I don't *hear* any ticking...
February 6, 2009 7:52 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are considering the option of a vasectomy. How can I be sure that I won't want to have a baby someday?

I've been taking various forms of hormonal birth control for ages and the side effects are really getting to me, so my boyfriend of 11 years decided that it's time for him to have a vasectomy. Neither of us have any desire to have kids. He's more sure about it than I am, and he wants me to be sure it's what I want before he gets snipped.

I'm in my mid-30s now and I have this fear that in a year or two my biological clock will kick in and I'll want to have a baby. On the other hand, up to this point, I haven't had even the tiniest twinge of baby envy or whatever you call it. When I hang out with friends or coworkers who have newborns, I'm not overcome with a need to hold the baby. I don't have baby dreams or daydreams. The idea of being tied down with a baby for years makes me nervous. So it seems really, really unlikely that I'm going to change my mind...but I still have a bit of an uneasy feeling at the permanence of a vasectomy. I know we could bank sperm, but we don't really have the cash to do that long-term.

The other thing is, I wonder if there's something wrong with me for not wanting children. It seems like it's I should want to do, but I don't.

So how can I be sure this is the right thing to do? Is there any way to really be sure? Have you been through this and have advice? Should I find the money to bank sperm just in case?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The other thing is, I wonder if there's something wrong with me for not wanting children. It seems like it's I should want to do, but I don't.

No, you're fine. You have thought long and hard about what you want and don't want in your life (for this issue at least) and taken care (birth control) to make your life happy, and yet you're doing the research you need on this topic because you realize your life and what you want in it may change in the future. You're way ahead of the curve compared to most people.
posted by Science! at 8:00 AM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Really sounds to me as if kids are not in your future. If your attitude toward a baby is that it will "tie you down," then I wouldn't recommend parenting. One is not "tied down;" one has the responsibility to parent that child for the rest of one's life. It's a great joy and a wonderful experience. But it isn't easy.

If you are in your mid-thirties and unsure, wait four or so years... you'll still be young enough to have a child at 38 or 39 or even 40.

Vasectomies can be reversible, by the way. Or, as you say, there is the sperm bank option.

I don't think there's anything wrong with you -- you just don't want kids right now (or maybe never). *shrug* Nothing wrong with that. You get to conduct your life as you see fit.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:00 AM on February 6, 2009

You can't be sure you won't change your mind, but you can make an informed decision- based on your age, for one thing. If you are @35 and haven't even felt slightly tempted towards motherhood and you know yourself well- chances are you won't regret your decision.

Are you reasonably sure your partner won't change his mind?

There's NOTHING WRONG with you if you honestly don't want kids. NO ONE should have kids unless they are pretty sure they want to.

Vasectomies, not infrequently, are reversible, BTW.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 8:03 AM on February 6, 2009

The short answer to your question is that you can't be sure, but you already knew that.

Before going the sperm banking route, have you really considered all your options? Your scenario really is one that would benefit from my and MeFi's much loved intrauterine devices (IUDs), which provide highly reliable birth control for years, can be removed easily at your choosing, and for many women have a very favorable side effect profile as compared to hormonal birth control.

Alternatively why not wait a few years until you really are sure before you do anything?

This seems to me a far better solution than banking sperm. I mean what happens if he really doesn't want to be a father but you decide you do want to have a child down the road?
posted by drpynchon at 8:05 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The "how can you be sure you will never want" part of your question is unanswerable. Even if you are sure now, it won't matter. Human nature is a bitch sometimes, and you may start wanting something specifically because you can't have it*.

So hedge your bets. Either (1) bank some sperm; (2) consider the more-reversible female options; (3) use condom or (3) hope that the male procedure becomes easy to reverse someday soon. They don't stop the little guys from making sperm, after all. They just cut off the supply line.

Or you know: (4) use condoms like most people.

I probably sound harsh here (sorry!) but I am trying to be blunt to make sure the point comes across: You can't know what you will want in ten years. You just can't.

Don't presume you know yourself that well, or you will get burned by karma.

(* see my corollary theory on "how monogamy causes infidelity" for more of this. Or don't.)
posted by rokusan at 8:07 AM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

There is nothing wrong in not wanting to have kids, so don't worry about that, but I would be like you in that you worried there is a chance you may want to later. I would definitely find the money for the sperm bank just in case.

