My period started this morning. It’s back after 18 months of being pregnant and nursing. My milk just dried up, my hormones are out of whack, my heart is heavy, and my head is aching.
Today is my husband’s vasectomy.
We’ve been talking about this day for six years, putting it off, planning it, being scared of it, worried about it. I’d been on the pill for half my life; I accidentally got pregnant while on the pill. The loss of that pregnancy derailed me and broke our souls. Thank god we didn’t get that vasectomy, he said. It was meant to be, I cried when we got pregnant with our little Arlo, who is now 8-months-old.
I snuggle those sweet milky cheeks this morning and breathe in his baby-soft hair. Eric is irritable, nervous. The obligatory “what to expect with your vasectomy” paperwork is strewn across our kitchen table. It talks of swollen scrotum and stitches, bags of frozen peas and prescriptions of Valium. It doesn’t talk of things like fear and sadness, worry and relief.
As we walked our daughters to school, 6-year-old Alice wonders about the details of Daddy’s “surgery,” as she calls it. What’s going to happen to his penis? Can you still have babies, Mama? Is he going to be okay? I’m so glad I’m not a man because that would be the worst pain, right? I answer them all truthfully and carefully, except for that last one. I bite my tongue for all mothers who have grown babies in their bellies and given birth through their vaginas and in honor of all the fathers who have endured a vasectomy for the love of their families. Right, I answer. But Daddy is strong and it really won’t hurt for too long.
Eric takes the morning off work to do a few odd jobs around the house, in preparation for a weekend of laying around in pajamas pants with ice packs. He runs to Home Depot, patches a wall, snakes a drain. It’s just the three of us—Arlo, Eric and I. We sip coffee quietly and that’s when the tears come. So, tell me again we’re making the right decision, I say. No more babies for us. He kisses Arlo’s head and says, I feel a little sad. I want more babies, I don’t want to have any more babies. This is harder than I thought.
We get sushi for lunch before his appointment. I have to take him, drive him home. You have some really large vas deferens, the doctor tells Eric during the procedure, referring to the ejaculatory ducts in the testicles that carry the sperm. I don’t know if I should take that as a compliment or not, he laughs. Well, tell your wife you’ve got some big ones, the doctor joked back, one guy to another, in between shaving my husband’s testicles and discussing their mutual adoration of The Walking Dead.
Fifteen minutes was all it took. A 15 minute procedure in the doctor’s office that changed our lives forever. Eric walked out of the office slowly, tenderly. I’m feeling a little nauseous, he said. You and me both, love, I think.
I see his face, a bit paler than normal, but smiling, a little. That’s it? I say. It’s over? I mean the procedure, but of course I mean more than that. Our reproductive lives, our youthful making of a family, his sperm, his ability to create life. Looking back, but looking forward. To the rest of our lives, our growing family, his love for me and his children, his ability to still create life.
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