My Vasectomy: The Procedure, The Pain, The Recovery
You can read Part One here, which is simply the research I did and psychological process I went through coming to the decision that a vasectomy was right for me.
And now: welcome to Part Two - the gory details.
Feel free to keep scrolling and read it for yourself, or click this handy audio track to hear me read it to you:
The night before the procedure, I was understandably a little anxious. I went to bed at 10pm, but didn’t fall asleep until almost 1am having some idea that the procedure would be uncomfortable at best, and downright torturous at worst. So I was bracing myself for what I had voluntarily gotten into. As I laid there, I also wondered what it would be like to wake up after a full night’s rest and immediately pop a Valium as was instructed by the doctor…..
Alas, the morning came, I took the Valium and after a quick freshening up we headed over to the doctor’s office. Prior to the appointment he had prescribed me 2 Valium and instructed me to take one an hour before my 8:30am appointment, and if I was still a nervous wreck by the time I got there I could take the second one. It turned out I was not a nervous wreck and was already loopy from not having any coffee, so the one Valium just amplified that and I was actually feeling pretty good. In the right circumstances, I’d even say it’s not a bad way to start the day.
After sitting for just a few minutes in the waiting room, they called me back. My girlfriend, Katie, opted to stay there and not go into the room with me. This turned out to be a very wise decision. She would have been pretty traumatized had she been forced to watch the actual procedure.
It probably would have been much worse for her than it was for me.
Once in the room I immediately noticed the tray full of all the sterilized surgical tools. A slight bit of dread came into my body, but not enough to freak out or anything because: Valium. The nurse told me to take off everything from the waist down, and then she left the room for a minute. I hopped up onto the operating chair and sat there exposed. I imagine some people would have been uncomfortable about this, but I was not at all. Valium, yes - but also: I regularly show my penis to rooms full of strangers in an effort to educate them about foreskin restoration.
The nurse came back in and put a big white paper drape over me, which I thought was kind of silly, but whatevs. Then she stuck this giant electrode type thing to the side of my thigh. It was about the size of an index card and it had a couple of wires connecting me to some machine. I don’t know what that was for, and I forgot to ask. But I had never seen anything like it before. I later found out that it was a grounding pad for the electrical soldering tool. Then she pulled the paper drape off of me and started to prepare a different drape that would be used during the procedure itself. I thought that was kind of weird for her to have opened up the first drape, only for it to cover me for literally about 2 minutes and then be thrown away. What was even the point?
Goddamn American sexual squeamishness and our weird protocols.
Especially since the new drape she was putting on me covered my entire body except for a big hole for my genitals to poke through. Which made the first drape even more pointless in my opinion. Why bother covering my genitals for 2 minutes only to turn around and completely isolate them for all the world to see? Huh?
Anyway, then the doctor came in and was all chipper. He started making lots of small talk in an effort to relax the atmosphere. I didn’t mind it, he was nice, but I was already pretty relaxed because again: Valium.
I was seated in such a way that if I wanted to watch I could have lifted my head up and viewed everything, but I chose to lay reclined and “relaxed”. And off we went.
He said, “Ok, I’m gonna stick you with some Lidocaine to numb the area first, are you ready….. here goes.”
I’ve been stuck with tons of needles over the years and poked and prodded in all kinds of ways. I’m usually a good sport, but this hurt a lot. I jumped a little, and made several vocal grunts and other indications of “OUCH!” And this was just the initial numbing shot. As a side note, I could feel lots of fluid running down between my legs and onto the table I was laying on, but I now wonder if that was just a sensation from it being injected into my scrotum, or if it was actually running down the outside of my skin. I forgot to ask, so I guess I’ll never know.
Then he said he was going to make a small incision to get to the tube.
HOLY SHIT!!! The incision hurt. A LOT. I jumped again, though trying valiantly to not literally jump off the table or otherwise compromise his efforts. But it hurt. Then came the snip. That literally felt like he wheeled back and kicked me in the nuts as hard as he could. Then he fastened a clip to the tube which also was very painful.
At that point I started getting a major hot flash and started sweating profusely. I told him that I was doing ok, but that it was very painful and I was saturated.
