Warning: This story starts out pretty personal. If you don’t want to know details about my life, abort mission now. I won’t hold it against you. Hell, I won’t even know. Also, by way of full disclosure, it takes me a long time to get around to anything wine-related in this post. Your call on whether you keep reading or not. I warned you about everything that happens next.
(and here we go)
I was scheduled to get a vasectomy at 7:00 this morning. It had been on the calendar for over a month, since my consult in early June. Here are my reasons for wanting a vasectomy (I told you this was personal):
- I spent the last three months working desperately on revamping our budget so that we could afford to have two kids in daycare, at a cost of nearly $1,000/month, which is about as cheap as daycare gets. I got it done, but it probably pushed my retirement back by half a decade.
- Having three kids in carseats would all but require Sonja and I to purchase not one but two new vehicles, as she drops them off and I pick them up. Neither of our current cars even comfortably holds all four of us with more than a briefcase and a purse for luggage. There’s almost no chance I get to keep my 1991 Jeep Wrangler if this happens, a hill I have previously threatened to die on.
- Every time we have a new kid, it resets my retirement, and the age when I get my house back, to eighteen years and counting. Say what you want about that, but I’m 36-years-old and cranky about the fact that I work 190 days a year. My attitude about this is unlikely to improve. I’d like to live on a beach by now.
- I’m selfish (see above). I need ample amounts of alone time, which is harder now than ever before. When I get home at night, I need a scotch and a chance to sit down. That was once an expectation. Two kids later its a luxury. With three kids, it might be relegated to fantasy.
- I’m getting older, which is a euphemism we all use for dying. My back hurts. My joints creak and pop. My patience, which was always in short supply, is even less than what it once was. And all the while, my two-year-old has learned to run, throw things, and say/scream “NO!” all in the past month or two. What wonders await me and, more to the point, is there any guarantee I live through all this?
- Babysitters would suddenly cost more than Broadway tickets (they already cost more than dinner, with one major exception to whom I am ever grateful), and its hard to imagine the grandparents watching all three of them at the same time for more than an overnight. Bye bye, mommy and daddy vacations to wine country.
- The cost of family vacations, on the other hand, including airplane tickets, entry to Disneyland, hotels, etc. would suddenly go up by 20% (more if we can’t convince them to stay in the same hotel room). Suddenly, camping trips seem far more likely. (I’m not much of a camper anymore; see number 5.)
- The odds of a child being born with complications or serious birth defects, as well as the odds of childbirth killing my wife, are multiplied by four to five times over what they were when our first son was born, due to the age of my wife. While the odds still aren’t good that she dies or our third child has horns and a tail, they’re better than I’d like for them to be.
- Weddings, college, soccer uniforms, car payments, drug rehab, orthodontia, cello lessons, etc.
- We already have two amazing children and the life we always dreamed of. It ain’t broke. Why stir the pot?
So, as you can see, I was pretty damn sure of myself, or at least I thought I was. But Sonja kept reminding me, the way she always does, that I didn’t have to do this if I didn’t want to. There were other means of birth control, she assured me. What if we changed our minds one day? I attempted to act unswayed by her arguments, but I was losing certainty with every passing day.
This morning, I went to the gym like usual. Then I cam home, took Sonja by the hand, and told her I was on my way. “‘Kay,” she told me, her tired lips sticking together and a stuffed animal draped partially across her face as a sleep mask. “Jus’ ‘member tha’ you don’ have t’ do it if y’ don’ wan’ t’.” I squeezed her hand, our sign for “I love you,” and got up from the bed, looked around the bedroom for a moment, and closed the door quietly behind me.
As I was walking past the nursery, Zooey, a mere two months and some change, was beginning to fuss. I stepped in, just to replace her pacifier, and she smiled up at me an enormous baby smile. Inside, I melted.
I walked down the stairs, then back up. Down again. Up again. I literally walked up and down the creaky wooden stairs in our ancient house for what felt like five minutes, not so much pacing as just constantly changing my mind. I sat down in my office and googled everything I could about birth defects, infant mortality rate, reversing vasectomies, and so on. I realized I was just stalling, and then I realized what that meant. I walked back down the stairs, away from the nursery across the hall from my office, and called up the urology department. I explained what I later realized they must hear very regularly. A sympathetic receptionist assured me it was no trouble, and told me to call back if ever I changed my mind. I told her I would.
Thinking back on all of this, I realized that I was uncomfortable having that decision to make. I think I genuinely would have liked it if Sonja had simply told me “This is what I want you to do,” but of course that’s not her way. As a teacher, I make a million small, rapid decisions every single day. I’m used to it. I’m good at it. But I wonder if that doesn’t dull me somewhat for when the big ones come around. Those always seem to daunt me, and I find myself regularly second and third guessing myself.
After I called to cancel the appointment, I went back upstairs to where Sonja was getting Titus ready for daycare. As they came down from his third floor bedroom, she just smiled at me, realizing immediately what my presence in the house meant at that moment. “Want to take Titus to daycare?” she asked me. “Yes I do.”
We still can’t afford a third child. Nothing about our circumstances suggests that this will change anytime soon. And all of those other things I wrote down remain just as true now as they were when I thought about them leading up to the elective surgery that I elected not to have done today. That’s the problem with free will. Some day, I may look back on this moment with regret, or I may instead hold yet another precious, tiny human in my arms and look back terrified at what I almost did to prevent them from ever being born. Whatever my position then, it will seem the only logical one to hold in the moment, and yet from here I can only barely begin to make out the fork that’s coming up in the road; what lies down either path I just can’t say. It’s too far away to tell.
Tonight, I’m going to finish a bottle Palmaz Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 that I opened last week with my Coravin. It’s an incredible wine, possibly one of the best I’ve ever had, and one worthy of celebrating with. What I’m celebrating, I suppose, are options, free will, the right to choose. A dark, full-bodied Cabernet with incredibly smooth tannins and impeccable balance, driven by dark purple and black fruits and layered in complex notes of everything from leather to cedar to baking spice is precisely the thing for that. After all, I once chose to major in English instead of history, and later to stop writing poetry in favor of reviewing wine. Those were difficult decisions in the moment, but I’ve never regretted either one. Tonight, I’ll raise a beautiful glass of Palmaz Cabernet, and hope I’ve made yet another good decision.