FWIW, I have a friend just like you and she and her husband were always adamant that they didn't want kids for 10-ish years, but in the past year something clicked and now they are trying. So yeah, I'd definitely have the back up if you don't think you'd want to adopt or use a donor.
posted by gwenlister at 8:07 AM on February 6, 2009

(You get to use condoms twice in my bad editing! That's extra safe!)
posted by rokusan at 8:08 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a parent of two who went this route, we agreed that if we wanted to have another child down the road, we'd look into adoption.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2009

Here's a thought experiment: how would you feel if your boyfriend went in to get the vasectomy, and didn't need to, because he found out he was sterile? Would you feel relieved (that he didn't need to have the surgery, etc.)? Then the vasectomy's probably a good idea. If you would feel disappointed, best to probably wait a few years.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:16 AM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

There's an easy way around all of this -- just get an IUD.
posted by footnote at 8:20 AM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Is there any reason you can't get a non-hormonal (copper) IUD? It's a much cheaper alternative to a vasectomy, reversible, hormone-free, and totally effective.

Also, it's a great way to find out what your body is like without hormones, yet still being protected. (I say this because I did notice some changes in myself about my desires, life plans, etc. that have happened concurrently within the last year that I've had an IUD and not been influenced by hormones. YMMV.)
posted by iamkimiam at 8:20 AM on February 6, 2009

Seriously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you for not wanting kids. You've evaluated your life and don't see the lack, so you've made a great decision. There's no real guarantee that you won't change your mind, but that's true for almost every decision in life.

I made the decision to not have kids much earlier than you and had a tubal done when I was 21. I'm in my mid-30s now and while there have been brief moments where I've considered what it would be like to have kids and how that might be nice, I've never once regretted it. The only time it was ever an issue was with my ex-boyfriend who wanted kids, and thought he could make it work with someone who didn't.

Trust your gut on this one. If deep down you have no desire to have them, think of kids as a burden, and are terrified at the loss of identity that comes with parenthood, go ahead and go for the vasectomy. It's kinda like the decision to have kids, you make it and hope that in 10 years you aren't miserable and regret it. And if you do change your mind, there is always adoption or fostering.

Good luck.
posted by teleri025 at 8:21 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My partner got the snip a couple years ago. I was just over 30, he in his early-mid-thirties. I had been on hormonal birth control since 16 and neither of us feels even the slightest tinge of babylust. (I'm petrified of kids, really.) I was trying to minimize the junk I put into my body at the time, and dumping the pill sounded like a good thing to add to the cleanse list.

We had discussed vasectomy for a few years. We agreed it was a good move for us. If, for some reason, the clock starts ticking, we'll explore adoption. Or just spend more time with friends' kids. We didn't bank or anything. We also talked about the repercussions if our relationship were to come to an end and ...

Really, though, it's ultimately his decision. If he wants to bank instead of pursuing adoption, if you do change your mind, definitely do it.

Good luck!
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 8:23 AM on February 6, 2009

I was in your position. My ex and I had originally thought we'd have children, but then realized it was societal/familial pressure, and we didn't actually want our own. I also needed to get off hormonal BC for health reasons: as in, "not only am I not renewing your prescription, but you need to throw the rest away". I went to Planned Parenthood and got a Paragard copper IUD, which does not have embedded hormones like the Mirena (I realize the Mirena hormones are trace-level, but for my situation, better safe than sorry).

My ex chose to have a vasectomy a few years later, and then we divorced a couple of years after that. He is now with a woman who's younger, but she works with kids and doesn't want her own, so the vasectomy is fine with her. If she changes her mind in the future, I expect they'd try for reversal, but neither he nor I (nor her, AFAIK) see that happening.

I spent a lot of time worrying about whether I was saying I didn't want kids because I was selfish or influenced by population control propaganda or whatever, but realized that I just...don't want kids. The IUD is a nice ten-year option before anyone has surgery or hits menopause, and I recommend it. Just have a friend drive you there and home again, because it's like really bad cramps.
posted by catlet at 8:27 AM on February 6, 2009

You can get a non-hormonal copper IUD for $50 and not have to think about these things for a few years. It's cheaper than banking and easily removed, should you change your mind. It sounds like you're fairly certain, but I know many 40-year-old women who are having babies they never wanted even a few years ago. If you're not totally sure, why not use a nice 10-year option like the copper IUD?
posted by acoutu at 8:36 AM on February 6, 2009

My husband and I are both 41 and I got my tubes tied five or six years ago because hormonal birth control was driving my blood pressure up. There are times when I'm sad that we don't have kids, but realistically when I'm around them for more than a couple of hours, I remember why we don't have them. This is true of even kids I adore, like my nieces and nephews. There are always regrets about the road not taken, but you sound as sure of your decision as it's possible to be.

