Fri 20 Feb 2009
yesterday was supposed to be vasectomy day.
a crazy morning running around making sure kids were fed and watered and changed and temperatures taken and fevers broken and medicines swallowed and diapers packed and i made french toast but that was as much time as we seemed to have for special things, for taking stock. and i wanted to drive him to the hospital even though i knew it made no sense to drag the baby out at nap time, but he would have come with me, i knew, and so i felt callous just waving goodbye at the door.
we stood there for a second, awkwardly, neither knowing what to say. such a strange thing, this act, this leavetaking. my mind offered up a smorgasboard of Wildly Unhelpful Possibilities, vasectomy version…grab him heartily by the crotch! launch into Monty Python’s Every Sperm is Sacred! pat him on the head! cry! wax sentimental about your entire tragicomic reproductive history as a couple! ask to kiss the sperm goodbye!
the inside of my head is a regular SNL skit.
i settled for smiling and muttering, thanks for doing this. and he was gone.
two hours later the door opened. i looked up, startled – he was supposed to be on an operating table, wowing the nurses. but his virility remained unsullied – the Big V had been postponed. until July. he hadn’t changed his mind. i asked, though his face – all baleful i wasted a whole morning on this – told me the answer before the words left my lips. he’s been the one driving this train from the beginning. he just wanted it over with.
July. o Canadian health care system, no pun intended but we were not the couple you wanted to fuck with on this one. we’re careful and responsible, yes, and too tired to be up to much fun anyway. but seriously? July? when he went on the list last September? when we’ll have to continue being careful for a good three months or so afterward?
i am in my prime, people. and the baby is starting to sleep through the night occasionally. ahem.
this is not a case of a simple trade of crappy wait times for universal health care…good friends of ours, same town, same OB, went on the vasectomy list a month AFTER Dave and the gentleman in that partnership was cleanly snipped seven weeks later. mmmhmmm. but us? oh, ten and a half months. genius.
our babies are COSTLY, o Canadian taxpayers. i bounce back and forth between two provincial systems getting them here and the dollars spent on ultrasounds alone would blow your mind. then the little dears come early. trust me, you could buy a Sea King with what it costs you to help us reproduce, and even then it’s a gamble. you don’t want us making more.
perhaps a letter-writing campaign. the internets get Dave a prompt vasectomy, live on the six o-clock news. heartwarming story of family spared interminable nasty condom use and fretting.
he went back to work at noon. cue laughter.
no direct way to address it publicly without titters and sardonic smiles…the Big V vasectomy cuts to the heart of too many social stereotypes and gender grievances to be simply a personal thing. too many men refuse, or refuse to even contemplate. the male reproductive system remains too sacrosanct, too tied to cultural notions of masculinity, of manhood. too much responsibility for contraception falls to women, too much damage – physical and emotional – occurs in pregnancy and birthing and all the messiness in between, and so a brutal undercurrent of cultural contempt is tapped here, brought to the surface. and we joke, all of us, speak of the vasectomy out of the corner of our mouths, unable to address its contradictions head-on.
it is both noble sacrifice and dismissable inconvenience. it is men’s turn, and the unmanning of the mythical macho man we still mourn even in our recriminations. we have not found him a replacement.
all that and it is still surgery. we laugh, we can’t seem to help but laugh, even if we mean it kindly, but it is still surgery. are there any other surgeries we laugh at, in this culture? do we ever otherwise feel so free to tease a person about to go under the knife? i wonder. is a man allowed to be nervous about a vasectomy, not because it’s his manly bits but just because it’s surgery?
the needle will still go into his arm. he will still have to stare at the OR ceiling and those enormous lights and try to disassociate himself and hope that all is going okay and the doctor’s clean and sober and on top of his or her game and all those little mutters from down at crotch level don’t mean there’s a problem. it will still hurt, after. no huge deal…sure. not like an emergency c-section, no. but not nothing.
i figure it’s a sign of how far we have yet to come both in gender equity and our cultural relationship to sexuality that the mass response to a man’s announcement of a vasectomy is snickers and bravado.
mind you, Dave had to phone me from the door of the hospital, his mind suddenly blank, to ask me what the operation was really called. he’d been calling it ‘neutered’ for weeks.
and now, he is not neutered. and i look at him with one eyebrow raised, this man who seems suddenly dangerous.
even in the moment Dave walked out the door and drove away, even as i thanked him for sparing me this one last interventionist chapter in our reproductive history, i wasn’t sure i felt done. practically, sure, i know i’m done. my OB and my mother and Dave himself all tell me so. my body is no safe sanctuary and we have a little house and two healthy kids and it’s a privilege to even be able to just conceive by plain ol’ sex – i have too many friends who are either infertile or in same-sex partnerships to take for granted the luxury of needing the vasectomy – but all those fine, good, sensible thoughts didn’t stop the little voice in the back of my head that made petulant noises about the small Hugh or Blythe who are never to be, whom my heart still calls to. i was Janus, casting ahead and backwards all at the same time, unable to believe i could be done with babies for good.
until Dave walked back in and said, nope, July. and my first, gut response was sweet lips of God no! what if i get PREGNANT?! my brain had dashed out for the pill and a diaphragm to boot and was back tying on the chastity belt before he’d even finished his sentence.
so i guess i’m done. good to know. now to get that July thing sped up.