Closing up shop, for good.

Our family plan was always straightforward and very simple. We would go “two and out” regardless of what combination of genders we were delivered. Two boys, two girls, it really didn’t matter. Together, we made two beautiful babies and our million-dollar family is more than enough for us to handle.

Besides, it’s common knowledge that the world is designed for a family of four. Hotel rooms, vehicles, homes, restaurants, you name it. Having a fifth wheel can be a huge pain in the ass, so why not keep the family unit at a relatively manageable size? While we were both in agreement that we would halt the baby train after two stops, we may have felt differently if we hadn’t experienced the slap of a double dose of colic. Lianne once told me that if she could get an ironclad guarantee that the third kid would be easy-peasy during those first six months, she would almost consider making a trilogy.

There’s only one surefire way to know that you are truly ready to close up shop and “lock in” the family size for all eternity. And that’s the reaction when faced with the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy! I won’t bore you with the details, but a couple of years after Daniel was born, there was a brief moment in time when we thought that Lianne could be knocked up again. Oh, the humanity! There was hand wringing, there was nervous pacing, and there was immediate concern. When all was said and done, it was only a small scare, but what the experience does is provide absolute clarity on the matter at hand. Once we got the all clear, an ocean of relief washed over us both. There was never a “you know, I was kind of getting used to the idea” moment. Nope. I think we may have even got drunk to celebrate.

When you joyously raise a glass to not being prego, you should take it as a sign that something permanent has to be done. It was time for me to me make an appointment for a minor procedure with major implications.

sperm-and-egg
This classy artist rendering of my well-organized sperm desperately attacking Lianne’s “standoffish” egg from every conceivable angle is something we didn’t want to happen… ever. Like, never-ever.

I started consulting a few of my buddies who’d had the procedure done to scope out the various doctors and venues available to me in the greater Calgary metropolitan area. There was one very intriguing scenario that a doctor in nearby Banff had cooked up for his patients. He called it “Chip and Snip!” Before you had your balls rendered inert, you could beat some balls around a golf course for nine holes. That sounded like a very pleasant way to ease into self-imposed sterilization, but it was the middle of winter when I was looking to git ‘er done and felt that I needed to strike while the iron was hot before I changed my mind. I had settled on a dude with a clinic near our house. A friend also recommended him, so I don’t want you to think my decision to use this particular snipper was based solely on convenience. I’m lazy, but I’m not that lazy.

Before I made the appointment, another friend of mine suggested that I should really get some of my sperm frozen and locked away, just in case. I wasn’t sure what scenario would unfold that would require me to father more children, so I was initially unsure about the idea. He clarified that it wasn’t about having back-up sperm in case of a divorce and the eventual need to start a second family with wife 2.0. Rather, it was a kind of morbid insurance policy in case anything happened to one or both of our existing kids and we still wanted to have more children while Lianne was still relatively young enough to safely bear them.

I thought about it for a week or so, then decided to take the plunge. Getting a vasectomy and forever crushing my ability to seed the garden seemed so permanent, so I liked the idea of my wiggly sperm living on, at least in suspended animation. It somehow made my decision to go under the knife easier to accept, so I made an appointment at a sperm bank near the University of Calgary, and agreed to a minimum forty-eight hour state of celibacy before the big day. I guess they wanted me to be as potent as possible before my boys were put on ice.

When I arrived and checked in at reception, I was given a cup and pointed in the direction of a small room at the end of the hall. Once inside, I felt like I was in a scene from a cheesy sitcom. It was everything I thought it would be. A stack of girly magazines on an end table, a couch and a television hanging from the ceiling. There was no ability to change the channel, so I had to endure a porn-parody of the Brady Bunch that was more than a bit off-putting. I know Marsha and Greg weren’t biological brother and sister, but the sight of them “together” was weird.

The magazine option wasn’t any better, as they were seemingly worn out and used up from too much handling. A whole lot of dudes had obviously used these tattered publications to get the job done and it showed. The covers were bent, torn and I swear there were a couple of pages near the back of Juggs magazine that were stuck together.

I decided not to touch the magazines and got to the business at hand. In the end, “Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!” took on a new meaning that afternoon. As I strolled back to the reception area with my cup full of mission accomplished, I remembered the words of my buddy who went through this process the previous year. He was adamant that I not simply slink out the door with a sheepish look on my face. Rather, he instructed me to hold my head high, smile and look the receptionist right in the eye when I presented my sample. “You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of!” he said. “You’re doing something great for your family and you should be proud of that!” So, I took his good advice and strutted out the door with a spring in my step.

