Not with a Whimper


“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper.” 

What should have been easy wasn’t.

What will be easy, at least physically so, is ending our childbearing years.

I am finally ready for us to take that step. Frank was ready years ago. I knew after having Kaelyn that I didn’t want to add to our family. Still, there was a sharp needle of doubt, and it was threaded by the question of what if. I couldn’t predict how we’d feel about another child in five years, and what if, for some unfathomable reason, we felt that having another baby would be right for us? Well, it’s been seven years, and not only do we not want more children, but we are also at a new point in parenthood where we are actually catching glimpses of and looking forward to having grown, independent children. We’re thinking about diplomas in our future, not diapers.

I never conceived in 2.5 years of trying without intervention, but I don’t trust the laziness of my ovaries enough to rely on it as a form of birth control.  We’re so resolute in our desire not to have more children that other forms of temporary birth control are pointless, too.

So, that leaves us with the option of sterilization. Sterilization. The word is severe, especially in contrast to the fertility for which I’ve spent most of the last 15 years fighting. As finite as it is, that is what we are ready for. The question, then, has come down to which one of us it would be. 

Frank has always been okay with it being him. I wasn’t, oddly enough, and I couldn’t clarify why. In my gut, there was just a pervasive sense of wrongness about it being him. I’m almost insulted by the idea, and I knew that I couldn’t go forward with either one of us going under the knife until I could figure out why. I had to make heads or tails of all emotional arms of this move.

When we talked about it again last night (and by “talk” I mean that I processed out loud and Frank listened), the answer finally crystallized for me.

There has always been an emotional tether to the physical pain of infertility.

Frank hurt because I hurt, but there never really was a pain that he could call his own. I neither begrudged him his peace,  nor was I resentful. We were headed in the same direction on the same path, but whereas his side of the road was smoothed by his characteristic mind-over-matter trust in the future, mine was craggy and potholed with worry and doubt in the present. He was there for me. He held my hand across the divide and was there for balance, for support. Still, there was a sense of isolation even while his hands wiped away my tears.

Maybe it would have been different if it had been his body that was failing us. The fact that it wasn’t gave me ownership of the pain, both physical and emotional. It was a strange bedfellow. I curled up with it, its angular and bony corners uncomfortable in the soft parts of me. It was mine. It was my thing to deal with. It was mine to accept. Mine to embrace. Mine to hold and wrestle and tame. It was mine from which to recover. It began with me.

And so, to have it end with Frank, well, he just doesn’t deserve it.

I don’t mean that by sparing him of the physical discomfort of vasectomy, I would be taking onto myself a physical discomfort that he doesn’t deserve to have. No.

What I mean is that I have always shouldered the burden of infertility’s pain that affected us as a couple. About permanently ending our childbearing abilities–whether by changing his body or mine–he does feel a small degree of…something lost. However, it is only a mere suggestion of loss, just a momentary, wistful pause with barely a backwards glance before filling his lungs with air redolent of freedom.

But I, I see the countless permutations of him and me never to be realized. Though neither of us desires more children and this is a decision which comes as a relief to me, too, it doesn’t pull on Frank’s orbit the way it does mine. For me, this moment…this ending of things…is heavier than a pause, and his whimper of loss would be too weak, too insignificant, against the gravity of it all. Frank doesn’t deserve the sympathy and catering necessary to support him through the recovery of a vasectomy. This circle is mine to close.

Selfish? Maybe. But as liberating as it ultimately will be for both of us, for only one of us, there will be an emotional pain coupled with the physical to endure. Even if he were, for once, the one to be on a doctor’s table, I will nevertheless be curled up one last time with that strange bedfellow, the angled corners uncomfortable in different places, but still hurting. And, not to be funny, I won’t care one whit about tending to the ache in Frank’s groin when what I’ll need is to be supported through the ache in my heart.

And so, like I’ve always done, I will take the pain, and Frank, like he’s always done, will take my hand.

It began with a whimper. The bangs, Frank will smooth away from my forehead before he kisses it and once again, tells me that everything will be alright.

18 thoughts on “Not with a Whimper”

  1. I get it and am sorry it has come to this. We were in a similar place not long ago and I know how bittersweet it is for a journey like ours, through inferility and loss, to end this way. Sending lots love and care to you and Frank. (((HUGS)))

    1. I actually thought of you and how you processed through your decision of this nature. There is something warming about how we’ve been there to support each other through so much of our circles.

  2. Oh Kym, on so many levels, this post resonates with me. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes not because of your decision but because I feel what you feel so strongly. I love you, thugette.

