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ONE of my favourite memories as far as contraceptives are concerned is joining a queue at a store for some condoms outside my university - while my girlfriend who is now my wife of 32 years waited for me in the car. I returned with a tooth brush because there was a long line behind me.

Final note from Dirk

So you see, being shy about buying condoms or for some women, the morning-after pill, is not unique to island communities because of how taboo it is to speak about sex or any related topics.

It is humane, it is about an individual attitude and so the related perhaps philosophical question maybe: Why do we feel this way? But that's another story.

Back to my condom-cum-tooth brush buying story, we laughed about it, perhaps because Ingrid could not believe that her otherwise very brave man was beaten by this uncomfortable exposure at the pharmacy. At the time, our decision to use a condom was because our priority was to graduate from university; also, we simply could not afford to get pregnant.

In this final note, I speak from the heart with the blessings of Ingrid in the hope we strike a chord with people who may feel that family planning is "the woman's responsibility".

If you have a girlfriend, a de-facto wife or a wife or husband, there is already a partnership in existence. In most cases however, this partnership is not translated to the decision-making processes of what our family should look like.

Allow me to acknowledge that there are circumstances which prevents straightforward deliberations of how big a family should be, how many can we put through school comfortably so they have a better start at life than we have had, the frequency of pregnancies so my wife or girlfriend does not suffer from complications that can kill both her and baby, etc.

They may appear basic but they are life-defining questions.

My university sweetheart, Ingrid, comes from the same Flemish region (within Belgium) that I come from - I consider myself very lucky that she agreed to hang out with me for the rest of her life particularly when my ambitions took me outside our home for months on end, at the beginning of our life journey.

We did a lot of fun things together as young adults including backpacking across Australia, but at the back of our minds hovered the knowledge that Ingrid suffered from a rare disease.

Some of my family members questioned my decision to marry her because of this but I did and we have two sons; there was never a question of Ingrid's ability to get pregnant, we were just being practical and cognisant of the fact that pregnancy may come with complications.

There was a lot of hospital trips, hospital stays and tests which normally come with the condition Ingrid has and we actually started thinking of adoption.

It was difficult times in many ways - we are the only children in our families and so our parents and grandparents were understandably distraught.

Ingrid and I were like two peas in a pod and I was not going to risk losing her because our relatives may have preferred DNA-related children.

We talked about the adoption a lot but we also never stopped discussing pregnancy. And if we were blessed with the latter, we knew we wanted two children, 2.5 years apart.

We wanted to have a family but we also wanted to be able to give our children a good education, a vacation once in a while, space that would allow them to grow and develop their individuality.

Can you imagine how we felt when Ingrid became pregnant? Both pregnancies were as normal as normal pregnancies go, we stuck to our plans of the number of children we had and the frequency of Ingrid's pregnancy.

We came to Fiji with our first child, a two-year-old then, when I was offered a position with the International Labour Organisation. We fell in love with Fiji and everything about it - Suva market, the people, just being here - and eventually the region also grew on us.

Our second child is Fiji-made, born in Suva in 1989. Our elation at Ingrid's pregnancy cannot be described. So you see, when we say Fiji is our home away from home, we mean every word of it because of aspects of our very personal life journey.

The two boys are practically men now but took their first steps in life on Fiji's soil.

One day Ingrid brought home a pamphlet that had an image of a man with a lot of children with messages that in essence spoke of the children not having a good start in life because their parents could not afford it. I couldn't sleep.

The decision to have a vasectomy was perhaps made unconsciously as I read the pamphlet but it was made; we made an appointment and Ingrid took me to the clinic at McGregor Rd where a visiting doctor was conducting vasectomies. At the time, it was a surgical procedure which demanded full anaesthesia - all very fascinating but a little daunting as well.

If you have considered a vasectomy and you worry about whether you will ever be sexually-active again, circumstances that may make you want to have more children, dealing with the jealousy that is bound to come with your new ability not to impregnate another woman - all these fears are normal.

Obviously I cannot guarantee a vasectomy free of mishaps and there is a reason why doctors will make sure you are happy with the number of children you have but I will tell you that for Ingrid and I, it was life-defining.

In fact to be with your wife without fear of another pregnancy hints a sense of liberation that makes intimacy all the more relaxed and enjoyable.

We were able to really focus on the two children we have been blessed with. Family planning helped us to send both of them to university and now, as I leave this final duty station to retire in my village, they are old enough to live their own lives and if it is what they want, I may see grandchildren soon.

Vasectomies are just one of the many contraceptive options that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) subsidises for the 14 governments (ministries of health) we work with. Non-scalpel vasectomies can now be done in a few minutes, wherever you are.

It has been a successful initiative in the Solomon Islands where men are beginning to seriously consider giving their children a good start in life.

Ingrid and I wanted to share this personal story because we do not only walk the talk of UNFPA (which she is a huge part of by default) but because the region, especially Fiji, is special in our hearts and while we do not have a lot to give you, we hope our personal story will encourage our island communities that family planning is not just about spacing our wives or girlfriends' child-bearing.

Family planning is about our children and the legacy we leave with the future of our island communities. You, the people of this region, have given us so much, gave great first years of life to both our children, we are indebted to your generosity and warmth. Fiji will always be special to us and now you know why.

For that and so much more that I do not have the space to list out, please accept my family and I's heartfeltVinaka vakalevuni sa moce.