I don’t scream, but I clamp my jaw so tightly it clicks. I arch my back so much I end up looking behind me at the door. The technique differs from doctor to doctor. Some cut diagonally. Some puncture “keyholes” with a hemostat on either side of the scrotum. Mine scalpels a vertical slash right down the middle. The room is cold, but I am sweating. How I regret not accepting the Valium. The doctor explains the procedure as it progresses. Apparently some men don’t have pronounced enough vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm outward from the testicles, making the vasectomy impossible. But mine look great, he says. I would tell him thank you if I had a voice.
He will now sever the right vas deferens and excise a length of the tube, making recanalization close to impossible. “Now,” he says, his voice lowering, “you may feel a hot nauseating spike of pain that reaches up your right side.” Nobody I have spoken to, nothing I have read, mentioned anything about hot nauseating spikes of pain. Before I can steel myself to the idea, I hear a snip. The noise of garden shears deadheading geraniums.
I am unable to breathe. I cannot see what the doctor is doing, but he very well might have shoved a furnace-baked length of rebar through my groin and into my torso. I am introduced to vast, intricate networks of pain I never knew existed.
…The next day, I walk with a sore-saddle mosey. Picking a magazine off the floor is nearly impossible. My scrotum is so black that I wonder if something is wrong. I remember the doctor warning me about the hot nauseating spike of pain. I’d expected the injury to remain localized. How could cutting something down there hurt my whole body?
It did. It does. It is more than the physical. Emotionally, I am curled into a question mark, as if there is a hook inside me. I remember the story of a friend whose mother, after getting a hysterectomy, cried on the couch for days and said she no longer felt like a woman. My reaction is not so severe, but the weekend is long, and I experience several moments of despair when I feel like less than a man.
My son asks me why I have a hurt penis, and I say the doctor fixed me, and he says, “But you still seem broke.” He is right. I am not better by Monday. I am not better by Wednesday, either. But steadily I improve. Over the course of the week, I go from feeling like somebody stubbed a cigar out in my lap to feeling like somebody kicked me in the balls an hour ago.
I’m not bragging, or maybe I am on behalf of my doctor, because mine was nowhere near such a big deal. There was one brief twinge of pain, very little blood, and no terrible discomfort from that point on (and a needle in the beanbag, while admittedly terrifying to contemplate in the abstract, hurts no worse than getting a shot anywhere else). I even went back to work two days later. I walked a little more gingerly, but that was more out of paranoid protectiveness than anything. Don’t let him scare you, fellows, it’s well worth it.