Since you say he's more sure, it's good that he's the one volunteering for the snip. I was the one who was really sure in our relationship, and that plus some medical complications are why I'm the one who had the surgery.
posted by immlass at 8:36 AM on February 6, 2009

You can't be sure. I suggest switching to condoms for now, or some kind of the new "not an IUD" that I see advertised on TV. Give yourself a couple of years.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 AM on February 6, 2009

Vasectomies can be reversible.

Quoted for truth. This is not the sort of permanent life changing decision you're making it out to be.
posted by tkolar at 8:53 AM on February 6, 2009

No one here is going to agree with me, and I place the odds of my voicing this particular opinion being greeted civilly at less than 50/50, but yeah, there is something abnormal about not wanting children. Not unusual, but abnormal. Human beings do have a nature, and that nature includes the desire to procreate. See? I told you no one would agree with me.

I say the above out of a sense of obligation to tell what I believe to be the truth about humanity, not out of any desire to get you to do anything different. FWIW, this is intended as neither a flame nor a troll.

With that out of the way, it's worth pointing out that the decision to have/not have kids is, for you, rapidly reaching a critical stage. You're in your mid-30s. Yeah, you see stories in the news about women who are 40, 50, even 60 having kids, but let me tell you, that's not normal. It usually takes a lot of expensive medical procedures--and luck--for later-middle-aged women to have kids. Having kids past 40 is rather unusual without assistance, come to mention it. In 2006, only 3.5% of the births in Britain were to women over 40. According to that same site, if you're over 35 there's already a 20% chance that you're infertile now.

That I do say with a desire to get you to change your thinking. Your best remaining chance to have an uncomplicated, unassisted pregnancy is right now. Pondering what you may want in ten years misses this rather important point. There's no guarantee that you'll be fertile in ten years even if you maintain the status quo of hormonal contraception/condoms. If you ever want to have children, the time to make that decision is now. If the answer is "I don't want to have children now," then effectively you're saying that you probably don't want children at all, or at least not enough to change your life in ways big enough to accommodate that desire.

My point is this: at this juncture, even just waiting to try to conceive is likely to be as permanent a decision as having your boyfriend get a vasectomy. As such, if you don't want to have children in the next year or two, you may as well go for the surgical option, because your odds of conception are falling off pretty quickly anyways.
posted by valkyryn at 8:55 AM on February 6, 2009

Just to follow up on acoutu, a copper IUD may be quite inexpensive through your county family planning clinic, depending on your income level. However, in a private physician's office, it'll run you much closer to about $700. Still, for 10 years of reversible protection, not bad.

Though I do want to say that there's nothing wrong with deciding kids aren't for you. Nothing broken about you at all.
posted by amelioration at 8:57 AM on February 6, 2009

My spouse has had the procedure, and so far, it's been great for us. We were younger than you and your partner, and we've never regretted our decision not to spawn.

There are a few things you should know however:

(1) Banked sperm is often not as potent as fresh sperm. Some men's sperm doesn't survive freezing, and even if it does, the potency can decline after years of storage.

(2) Reversals don't always work, in part because some men end up developing an immune reaction to their own sperm.

(3) Recent research suggests that there may be a correlation between vasectomy and a certain form of dementia.

My spouse and I knew about items #1 and #2 going in. We did not know about #3, and quite frankly, even though I understand that correlation doesn't equal causation, it still freaks me out a little. I'm not sure I would have been as gung-ho about my hubby's getting the snip if I'd been aware of that piece.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:04 AM on February 6, 2009

I have been through your *exact* scenario. And I opted for the IUD.
I felt an indescribable tsunami of relief that I would likely not become accidentally pregnant in the 10 or so years my IUD would likely work. I didn't think, "Oh this will work for a while and I can always get it out." I thought, "I'm finally free!!" *That's* how I knew never having a baby was for me.
And while my mother thinks there is something deeply "wrong" with me for not wanting teh babeez, I know that I am making choices about my life that feel Right for me. It's the only thing anyone can be expected to do! So if other people think I'm flawed, fine. But I'm certainly not going to live my life making choices that I feel are not right for me just because it pleases others or out of fear of being labeled "abnormal".

