How would you feel if your husband went and had a vasectomy without talking to you about it first?
Dax Shepard recently stopped by for a visit with Jimmy Kimmel, where he revealed that he had done just that. Shortly after he and his wife, Kristen Bell, experienced a pregnancy scare while she was filming in Atlanta, he hopped a flight back to California and had the procedure done, without her knowledge. The pair, who already have two children, weren’t expecting to expect anytime soon.
According to Shepard, the scare happened on a Tuesday, and by Thursday that same week he was fully sedated while a urological surgeon sterilized him. “It’s great because they knock you out,” he told Kimmel.
What wasn’t so great was his wife Kristen’s reaction. Shepard claims she "wasn't thrilled" he’d had the procedure so suddenly, but her response begs the question: Do men owe it to their wives to get permission before getting snipped? After all, it typically does mean the end of baby-making, and that's a decision two people in a marriage tend to make together.
Interestingly enough, a quick internet search reveals that many urological surgeons in the U.S. require a spouse to sign a consent form for their husbands before they will perform a vasectomy. This massive invasion of personal autonomy and privacy is often touted as “legal.”
Katie Allison wrote in Babble about her experience during her husband’s vasectomy, which clearly correlates with other people’s experiences.
“The nurse who had presented me with the consent form to sign had told me that ‘It’s the law,’ but I knew that couldn’t be right. If anything, the practice is likely against the law.”
There is no actual law requiring men to get consent from their spouses, but it’s left up to the individual doctors to decide. Some surgeons don’t want to deal with possible litigation later on from angry spouses who weren’t previously informed of their husband’s decision to become sterile, so they make the requirement.
In an age where we argue for the rights of women to terminate pregnancies and obtain contraceptives, it seems strange to think that anyone would expect a man to defer his rights in favor of his wife’s opinion.
Still, there’s an important distinction to make between requiring someone to get permission and encouraging someone to talk with their spouse about having a major medical procedure with lifelong consequences. In any committed, healthy relationship, communication is a way to maintain mutual respect and unity. When couples create families, there is an expectation that together they will not only co-parent but decide the fate of their family (including how many children they will have) together.
Shepard, before sharing his no-baby news, prefaced the discussion by telling Kimmel about his wife making an autonomous decision that also impacted him on a recent trip to Cuba.
“But my wife… she gave everything we own away there. We came with all this luggage, toys for the kids and everything,” he said. “She gave it all to the people of Cuba. She gave everything we own away. She didn’t run it by me, she just, she had heard they need things. So she found a charity and gave everything we own away.”
Eek! Communicating about important decisions that effect one another is a big, big part of raising children.
While everyone's marriage and parenting styles are unique (and we certainly can't critique the cuteness of Shepard and Bell's relationship), if you were just nodding along on this one like NBD, it behooves you to remember communication can be an effective tool to combat common parenting problems like bedtimes and discipline methods.
Co-parenting isn't just about agreeing on when the kids should go to sleep or what to do when they misbehave. It's also about knowing how many children will make a family feel complete. When one parent makes the decision to effectively end their baby-making days without consulting their spouse, it can leave their partner feeling disregarded and disrespected. That can't be a good thing.
Of course, we don't know for certain if Bell was truly out of the loop about Shepard's decision to not have any more children. What we can hope is that when it really matters, the two are able to talk to one another before making life-altering choices.
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