Now that I had my potential legacy sitting in a freezer, it was time to get real. Step one of this process was to secure safe storage of semen. Done. Step two was to have the actual procedure arranged and executed. Like step one, I had some instructions that had to be carried out before I was ready to officially shoot blanks. During my pre-op visit with the doctor, he told me it was my job to shave the scrotum in preparation of my big day. That was no problem, as I enjoy trying new things. He also asked that I bring a pair of “brief-style” underwear that was at least one size too small. I only wore boxers, so I made sure I had a fresh, tight pair of tighty-whiteys on hand. His only other request was that I not drive myself home after the deed was done.

When the day finally arrived, I was a bit nervous, but ready to rock. The whole thing would only take around ninety minutes from check in to departure, so at least it would be relatively quick. Lianne dropped me off around 10:00 a.m. at the clinic, and by 10:30 I was laying flat on my back with no pants on.

vasectomies234
Wow! Is this an actual photo from my actual procedure? Why yes, yes it is. Everyone knows my testicles resemble a crude “transparent” drawing that is somehow only visible in greyscale. I remember that snip like it was yesterday. Ouch!

My doctor explained to me that he didn’t like giving needles down there, and preferred to use only a topical anesthetic to dull the pain. The idea of getting stuck twice in the old ball-sack didn’t sit well with me, so I was completely at ease with his preference. Shortly thereafter, he made two small incisions on either “side,” and was ready to snip. I was pleasantly surprised after I felt the first one come and go with very little fanfare. All I felt was a little pinch. That’s why I could have used a pencil in my mouth for the other side. Yeee-ouch! That one was definitely more than a pinch and felt more like a punch, but thankfully the discomfort passed quickly. After some tidying up, it was time to send me on my way in my super tight underwear. The doc was a firm believer in keeping everything snug as a bug in a rug, and that’s why he stuffed a 4-inch stack of gauze strips in my tighty-whiteys. He wanted to make sure my package was extremely secure, and wasn’t going anywhere.

He advised me to simply rest on the couch for the entire weekend and resist the urge to get up and resume normal activities. While laying around for hours on end, one could actually feel pretty darn good, but after a couple hours of moving about, a new wave of pain might come out of nowhere and knock you square on your ass. I told my doctor I would have no problem being a lazy lump on a couch, and the only other instructions he left with me were to “clean the pipes” out at least three times a week to ensure the procedure would be a success. He made sure to remind me that this was a task I could do on my very own, as he was tired of husbands demanding their wives provide extra sessions of marital relations, claiming it was “Doctor’s orders!” We also had to be careful to use birth control for three months, as I would need to be tested to make sure my sperm count was indeed zero before I started riding bareback.

I joked that I would have to severely cut back my regimen to clean the pipes only three times a week, and without cracking even a small smirk the doctor sent me on my way, a new man … or was it slightly less of a man? Regardless, I walked across the street to Starbucks to order a celebratory latte and wait for Lianne to pick me up. While waiting at the end of the counter for my hot beverage I happened to look down at the floor, but my eyes never reached that far. I almost gasped out loud when I saw this massive bulge protruding from my crotch! That huge stack of gauze in my underwear had made me almost comically well endowed! Luckily, I was wearing a long coat that was immediately buttoned up to protect the public from my vulgar display. I don’t know how many people may have witnessed my prominent projection, but I quickly found a seat in the corner and tried to pretend like it hadn’t happened.

My recovery was uneventful, my follow up visit with the doctor was normal and after three months, testing did reveal that my sperm count went from millions and millions to a big, fat zero. My baby-making enterprise was officially closed for business and our family would have to remain at its current population of four humans. The only thing left to do was decide how much longer I would leave my swimmers in cryogenic suspension.

It’s getting close to a decade since my vasectomy, and just last year, I received my annual letter from the sperm bank asking for another $220 to keep my sample frozen for another twelve months. With both of us firmly entrenched in our mid-forties we decided that even in a purely hypothetical world, our child rearing days were behind us. I signed the release form and mailed it in, and with that my boys were discharged from their icy bondage and sent out to pasture, never to fulfill their ultimate destiny. While I had never hoped my frozen sperm would ever be used, it’s still a little sad to let them go and think about the fact that I’ve finally closed that chapter in my life.

freezing sperm blue
Sometimes… I like to think that my frozen sperm wasn’t simply tossed out unceremoniously. But rather it was mislabeled, misfiled and misplaced. Then, somehow it will miraculously be rediscovered 8,000 years in the future… to be heroically utilized to save the human race by re-seeding the population after a devastating world-wide pandemic wipes out 99.9% of all humanity.

And speaking of chapters,  you’ve just been treated to chapter 18 of my unpublished masterpiece “Dad@Home”… available someday at bookstore? website? farmer’s market booth? back of a van-down-by-the-river?  near you.

Stay tuned.

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