If your current gyno balks at an IUD for a nulliparous woman, find another one. Mine was $20 with private insurance. Planned Parenthood is also an option. I was quoted $400 when I inquired there.
posted by hecho de la basura at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2009

If you don't currently want kids, but fear you might in the future, I think you ought to sort out your feelings about adoption and/or fertility treatment in order to make this decision. I know that a great many women are able to conceive the old fashioned way after 35, but many are not. If you changed your mind at 40 but found that you were having trouble getting pregnant, would it be hard for you to shift gears and try for adoption or some type of fertility treatment? If so, then maybe you should wait. But, on the other hand, if you are comfortable with the idea of adopting or using some type of technological intervention, why put your current desires on hold on the off chance your feelings change, given that you already have a solution that can accommodate the vasectomy?
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:13 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's something to consider. You have some qualms about whether you might want kids in the future, and that's reasonable. Your boyfriend is ready to get a vasectomy now. It sounds like he's pretty firmly committed to not having kids. So even if you decide you want kids at some future date, there's a good chance you won't have them with him. Being in agreement about kids over the long haul is a separate issue from the vasectomy.

Also: when I went to get my vasectomy, the urologist told me that I should consider it permanent: that while they can be reversed in some cases, the reversal isn't always successful. And from what other people are saying about IUDs in this thread, mine wasn't much more expensive (I do have health insurance that covered 80% of it).
posted by adamrice at 9:16 AM on February 6, 2009

After conversation and agreement with my girlfriend, I got a vasectomy about 8 years ago (we were still in our 20s then, mid 30s now). We still feel as we did then: we don't want children. As others have said, we did talk about adoption as the "solution" if our future selves changed their minds. We haven't.
posted by jepler at 9:34 AM on February 6, 2009

Holy cats, folks. Vasectomies aren't as "reversible" as all that. Vasovasostomies only offer pregnancy about 50% of the time due to the sperm destroying anti-bodies that the body starts producing a few years after the surgery, and what sperm are being ejaculated have a higher likelihood of being malformed. Oh, yes- Vasovasostomies are extremely expensive and often aren't stable enough to be considered a permanent "re-opening". These were all wonderful benefits and comforts to my husband and myself when we were thinking about the surgery but there's a reason that any doctor worth his salt would mention how it's best to not think of a vasectomy as "reversible".

All the same, my husband and I did not want children. After a lot of research, vasectomy came out on top as the least invasive, lowest cost, most permanent birth control available. We were 22, respectively, when we unilaterally decided this and in the last ten years, we couldn't be happier with our decision.

Your boyfriend is right tho'. You Both need to be sure of your feelings before undergoing any operation. A person can't be 100% certain about how they will feel 5, 10, 20 years in the future, but if you want to hold off on an action because you think you Should have maternal feelings and are simply hoping for them to kick in, perhaps you should think long and hard about your next move.
posted by cheap paper at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2009

I think this is more about him than you. If he doesn't ever want kids, no qualms, no wondering, no worries about what his future self will want. Then yes, he
is ready for a vasectomy.

Personally I admire people who admit they don't want kids.
posted by agentwills at 9:52 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good question. Something I would sort of like the answer to myself. My husband and I discussed him having a vasectomy several years ago. He asked his father (ok, actually stepfather) who had a vasectomy after he had his first two children with his ex-wife. He counseled my husband not to get one. Specifically because if we ever broke up and he fell in love with someone else, having a vasectomy can be a real deal-breaker for some women.

7 years later we still don't want kids. I had to go off BC for health reasons and other health reasons make me scared of IUD. We've been using condoms for years and I'm still not pregnant and it's not that big a deal. We haven't discussed it recently, mostly because I'm still wondering if we'll ever change our mind. We're probably about the same age as you. Also, I don't believe in having surgery unless you absolutely have to.
posted by threeturtles at 10:09 AM on February 6, 2009

Honestly, if you are asking this question, then wait. I had a tubal at 27 because I always, always knew that I wanted no children, and I have never regretted that decision (now 38). But if you are asking this question, then you are not sure. If you are not sure, then making physical changes that are difficult to reverse (as I understand vasectomies to be) is a bad idea.

