It was a regular doctor’s checkup. My son just turned 2 and we headed into the pediatrician’s office like we had done time and time again, ready for the cold stethoscope and the questions about how often he eats, how often he poops and how many words he can say. What I was not prepared for what came when our pediatrician gently pulled back his diaper and started to examine him. She looked at me, looked at him, and said, “How often can you actively feel his testicles?”
I was confused. “Um, I don’t really … feel for them all that often. Should I be doing that?”
She nodded. “They should be more prominent by now and I can’t find them, at least not at the moment. The best time to check is when he’s just gotten out of the tub. Sometimes the cold of the temperature shift after a warm bath can help them perk up.”
It was like she was speaking to me in another language. I had never really checked for my son’s balls. I didn’t think that was a thing required of me as the mother of a human boy, but alas, here we were. She started telling me about an ultrasound, one that would help us determine where his testicles were located. If this testes-hunting ultrasound couldn’t find them, or if they weren’t located in the sack they were supposed to be hanging out in, we’d talk surgery from there. She said that sometimes the testicles float up into the abdomen, into the thigh or the groin. Then she mentioned that if we didn’t find them and surgically put them where they ought to be, things like infertility and testicular cancer could become concerns later on in his life.
I was dumbfounded.
If we didn’t find them and surgically put them where they ought to be, things like infertility and testicular cancer could become concerns later.
It goes without saying that having a daughter first did nothing to prepare me for this kind of conversation. How could his testicles be missing? Do testicles just hide out in other parts of 2-year-old bodies? Where the heck were they? This had to be the weirdest game of hide-and-seek ever to exist, right? So, we scheduled an ultrasound for a few days later and we left, getting our ceremonial "Paw Patrol" sticker on the way out the door.
When I got home, I did what every rational 21st-century mother does: I Googled. I Googled hard. I learned that baby boy testicles usually drop at or even before birth, but are almost always dropped by six months or so. I learned that surgery meant locating the runaway testicles and laparoscopically pulling them back down where they belonged, like puppets on a string.
This information was overwhelming to me. Sure, it was an out-patient, minimally invasive surgery. Sure, it would be no big deal. But my first thought, naturally, was that I didn’t want him to have to undergo a procedure of any kind.
The post-op information I found said things like, “After the procedure and in the days that follow, it is best that the child do things like jump or run as minimally as possible.” You want me to tell my 2-year-old tornado of a human not to jump or run for two days because he might re-shift his balls to the wrong place in his body if he does? Yeah, that’ll go over well. I’m sure he’ll understand.
When ultrasound day came, I was nervous. We got there right on time and sat in the waiting room for a few minutes. Then came the moment of truth. We walked into a dark room where I laid my ball-less boy on a padded table.
The technician came in and smiled at him. “Hi, buddy. Can I check you out real quick?”
“No fanks,” he said. She laughed.
And like that, we were off. I held his hand and distracted him with YouTube videos where people pulled toy cars out of Play-Doh. (Kids today are into weird stuff. Don’t ask me.) She unlatched his diaper, applied some blue gel and started hunting. Miraculously, both of his testicles were exactly where they were supposed to be. She turned the screen to me and pointed to each one. I was so relieved and stared at the screen for what felt like hours when she handed me a paper towel to wipe him off.
I know the surgery would have been minor. I know there are kids dealing with much worse than missing balls. But for me, the biggest thing that struck me was that I hadn’t even known this kind of thing was within the realm of possibility—and that made me feel like a terrible parent, even if just for a little bit.
Ultimately, all we can do is try for our kids. We can research it all. We can prepare as best as we can. And of course, we can Google. But sometimes things just happen. Things fall into our laps, or in my son’s case, into your ball sack, and we just have to roll with the punches and keep going.
Here’s to all of you parents out there, whether you’re looking for your kid’s testicles, or more importantly, just looking out for your kids.