Dr. Phil on His Vasectomy

Dr. Phil McGraw. Danny Turner / Corbis Outline

When Robin and I were first married, four years in, she gets pregnant with Jay. I wasn't really ready to have kids yet. At that age I was a young lion, a doctor with a new practice. I wasn't focused on family. I thought it would have been better if we waited. But she's pregnant—what do you do? You get happy about it. But I told her I really would like to have just the one. We negotiated and she said yes.

I think the reason she said yes is because she was so excited about being pregnant, she didn't look beyond. Shortly thereafter, while she was pregnant, I was doing work in another city with a good friend of mine. He said, "The office closes at 5—why don't you come in and we'll do your vasectomy?" He didn't have a nurse there, so I actually assisted him by handing him the instruments. (It's painful when they kind of pull on it.) He put me in the car with an ice pack, and I drove myself to the airport and flew home. That vasectomy was the biggest mistake I ever made. I was 29.

Robin never said a word about it. Six years later, we're in a big ballroom, at a life-skills-training thing, with 300 people in attendance, and I'm the leader. Out of this hum, I hear her say to someone else: "The biggest regret in my life is that I agreed to have only one child." I thought, I am supposed to hear this. I always thought in our marriage, if we disagreed I would say, "How important is this to you on a scale from 1 to 10?" On this she would have said 10.

The next day, I'm in the hospital lamenting it to my buddies. They're like, "We can reverse that, you know?" I say, "OK, when can you do it?" They say, "Take your shirt off," and they start plugging me into IVs. I remember being in recovery and the doctors saying, "Wake up! We have to get you out of here." They drag me out with one arm over each shoulder and drive me home. They dump me on the curb later that night. Robin sees me hobbling up the driveway and she says, "Where have you been?" I tell her the story. She jumps in my lap—almost kills me, she's so excited. Six weeks later, she's pregnant with Jordan. He is one of the two greatest joys in our life. God, if I had missed that—how dumb. I just shudder at how stupid I was. I learned you don't make life decisions on the spur of the moment, and you don't make them alone. I got a do-over on the biggest mistake of my life, and I am delighted that I did.

Interview by Ramin Setoodeh