I personally have never felt there is anything "wrong" with myself for not wanting children. I'm pretty sure that you can't be "wrong" for any considered, personal decision about how to live your life, as long as you're not harming others.
posted by MsElaineous at 10:22 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You absolutely should consider vasectomy permanent and irreversible for the sake of making the decision.

You seem pretty sure of your feelings to me, you're just not confident that they're okay. "Normal" is a pretty loaded and ambiguous word, and I think the wrong question to ask (so I wouldn't, for example, bother arguing valkyryn's opinion one way or the other): is it "wrong"? Is it indicative of some personal deficiency? Will it prevent you from having a fulfilling life? I don't think so, and I'm a father and as pro-kid as they come. The last thing this world needs is another set of half-hearted parents. It is a tough, life-changing job, it is a decision that is permanent in a way far beyond vasectomy.

Valkyryn is quite right in pointing out that your age as serious a developing factor in this decision. Something like getting an IUD to put off having to deal with the decision for a few years is not an uncomplicated or unarguable option.

When facing a decision with some similar features (whether to have a second child with the clock ticking but a good possibility of very serious medical complications from the pregnancy and neither of us really sure we actually wanted more than one) I took comfort in the options left after vasectomy, particularly adoption - if we REALLY decided we wanted a second kid it wasn't like my having a vasectomy made it impossible, it just closed one avenue. What we discovered after going through with it was that we really don't have any interest at all in having more kids. We haven't gotten within ten miles of considering adoption, reversal, or anything else.
posted by nanojath at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter, and next month my son will be born. What if I don't like them? What if I change my mind? What if I wish I had never had kids? No one makes the decision to have children wondering what would happen if they change their mind. Maybe you should think of the decision not to have children the same way. You might change you mind, but unlikely, and if you think it was the wrong decision, you'll deal with it as best you can at the time.

In reality, there aren't many people out there who regret making a permanent decision not to have children. But "not very many" I mean something like under 1%, if I remember the study I read accurately. That is due, at least in part, to the interesting ways human minds operate. Make a decision like that and you start paying more attention to data that confirms it was the right thing to do. Having a vasectomy or a tubal ligation is the sort of decision that reinforces its own rightness down the road. You will be even less likely to want kids afterward than you were before. Not that it doesn't happen, but it's rare. We tend to settle comfortably into our chosen paths.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is something that we (also mid-30s) have though and talked about a lot. So far, our take has been that as long as there is a certain minimal level of doubt about possible fertility, that is a reason to not take permanent steps. (And from watching a video of vasectomy-reversal surgery, I'd definitely consider a vasectomy permanent -- a reversal, even if successful, is major, expensive, and painful surgery, not the walk in / walk out experience of getting snipped in the first place.)

But there's no clear indication of how much doubt is enough doubt, and that's the harder part. And it can be really hard to separate out how much "clock ticking" is real desire for a child, and how much is coming from what is sometimes very strong family and social pressure to have kids.

So I'd say listen to your gut on this one, and if taking such a permanent step makes you uncomfortable, then maybe that means that right now is not the time for that.

I also have enough friends my age who really want kids, but are having tremendous difficulty conceiving, to know that simply deciding to have kids doesn't automatically make it happen. Not everyone is equally fertile, and some people lose their fertility much earlier than others. So it's important to remember that what seems like a choice may not actually be a choice for you. How would you feel if a doctor tomorrow told you that you were infertile? The answer to that might provide a little bit of clarity to your questions about vasectomies and birth control, actually.
posted by Forktine at 10:37 AM on February 6, 2009

Ugh -- that's thought, not
though, in the first sentence.
posted by Forktine at 10:40 AM on February 6, 2009

Everyone I know how has gotten a vasectomy has been happy with the decision years later.

Reversal has a pretty high success rate (around 98%). And if yours just happens to be the one that can't be revered, it's not like he's stopping sperm production. There are plenty of other ways to get sperm to egg. (No need to bank it.)

Get one. If you don't want a child right now it makes sex more fun because you never ever ever ever have to worry about "what if?"

