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The Snip That Brought Us Closer Together

At first I was horrified by an invitation to my husband’s vasectomy.

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gif of three pairs of surgical scissors opening and closing
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I sat alone in the waiting room, expecting that in an hour or so my husband, Mark, would stumble out, groggy, sore and, if all went well, sterile.

I’d barely had time to open my magazine when a young intern approached. “Are you Sandra?” he asked.

I shot to my feet. “Is my husband all right?” Had Mark’s simple, outpatient surgery somehow gone awry?

“He’s fine,” the intern assured me. “But he wants you in the room for the procedure. He said he was there for the births of your children and, um, all the other things you’ve had done.”

“Wh … what?” I sputtered, horrified by this unexpected invitation to my husband’s vasectomy.

Why on earth didn't Mark bring this up before, I wondered? Then I could have told him in person that I’d do anything to support his health — except for this. He knows I’m squeamish.

Searching for a reason to just say no, I thought of what the intern, now walking back down the hall, said. Mark had been at my side for two pregnancies’ worth of appointments and, of course, the births. Along with a baby comes a uterus full of fluids, and, in my case, episiotomies. It’s not like Mark saw the surgical scissors and bailed.

But, I reasoned, in those situations Mark was the father. He wanted to be there. It was his duty. I, however, had never heard of a woman attending a partner’s vasectomy.

I drew a breath and decided that I would drop by to say a quick hello, and then be on my way before there was blood.

As I entered the surgery space, my swarthy husband smiled weakly and waggled his fingers at me. But I wasn’t paying much attention to his fingers. For the more than 50 times I’d reclined on an exam table, I had never imagined this reversal of roles: Mark naked from the waist down, a white paper drape failing miserably at its job and, most appallingly, his hairy legs propped up in stirrups.

He reached out his hand, but I turned my head away whiplash fast and plopped down in a chair across the room. I wanted to be supportive, but I couldn’t abide how vulnerable my husband looked. I was the sensitive one, prone to tears and fits of volatility. And in my weakest moments, Mark talked me down, then lifted me up. He almost never looked needy.

When the door opened, Dr. Stanley, followed by a nurse, strode in. “How nice of you to join us,” the doctor said.

“Sure,” I squeaked, when I wanted to tell him that I would not be joining them.

But I didn’t say that. I just watched through squinted eyes while the doctor used a long needle to numb the family jewels. Then, after announcing “We’ll be right back,” the doctor and his team stepped out.

Finally alone with my husband, I forced myself to cross the room. Mark once again reached out his hand. This time I took it, stunned by the iciness of his fingers. “You OK?,” he asked, his speech sloppy.

I leaned over to give him a peck on the cheek and explain that I was leaving, but as I studied his face, I couldn’t say it. He looked too scared, and rightly so. Couldn’t any medical procedure set the most stalwart guy on edge, let alone this one, down there?

Not only that, my husband was about to undergo surgery, but once again he was taking care of me. For all the times I’d been the one on the table, Mark never expected me to be his rock.

But here he was, showing me his vulnerability and his caring. Beyond that, in getting snipped, he was making a full commitment to our marriage, it seemed.

That’s when I made my decision. Since Mark was clearly planning to stay by my side forever, I needed to stay in that room with him.

“It’s fine,” I said, squeezing his hand.

When the medical team filed back in, they got right to business. This time I hovered nearby for two quick snips and four little clips. It wasn’t terrible.

Once home, we dismissed the sitter and drew our kids close. Noticing what we had in that moment — a beautiful boy and girl — was suddenly even more precious, knowing that we would never have more. Mark and I had created our family together. My body had carried the babies. His had brought us to completion.