How Will You Choose Permanent Birth Control?

There are two things that are crucially important to a marriage: 1) communication and 2) intimacy. Typically, in my experience, you can’t have one without the other.

Recently, a fellow Dad of the Round Table exhibited great transparency and vulnerability when he posed the question, “How many is enough?”

I’ve read and re-read his article and the mass of comments that followed. Regardless of the number of children – one, two, or ten – his is a question that haunts many men and families. In his post, we discover that the couple has come to an impasse, and the ultimate decision is, “We don’t have sex anymore.”

I’ve had no trouble being candid about the vasectomy I had this past year, as evidenced here and here. The reality is, I knew it was coming six plus years ago before my oldest son was born. For me, it seemed like such an easy discussion with my wife. Knowing that we would have to delicately plan our pregnancies, due to her having a medical condition, and that it would be necessary for her to have a c-section, there was no question that I too would be subjected to going under the knife.

The discussion went something like this…

My beautiful wife: “I’ll be getting cut open to have your children, so you’ll be getting cut when we’re done having children!”

Me: “Yes, ma’am…” what could I say, she already had my balls in her purse.

Of course, I’m kidding (mostly), but there was one thing that my personal research and discussion with doctors told me; a vasectomy was the only permanent birth control there was. Condoms break, rings are just creepy (my personal opinion stemming from little dead girls climbing out of TVs), and I’ve heard too many stories about tube tying being ineffective. Even the IUD my wife had was not guaranteed.

Sure, there are those very rare cases that a vasectomy ends in a surprise pregnancy… can you imagine the finger pointing and accusations!? The chances of a vasectomy failing are estimated at 1 in 2000 or 0.05%. Guys, you had a better chance of being a professional baseball player than that. Compare the failure rate of tubal ligation and you’ll find a clear choice of which is the safest, more permanent choice. Siting Comprehensive Gynecology, Babble.com states that, “Failure occurs in about 5 per 1,000 (0.5%) women after one year and 18 per 1,000 (1.8%) women after 10 years.”

Whoa! 10 years after the fact, my wife is more likely to get pregnant after getting her tubes tied than after the first year. Not just, “No,” but “Hell, no!”

So, fast forward two kids later and our decision to move forward with the vasectomy. The hardest decision was deciding we were absolutely, 100% done with kids. We had baby fever off and on even just a few months before I took my turn under the knife.

At six and four, our kids were fairly self sufficient for their age. Potty trained, feed themselves, sleep through the night (mostly), and we don’t have to pack up the house and take it with us when we go to visit the grandparents. Naps are even becoming optional… except when I need one. Bottom line, we have a ton of fun with our kids because we don’t have to worry about whether or not we forgot the baby wipes or staying on a schedule ’cause the baby will get fussy.

Having a son and a daughter, for us, is perfect. Stopping after two children is right for our family. A vasectomy, even decided before our children were even conceived, was the right permanent birth control for my wife and I.

At the end of the day, these decisions were made based on two things that are critically important to a healthy marriage: 1) communication, and 2) intimacy.

Have you had the conversation with your spouse about permanent birth control? When the time comes, what choice will you make?

The Beginning
About Chad Miller

I'm an active Husband and Dad to a son and daughter. I passionately pursue, encourage, and inspire others to help change the image of Dads from family idiot to Family Leader. You can follow my journey at ReWritingDad.com.

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Comments

  1. We have talked about it. In fact, I thought we had made a decision. Our oldest is a girl, and before finding out the sex of our 2nd we had a talk. I could not handle the STRESS of raising 3+ girls. My thoughts were that if we had a son, then we would be done, and if we had a girl, then we would not try again for a boy. Either way, I was going to be done at 2 kids. We have always been, and still are, open to adoption in the future.

    Fastforward to having a 6 and 3 year0old, and this last December, I start to get information about going to see Dr. Snip (Seattle-area) testicle-chopper). I mention to my wife about going in for a consult, and this decision we had made becomes up for debate again. Her feeling is that we are both too young to make this kind of a final decision (31 and 30 years old).

    As of right now, condoms are working, and if we were to somehow get ourselves knocked-up again, then it would be very stressful because we are in a time of transition and not as stable as we have been. It’s not that I want to have a Dr. play with the boys, but I am up for my family moving on to the next stage.