You can either worry about something that you made up ("maybe ...... some day......") or you can worry about something that is a real, tangible, life-upsetting problem, like as bringing an unwanted child into a relationship. Seems like a very clear answer.
posted by Ookseer at 11:16 AM on February 6, 2009

Dear Anonymous,

I don't think anything's wrong with you whatsoever. In my case I do want children, but only if I'm married (that's just my personal requirement); I don't know if I would have the desire to be a mom if I remain a single woman. Everyone's different and if you ultimately decide not to have children that's okay. Just make sure your boyfriend might also reconsider one day if, assuming you change your mind, you want to have kids with him.

On the birth control front, have you and your boyfriend thought about temporary male birth control? I heard in the past few days that they're closer to approving an injectable bc for men (it's reversible). An article about it is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3543478/.

Also, one of my best friends has an IUD and doesn't seem to have any problems with it--the pill elevated her blood pressure but with the UID, she's doing fine.
posted by luckyveronica at 11:21 AM on February 6, 2009

Be careful, going off of birth control can change your preferences about a mate...

"In 1995, Swiss biologist Claus Wedekind determined MHC-dissimilar mate selection tendencies in humans. In the experiment, a group of female college students smelled t-shirts that had been worn by male students for two nights, without deodorant, cologne or scented soaps. Overwhelmingly, the women preferred the odors of men with dissimilar MHCs to their own. However, their preference was reversed if they were taking oral contraceptives.[5] The hypothesis is that MHCs affect mate choice and that oral contraceptives can interfere with this."

Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)
posted by gregr at 11:41 AM on February 6, 2009

So it's important to remember that what seems like a choice may not actually be a choice for you. How would you feel if a doctor tomorrow told you that you were infertile? The answer to that might provide a little bit of clarity to your questions about vasectomies and birth control, actually. --Repeated for truth.

I'm 30, so a few years younger than you, but this is basically exactly what is happening to me right now. I've always either not wanted kids or been sort of ambivalent about it, as in "well I don't want them now, but maybe in a few years I might change my mind". I never really changed my mind, but I can tell you that now that I'm facing the fact that it ain't happening without modern medical science I feel much more conflicted about it than I ever have before. I definitely think a thought experiment along these lines would help put some perspective on things, if you're still good with it then do what you think is best, if you're still not totally sure go with a less permanent alternative just in case.
posted by cbp at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2009

so my boyfriend of 11 years decided that it's time for him to have a vasectomy...
I'm in my mid-30s now and I have this fear that in a year or two my biological clock will kick in and I'll want to have a baby.

If that happened, would he be willing to change his mind? Would you actually be able to have a baby?

The other thing is, I wonder if there's something wrong with me for not wanting children. It seems like it's I should want to do, but I don't.

Why do you care what we think? What matters is whether you are satisfied with your life...

As I've said before, I think children often provide a sense of purpose in a way that anyone can achieve. If you don't have children (or aren't really invested in your children), to me you have to either not really care about your 'purpose'* in life (which I think gets harder as you become more aware of your mortality) or have something else that brings meaning to you, like religion/spirituality, art, knowledge, or perhaps intense experiences / travels...

Personally I don't really see a fulfilling life where a person doesn't pursue something - writing a book, having a family, reaching enlightenment, composing music, at least hiking to the top of mountains or something. Having kids is definitely not the only thing to pursue, just one of the easier ones to achieve, and one of the longer lasting projects (if you write that book and no one reads it, and then on reflection you start thinking it wasn't that good, it may stop giving you a sense of fulfillment to have done it).

Of course, some people are happy just living in the moment, and if that is you, there is no reason to alter your way of life based on random people with opinions making claims online. You know who you are, and you choose your life. If you make a choice now, decide you are choosing not to regret it then, basically. You can't control the random thoughts and ideas that will go through your mind later, but you can get over them if you want to. PLenty of people have "baby moments" and don't follow through on them; other people have babies accidentally... Both forks will have pluses and minuses, in all likelihood occasional twinges of regret because human nature is a bitch, but you determine the life you live, by reinforcing the choices that you've made. In other words, how much regret you have is largely an attitude problem. Make choices with full awareness, commit to the new direction openly, recognize any down sides as integral (because plenty of good decisions have little sadnesses nestled in them, lost fantasies or actual sacrifices...) and move forward wholeheartedly. If you feel you can't, pay attention to your feelings, and talk to someone about what it means.

