I have two daughters--amazing, beautiful girls with whom I am completely in love. Back in 2011, two daughters would’ve been fine for me, and I’d have been completely happy if we stopped there. I am, however, a fourth-generation first son who carries my great-grandfather’s name. This meant that there was an unspoken pressure for me to produce a son to carry on tradition. I certainly didn't feel the need to fulfill any obligation, but my Filipino-Chinese wife felt that she would never be able to live it down if she failed to produce the proverbial male heir. So when the Year of the Dragon rolled around, we decided to give it one last shot—and were blessed with a little dragon boy in November 2012. Obligation completed. Tradition fulfilled.
It was time to close shop.
Research and resolve
My warrior-woman wife, tough as nails, delivered all of our children via Lamaze—no epidural anesthesia. It’s the most remarkable thing to see a woman exhibit such strength and resolve. So rare, and so amazing. Out of convenience, she had offered to undergo tubal ligation on the operating table to fulfill our agreement to stop at three children. I balked at the thought. It would be grossly unfair for me to allow a woman so strong, who hadn’t undergone any major surgeries, to undergo an invasive procedure when a safer, cheaper outpatient alternative was available. I was going to get a vasectomy.
We'd read about it. We researched the pros and cons of both procedures through the Internet, and even consulted with her OB-GYN on how to proceed. For a while we'd considered long-term contraception in an IUD, but the thought of having a foreign object staying for years inside my wife didn't sit well with either of us. Weighing our options, a vasectomy made the most sense. It’s permanent, considering I'm turning 40 this year and have absolutely no plans of fathering any more children. It’s significantly cheaper than a tubal ligation operation, carries less risk, and has a faster recovery time. It boggled my mind as to why more couples, according to our OB-GYN and my urologist, opt for tubal ligation.
My urologist put it simply. "Duwag ang mga lalake," he told me as I lay on the operating table when I asked him why men weren't getting vasectomies. It was such an uncommon procedure that the nurses who assisted during my operation hadn't participated in a vasectomy in years of their stay at the Urology Center of the Philippines. I couldn't quite understand what the fuss was all about. You go in, lie on the operating table. The doctor makes a tiny, inch-long incision on your testicles, severs and ties the vas deferens (the sperm-carrying duct), then closes up the wound. Done in less than an hour. A circumcision probably takes just as long, with a longer recovery time. Sexual activity can resume in as little as two days.
A tough nut to crack
So what are men afraid of, exactly? Is there such a stigma attached to infertility? Perhaps folks confuse it with impotence? Do men still consider their ability to bear children the definition of masculinity? Discussing it over dinner with some of our friends, one guy was shocked and asked if they removed my balls. No, we told him good-humoredly, that's castration. Another friend sheepishly asked if, you know, I could still “perform.” The answer, as I'm certain a lot of men are curious to know, is a resounding yes. Absolutely, yes. As an added bonus, you no longer have to worry about unplanned pregnancies, which can remove a little anxiety that might hinder performance. One girl friend was curious if there was still seminal fluid that comes out during ejaculation. The answer is yes, but it no longer carries any sperm. So there's still that component to the sexual act, for all those taking notes. Basically, everything stays the same except that you can't get anybody pregnant.
A concerned friend tried to reassure us that it could still be reversed, saying that some folks still got surgery to have the vas deferens reattached and still had kids afterwards. We're not sure she got the memo: We don't want any more children.
We're happy with three. We lucked out with a boy on our third try, but even if we had gotten another girl, we would've gone for permanent birth control just the same. Raising children isn't cheap—if you want to provide them with a good education, good food, and other small luxuries. As parents, we feel it’s our responsibility to provide for our children comfortably and give them as much care and attention as reasonably possible. Three children was that magic number for us.
“I want my wife back”
On top of that practical, sensible assessment, my personal reason to pursue permanent birth control was that I wanted my wife back. My wife gave birth to three children over five years, she breast-fed two kids for two years each, and plans to breast-feed the third for the same amount of time. None of the pregnancies were easy for her. She was always at risk to give birth prematurely, requiring her to rest more than her drive would afford her. Aside from the relative ease of birthing our eldest, neither of her other two childbirths were easy. She was exhausted and suffered extreme pain. To cut a long story short, I didn't want my wife to go through any of that again. I didn't want to put her life at risk, I didn't want her body to suffer excessive hormonal and physical changes, and I didn't want her to suffer even a little discomfort. Three children in five years: That's enough, thank you very much. Now I’d like my wife back.
Read the rest of Zach’s account in the June edition of HealthToday, available in newsstands and bookstores.