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Dublin: 16°C Tuesday 27 July 2021

Opinion: I was always adamant I'd never have the snip ... but I did

It was incomprehensible to me that I would ever intentionally harm such a vital part of my body. I’d sooner lose a leg, writes Eric Nolan.

Eric Nolan Father of three

IT’S EASY TO be certain about a potential choice you would make in some hypothetical future scenario.

I’ve been certain about a lot of things over the years but life has a way of muddying the waters.

One of the things that I was always completely certain about was that I would never, ever, ever get the snip.

It was incomprehensible to me that I would ever intentionally cause harm to such a vital part of my body. I’d sooner lose a leg.

It seems like the vast majority of my best and worst physical sensations centred on that area. I still wince when I remember stray footballs from bygone matches. The better memories still remain too.

They say having children profoundly changes your priorities and it certainly has for me. The immediate love and protectiveness are impossible to describe. 

But there is no stork delivering a bundle of joy. Pregnancy is extremely hard on women and that is only the countdown to what can be an extremely dangerous and difficult finale.

I’m very proud to say I have three wonderful children. I grew up with three siblings and always thought I’d like four kids but three is enough. Three is more than enough.

I feel so lucky to be their Dad. I’ll also be forever grateful to my wonderful wife for all she went through to bring them into the world. We both agree that we wouldn’t change a thing, but it was tough going.

The most recent, and definitely the last, pregnancy really took the biscuit.

My wife was hospitalised at 30 weeks for the remainder of her pregnancy. It was a scary scary time. Our son arrived at 35 weeks and is doing great, as is his mother thankfully.

During her six weeks in hospital, I got a glimpse of what life might be like without her and I didn’t like it. I’ve joked with her that I’m like the small spare tyre that comes with new cars. It’ll work fine if you’re in trouble, but you wouldn’t want to use it all the time.

Joking aside, she is just too important to me, and to our children, to ever put her at risk like that again.

Once I came to the realisation that my procreating days were over, it was time to investigate the options.

With the potential risks being so high, effectiveness was important. That ruled out condoms and similar methods. They can be a bit of a mood killer too.

The female pill was quickly ruled out. It can have side effects, and long-term use doesn’t appeal for good reasons. My wife had well and truly been through enough medical procedures so the tying of tubes was crossed off the list.

The list had only one thing left on it – the dreaded snip. Something I’d always been certain I would never ever do. I try to take an evidence-based approach to everything and so reluctantly I went on a fact hunt.

Anecdotally, I knew that three of my friends had got it done in recent years. None of them walked funny, had higher pitched voices than before or appeared to be more docile. That wasn’t going to be enough for me though.

The biggest rationalisation I had conjured over the years to justify my ‘no snip’ stance was that while I would be very happily married and never wish to enter another relationship, tragedies happened in life. If the unthinkable ever happened then in time I could possibly end up wanting more kids.

I was still young at 37, but reality tends to take precedence over possibility and that unlikely scenario just seemed to melt away. 

The snip also passed the effectiveness test. The chances of pregnancy post procedure are said to be 1 in 2000. It’s the best method there is for avoiding pregnancy – except abstinence, but that didn’t appeal at all.

Vasectomy Ireland quotes a price of €450 for a ‘no-scalpel vasectomy’. This compares favourably to the alternatives. Most health insurance policies don’t cover vasectomy, which is hard to understand given how much a vasectomy could save them financially.

The procedure would take 15 minutes and was described as close to painless. Side effects are said to be minimal and generally short-lived. Even Google struggled to come up with scare stories.

I was goosed – belief in reason and logic won out.

But I was very anxious about undergoing the procedure. Making the booking relieved my tension considerably. The decision was made. The only preparation needed was a bit of manscaping, which I carried out carefully. This was probably more dangerous than the procedure itself. 

D-day arrived quickly. After struggling through breakfast (no fasting required) I made my way to the clinic.

I was seen quickly and it was just as well because even that short wait was torture. The doctor talked me through the procedure and was very clear on the risks. Chronic pain can occur in a small number of cases. I fought the urge to run, there was no turning back now.

The vasectomy itself was physically close to painless. We made small talk throughout but it was impossible not to think about what was happening. I’m glad I won’t ever have to do it again. It was over in 15 minutes – job done!

I drove home and spent a quiet evening relaxing. Those of you with young children will know what a rare luxury that is. I was extremely careful in the following days and took pain relief now and again but there was no real pain.

Not being able to exercise for a week was more of a challenge than I expected. I hadn’t realised how much I valued the headspace of a run or walk.

After a week I was back to normal. The only side effect was that I could now legitimately be described as harmless. The procedure wasn’t nearly as big a deal as I had built it up to be and I have absolutely no regrets.

I’ve learned something too from the experience. The next time I have a strong opinion on something that I haven’t had to make a decision on, I’ll try to think twice.

Eric Nolan works in Cork Airport’s Police and Fire Service and is the Labour Party’s local election candidate for Cork East.

About the author:

Eric Nolan  / Father of three

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