*"purpose" is sort of a weird word to use, maybe - not a logical purpose, just a sense of meaning or a feeling that this life was worth the time and energy, that you were part of something as you passed through...
posted by mdn at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2009

there is something abnormal about not wanting children. Human beings do have a nature, and that nature includes the desire to procreate.

Let me be the first to specifically disagree with you :-)

Human being aren't driven to procreate; we're driven to have sex, which is generally the path towards procreation.

If you were truly driven to procreate, there would be no need for sex to be pleasurable -- childbirth and parenting would be such strong needs (and result in such vast fulfillment*) that the initial act would be long-term-goal-oriented, rather than a brief bit of fun unto itself.

(*Yes, I'm sure these things can be fulfilling, but that's just about the last thing I'm thinking about when it comes time to take a roll in the hay.)
posted by coolguymichael at 12:21 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You aren't married but he is thinking of getting a vasectomy? Isn't that putting the cart before the proverbial horse?
posted by olddogeyes at 12:32 PM on February 6, 2009

Popping back in to add something else. I was friends with a couple who were completely sure they never wanted kids. He had a vasectomy. Six months later she left him for another man and started talking about wanting kids. That always seemed utterly unfair to me because she had a lot to do with him getting the surgery, but he was the one who was unable to change his mind. I'm not sure if he ever regretted it, since he dropped out of touch, but it's things like this that make me hesitate to ask my partner to undergo life-altering surgery. Even though I don't think we'll ever divorce in a million years. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and he might later decide he wants kids.

So, I guess I'm saying be sure he is sure first and foremost. It's his body.
posted by threeturtles at 12:39 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You aren't married but he is thinking of getting a vasectomy? Isn't that putting the cart before the proverbial horse?

What does her marital state have to do with this? Did you not notice they've been together for 11 years? That's quite a bit longer than most married couples who divorce!

(Yes, this is a touchy subject for me personally as a domestic partner who's been with my significant other about half as long as she has, and who gets plenty of guff about why we "just haven't gotten married yet." In general, I don't think one's marital status is what should determine decisions re: childbearing -- or not -- as the case may be).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:40 PM on February 6, 2009

posted by chunking express at 1:17 PM on February 6, 2009

I agree with nanojath: "You seem pretty sure of your feelings to me, you're just not confident that they're okay." You've probably heard enough out of people like valkyryn to make you go, "But what if lightning hits me and I become a normal person and suddenly I want kids?" even though the evidence so far indicates this isn't a priority for either of you.

You can't 100% know that you won't change your mind ever ever ever, but shoot, I think you sound like pretty good candidates to be unlikely to change your minds. You will probably be just fine. And if not, adoption is a good thing.

That said, I am kinda wondering why he's getting the snip and not you. But I'd want the control of my body to be in my own hands that way.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:57 PM on February 6, 2009

My boyfriend and I are considering the option of a vasectomy. How can I be sure that I won't want to have a baby someday?

I would say that if you have to ask this question, it's not the right time for a vasectomy.
posted by jayder at 3:33 PM on February 6, 2009

Vasectomies can be reversible

No, they might be reversible, but they should never be treated that way, bank sperm or make sure you are ok with adoption if you want more options.

I had a vasectomy in my early twenties, and at thirty-seven I'm not regretting it.

Also, you don't have to be sure that you don't want kids, you have to be sure that you don't want kids that aren't adopted.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:34 PM on February 6, 2009

Some people never change their mind. The book Families of Two by Laura Carroll might help you feel better.

Plus there's always adoption. It's not like getting a vasectomy means you can't ever have kids. My husband and I are seriously considering it because we haven't ever wanted children and really doubt we ever will. The fact that we could always adopt pretty much trivializes the decision for us, and honestly, I would feel a lot better about adopting than having my own kid. It means I don't have to be pregnant or give birth, plus I would be doing a kind of service to society.

Apparently some people really must have their "own" child, but I don't think any amount of baby fever could make me feel it was better than adoption. It's up to you, of course.
posted by Nattie at 4:41 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

there is something abnormal about not wanting children. Human beings do have a nature, and that nature includes the desire to procreate.

So the 10% non-procreators of every generation in recorded history were acting against human nature?

