When your wife is pregnant, she goes to many doctor’s appointments. Toward the end of the pregnancy, or maybe right after birth, one of the conversations the doctor insists on having is what birth control you’ll be using once the post-partum dry spell ends. I’m not sure why the doctors include this topic. Perhaps they’ve gotten so accustomed to teenagers they feel the need to explain the birds and the bees to all new parents. “Just in case you don’t know how this happened, here’s what you did and here’s how to prevent it in the future.”
For years, when the topic was hypothetical, I always assumed I’d take the outpatient route and go under the knife. Several close friends have faced the scalpel and none have had complications. When the conversation turned to prevention after our second daughter, I told the doctor that I would take the necessary steps and we moved on to other bits of wisdom such as a newborn’s inability to digest turkey dogs (all Kosher beef or nothing) and the fact that newborns wholly prevent you from sleeping for the first six months.
There is a reason I once assumed I’d go down the snippery slope. Blair and I are not big fans of interrupting the moment with physical barriers. Yet our non-Catholicism impedes a roll-the-dice mentality. The pill is an option, but past experience suggests the pill gives the wife severe headaches.
Still, no matter how much we hate physical barriers and no matter how hard I try, I cannot make the call and schedule the appointment. No matter how certain I am that we don’t want a fourth, I can only think about what Dave Barry wrote: “If you’re a man considering this step, you need to reflect upon the fact that they are going to cut a hole in your scrotum.”
When I was 13 years old, I was quite daring with my bicycle. Once, while doing front wheelies, I decided, for some idiotic reason conjured deep within the idiocy of my 13 year old brain, to build up to a good speed, and corresponding momentum, before slamming on my front brakes.
It was a racking to end all rackings. The soft graze that moves from contact to limbo for approximately 10 seconds before crescendoing to crippling pain, normally the queen mother of all manly pain, paled in comparison to the shock waves that radiated out through my body. I crawled into my house and to the bathroom. There, upon examination, I discovered a tiny amount of blood. Not free flowing, but blood nonetheless. I limped to the back yard and informed my father.
Dad was building something at that moment. He didn’t even turn off the circular saw. He just dropped it to the ground. It spent the following 2.5 hours, while we were at the doctor, chasing the dogs around the back yard. We didn’t close doors, we didn’t turn off anything, we just got in the car and left.
Once at the doctor’s office, the serious damage was determined to actually be a minor scrape. No tearing, no rupturing, no lasting effects.
Rather, I should say, there were no lasting physical effects. Emotionally, that story haunts me, especially when I think about purposely scheduling an appointment in which my doctor, a fine and talented man, will cut a hole in my scrotum.
Thousands upon thousands of men have undergone this procedure, but I will still not be joining their ranks. There is always a chance that something will go wrong. Any possibility, no matter how infinitesimal, that I could become such an outlier is too great a risk. I’m reminded of a joke. Why do women rub their eyes when they wake up in the morning? Because their nether regions aren’t that scratchable.
Perhaps in the future I will overcome this fear. Perhaps there is a doctor so infallible, so intelligent, so skilled with scalpel, so trustworthy, that I will find the courage to schedule the appointment. But until I see the sign that says, “The Office of Dr. Jesus H. St. Einstein Sushruta is now open for business,” no one wielding a scalpel is coming within 10 miles of my scrotum. I’ll be damned if I’m going to wake up in the morning and rub my eyes.