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Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Post: On Becoming Sterile

Have a guest post for Modern Mormon Men? Both modern mormon men and women can submit guest posts via email. In addition to your post, please include a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

Reed Soper was born and raised in southern California. He considered attending the Lord's University but opted for BYU instead where he met Kathryn Lynard doing his home teaching. They married in 1992 and have seven children. Friends and loved ones often describe Reed as "difficult" or "a slow learner." In his spare time, he likes (virgin) pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Check out Reed's first guest post here.

image via Neatoshop
The time for discussion was long since over. Seven kids. We had bagged our limit. (1)  And with our combined hyper-fertility, something had to be done. We had discussed our options and it came down to this -- the least invasive, least expensive and least risky procedure also had the quickest recovery time. The only downside to it was that I would have to be the one subjected to it – a vasectomy. (2)

I had spoken to a few friends who had downplayed the procedure. “You’ll be fine in a day,” one said. Another told me that he actually drove home from the doctor’s office where the procedure was performed, which is a big no-no, but he did it anyway. I read a piece in Slate about how about a third of those scheduled don’t show up. Maybe the fear was all in their head and this was going to be the equivalent to getting my ears pierced or something.

Kathy drove us to the urologist’s office. We made jokes to lighten the mood, but I can honestly say I was not looking forward to the next hour or so. I had been to this office a number of times the previous summer after passing some kidney stones. The office staff included the Urologist, a man who looked like he could have retired years ago but just wasn’t quite ready to give all this up. The receptionist was a large, angry woman who breathed exclusively through her mouth. As she became agitated, you could hear the hiss of her breath as she lashed out at the poor soul who didn’t properly fill out all the forms. There was also a potentially transgendered nurse who literally bounced around the office. At each visit, it seemed to me like some progress was being made towards a final gender, but oddly, I could not tell which direction it was headed.

On this day, we needed to fill out another form. Kathy needed to give her consent for the procedure. I felt a wave of indignation -- what about “My Body, My Choice”? Then we were both ushered into the urologist’s office to be interviewed -- his way, I guess, of determining why we wanted me sterile. His office was the embodiment of sterile. The lights were dim, the windows well-tinted, with a large dark desk, bookshelf, chairs and an examination table. There was at least one ceramic looking replication of male genitalia. I don’t know if that was swag from a urologist convention or perhaps a plaster casting of some of his better work.

Once seated in the office, Dr. Jellyfinger asked why we wanted to do this. “We have 7 kids.” Reason enough. The doctor asked me to drop my drawers to take a look at what he’d be working on -- see if there was anything unusual he needed to acquaint himself with. I’m not sure what sort of variability there is in “equipment” but I didn’t feel comfortable asking. I was at the same time relieved to know that there was nothing abnormal, but felt a a little down that I wasn’t “special” or “extraordinary.”

Then, with my pants down, the urologist asks me if he has ever done a prostate exam on me. I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that never in the history of mankind has this question been asked and a patient has responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” I was sheepish, but Kathy said, “You’re already here and your pants are off, why not?” Why not, indeed. This was perhaps some very limited revenge for all she had endured through the seven pregnancies.

I soon learned that the words of comfort offered by the doctor in the film Fletch (3) are also part of this urologist's repertoire with these exams. He complemented me on the smoothness of my prostrate (4)  and then led me to the room where the real business was to occur. I was asked to remove all clothing below the waist and wait for the doctor to arrive. (5)  I later learned that every other person I knew that had had this procedure was given Valium. I was not offered Valium. I have on occasion taken Valium and am aware of its effects. All I was offered was a prostate exam and I can, from experience, clearly tell the difference between the two.

The doctor offered me his iPod to listen to during the procedure. Since he was about 140 years old, I was expecting a fine selection of either Tommy Dorsey or Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. Surprisingly, there was an eclectic mix of old and new. I quickly spied Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and remarked to myself that I hadn’t listened to that in a long while. So, on it went.

The doctor entered and began to remove excess hair in the area often referred to as the “business district.” (6) Then came the needle. He told me to expect to feel a “little pinch.” What I felt was not a “little pinch,” but what felt like a six-inch needle being inserted into my scrotum and left nut. While this was happening, I was listening to the beginning of Dark Side where there are all the voices talking about being insane. The musical choice was not as soothing as I had hoped.

Soon after, the general area was numb. From my position, lying flat on my back, I could see the doctor at work. I could see the blunt end of instruments in his hands. His hands were moving back and forth over my junk. I couldn’t think of it that way and remain calm. So I imagined his hands moving over a generous selection of deli meats, cheeses and condiments, perhaps making an impressive sandwich.

After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably 15 minutes, the sandwich making was done. One half of the sperm delivery system had been sabotaged. I opened my eyes and looked down just in time to see a puff of smoke from cauterization. It was white smoke.

Do we have a new pope? (7)

The burning smell was off-putting. I was able to quickly move past that when the six-inch needle reappeared -- time for the other side. Another “little pinch,” another dagwood sandwich and another new pope later, I was sterile, at least in theory. Prior to the procedure, the doctor had made a point of saying that there is about a 95% success rate with vasectomies, but that his success rate was a little higher. I wondered which of all the valley’s urologists had bragging rights to having the highest success with sterilizing men?

He bandaged me up with about 37 feet of gauze held in place by a jock strap. As I sat up, he asked if I wanted to see what he removed. Uh, no, I don’t think so. I delicately put on my pants and slowly limped to the waiting room where my ride was waiting. There were probably 5 - 8 men waiting their turn, and I can only imagine what they thought of my bandaged-scrotum-induced walk of shame.

There was a week or so of recovery that included some shame-walking, some fear of bandage removal (8)  and eventually a return to normalcy. Well, almost a state of normalcy. I can no longer listen to Dark Side of the Moon without crossing my legs.

(1) I am reminded of the old joke that mormons don’t believe in having children past 35, cause 36 kids are too many.
(2)Vasectomies get their name because it is the process that severs or ties the vasa deferentia, which incidentally is not an early name for a David Lee Roth band.
(3)He told me to “just relax.”
(4) We Sopers are known for our smooth prostates.
(5) From the “All of this has happened before” file, this was not the first time I found myself in this position. Several years earlier, I had to get an ultrasound of the high-rent district which involved pants around my ankles and being subjected to some serious poking and prodding. Lest you think I am a floozy of some sort, beyond these two times I never got myself into a position like this unless it was proceeding by at least dinner and a movie.
(6)Other similar names include: high-rent district, money-maker, etc.
(7) Kathy, my wife, believes that readers might not be familiar with the process and thought that a footnote would be helpful here.
(8)I had an irrational fear that I’d remove the bandage to change it or bathe and “something” would fall out.

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