Snip/Tuck: One Man’s Vasectomy Story
An estimated 175,000 to 354,000 vasectomies are done each year. Here is one man's story.
The act of choosing a doctor is about the same for me as picking a horse in a race – scanning the names for any type of sign.
“Ackerman? No. Bernstein? Nope. Ebert? Nah. Fallick? Yes, Fallick is our man! FALLICK HAS TO BE THE MAN.”
Fallick. Kind of like phallic. Phallic, as in, “of or relating to a phallus.” It’s another word for penis.
“Honey, where’s the phone? I found our guy.”
I've spread the gossip about possible getting a vasectomy before it was time to turn idle chatter into reality. I ‘d put this phone call off long enough, mostly because I was afraid of the awkwardness of asking for someone over the phone to essentially burn my balls. I mean, how does one ask for this on a telephone?
The phone call was easy and very much like ordering a pizza.
“Hello. Delaware Valley Urology. Pick up or delivery?”
“Um, pickup. I guess."
“What’ll you have?”
“Um…a vasectomy…with the works.”
“Do you want any sides with that?”
“Um, how about a side of sensitivity, a valium appetizer and a pack of frozen peas for dessert.”
“When would you like to come in?”
Every date the receptionist threw at wasn’t soon enough. I was ready immediately. Our four buzzkills (children) were not in a particularly agreeable mood that morning. They were having the kind of morning that will urge a man sign up for a vasectomy, with a complementary hysterectomy to boot.
“Do you have anything tomorrow?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” she told me. “You need to come in for a consultation and then we will schedule your procedure. We need to make sure that you are a good candidate.”
A good candidate? I’m the best candidate! I’ll take down the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary with my eyes closed and my pants around my knees. I have four children, a dead-end job, seven unpublished novels floating around my head, a calendar of children’s doctor’s visits and one million dollars of future college tuition to look forward to. Now sign me up, lady.
She must have heard the urgency in my voice, and my children screaming in the background, as she agreed to schedule the actual vasectomy procedure in advance of my consultation.
The phone call I’d been putting off for year lasted less than three minutes.
In the shadows of the monstrous Virtua Memorial Hospital in Voorhees, NJ, which is responsible for tens of thousands of births each year, sits the Delaware Valley Urology building which is responsible for putting a stop to hundreds of thousands of births each year. I pulled into the parking lot on the morning of my consultation and normally I’m in no rush to see a doctor. I sprinted into the office.
There’s a strange anxiety that builds while waiting for a doctor to walk into an examination room. Especially, if you’ve never met before. It’s similar to waiting for a blind date, except in this case, it doesn’t matter who walks through that door I’m committed to making this work. Even if the doc sports a hump, eye patch and hook for a hand he’s palming my pouch before this is all over -- with or without his hook.
Dr. Fallick brought a certain stillness to the room. This calmed me down. He's a good-looking man -- a straight shooter who portrays a certain comfort. He went over my records, and asked me how many children I had. Once I replied “four” he seemed as though he didn’t need to ask any more questions. He knew my mind was made up.
All that was left was to me to drop my drawers for him to take a looksee.
Standing rigidly upright, and naked from the waist down, he asked about the future of my professional industry.
My voiced cracked as I responded to his small talk. Dr. Fallick is an eye-contact man and he demands reciprocation. I stood there with my manhood in his palm and I starred into his soft brown eyes just eight inches from my face. I suppose this eye contact is a tool of his to make this all feel natural. But I’ve only had one other person touch me in that spot this millennium and she prefers to do it with the lights off.
“Yes, it’s important for there to be bookstores,” he said softly, with care and concern as he continued to poke at a very specific area that he will cut into in two weeks. “Books are good. People need bookstores.”
People do need bookstores, I thought, trying like help to keep my mind on anything besides a grown man fondling my genitals.
“Feel that?” he asked, using his fingertip to gently poke at a certain spot. “Right there is where I would like you to shave prior to coming in. The pamphlet says not to use shaving cream but you can if you’d like.”