    My hope is to make the decision again this year to have that done, because IUDs have not worked for us, and my wife only has 1 ovary from a HS thing, and we’ve been able to get pregnant after one “shot”, so we are highly fertile.

    • Your children are close in age to mine. The difference being that I’m a few years older so the decision probably didn’t weigh as heavy.
      Being open to adoption is great. My wife and I have talked about adoption for several years, even before our second child was born.

  2. Chad, we’re having elements of this conversation over at the Dads & Families section of the Good Men Project for Vasectomy Week, which snipped off this morning with a Q&A about common vasectomy myths with a urologist. From all the submissions we’ve gotten, it sounds like the hardest part of getting the vasectomy is making the decision. Even with reversals (we’re running another Q&A on this subject Friday with New York’s preeminent reversalist), most guys I’ve heard from took years to make the final decision, and it always involved their spouse. What underscores your two points (communication and intimacy) is honesty, to yourself and spouse. Not saying what you think he/she wants to hear, and addressing all the scenarios. For a procedure that takes ten minutes, the decision can take ten years.

  3. My wife and I have already had this conversation after our first. There is no way that we are ready for anything permanent right now. But I expressed to her that if she has to go through labor I can go under the knife. It is something that she doesn’t feel comfortable with because she saw statistics that show men who have vasectomies are more likely to cheat because there is nothing worry about. She knows that I won’t do anything but she doesn’t want the temptation to there.

    It is good to start the communication of this topic early. You do not want to talk about it only when it comes time that something needs to be done because the answer to the question does not come easily.

    • I see a lot of conversation surrounding your comments of vasectomy leading to cheating. Hmm… I haven’t put much thought into that, but I see where this could be a serious issue.
      Definitely start communication early. Duffer makes a great point above that it takes 10 years to make a decision for a 10 minute procedure (though it takes more than 10 minutes).

    • I think this train of thought might be a little misleading because there is still the risk for STD’s and the emotional damage caused by cheating. I am guessing this might be a different DadsRT week.

  4. “Sure, there are those very rare cases that a vasectomy ends in a surprise pregnancy… can you imagine the finger pointing and accusations!?”

    No. No I can not. That would be a tough one for me given the extremely low odds, as you site. Nice job with the facts by the way, I greatly enjoy informative articles like this and appreciate you providing the information for us.

    As you talk later in your post about being in place beyond potty training, diaper changing, naps, etc… and being able to better focus on having fun with our kids, and to add to that, having the time/focus to be the best parents we can be, this is what really drives home the decision for me. Yes, my wife and I are members of the C-section club as well, and while this weighs heavily on our decision, our doctor — while suggesting she would hope to be on vacation for the due date of our potential 3rd child — did not tell us we couldn’t have one.

    As discussed in last week’s RTD, it comes down to us both believing 100% that 2 kids is the correct balance for us. I imagine we will wait a tad bit longer because the decision is so final, but I will be going under the knife in foreseeable future and glad to hear about the experiences of other dads on this website so I can get mentally prepared for le snip.

    Thanks for being so open and honest about this the past few weeks, dads at large thank you.

    • I appreciate your encouraging feedback , Brad.

      The correct balance is different for every family. Your family, as it is in mine, is two children. For some it’s one and others ten. I can’t stress enough that the decision we made was right for us. As you know, it’s not a one size fits all situation.

  5. Left Coast Dad says:

    I want my vasectomy…. I think more so I want the “permission”

    • I just want to say that I commend you on the level of respect you have for your wife to hold off on doing something you want this badly. It is important to maintain and not betray her trust on that level. I hope you are encouraged to continue to talk with her about your wishes in a respectful way.

      • Left Coast Dad says:

        thanks

      • Yep! I wanted to chime in a say the same. I have a ton of respect for your patience as you continue discussing such a tough, and often polarizing, topic.
        Having a close friend in the same boat you are, I understand the difficulty of maintaining a healthy conversation concerning your situation.

  6. James Hudyma says:

    My wife’s pregnancies took about 10 years off my life, half my hair, and gave me an anxiety disorder. After our second was born, vasectomy was the obvious choice. If we want to expand our family from here it will be adoption.

