if “Hey baby, I’m sterile” would work as a pick-up line.) The interview might as well have been her asking, “So, are you sure you want to do this?” No background check. No proof of my story required. I signed the release forms and received some printed information and the phone number of the vasectomy scheduler lady.

Two weeks later, Tony picked me up from my place in his silver sports car. He had always been supportive of my decision. He made a good living as a network engineer and lived in a pimped-out downtown condo two blocks away from Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres played. Tony was single and didn’t plan on having kids either. In fact, several of our male friends were in the same boat: educated, making good livings in stable jobs, and with absolutely no desire to procreate, we were content with the prospect of perpetual bachelorhood. Brian, an engineer buddy of mine living in LA, told his parents he didn’t want kids. They called him selfish.

“Yeah, I’m selfish,” he later told me over our fourth round of beers at an Hermosa Beach pub. He liked living in his little cave-like apartment by the beach, going out as often as he wanted. His biggest concerns were mostly related to work projects, which were usually over by 6pm every weekday. When he got home, he would crack open a beer and watch TV while deciding where to go for dinner. He spent his big paycheck as he wanted. And he was also considering a vasectomy.

Tony talked about it being his turn soon as we pulled into the parking lot. We walked up the cement ramp to the front doors of the clinic that was guarded – to our surprise – by one of the hottest women we had ever seen in San Diego. A slender, uniformed brunette with big brown eyes, we had no idea how she would protect us from any Pro-Lifers that would try to bomb the clinic.

Inside the seats were occupied by several men and their female partners. I’m the only guy there that brought another guy to drive him home. I check in at the desk and fill out some more forms. I also resolve that if someone does decide to bomb the clinic, I will unselfishly throw myself on top of the security guard to protect her from the blast. Chivalry is not dead. Tony laughs when I tell him this.

A nurse opened the door near the front desk and called my name. Tony and I knocked fists together and I stood up.

Showtime.

She led me down a hallway into an examination room were she took my vitals. The nurse told me she felt she was providing a service to the community, a sentiment I could agree with. You have to admit there are plenty of children in the world. If anything, the survival of our species may be dependent on us not reproducing as much as we do now. Back when our ancestors were living off of beetles and tree bark, it made sense for them to produce offspring often. But in the modern United States, with our overcrowded schools and our infrastructure stretched to the snapping point, each person on average generates 20,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, by far the largest per capita amount in the world.

America’s obsession with cars and packaged goods (like iPods, DVD players and big screen TVs) and our rapid population growth (the United States has the third largest population in the world) could kill the rest of the planet. Stemming the population growth in industrialized countries like the United States is quite literally saving the world. So here I was, doing my part, like this nurse.

From the examination room, I am led to the back of the clinic and into the operating room. The nurse tells me to remove my shorts and underwear and sit on the table. The nurse leaves the room and I sit, half-naked, waiting. Medical posters of female anatomy adorn the walls. I pick up a magazine to pass the time. I am calm and happy, glad to finally get this done.

Another nurse enters the room and tells me the white paper I am sitting on should be across my lap. I look down, then apologize. “This is my first time,” I say. It takes her a second before she laughs. I wonder if she knows it’s not polite to laugh when a man isn’t wearing pants.

The procedure itself was rather anti-climactic. Not that I was expecting balloons or a parade, but once the doctor entered the room, it was done without much fanfare. The doctor and nurse chatted with each other casually about their mutual friends as he took a scalpel to my scrotum and made it impossible for me to sire children for the rest of my life.

The only pain I felt the burning cramp of the needle numbing my nether regions. I felt an occasional tug as he clamped a titanium clip on each severed vas deferens and stitched up the two tiny incisions. After 20 minutes, the doctor stood up, told me to put on the athletic support I had brought with me and to ice myself as soon as I got home. With that, I was left alone in the room. I dressed slowly. Happyland was a little tender at that moment, so I took things easy, shuffling back towards the front of the clinic.

Tony’s eyes went wide as he saw me walk cautiously through the door. I told him it didn’t hurt. I checked out of the clinic and we walked towards his car as the sun set. The security guard had gone home. I had lost a chance to try out my new pick-up line.

I spent the next two days on the couch in my living room, alternating ice packs on either side of my groin while watching seasons 1 and 2 of Lost in their entirety, including the special features. Extra Strength Tylenol was a staple those days. Besides a little aching, there were no complications. I figure if I really ever do want children, I can always do the socially-conscious thing and adopt. I have managed to help save the world, and still be selfish, all at the same time.

But I still have to figure out a way to tell my mother.} else {