“So as you see, this is a routine procedure that I’ve given thousands of times. I’ve even had it myself so there is no better reassurance than that.”
It had taken over two years of conversations for me to be here, pretty much since the birth of our second child. I had argued my corner, from “what if you change your mind and want another?” to “if things get bad you could be depriving us of a source of income”, but finally I had come to the conclusion that after 13 years of marriage it was about time I took on the burden of birth control.
“So is that all clear,” asked the surgeon “or do you have any concerns?”
“Only that you’ll sneeze as you make the incision.”
Within minutes I had changed into a surgical gown and hopping up onto the theatre bed, pausing briefly to be introduced to the two theatre nurses. Once I lay comfortably the surgeon asked me to pull my gown to my waist. It was then I learnt the true meaning of the phrase ‘feeling exposed’. I’m sure the room was warm but it felt strangely chilly below. Everything had happened so quickly, so lying there, balls to the wind, the realisation of what was about to happen finally struck home.
It’s fair to say that I felt a little uncomfortable of all the attention. I knew that the team had seen it all before – that if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all – but despite trying my best to be blasé about the whole thing I felt very self-conscious. The only way I could overcome this feeling was to stare at the ceiling, refusing to look the nurses in the eye. That way, if I didn’t see them looking, then they weren’t looking. It was an absurd argument but it worked.
As the surgeon examined that everything was where it should be – “I’ve been doing this a long time, so despite what you may think it’s always best to check” – the two nurses started talking about Christmas, possibly sparked the similarity of the exposed part of my body to a plucked turkey. The surgeon applied the antiseptic wash – a little too workmanlike for my liking – regaling me with the time he’d had his operation. The other surgeon was a friend, who instead of warming up the solution, had placed ice cubes in it instead. “I yelped,” he said, before adding that they had to make the incision in his armpits because that was where his testicles now resided. I laughed, feeling at ease for the first time since laying down. Then the surgeon said those words of dread: “Now you may feel a moment of discomfort…”
It was at this point I learnt that the body has more reflex points than I’d realised. I knew if you hit the knee with a small hammer below the kneecap, the leg automatically springs up. Well apparently, if you map a needle into the base of somebody’s penis, their knee shoots into the air. The surgeon was obviously aware, dodging said knee with the grace of Muhammad Ali in his prime; and the nurses were aware, suddenly mopping my brow with a cool cloth they had prepared earlier; but it was all a big surprise for me. Still, the surprise was short-lived and within moments the surgeon started his work.
I’m not a squeamish person – I once watched a doctor sew up a gash the size of my fist in my leg, marvelling that you could see the fatty layer under the skin – but this time I decided to lie back as the surgeon cut a section out of my vas deferens (my editor thought it was the name of some expensive trainers). Before I realised that he’d finished he’d moved over to the other side of the bed. I was prepared for the ‘discomfort’ this time. My knee didn’t shoot up but my body may have resembled a person undergoing electro-shock therapy. As you may have guessed, I’m not great with pain.
And then it was over. After a few minutes I felt well enough to sit up and after a few moments more I walked with my newly found John Wayne gait to the recovery room for tea and biscuits, my darwinian role to pass on my genes a thing of the past. As I sat there I say a friend had texted me to wish me luck. I texted back to let him know that it was all over and everything ant fine. “The hair growing back is the worst,” he replied. “If it’s worse than the injections I’ll be in real trouble,” I said.
It just remained for the nurse to hand me some paperwork describing post-surgical care and a sample pot for a few weeks time. On the journey home I felt every bump but two days later I’m sitting here, a little battered and bruised but basically OK. I just need to be tested in 14 weeks time before I’m given the all clear, although my last conversation at the surgery has me a little worried”
“You need to phone the lab to let them know you’re dropping off the sample,” said the nurse. “They don’t have any facilities there, so you’ll need to produce the sample at home, but it’s important they don’t receive it any later than 45 minutes after it was produced. Do you live far from the hospital?
“About 40 minutes away.”
“Oh well, try not to get arrested.”