    • James, I struggle with how much to share in that I want to respect my wife’s privacy, but yeah, same gig here. Especially with #2. When people think of giving birth it’s often of the “hee hee whooos” and “keep pushing” and “almost there” and “oh, the little miracle has arrived.” For me, it’s bright white lights, stainless steel, doctors and beeping machines.

    • Adoption is a great option… (yep, I’m a poet!)

      There was a lot of planning, shots, and monitoring during my wife’s pregnancy. Besides the expense that comes along with that level of planning, it can be a nine month mental drain as well.

      There’s a good possibility we’ll revisit he adoption talk in the future.

  7. AskAGreatDad says:

    We are holding off on doing anything permanent. Right now we are pretty sure we don’t want another one, but nobody is sniping me anytime soon. I absolutely love being a dad, and maybe in five years our minds will change.

  8. No vasectomy. You never know when I will be needed to repopulate a post apocalyptic planet. Besides, who the hell know what the future holds.

  9. Rachel Mom of 2 says:

    Before we were even married, my husband and I talked about how many kids we wanted. Two seemed to be the magic number for us. We were able to conceive easy enough, but both ended up being high risk and needing planned c-sections. Since we knew we were stopping after my son, I had my tubes tied at the same time as the c-section. We did agree if, for whatever reason, I didn’t have my tubes tied that day, he would get a vasectomy – my time getting cut on was done.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Rachel.
      How do you feel with the statistics that show that having your tubes tied is not a guaranteed method of permanent birth control? Did your doctor have the conversation with you concerning the failure rate and that your more likely to get pregnant again after 10 years than in the 1st?
      We’d love to have more insight from you.

      • Rachel Mom of 2 says:

        My OB talked a little bit, and I have a sister who’s a doctor who I talked more in depth with on the subject. Truthfully, we talked about the risks of tubal failing but still went with it. I have quite a few friends who’s husbands said they would get vasectomy but continually put it off and had “oops” babies while on other methods. My husband wasn’t huge on the idea of getting snipped, so figure getting tubes tied was better than other methods. If I do end up getting pregnant we agreed I’ll make the appointment for him before the baby is even born. :-) I guess it comes down to, if we do end up having another baby I feel it’s meant to be and we’ll love the baby as much as our other two.

  10. happiestdaddy says:

    We have two boys — 2 and 9 months. I consulted a doctor about a vas but eventually decided to postpone the decision. For now, my wife is using birth control because we’re not ready to make a final decision. My wife really wants a girl and even though I’m at peace with having 2 kids, we’re still in the decision-making stage.
    Long term, I still foresee an operation in my future but for now, Plan B is working out fine.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us…It’s important stuff.

    • It sounds like you’re talking about it. Though it’s not a constant conversation, the communication is still there, and that’s key. Most couples don’t even have a Plan A, so you’re ahead of the curve.

  11. We did talk about it before and early in our marriage. Things have changed in many ways in 13 years. We have four boys between 2 and 10 (one 8 yr old with medical special needs) and have a fifth child on the way (gender to be learned at birth). No we are not trying for a girl. ;-) I am not sure I will know how to act if we have a girl after ten years of parenting this many boys.

    The reoccurring theme I see is parents regretting making a decision to make things permanent. Some have adopted and others just seem to waller in it.

    • Hank, my personal opinion is that if you’re “wallering” in your decision, it wasn’t a unified decision in the first place. Honestly, to feel sorry for yourself, and have regret is extremely selfish. I tip my hat to those who find that they want more children after a vasectomy and choose to adopt.
      I’m making a very broad statement here, of course. There are many variables that can be discussed that I’m not including, nor am I discounting.

  12. Sue Diamond-Phillips says:

    I realize this is months old now, but I’m trolling this site reading up on the ol’ peen-chop since the husband and i are talking about it again…we have 5 kids and he was totally going to get one after #3 was born, heard horror stories, and shaboom we have 2 more after that:) I so wish i could comit to it, i know he would do it at this point without regrets but yup, i’m the gum on his shoe with it. It’s the official end of an era…no more surprises…that’s hard! no pun intended. Really appreciate the topic on this website/blog!

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