Letters

"I am happy I never spawned." Readers sound off on vasectomies and the reproductive rights of men.


Salon Staff
February 10, 2005 9:52PM (UTC)

[Read "Is It Hip to Snip?" by Dana Hudepohl.]

Why is it an "issue" when men are questioned for wanting a vasectomy? The same thing happens to women all the time. I've probably known since I was 16 that I was not the childbearing type. Married and childless at 30, I decided to have my tubes tied. It was everything I could do to convince my GYN that yes, this was what I wanted. He, yes he, went on to inform me that it was irreversible and that I was bound to change my mind. He certainly did when his wife became pregnant. The sheer arrogance! And just where was she when he was giving me his little lecture?

Advertisement:

Now 42 and divorced, I have not regretted my decision for one minute.

And don't forget that many of us made our decisions for the same reasons -- mobility, career, or simply because we lack the maternal instincts with which many seem to think that women are magically endowed.

-- Linda Okerund

This was a very interesting and mostly accurate article. Its one glaring omission, from the point of view of a physician who performs vasectomies, is the medical malpractice angle. We live in a society in which personal responsibility for decisions made no longer exists. I do not perform vasectomies on men who have not reproduced and are not in a stable relationship because I can be held liable for their infertility. I may inform them of the irreversible nature of the procedure, the difficulty and expense of the attempted reversal, but that does not matter to the court. If they change their minds, I am to blame. As such, I don't take a chance.

-- Craig Vickstrom, M.D.

Advertisement:

Thank you for your insightful piece on vasectomies among child-free men. It's an interesting topic to debate, though I still find it incredible that so many of these child-free couples are judged for their choices. Parenthood is one of the hardest jobs around, and I say that as a twentysomething woman who does want to have babies someday. Why should someone who doesn't want to, is happy how they are and has rationally, intelligently and responsibly made the decision to not have children be ostracized for it? There are too many children who are improperly cared for today -- saying you don't want to have children and taking steps to ensure that it doesn't happen should be applauded. It's much better than bringing kids into the world and being a horrible parent. I would say these couples have more respect for the responsibility of parenthood than people who just fall into it because it's the status quo. It's just another symptom of too many people wanting to dictate how other people live. Live how you want, don't hurt anyone and respect the choices of others, even if they differ from your own. Why is that so bloody complicated?

-- Nichole Torres

I got a vasectomy at age 24. (My then-girlfriend bought it for me for my birthday on the condition that if we broke up in less than six months my new girlfriend would owe her $150. She got value for money; we stayed together three years.) The urologist asked me why he should perform a vasectomy on me when I was certain to change my mind later. I told him "because I'm just as certain to be an abusive parent." He looked at me and said, "You know, I believe you."

My siblings all bred like rodents, and none of them, nor their children, are happy about it. I know that the parenting we were subjected to left none of us prepared to be good parents, and I'm glad I opted out. That was 20 years ago, and I'm still delighted with my choice.

Advertisement:

-- Alan Chamberlain

Why the surprise that doctors don't want to snip men before their 30s? It just goes to show that men have no idea what women go through. (That whole joke, if men could get pregnant it be a God-given right.) My girlfriend delivered a baby out of wedlock, and asked to have her tubes tied -- but was informed women under 30 with only one child could not get their tubes tied. It was a Catholic hospital and it was their policy -- zero respect for a woman's choice. This hasnt changed. Men, welcome to a woman's world, where your reproductive choices are not only not in your control, but a subject of national debate for everyone to judge you on.

Maybe now that men have the same problems reproductive choice will become a right.

Advertisement:

-- Helen

I was adamantly opposed to having children in my youth and early adulthood. Nonetheless, my wife convinced me to have two children. I had mixed feelings about it at the time, but decided to trust her that it would be a good idea. After the second I was terribly depressed and decided I had to have a vasectomy so that it could not happen again. I was absolutely confident that I would not want any more children, ever. Four years later, after intensive soul-searching, I am no longer depressed, indeed I am happy, successful in my profession (I am a professor of ethnomusicology), and want, terribly, to have one or perhaps two more children. My wife and I are sad that we didn't consider other options, and now it will be expensive and by no means a sure thing to have the vasectomy reversed. If she had gotten an IUD (a safe, reliable and nonhormonal method of birth control), we could have another child right now.