In the middle of all this, he’s trying to distract me by asking me what I’ve been watching on Netflix these days. I was like “uh, shit, I dunno, The Royals, OUCH! Chef’s Table, GAH!! Dave Chappelle, FUHHH!!!”
And he goes, “I know it’s rough, you’re actually doing really well, some guys come in here and just straight up pass out.” ...A little something I wish they had warned me of ahead of time.
Then he cauterized the tubes and I saw a little puff of smoke float up, but luckily I didn’t smell anything or feel it at all.
“Ok, one down, are you ready for round two?” I mean, I guess. What the hell have I gotten myself into?
I was hoping that the first round of Lidocaine would have numbed the area sufficiently for the second injection to not be as painful, but for whatever reason it was every bit as painful as the first. And of course the remaining steps were also every bit as shocking and jolting and painful as the first round. It all sucks, but the bit where they actually cut the tube is the most painful and unnerving. From my perspective it was hugely painful, and it didn’t feel like just a little simple snip. It felt like he was cutting through something rather substantial, and it took a few seconds to get through, and the sensation was that of my nuts being kicked repeatedly once again.
Thankfully the whole entire procedure literally took 10 or 15 minutes, and I barely felt the suturing once he was done with all the cutting and snipping.
After that he said I was all set and I did a great job and then he walked out of the room. The nurse stayed behind and also told me I did really well. She said some guys come in for the procedure and as soon as they do the first one they’re like “uh uh, no way, I’m done, you’re not even touching the other one, fuck this.”
I would have never done that. I couldn’t even imagine doing that. But regardless, it was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.
The nurse then told me I still looked a little pale, and that I could just lay there for a few until I was ready to get up. Thankfully that only lasted a couple minutes, and by this time everything was pretty well numbed up down there, so I was able to get up and put my pants and shoes back on with relative ease. Then she told me I was all set and could leave as soon as I wanted.
Katie drove me home and I rested on the couch for the rest of the day and thought about what just happened. I concluded that I’m glad I did it, I’m glad it’s done, and I would even go so far as to recommend it. But no way in hell would I ever put myself through that again, so I’m really glad it’s a one time thing. The recovery process is not nearly as bad as a recent hernia repair surgery, but the procedure itself is no less than self imposed torture. That is, 15 minutes of self imposed torture for a (remaining) lifetime of no unwanted pregnancies. I’ll take it.
The rest of the recovery process was interesting. They tell you to get a jock strap and have it handy when you get home because you'll need it. I didn't understand exactly why beforehand, but once I got home, that jock strap became my best friend for almost two weeks. I even slept in it for the first few days. It turns out having your balls hang by their own weight is incredibly uncomfortable during the recovery process and a jock strap keeps everything just about as tight as can be, which is the only thing that feels good.
The other crappy part about getting a vasectomy is that it doesn't take effect immediately. You still have to have upwards of 35 ejaculations afterwards to clear the pipes of any residual sperm that was further up the line before they snipped you. So I thought "no worries, I'll just jerk off like 3 times a day and be ready to go in like two weeks or whatever. Bing, bang, boom, ya know." Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. I was able to masturbate, sort of, after about 5 or 6 days. But it still hurt and things were still swollen. My ejaculations were really weird too, like some kind of weird pressure built up and it resulted in ejaculations that shot out well past my head if I was laying down.
Eventually the swelling all went down after a couple of weeks and things mostly returned to normal. But not 100% normal. Like, they say "get it done on a Friday and you'll be back at work by the following Monday." I mean, yes, technically, I suppose if you work in an office and can sit down all day. But in general things hurt for several days. It was a solid two weeks before I could have any kind of pain free sex. Maybe even three. And masturbating three times in one day still wasn't really comfortable for or pain free. In the end it took me about 6 weeks to accumulate 35 ejaculations. And that was trying my hardest.
Then once you're done with those 35 ejaculations, you're supposed to go and get your sperm count tested, which I did, and wrote about here. I know people that skipped this step, but I wanted to be sure. I wanted to know that I wasn't gambling with an unwanted pregnancy. So I did it. It was not the best experience by a long shot, but after everything else I had put myself through, this was a no-brainer.
Now I look at a vasectomy much differently than I did prior. Now if someone were to ask me if they should get one I will ask them “what if you never had to worry about an unwanted pregnancy again for the rest of your life, but in order to do so you had to undergo some diabolical nut torture for 15 minutes straight, would you do it?" My answer would still be yes. But damn, that was pretty rough.
