Like many men, Toby Byrum decided to have a vasectomy to end his reproductive years. Unlike most of them, Byrum had his at the age of 28 while he is still single and childless.
Two years later, the Web consultant from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has no regrets.
“I view the next 15-20 years of my life as some of the best years I’m going to live. I wanted to make sure those years were . . . going to make me ultimately the happiest person I could be,” he told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer.
He’s not alone. Urologists around the country say that they are seeing a small but growing number of young men who are deciding to have vasectomies when they are young, all but insuring that they will never be able to have children of their own.
“It’s kind of getting to be a departure from this society – a wife, a husband, have kids, live in the suburbs, – and instead is more, ‘Maybe we don’t want to have kids,’ “ Byrum said.
What makes Byrum different from most men who undergo the procedure at such a young age is that he did not ‘bank' sperm before having his vas deferens – the tubes that convey sperm from the testicles – severed in a 20-minute out-patient surgical procedure.
“For me, it’s an ultimate decision, and therefore I did not want an escape hatch,” Byrum said.
Young, good-looking, and out-going, Byrum leads an active life, enjoys the outdoors and hopes to get married some day. He said he likes children; he just doesn’t want any of his own.
The 'ultimate' decision
He doesn’t hide his decision from women he dates.
“The first date, if not before,” he said. “I live in a small area, so some people are already aware of this. I bring it up quickly. There’s no reason to waste anybody’s time. If someone has a different idea for themselves, I don’t want to get in the way.”
In second TODAY segment with Natalie Morales, in which he responded to viewer email questions, Byrum admitted that for some women, the news is an automatic deal-breaker. But he’d rather know that from the start rather than continue a relationship under false assumptions on either side.
Morales said she was surprised that many women who emailed supported and approved of his decision.
Byrum is the only male child in his family, and if he does not reproduce, the family line will die out. Lauer asked if that was a consideration.
“After thinking about it, it really isn’t a factor to me in wanting to have kids or not,” Byrum said. In a pre-interview, he added that he thought that having a child simply to continue his legacy would be selfish.
He said he felt early in his 20s that he didn’t want to ever have children, but took several years to make certain he wanted to make a decision that is not easily reversed.
According to sex therapist Laura Berman, a vasectomy can be reversed more easily than a tubal ligation for a woman, which is nearly impossible to undo. “There’s some success reversing it up to eight years,” she said of a vasectomy. “But you really should look at is a permanent solution.”
Berman also said that men contemplating the procedure should be sure that they’re not doing it because of issues they may have had growing up that could be addressed in therapy.
Byrum said he had no such issues. He also found no resistance from urologists he approached.
“They didn’t want to offer their opinion; they wanted it to be my decision,” he said.
Berman said that Byrum’s decision is part of an overall trend. “Any birth control, we’re seeing more and more men taking control of family planning, and in extreme cases like this making the decision that they absolutely don’t want children and deciding to have a vasectomy,” she told Morales.
Lauer asked him if it were possible that at some point 10 or more years down the line, he might decide he wants children after all.
“It’s theoretically possible, but you make the best decision you can make with the information available at the time,” Byrum said.
He then offered some advice for other men in his condition considering having a vasectomy and never having children.
“You need to make it with the mindset that it is an ultimate decision. It’s something you’re doing and setting up that next period in your life and how you’re going to live it. For that person to make that decision, they need to truly understand that it’s a no-going-back deal.”