I'm sure that many of the men in this article will not regret their decision, but I'm also quite sure that some will. In the end, there are other options for those who are in long-term monogamous relationships, and those who are not will, of course, be at risk of things besides pregnancy if they don't use prophylactics (a point that is obvious, but nonetheless omitted by the writer).

Advertisement:

Nothing sounds more cocky to a middle-aged man than a young man who is sure he will never change.

-- Gabriel Solis

Everything about the article was great until the very last paragraph, when the author tipped her hand with the snarky comment "as the wedding approaches (where no kids are allowed, of course)."

"Of course"? Please. Not wanting children and not liking children are two different things. I chose sterilization in my mid-30s, which is a more invasive procedure for a woman. I had no children, had never wanted children, and wished to make the decision permanent. I've never regretted it for a moment.

Advertisement:

But I like kids just fine. As Dr. Suess famously said, "You make 'em, I'll entertain 'em." I'm a professional caricaturist and a face-painter. I adore my nieces and nephews. I'll even baby sit a friend's little boy, because he's such a cool kid.

And when I got married four years ago, at the age of 40 -- to a man 10 years my junior, who knew pretty much from the first date about my sterile status and shared my feelings -- we welcomed children as guests. Seeing my 4-year-old flower girl happily chasing the aforementioned cool toddler across the church lawn was one of the sweetest moments in an afternoon full of joy.

Someone should let Ms. Hudepohl know that assumptions like the ones she alluded to not only have little to do with how child-free people actually feel, but go a long way to explaining the overt prejudice against us.

-- Kimberley Whitchurch

Advertisement:

It was interesting to read the article about vasectomies, and note how easily "vasectomy" could be replaced with "tubal ligation" and "man" with "woman" -- those who seek permanent birth control have much the same experiences.

-- Bree Richards

I got my vastectomy in 1988 when I was 28 after knowing since I was a teenager that I never wanted kids. I was having hernia surgery and figured that it would be a good time to get clipped as well. The urologist thought I was too young, so I had to wait two weeks. I found a surgeon working out of a women's clinic and it only cost me $180 -- half of what the urologist would have charged me. I guess I was lucky I only had to make two calls.

The vasectomy guy had done over 1,000 operations, and was doing research on young men who have vasectomies. His opinion on reversal was that most are done by divorced men over 40 who have children by previous wives and want to breed again.

Advertisement:

I can understand a doctor wanting to cover the legal aspects and not get sued for lack of disclosure. What I can't understand is the arrogance of the rather largish number of them who claim to know that we'll change our minds.

Vasectomy was the second best decision I ever made -- the best was being very upfront with anyone I dated that I never wanted kids. I found another just like me. There are lots more women who don't want kids than "common sense" would have us believe.

Seventeen years later the doc says it's still a biological desert down there, and I am so happy I never spawned. There's far more to life than raising kids!

-- Christopher Bingham

Advertisement:

I'm fully in favor of reproductive choice, and if people don't want to have children it's probably better if they don't -- I'm not going to tell anyone that their choice not to have kids is "wrong." But as a young single man approaching child-rearing age, there's something about the attitudes of some of these "child-free" people that just strikes me as kind of smug and sad.

When people are so determined to avoid having children at all costs, so absolutely terrified of the remotest possibility of getting pregnant, that they go to the extreme of having themselves sterilized, I can't help but wonder if that attitude is entirely something to celebrate.

I'm imagining two different couples -- one in their late 40s, no kids, childless by choice. Their house is immaculate and full of books and art. They travel the world. They have fulfilling careers. They dine in fine, child-free restaurants and enjoy the choicest wines and cheeses. They have plenty of disposable income to pursue their personal interests, hobbies and goals.