I guess I can see why they don’t put you under for it, since it’s literally a few minutes per side. But at the same time, it really is something that I would have much rather slept through.
So all of this begs the question; why did I do this? I mean, the short answer is obvious: because I don’t want to have children. But more importantly I wanted to be able to exercise some control over my reproductive system and my relationship with sexuality. I wanted to do what was within my power to prevent a hugely unwanted circumstance from occurring. I wanted to avoid a surprise phone call from someone telling me that I impregnated them and that my life was about to change forever. And truthfully I was all too happy to be able to remove some of the burden that women have to deal with on a daily basis when it comes to reproductive control.
I have one choice in the matter, and that’s the choice of prevention. Beyond that, it’s everyone else’s choice but mine. And that didn’t sit well with me. Like if I were to get Katie pregnant I know she would more than likely terminate it. But that’s a shitty situation to have to put someone in. Even though I know she doesn’t think chemical abortions are “that bad” compared to a lot of other physical experiences, it’s still costly and not exactly anyone’s idea of a good time. And if I were to get someone else pregnant, I have no control over whether they kept it or not. And that’s 10 times worse. The last thing Katie and I would want is for our relationship to be strained by me fathering a child with someone who we’re not even that close with.
I mean, I get it, I really do. I get why it’s the woman’s choice. It’s their body, it’s their mind, it’s their instinct. I would never even pretend to try and influence that. But to eliminate that possibility from even happening is a huge relief for both myself and my partner. Even though it’s a woman’s choice, it’s often not a choice that they enjoy being faced with either. It’s a difficult decision all around.
For even as much as I had to endure to get this done, a woman has to endure much more if she wants to be permanently sterilized. It’s significantly more invasive and expensive. And the recovery time as much more arduous. Women really get the short end of the stick when it comes to reproductive control. I don’t envy them one bit.
So when I factor all this in, it really is a no brainer. Fifteen minutes of torture for a lifetime of worry free sex (STI’s notwithstanding). Katie even asked me last night, “would you rather have 15 minutes of torture followed by a short, mild recovery? Or being put under for the procedure, followed by 4-6 weeks of painful recovery?” After a few seconds of thinking about it I concluded that the 15 minutes of torture was - perhaps surprisingly - the better option. To reach this conclusion, I factored in the recovery process of my recent hernia surgery. It was no joke. A solid week of painful immobility, followed by several more weeks of frequent shooting/stabbing pains in my abdomen whenever I moved slightly in the wrong direction. It was quite shitty.
Granted, I still have flashbacks of the vasectomy procedure itself, sometimes they even make me squirm with discomfort. But I know they will fade over time. Just like when I was in a serious car accident about 10 years ago and replayed the impact in my head over and over for weeks. Eventually it subsided and I rarely think about it any more. Even when I do, it doesn’t have near the same impact that it once did. So I know this too will pass.
Though I do believe that the process could be vastly improved. It seems like the only reason they don’t put you under any kind of sedation is because it takes more time to wake back up, and it ends up losing the doctor money because then s/he can’t bang out 5 of these in an hour. But I really feel like it’s almost a little barbaric the way they do it. They wouldn’t even need to fully anesthetize me. They could just administer some intravenous Valium and knock me out for an hour or so while they do it. That way they wouldn’t even need an anesthesiologist present. It would be much more humane. And I have to believe much less stressful for the doctor and other staff present.
I was thinking what it must be like for that to be your job. Whether you’re the doctor inflicting all the pain, or the nurse having to assist and watch. If I were either one of those people, I would come home every day questioning whether my job was worth it. I mean, could you imagine going to work every day knowing that you’re going to inflict so much pain onto someone that they could potentially pass out from the ordeal? I get that they’re probably desensitized to it by this point, but still I’m sure it wears on their psyche on some level deep down.
Like if someone told me they’d pay me six figures a year to inflict severe pain on people every day, I just don’t think I could do it.
So in the end, it’s a shitty deal all around. It’s shitty to know that the only way we can take control of our reproductive system on a permanent level is to endure a highly painful and somewhat traumatic experience is really unfortunate. And it’s even shittier to know that in the end it’s still worth doing.