PERSPECTIVE: 40-year-old Kris Tan is the stay-at-home father of two girls, Kyra (five years old) and Ella (20 months).
In 2019, while his wife was pregnant with Ella, Tan suggested something that most men would cringe at the sound of — that he get a vasectomy.
Here, he writes about his decision to get a vasectomy and what the procedure was like. He also addresses the stereotypes behind why some men may be reluctant to consider this option.
By Kris Tan
Here is why you should convince your husband to go for a vasectomy, aka the 'snip snip'.
Most people, if not all, would be fearful of unplanned pregnancies.
Condoms are 98 per cent effective but 100 per cent killjoys. IUDs are effective but may come with more heavy and/or painful menstrual cramps.
Pills and injections are just agony for the wallet and run the risk of serious side effects. The "pull-out method" is only as safe as your partner's self-control and your prayers when your period is late.
Compared to tubal ligation — the equivalent female procedure — vasectomy is five times cheaper, a simpler surgery, and carries less risk.
Why I decided to opt for a vasectomy
The vasectomy was actually my idea. And I've long thought about it even before our second child.
I am a stay-at-home dad and about four to six months into caring for my first child, I started having depressive thoughts. My past of having a father who wasn't present probably made me too hard on myself for my fatherly role.
It got worse over time and my wife drove me to A&E at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in October 2018.
It improved with medicine and we decided to have a second child.
Then the pandemic came along and I was holed up at home with the wife and two children. The second child was and is very difficult to deal with, and I had a bad relapse.
The psychiatrist increased my dosage to three times the original amount and I still didn't see results, so I was referred to a psychologist.
Through that process, I understood myself better and found ways to deal with my situation with less reliance on medicine.
Basically, I am an introvert that needs a lot of alone time to recover energy, and having children attached to my waist made that alone time very rare. I'm also very sensitive to baby cries and the sounds can really rattle my usual abilities to be patient and calm.
Things are more stable now, fortunately.
Deciding to get a vasectomy
With my depression centred around children, the simple reason I opted for a vasectomy was that it is a permanent fix to having more children, and hopefully, to keep my depression from worsening.
My wife and I had spoken about things quite candidly; we said that if either of us were to die, or if we were to separate, I am very sure that I wouldn't want to have another child with someone else. For her, that is uncertain.
Because of this, the decision was really easy.
I believe I brought up the idea of getting a vasectomy to my wife during her second pregnancy, and her initial reaction was to worry about post-op sexual function (lmao).
After I eased her concerns, she was very supportive as she knows that we went through a lot with the children, with regard to my mental health.
Our children were four years old and six months old at that time of the op. I explained to the elder one what vasectomy meant. I told her that having her and her sister is enough, and the operation is to prevent me from having more children.
She registered it as much as she could at that age. She was just worried about me being "sick" or unavailable due to the trip to the hospital.
The procedure — the best nap ever
I got my referral through a polyclinic, for Sengkang General Hospital (SKGH). Any hospital with a urologist will be able to handle the 'snip snip'. Private clinics do it too, but be prepared to pay 10 times more.
There was a pre-op screening I had to do where they asked questions like how many children I have, and why I wanted to do the vasectomy.
"I have about 30 to 50 children in every estate from Jurong to Pasir Ris. It's time to lower the odds of incest amongst my children," I did not say.
The actual operation took place in February 2020 and the only complaint I had was the three hours I had to wait to be pushed to the operating theatre.
I had never undergone general anaesthesia before and WAH LAU EH; IT'S THE BEST NAP I EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. I honestly still reminisce about that nap every now and then.
I woke up to a doctor checking on my stitches and went home by myself an hour later.
I ended up with two stitches on my left scrotum and three on my right. A section of tube each where sperm travels were snipped off and the ends were cauterised. No dressing needed.
I was given two kinds of painkillers but I never had to use any.
The incision areas were tender for about five to six days. My testicles ached from the second day onwards and subsided in about a week.
Sitting and standing up had some discomfort due to them rubbing against the thigh. Excessive walking put some strain for the first three days.
After around just 1.5 weeks, I felt really close to 100 per cent.
The bill was S$1,600. In the breakdown; government grant was about S$1,000, my MediShield covered S$560, and the cash I needed to pay is only S$70.99.
After the operation, sperm still existed in the tubes leading to the penis, so I had to ejaculate 20 to 30 times (it is strongly encouraged to rest 10 days to two weeks after the operation, though) before taking a fertility test for confirmation that I was 'shooting blanks' — easiest prep I ever did for a "test".
Why some men may be reluctant to consider vasectomy
From my perspective and understanding of the general male psychology, there are a few fears or areas of reluctance that might prevent a man from wanting to opt for vasectomy as a form of birth control.
First, staying virile. Men are worried about losing their sex drive or function after the operation.
But the testicles are still producing sperm after the operation, as well as testosterone.
However, sperm cannot travel into the penis anymore and so it gets absorbed into the body. Nothing changes except for the pathways to the penis. Sperm cells only make up two per cent of the volume of semen. Your prostate and seminal vesical are still connected as usual.
Second, the thinking that childcare is usually not the man's business. Even with the rise of more men in primary childcaring roles, and them being more involved fathers, many men are still in a breadwinning role.
But to me, the worry that one needs to earn enough to feed the entire family is relatively less stressful than the worry of having one more to care for.
Third, fear of pain. Men's bits are really sensitive and perceived to be vulnerable, as everything is hanging out. I'm sure the thought of having them opened up and having sharp objects shoved around that area can be really daunting.
With any surgery, there are always risks but I think the ones for vasectomy are pretty negligible.
Have I had any moments of regret or worry if I made the right decision? Not at all.
I feel like I tied up a really loose end, and enjoy the fact that there's a very low chance of me getting another child.
It's been one year and three-and-a-half months since the op and everything works just as it should (if you know what I mean).
So, if you are very sure about not having (more) children, do consider having the guy go for a vasectomy.
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Top photos via Facebook / Just An Ok Dad.