Just curious.
posted by tkolar at 4:58 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

(oh, and 10% is the lowest it tends to go. At the moment it's running at 20%)
posted by tkolar at 5:00 PM on February 6, 2009

Sounds like you don't want kids, it's not the norm but it's not that rare. It's totally cool if that's your and your partner's choice.

Let's take the worst case scenario: If he really wants the snip and gets one and 2 years from now you want a kid, guess what? You can still have one.
You can use other sperm or adopt.

The option of "kids" isn't ruled out at all, only the option of you having a kid with his sperm (assuming it isn't reversible, which I think you should assume). But if you really really want a kid, I bet that wouldn't matter.

If he really wants the vasectomy and you want it, do it.
You're still intact in case your hormones get the best of you and you feel that you MUST birth a baby, and even if you also got your tubes tied, you could still adopt.
There are always options, just one fewer if he gets snipped.

(But I agree with the previous posters who say that you probably won't regret it and will instead confirm your decision)
posted by rmless at 5:07 PM on February 6, 2009

You are not wrong, bad, immoral or abnormal for not wanting children. And, unless you change your mind and decide you want a baby after all, it IS deeply wrong to have a child; kids know when they are not wanted, when they "tie Mommy down and keep her from having fun" and so on. Even if you don't say a peep about not wanting the kid, trust me, they know. One of the best things about being a woman in many countries in the 21st century is not HAVING to make the choice between having kids or never having sex.

I never wanted kids, not since I was a teenager and I think even before that. I'm in my 40's and never changed my mind one jot. I must have been born without the batteries in my biological clock, because that sucker NEVER started ticking. My cat is the closest I will get or WANT to get to my child. So be aware that not all women change their minds about kids.

However, if you do want to keep your options open, consider an IUD - it's effective and safe, even for women who have never had children. I've heard that the insertion can be painful, but that's what Vicodin is for. I was going to have an IUD inserted before early menopause rendered birth control unnecessary.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:26 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Reversal has a pretty high success rate (around 98%).

It's a bit more complicated than that.

there is something abnormal about not wanting children. Human beings do have a nature, and that nature includes the desire to procreate.

So the 10% non-procreators of every generation in recorded history were acting against human nature?

Note that the poster did not even ask if her feelings were "normal," she merely stated that she wondered if there was "something wrong with her" for not wanting children. I think your stats are good to have in the thread tkolar (including cites would be even better) but other than this the "normal" issue is a derail and should be dropped there.
posted by nanojath at 7:43 PM on February 6, 2009

I would say that if you have to ask this question, it's not the right time for a vasectomy.

I disagree - given the huge amount of pressure put on women to have children, and how often they're told they're abnormal for not wanting kids by their parents, friends who've already had kids, and random people on the internet, it's not unreasonable for anonymous to wonder if all of those busybodies are right.

There's a small percentage of people who desperately want children and cannot live without them; there's a similarly small percentage of people who would completely freak out if they had kids. The rest of us just muddle along, wanting kids (mostly) or not wanting kids (pretty sure), and hoping we've made the right decision.

You've gotta take your chances. Do what would make you happy now, because you've got no control over how you'll feel in the future. It sounds like you should get off the hormonal birth control - if that means getting a vasectomy, based on you and your partner's current lack of baby-making enthusiasm, then go ahead and do it. If you change your mind later, you'll find a way to deal with it.
posted by harriet vane at 12:49 AM on February 7, 2009

Getting a vasectomy is closing a door, barring adoption or reversal.

Getting pregnant on accident is closing a door, barring abortion.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:01 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think there is an alternative to reversal surgery for post-vasectomy couples wanting kids: it involves extracting sperm using a syringe inserted straight into a testicle, then IVF. That's not as much fun as the traditional method of conception, but it's another option, just in case.
posted by BinaryApe at 1:28 PM on February 7, 2009

Link for BinaryApe's comment.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:59 PM on February 7, 2009

I know we could bank sperm, but we don't really have the cash to do that long-term.

Long-term? In case you hit 50 and decide to have babies? You are in your mid-thirties, as you age it gets harder and harder to get pregnant. You don´t have that many years left that you would be able to use that banked sperm without expensive fertility treatments. Long-term this is not.
posted by yohko at 4:16 PM on February 9, 2009

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