He Refused To Get A Vasectomy, So I Left Him
I gave birth four times. It was his turn.
I gave birth four times. Out of my body. They were all big bruisers, 9 pounds at least and a few bigger. My babies gave me love and joy and purpose and a bad back and hemorrhoids. I was not mad about the bad back because I loved every epidural that made my birth story a love story. I was not mad about the hemorrhoids. Ok that’s a lie... I’m sort of mad about the hemorrhoids. But I accept these hemorrhoids as payment. I was also not mad about the hair loss, the diastasis recti that pulled apart my fledgling abdominal muscles and put an end to my dream of six-pack abs. I was not mad about the bleeding nipples, or that first tarry baby poop that came out of nowhere, the sleepless nights. I was only mad that my husband would not get a vasectomy when we were done having babies. And so I left him.
We were 28 years old when I delivered my fourth baby. I was happy with that number of children, so happy that I was terrified that I might get pregnant again. I took at-home pregnancy tests all the time, almost straight after I got home from the hospital. My fourth baby was my fifth gestation, the nurses continuously reminded me, because I had gone through a miscarriage between my second and third sons. I didn’t know I was pregnant that time thanks to the IUD inside my body, but not even that IUD could keep out my husband’s sperm.
We were 28 together and parents of four together and ready to move on to the next stage together. We shared the babies together, except this too was a lie. I thought it was his turn to get a vasectomy, and he thought it was still my turn to deal with things because it was never not my turn to deal with things. We were not together on this. I really needed him to get a vasectomy. I didn’t want to get pregnant again; this I knew for sure. I was done being pregnant for good. These pregnancies that always felt like they were just mine and never his had become my whole life. Of course, they became my whole life — I wanted them to become my whole life once I was pregnant. It was the before part that was different. The months before I found out I was pregnant, when I was always in the middle of wanting something else.
I will tell you that I thought he owed me a vasectomy. I felt like giving birth four times had earned me a little credit.
For instance, applying to go back to university to finally get the education that was allegedly “on hold,” once and twice and three times. Then there I was, pregnant. The cute sitcom life I was planning for all of us, living in the family townhouses on campus with other moms going back to school. Taking turns watching one another’s kids while we took classes, studying together, talking about books and life and people who are older than 3, that sitcom dream was gone. Every time, just gone. Every pregnancy started up a different kind of sitcom, one that I always ended up liking, sure, but it wasn’t the one I thought I would watch. This life stopped the other one for me.
I also noticed that my pregnancies didn’t really stop my husband’s life. He still went to concerts with his friends. He spent Saturdays at his dad’s house, where they talked about renovating the basement and drank beer around the pool. He worked at jobs where he got to go for fun staff lunches that made me more jealous than anything. A lunch, in an air-conditioned restaurant. Ordering a full meal plus an appetizer and possibly even a dessert. Stretching out on a banquette with his limbs to himself. I could barely stand it.
I will tell you that I thought he owed me a vasectomy. I felt like giving birth four times had earned me a little credit. That his vasectomy would be easier than my tubal ligation. That our youngest baby was just 2 months old, and I was still so tender, still so bruised and tired and needed by my babies that I could not possibly stop it all for surgery.
He did not think he owed me a thing. Not a ride to work, not a word of kindness, and most certainly not a vasectomy.
He did not agree. He refused. I cried but I knew better than to beg. I had been well-trained to watch for the signs from him by that point. Don’t start. I booked my tubal ligation. He went away for a work weekend in New Orleans. He left his phone behind and sent his mother to watch over me. She said, over and over, “You have to understand” about all of the things I was slowly starting to decide I did not want to understand.
Because the vasectomy, it woke me up. I saw him then. I saw me, too, which was worse. I saw that I made myself small for him. That his eyes slid past me always. That I was a prop in a life he talked about at the pub but never wanted to live in. That he did not think he owed me a thing. Not a ride to work, not a word of kindness, and most certainly not a vasectomy.
I had my tubal ligation. My mother picked me up from the hospital, my four sweet boys in their car seats and booster seats. Lined up all neat, waiting for me to heal. I healed fine; I was lucky.
I did not leave my husband for two full years. Not technically. My body stayed in the house, and my teeth gritted down to nubs, and I told everyone we were happy, so happy. My babies started to sleep through the night; my nipples healed. My hair grew back. I found my way.
When we left, the boys and I left together. We built a different life together. His decision not to have a vasectomy freed me. No more pregnancy tests. No more changing the channel on the life I thought I was planning. Just this life we were picking for ourselves.
He had a vasectomy years later. After another new baby, another new life. It was, I supposed he finally understood, his turn.