Then I think of a couple with a house full of kids. It's a lot less orderly and a lot less calm. The family has a lot less disposable income and free time, and there are toys and blankets strewn all over the floor, and there's spaghetti sauce on the walls. But in some fundamental way, that life feels a lot more optimistic.

Advertisement:

I know a married couple who never planned on having kids -- they both loved their careers and traveled a lot and ran marathons. Then, in their late 30s, they unexpectedly got pregnant. Their daughter is 5 years old now, and she's the smartest, funniest little kid. And they're very happy to be parents. To me, it seems like a shame to permanently rule out the possibility of parenthood at such a young age. Sometimes you have to leave the possibilities open to fate -- you never know what life might present you with, and how you might just love it.

-- Ben Gran

It's been 25 years since my vasectomy at age 25, and your article reflected my experience. I had tried to get a vasectomy a few years before but was turned away by the doctor because I was "too young." Eventually, the procedure was performed by a nationally known provider of abortion services (which leads me to wonder what other services are being restricted when the clinics are shut down).

In all that time, I have never regretted my decision. I can only recall once in my life ever feeling that it might be a good thing to have children, and the feeling quickly passed. There's no sense in having children if you don't want them.

My thanks for the article. I feel less alone now.

-- Name withheld

Thank you for running this story! I have been asking for a tubal ligation since I was 19, and I gave up at 24 after repeated refusals and my being too busy to fight for it. At 33, I asked again and I was told my partner and I would have to meet with a counselor to talk about this decision.

As an unmarried woman who had only recently decided to "go steady" after a five-year post-divorce hiatus, I was appalled that the OB-GYN office thought my boyfriend should have any say in my decision about a tubal ligation. I can see that they might want to know whether a spouse is aware of the person's request for the operation, but that's as far as it should go -- it's no one's decision but your own.

And at 33, I was shocked that the doctors still thought I was too young to make this decision. I am printing out this article for my doctor and I won't leave the office until I've made an appointment for sterilization.

-- Regina Lynn

Dana Hudepohl does a good job of covering the many reasons for getting a vasectomy. However, the issue of adoption (and the implied social responsibility) is left only as the closing line to the article without much thought or insight.

Similar to the subjects of the article, I'm single, unmarried and have no kids. I got a vasectomy as my 25th birthday present to myself two years ago.

I see my vasectomy as not only the choice I made on that day, but also a conscious choice for my future. No longer do I need to worry about dating women who want children. With a vasectomy, when I tell them I don't want kids, they know I'm serious (and, thankfully, sometimes this works in my favor).

When I'm older and more financially secure I may decide to adopt. Probably not, but it's always a possibility. Part of being responsible is knowing when and if you can take care of a child.

It's amazing to me that there seems to be such a stigma placed on men who get vasectomies before they have any children, as well as adoption in general. In my view, the two go hand-in-hand quite nicely. What's wrong with being socially responsible?

The social stigma should be the other way around. What about all those people having 4+ kids when they are still in their early to mid-20s, without a college education and a stable family life? Seems like we should be worried about them a lot more.

Kudos to Salon for bringing out a topic that, at least where I live, still isn't quite "hip" to talk about.

-- Ben

I had my vasectomy performed when I was 24 years old, having known my whole life that I never wanted children. The nurses at the Planned Parenthood clinic were extremely reluctant to "allow" me to do this, insisting that I may easily change my mind later on in life. I patiently withstood this patronizing garbage until they finally said they would schedule me for an intake appointment, but only after I brought back a permission slip from my significant other!

I was quite furious and demanded that they show me the spousal permission slip necessary to procure an abortion, which of course they had none. Then they relented and scheduled me for the surgery.

They were right, though, I did change my mind, five years later, in a delusional haze, when I believed my hopelessly alcoholic (now ex) wife's assertion that she would somehow shape up if she only had children. Thank god I didn't get the reversal.