  3. We’ve always (even pre-IF) assumed that it would be his turn: less invasive surgery, and evens the score a bit with pregnancy/birth. After all of the IF treatments, the score is way way uneven and therefore even more compelling for it to be DH’s turn — my body has been through enough. But now my new disease makes it even more compelling for it to be him since recovery is harder for me than it used to be, and my meds interfere with and endanger all sorts of things so now aside from everything else, it really shouldn’t be me.

    Hope that everything goes smoothly for you. Congrats, and also consolation hugs, on finally feeling ready to close this door.

    1. You know, I always jokingly said that it would be Frank for the same reason — that my my body had been through enough and that it was his turn. Even through the jokes, though, I had a gut-level repulsion to that idea that I didn’t understand.

      Sad as it may be, it is definitely worthy of celebration. It’s like a sigh of relief.

  4. So beautifully written … yes, yes, and yes. This resonates with me in ways I can’t even describe.

    I saw a play last night that ended with the same quote. It’s so appropriate here, too.

    Sending you waves of love.

  5. The hub aand I have started our discussions. We knew we were done with ART after my daughter. We knew we were done building our family after my son. but i am on the flip side as my body has been through a lot and he has not. it is harder for me to take recovery time as the only breadwinner. it is financially more responsible for him to be the one to make this choice. having a 3rd child- especially at this point in our lives- would be more challenging than we would like to take on. it could be the straw that finally breaks us, after layoffs, IF, babies, tragic death and illness, family problems and moving have (hopefully) failed.
    But I am not ready to say goodbye to possibility yet. My babies are still young- I can almost imagine a time when I question our finality. I don’t want it now- now it terrifies me, but I can see a time when I may start to waver and I am just not quite there yet.This is a beautiful post and so much rings true with me as well. Our pain is different from theirs. Our closure is different and has to be on our terms- while they can comfort and love, they are not really the ones to properly say goodbye.

    1. You sound like I did seven years ago. Hell, even seven WEEKS ago. The side of me that agreed that it should be Frank did so because of the exact same reasons you’ve listed, right down to me being the main breadwinner. “Our pain is different from theirs. Our closure is different and has to be on our terms- while they can comfort and love, they are not really the ones to properly say goodbye.” THIS. xoxoxo

  6. Oh this resonates so strongly with me, too. I had even been thinking of writing something about it (I write so little now). We’re at a similar point, and while Chris also offered to take the step, I could not have him do it. In part, my morbid side kept coming out, what if something were to happen to me, and after years of appropriate mourning, he re-married, and she wanted children. I couldn’t take that option from him. Not at this point. And I had misgivings about a permanent solution for myself, too, I’m just not ready to say forever, not yet. Even though I know I am so fortunate to be able to say my family feels complete. So we opted for a more-permanent-but-still-temporary solution (IUD), but even that felt like such a weighty decision. And a few weeks ago, I sat on the table with my feet in the stirrups and it struck me how all of my fertility-related events come back to my feet in the stirrups, and it felt oddly appropriate and right.

    You write so beautifully. Many thoughts to you and Frank as you move forward, and many wishes for an extremely easy recovery for you.

  7. I’ve never been there, and yet your post made me feel like I was there walking with you on your path for a minute. Powerful words.

    Tons of love coming your way.

  8. Before IF, we had the same assumptions as have been previously mentioned. My Beloved would be the one going under the knife… it would be the least he could do, right?

    When it came down to it for us, we knew three things…
    1. We only wanted two. And with our history we were incredibly thankful to have gotten two.
    2. The health risks posed by both pregnancy and hormonal birth control for me far out-weigh the desire to maybe have another. Not to mention, I’m seeing that big 4-0 coming pretty quick.
    3. Both our families have histories of “oops” babies happening AFTER sterilization was done (My Beloved wouldn’t exist if his dad’s vasectomy hadn’t reversed itself, and my bio-mom had two m/c after her tubes were done)

    So in the end, we both had procedures done. I have had moments of second-thoughts, moments of what if? And there was a certain amount of grieving involved… at least for me (My Beloved seemed to take it all in stride). After spending so much time, so many years focussed on trying to make babies, it seemed wrong… counterintuitive to be so final about it.

    Sending ((hugs)) to you

  9. I have a definite sense of wrongness in my (non)method of birth control – I am relying on my past-their-sell-by-date eggs and my hostile system to take care of anything that might accidentally make it past fertilization. So far, so good…

    I guess, actually, my husband and I are always open to another child, although we know it is so unlikely as to be almost impossible. And I don’t see the point in spending money on birth control. I don’t really want to seal off the old tubes. The husband certainly wouldn’t go under the knife.

    It seems somehow right to close the circle in the same roles you’ve always held. Brave decision – and everything will be alright…

  10. I’ve recently started wondering about that point in the IF journey. It seems silly to be considering something permanent when I’ve never even been pregnant, yet I do on occasion. However, you write about it beautifully, and I totally get it.

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