The evening prior to my procedure, my wife asked me a question, too which I had no response. I’d done extensive research (it helps to work in a bookstore) and the mental prep but after the words left her mouth and hung in the air I realized I didn’t know it all.
“What happens to all the sperm?” she asked.
You see, a vasectomy snips off the passage of the sperm to the ejaculate. But the sperm remain alive, still active and very intent on finding an egg and becoming a person. However, after a vasectomy the sperm kind of just gets captured like a tourist who’d wandered down the wrong urban city dead end left to die, dreams and all.
Have you ever seen those Sarah McLachlan commercials for animal cruelty with those snapshots of beaten down, dying cats and dogs? The commercial played in my head as I fell asleep thinking of the death of all my future sperm. That haunting song repeated in my subconscious. And then as I finally drifted to sleep, some twelve hours away from my vasectomy, I had the following dream. Sarah McLachlan was talking to me through a television screen. Only, it wasn’t the animals that she was looking to save. It was my sperm. It was specifically Kevin Harris’ sperm.
“Hi. I’m Sarah McLachlan. Will you be an angel for an innocent sperm? Every day innocent sperm are abused, beaten and neglected. They’re crying out for help….”
Fallick told me where to shave my area, but didn’t quite tell me where to stop, so I eagerly shaved all the way up to my nipples and all the way down to my shins. I wanted to be thorough.
The written instructions for the procedure suggested bringing two forms of I.D. I brought twenty to ensure that this vasectomy would happen. Along with my driver’s license, my passport, my social security card and my health card, I brought a notarized letter from my mother, my 1993 high school yearbook and headshots from my days as a beat writer for a local newspaper.
Dr. Fallick prescribed one single Valium to calm my nerves prior to the procedure. I popped this sedative in the driveway leaving for my appointment as I took the wheel of the car. My wife voiced concern over driving under the influence to the doctor’s office and offered to takeover. My concern was that she’d drive right past the doctor’s office to some sleazy motel room and demand I impregnate her one last time. I got behind the wheel and we floated to my vasectomy. Well at least I did.
The actual procedure was over in just thirty minutes, and honestly, I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t really want it to end. I was comfortable, talkative, inquisitive and enjoying the company. Fallick and his assistant worked together like Lennon and McCartney – except with balls.
Prior to the procedure Dr. Fallick offered me some mood music. “Would you prefer Clapton or classical,” he said as he held up two compact discs. “Clapton,” I said.
It was Clapton’s Unplugged album, and it set a rather sterile, non-combative, peaceful mood. I enjoyed the first three tracks but then found myself a bit gloomy when Track #4 came on. Clapton wrote his 1991 classic hit Tears From Heaven as a love letter to his four-year-old son who accidentally died after falling out of a New York City apartment window.
This song left me with two persistent thoughts -- the first is that when I hear that song for the rest of my life, I will be reminded of Fallick’s gentle hands and my half-hour spent spread eagle in front of him and, more morosely, I thought of my own millions of future dead sperm. Eh, beats that McLachlan song.
And then it was all over. Before I could shed my first tear Fallick was helping me put my pants on, and telling me to return eight weeks later with a sample cup of ejaculate to test. “Looking forward to it,” I said to him awkwardly.
On the way home my wife bought me an ice cream cone. It reminded me of being a kid and my mother would buy me GI Joe toys after those particularly harsh dental visits. In general, I don’t feel that middle-aged men have any right to enjoy an ice cream cone on some random Friday afternoon. Quite indulgent and self-serving, I have always thought. But damn it, this middle-aged man deserved ice cream on this day. One custard cone of chocolate-vanilla twist, complete with rainbow jimmies, stitched testicles, weightless shoulders and without four children asking for a lick.
My only wish is to have a vasectomy every day.
Kevin Harris is a writer, a father of four children and a husband to one very understanding woman.