Now I am 37 years old, happily remarried and child-free. I have never wanted kids since and believe I never will. Perhaps I've spared a child a life with a drunk mother, if not a worse fate.

-- Dirk Maize

As a long-married child-free woman, I was really interested in your article. I've been on the pill forever, and find that it works well for me. However, I know women who don't tolerate it well, who don't want children, and who end up playing baby roulette with less reliable contraceptive methods.

The irony of the Bush administration's pro-birth agenda (if it were pro-life, they'd care about the baby after birth, but their funding decisions make clear they don't) is that more people will have to undergo sterilization to ensure they don't become pregnant by accident.

People can and do change their minds on this issue. I'm not one of them. I first told someone at age 8 that I wasn't going to have kids and I've never wavered. In my 20s, I didn't want to undergo a permanent procedure because I wanted the flexibility to change my mind down the road. That flexibility was only possible because I knew I could get an abortion if necessary. As the right to abortion disappears, permanent sterilization becomes much more attractive.

-- Monica Harrington

To me the most fascinating part of this article is the resistance of the medical profession to providing vasectomies to adult men who want them. Why do doctors think it's their decision which men should get the procedure and which shouldn't? Do adult women seeking tubal ligations face the same thing? My guess is they don't since our culture entrusts women with most decisions regarding reproduction. I wish the article had addressed that issue.

-- Robert Franklin

Though I'm very glad it was said --

"According to Lunneborg's research, there are four major reasons men don't want children: They want the freedom to change jobs without financial obligations to children; they want time and space for personal development; they have never felt a need to have children and are happy as they are; and they don't want the responsibility of raising a child." These are all valid reasons women don't want to have kids, too. Just a friendly, child-free reminder.

-- Laura Maschal

My (soon to be ex-) husband got his vasectomy 12 years ago, when he was only 22. Maybe it was because he was single that the doc didn't give him any trouble about it, I don't know. We had been dating for three years by then, and he'd brought it up three times in six months. I still wasn't sure about it -- I thought someday I might want children, and if I did, I knew I'd want his. But he was so sure about it that I put myself in his corner and helped pay for it. I certainly liked the freedom from worry that it brought at the time.

I'm now 35 and still don't know if I want children. But that's not why we're getting divorced. Young as he was, he made the right choice. However, I still don't think he's told his mother.

-- Dana

Here's my gripe, but first let me identify myself so that you can understand by bias. I am a Ph.D. with a 6-year-old daughter, who was notplanned. I recently got married. My problems with this whole debate is its so damn American! The idea that a child (and I'm pro-choice so don't read into this) is more than a "choice," but an actual person whom one can love and with whom one shares many beautiful things, is totally left out. Instead, it becomes about "lifestyle" choices and whether or not I can have a latte in peace at the local Starbucks. It does not seem to dawn on people that there might be more to suddenly finding oneself with child than a simple choice. Was having a kid convenient during grad school, when I was making $11,000 a year? Hell no. Was it scary, nerve-wracking, sometimes insane? Hell yes. Do I sometimes envy my grad school friends without kids? Sure. But all of that is utterly beside the point. There is a girl named Mackenzie in this world, who didn't exist before. She is a world to herself, an intimate mystery, one I could not plan for or against, understand or deny, before she existed. To treat being a parent as yet another option in the salad bar of American consumerism is just plain silly, and degrades the humanity in us all. Not having children -- fine. Beautiful in itself for many reasons. But deal with the, shall we say, metaphysical implications of such a decision instead of simply writing diatribes about your lifestyle.

-- Cmsmerick


Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

BROWSE SALON.COM
COMPLETELY AD FREE,
FOR THE NEXT HOUR

Read Now, Pay Later - no upfront
registration for 1-Hour Access

Click Here
7-Day Access and Monthly
Subscriptions also available
No tracking or personal data collection
beyond name and email address

•••





Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •