Making Sure

Sterilization for the Severely Fertile


Andrea spent all night tossing her cookies. She woke up this morning feeling "that way." She told her husband, Tony. "Y'know what? I feel like I'm pregnant."

"No way," Tony replied. "That's not possible. I'm a safe date."

"Yeah, well, it happens to some people. I feel pregnant." Andrea said.

With two kids under 3 years old, Andrea and Tony had made sure they'd only have two kids. Tony had a vasectomy. Still, about six months later, Andrea felt "that way." Andrea countered, "You might think you're a safe date but do we know for sure? No we do not. You never took your post-vasectomy sperm sample in to the doctor to make sure. For all we know, you're loaded with sperm and we're playing Russian roulette." Andrea had a point and Tony knew it. It was bad enough undergoing the vasectomy. Providing a "sample" was embarrassing. Andrea had little sympathy for his embarrassment. "After all the poking and prodding I went through during the pregnancies, not to mention the births, I don't feel much of your pain over one little sample. Do the deed, dude."

I've had patients come in with vasectomy and tubal ligation babies. Not very many but still...We even had one once who was pregnant with twins. She'd had a tubal ligation, he'd had a vasectomy and still...Twins. What are the odds? Slim to none. Sterilization is about as good as it gets when it comes to contraception—better than 99% effective. And happens.

I know how Andrea feels. As one of the severely fertile, I feel certain that if anyone could get pregnant with a guy sporting a vasectomy, I could. I have plenty of children. All of them are welcome and some of them were even planned. The rest were surprises, gifts, "birthday" presents. I don't, however, need any more surprises in my life and so, after my husband got his vasectomy, I made darn sure he gave his post-vasectomy, safe-date, seal-of-approval, sperm sample. Not just once either. Nope, several times. It got to the point where his doctor actually called and told me to knock it off. He was a proven sperm-free dude. And still, I said, it happens.

It doesn't happen very often though and I admit my fears about becoming that 1 in a 100 who'd get pregnant anyway were unreasonable. Tony, however, hasn't proven himself yet and Andrea's got good reason to worry when she feels "that way." Odds are in her favor that she just ate some bad chicken but when the stakes are high, and for a lot of women, an unexpected pregnancy is tantamount to chaos—a veritable bomb dropping on their life—this is no time to mess around. Tony, dude, get thee to the doctor's office.

My mother, who had eight children and I'm fairly certain most of us were surprises, once told me, "nothing bad ever happens to you from allowing a child into your life." In theory, I love that idea and for me, fortunately, that's true. Every one of my children has made my life richer and more abundant than I could ever have dreamed. I consider myself the luckiest woman alive to have the privilege of raising all these lovely babies. I know that isn't the case for every woman who finds herself feeling "that way" again; when they don't want and don't have the resources emotionally, financially or socially to raise any more children. For those women, I'm so glad there are so many safe, effective and mostly reliable forms of contraception. And, I'm equally glad that my husband is the proud owner of one of the most effective and reliable methods. His sterilization has made him squeaky clean. I'm better than 99% certain he's a safe-date. And still...

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