No need to feel cut up

It looks like a piece of angel’s hair pasta, about a centimetre long. Seeing it on the end of a pair of forceps means never having to Take Precautions again. William Smook is pleased it’s all over.

If you’re a bloke and you’ve ever suffered a glancing blow to the trouser furniture while playing sport, you’ve experienced more pain than you will from a vasectomy. But that’s not to say that Having The Snip isn’t a little nerve-wracking. If you didn’t get worried about some stranger wielding stainless steel cutlery near your squishy bits you’d have to be asleep.

Which is the way many blokes choose to be when being Snipped. Not me. My limited exposure to general anaesthetic left me feeling dopey and grim for hours afterwards - I plan to be fully conscious.

My colleague Petra tells me I should “make the most” of my last few days of burgeoning virility because afterwards I’ll be as docile as a tomcat that’s been “fixed”. It’s a vasectomy, not a castration, I retort. Now, if I’m so grown-up and sure about this, why did I snap at her?

Part of the reason is the long wait. Urologists are busy people, so it’s nearly a month from booking The Procedure to having it done.

Still, I have a good idea of what to expect: the urologist will inject local anaesthetic into the base of the penis, then make a small cut into the scrotum and remove a bit of the vas deferens, the tube that conveys sperm from the testicles to the urethra and on into the penis.

Unable to reach the outside world and to have marked effects on my wife’s womb, or our sleeping patterns and bank balance, the sperm will simply be reabsorbed into the body. And thank you Petra, for your concern, the hormones will still do their bit, putting a steely glint in my eye and keeping my voice low, my beard hard and my air-guitar skills intact.

It makes sense. Christopher is nearly three years old, and Simone nearly two months. We’re actively planning no more kids and have read some worrying things about the pill being linked to breast cancer. So a vasectomy is logical. It’s even covered by my medical plan.

I’d imagined dropping my trousers while a doctor with a miner’s lamp and a very small knife made a cut - five minutes of suspense and off I’d go, walking like a cowboy but feeling immensely responsible, proactive and grown-up.

Not a chance. I arrive at the swish, shining new hospital at the required 6.30am and after booking in I’m shown to a ward, empty but for signs above the beds saying NIL PER MOUTH. This worries me. The other reason for not having general anaesthetic is that I’m hoping for a strong cup of tea soon, having had only one before leaving home.

Not only am I in a ward, where sick people are kept, but I’m handed a daft green gown that ties up behind me (A feat in itself at 6.30am), and some gauzy green device with three holes in it. This is revealed to be the stupidest pair of underpants ever made - straight from the lingerie catalogue from hell - The Far Side's Secret. Please get onto the bed, sir. Have you shaved? No, can’t you see? No, no, down there. What? We have to shave you, sir. But, but nobody said anything about shaving...

I choose not to argue with the nurse or her razor, and contemplate some point in distant space while she mows my private privet. Soon I’m bald in a prepubescent, chilly way.

Then a bloke named Paul in a theatre gown and a funky skullcap named Opsite pushes me and my very large bed off down a passage. I’m sure you’re legally required to be nearly dead before having a have chauffeur for your bed, rather than simply wide awake, freshly shaved and badly dressed.

No matter. There’s a short wait in a very brightly lit holding area with some other badly dressed bed passengers. Judging by the number and entry point of the tubes in them, they’ve earned the right to a bed chauffeur, so I don't ask them whether they’ve been shaved as well. We’re lined up like jet fighters on the deck of an aircraft carrier, ready to be catapulted into the anaesthetized ether. Soon I’m an operating theatre with a large light and a long, narrow table, onto which I slide like a reluctant egg off a spatula.

A big screen is placed across my chest and the lights come on. “This will hurt,” says Dr Bruwer and injects some local anaesthetic into the base of my cowering member. No kidding, Doc. It’s no fun at all, but mainly because it’s happening in a newly bald part of my anatomy which I take particular care to shield from steel instruments.

I realise it’s really no worse than biting your gum while eating pizza, or jamming your todger in the zip of your jeans. It’s not as bad as a memorable dentist’s appointment I had as a child, not even close to the time I tore all the ligaments in my ankle, and certainly not as bad as the two bouts of labour my wife endured, and by proxy me (Her fingernails left my hands with interesting half-moon bruises).

I gabble about this profound fact, like a groupie getting a boy-band’s autographs, until Bruwer cocks the eyebrow of his skullcap and says: “You’re saying all this to convince yourself, aren’t you?”

The local anaesthetic kicks in and they go to work behind the mercifully placed screen. In a few minutes Bruwer shows me a what looks like a piece of angel’s hair pasta, about a centimetre long. Seeing it on the end of a pair of forceps means that in a couple of months I'll never have to Take Precautions again, he says.

They start patching up and without warning, pull a piece of tape off my leg that removes a patch of hair. It’s completely unexpected, stings like crazy and is by far the most unpleasant aspect of the whole procedure.

In 15 minutes the cut is stitched and dressed, I’m again slid, egg-like, back onto my F-16 bed and swooshed back along the brightly lit corridors to my ward. I down two small pots of tea, read a bit, sneer at the blessedly silent choreographed vaudeville of the World Wrestling Federation on the TV above my bed. By 10.30 I’m home, by noon I walk gingerly into the office.

My repeated inspections reveal that I have some impressive, purple-black bruising across my privates, but it’s all for show, really. I keep taking the muscle relaxant and painkiller I’m prescribed and there’s very little pain, although I’m careful about where my boisterous, affectionate 18kg son places his feet when climbing onto my lap.

A week later the dressing is off and the tea tree and lavender oil I apply to the cut means it’s healing well. The dissolving stitches are starting to well dissolve. I’m feeling my old male self, to the point that I almost feel I should have made more fuss about it and gotten more mileage out of it.

This is especially so after Dr Bruwer’s parting shot: “You won’t be safe for another three months. Bring a sample in then, but get one the night before - I can’t afford paying dancing girls to help.” So much for being treated like a hero.

The vasectomy in our A to Z of diseases.

Why a vasectomy can improve your love life.

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