Vasectomies and Vaccines

A friend of mine is struggling to make a decision with a pretty time sensitive matter relating to health. This has got me thinking about a story of my own that has similarities. My story involves Russell, so before I got writing this, (I was away for a few days in June when I started this) I sent him a text asking his permission to share the story. He answered with these words “I think if more people shared their stories and wisdom the world would be a better place. The story kinda makes me look like a bad husband but it is the truth. It is what it is. I know I’m not perfect and I don’t think I really would want to come across to any one as perfect. The best I have ever done is just try hard every day. So Definitely yes.”

This is not a dramatic story really, its mostly about how seven words affected my life in a very tangible way. The events began when I was creeping towards 40 years of age and living in the midst of a situation that could be described as a difficult treadmill or a place of abundant blessing and both would be true. I had a 5 year old, a three year old and a baby. My days were filled with the fun and the fervor of preschool life and my husband was not available much. The ranch work was unrelenting (if you are a reader from the city you might not realize that what I mean is there is no such thing as a weekend or a 5 o’clock bell, you work while the sun shines and often longer.) Russ was not in the position to call the shots and shape things in a way that allowed more family time. I was at my load max regarding family life. Thats the difficult treadmill part. At the same time I was living my dream. This is what I doodled about on my notes in Miss Rodgers grade 10 social studies class. I wanted to be a Mom, as Miss Rodgers did her best to get me into world history I remember doodling my future kids’ names, one of them would be Anna I hoped. Gina is not far off as names go. Not only did I have my kids, I had healthy kids and we were able to make it work for me to be mostly home with them. Not only did I have my kids but we got pregnant very easily and with the exception of one miscarriage (a traumatizing one I will admit), carrying them was easy and birth was straightforward (as straightforward as XL babies can allow!) We were abundantly blessed. Herein lay the problem though, it was easy for us to do this, but I knew, deep in my soul, that I needed to be done. There is alot of I and my in that last sentence. The miracle of creating life is pretty intoxicating and it is hard to say, “thats enough”, I think I needed to be done but Russ was not sure. However he respected where I was at and so the conversation began about how to prevent anymore babies. I wanted a solution that left no room for wondering and worrying, giving up sex was not an option, talk of a vasectomy was next. This is the part that makes Russell look bad. In a nutshell, (no joke intended, really, I just wrote that and then realized it was quite descriptive…….) So, in a nutshell, Russ talked it over with several people and tried to convince himself that he could do this, and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t find his way clear to take the steps to make it happen. Was I frustrated by this? Yes, but it is what it is. I made an appointment to talk to my doctor. I was embarrassed to bring up our predicament, I knew it made Russ look bad and made me look like a woman not standing up for herself. However, I am an intensely practical person and so I was prepared to have the procedure to end my fertility. I am also a feminist, in a soft, kind’ve meek version of that word, but I am. It seemed to me that my giving in and subjecting my body to another thing, when it should have been the man’s turn, was something my feminist peers would tell me was unfortunate and that I had let myself down by not fighting harder. Here is where Dr. Naidu did me a great favor. I told her what was going on. She looked at me and she said this, “you have to take care of yourself.” Seven words. They were seven words that accomplished a total reframing of the predicament. The frame I had constructed around this problem was “if I am the one to give in and go for the surgery I lose.” Her seven words reframed it in my mind like this, “your job is to make a decision that takes care of your future, your needs, your dreams, you are the boss of you, do what you need.” My life experiences up til that point meant I had zero concerns about having procedures done. It was an extremely easy decision for me to make when framed in the way that Dr. Naidu constructed. I had the procedure, all went well for me and the next chapter of our life opened up. Russell did not take my flexibility lightly, he was appreciative and showed it.

I believe this was taken at my 40th birthday party, not too long after all the deliberating had taken place.

Do the words “you have to take care of yourself” touch your story today? My friend is working on the question, “should I get the Covid vaccine?” I sense there are many, many variables that are swirling around as that decision gets tossed back and forth. One thing is for certain, the decision to get vaccinated is not a private issue like Russ and I were going through. People out and about ask if you have had it and pass a certain amount of judgment based on the answer they want to hear. In addition there is a need to provide proof in order to get on planes and cruises and cross borders. The decision has very public implications. The forces that push one way or the other are varied, can be intense and could be quite personal. It strikes me that Dr. Naidu’s words to me need to be applied to this situation so that something very important can be honored. That very important thing is, the human person making this decision. Putting aside all the push and pull, all the argument and counter-argument, all the shoulds, coulds and maybes, what are the dreams and hopes of the person? I see this as having some real parallels to my story above. Russell should have stepped up and got it done. I had spent 32 months of my life hosting our children within my womb, couldn’t he have just done the right thing? In a perfect world, yes. And in a perfect world no one should have to get an injection that they do not fully understand or trust. No-one has to get that vaccination but in order to live life as much as normal for the next while, you must have it. As likely as an unwanted pregnancy for us was, without precautions, it is pretty clear that Covid can move in and wreak havoc on individuals and health care systems, we have to find the most effective way to preserve our communal hopes and dreams for the long haul. So thinking about my friend, what I want to say first of all is, “thank you for listening to my story” and I also want to say what Dr. Naidu said to me, “you have to take care of yourself.” Only you know the subtleties of all that stirs within, only you and your doctor know best what your health dictates. If you trust your doctor listen to him/her and to your hopes and dreams. Put aside what all the competing voices are saying and do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

To those readers who are fully convinced that I should be urging my friend, pushing for vaccination, I have to say that I really believe in the power of listening. I would rather listen to hear what is going back and forth for my friend than be pushy about my perspective and silence the voice that is honestly struggling already. The listening process is well suited to helping people discern what is right for them.

To those readers who hang firmly to the information they have that makes this vaccine a very poor choice, not in the service of hopes and dreams but other darker things altogether I can’t get on board with that. But I will listen. I see the way that case rates are falling and the overwhelming majority of physicians and scientists who endorse it and I sit with that. If you can’t I think thats okay. As long as enough of us can find our way clear to be vaccinated, and I think we are, we can keep those case numbers falling and find our normal.

A few more pictures to illumine the story that has been told…….

With two kids my hands were full but it looks like I was loving it even if they weren’t at the time!
Russell has quite a tolerance for having his hands full.
Jill’s first day of kindergarten. Can you see why it was hard to quit? What a trio of spice and spark. I miss the days of sippy cups!
There is a lot of our kids’ personalities in this picture.

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