Vasectomy, Reversal and Reversion

Sometimes when I think of my life and where we’ve been I think – awesome, crazy and wow!

With the announcement that we were expecting number 4, people mostly responded with a “that’s AWESOME that you will have a big family!” When they found out our 4th was a boy, it was, “congratulations, now you have your boy!”

With the announcement that we were expecting number 5, people mostly said, “CRAZY.” I think 4 is definitely the cultural threshold as far as an acceptable number of children goes.

With the announcement that we were expecting number 6… silence. People didn’t know what to say, except WOW!

So here goes… the story of how we came to be a family of 8.

Greg and I tied the knot on April 18, 1998, and like many couples we feared rather than welcomed pregnancy, so we contracepted during our first 5 years of marriage. We attended mass regularly when we dated but became more sporadic after we were married. We fell into a pattern of putting our faith to the wayside and putting our social life and worldly needs first. I did not seek God in prayer or the sacraments and Greg did not either. We did as we pleased with no regard for the blessings that were abundant in our lives. We definitely lacked discipline in our faith life. Sometimes a feeling of nagging would creep into my heart as I wished we were acknowledging God.

During our first 5 years, Greg completed graduate school, took a new job, our first daughter, Annie, was born and we moved 2 times. Soon after settling in Kansas City, Genna and Elizabeth were born 16 months apart. Greg’s job demanded that he travel weekly. The stress and pressures of a young family and the demands of our extended families took a toll on our relationship. We let any practice of our faith fall away. We just did what was easy and did not work together.

We faced a few difficult years having 3 kids under the age of 4 and all the demands of life, and we made the rash decision that we could not burden one another with another child. So Greg had a vasectomy. We were officially a family of 5.

After Greg’s vasectomy we entered a dark time in our marriage. We knew something was very wrong but we did not fully understand the consequences of our actions. We both turned from our faith and sought happiness in this world and its offerings. When I reached one of my lowest points, I decided I had to turn back to God and return to the Church. My faith had often been a comfort to me when I was young. As God would have it, when my oldest daughter started kindergarten at our parish school I made some new friends who were quite devout. I had daily contact with friends who were witnesses to living a sacramental, Catholic life.

Our_Father 2_redAround this time, I began to practice my faith again by seeking a prayer life and the Eucharist. But there was still a nagging feeling of emptiness in our marriage. I was carrying a heavy burden and did not know what it was. Through the faithful Catholic families I had met and their example I sought to further my faith through the sacraments and adoration. Greg and I vowed to respect our marriage and sexuality as we learned more about Pope John Paul II’s teachings of the Theology of the Body. We also read Pope Paul VI’s encyclical called Humanae Vitae. I began to read what the Catechism said about the sacrament of marriage and my eyes were opened to the importance of our vocations as mother and father. We were responsible for 3 souls and it was our job to lead them to heaven. We had taken for granted the power we had in co-creating these lives with God. I could see more clearly the beauty of my call to motherhood. I began to realize I needed to offer up my children in prayer.

We believed God had led us out of a very dark time and now that we were beginning to grow in faith and honor our marriage, I was devastated that we had made the decision to have a vasectomy. I longed to be in a life-giving marriage. Ironically, the promise of freedom through the vasectomy was now a heavy burden for me. I carried this burden for 2 years without ever speaking of it. I finally found the courage to tell Greg how deeply I regretted this decision we had made. I could not imagine going through the rest of our marriage and not being able to welcome any more children. As our marriage became renewed, I believe God showed me the value of my vocation as a mother. I began to ask God daily how I could be healed of the pain this decision had caused. I wanted to accept God’s will in my life and accept my part in having rejected that.

We sought reconciliation with a parish priest for the wound we had caused in our marriage. At about that time, the Holy Spirit led me to a website called One More Soul, where I learned that there are doctors who reverse vasectomies as a ministry and at a cost that was affordable. We started discussing whether this would be possible.

Greg’s reversal was completed in February of 2009. Greg vowed to lead our family spiritually and we hoped and prayed the reversal would give him strength for that.

We have had one miscarriage and Peter, Natalie and Henry since Greg’s reversal. When Peter was born, the first child since the reversal, we felt God’s presence strongly as we watched our 3 daughters stand over the baby’s bassinet and spontaneously sing Happy Birthday to him. All the healing we had prayed and hoped for came to be in this very moment. It was truly one of the most powerful and joy-filled moments of our lives. We had strayed so far from God and our faith that we almost lost our marriage. We found our way back and experienced healing both physical and spiritual.

The additional children do make practicing our faith challenging at times, but the joy they have brought to our older children and us is immeasurable. Most days Greg and I pray together for the strength to grow in the face of our challenges. It feels like leaps and bounds from my days of despairing about my marriage. No longer do we turn away from our sinfulness, but rather we try to acknowledge that we need Christ on a daily basis to lead us on our path. We actively seek God’s will in all areas of our life now and are on a continual journey of renewal and as we seek God’s grace through the sacraments.

Editor’s Note: While it is admirable that this couple took the steps to reverse their vasectomy, the church does not require this. The church asks for sincere confession, contrition and absolution. A couple with this issue can also be guided by a priest in their journey of healing and openness to life as they look at their unique situation.

We Contracepted – I Was Ignorant

I am a cradle Catholic, from a large family in the mid-west.  I grew up going to church on Sundays, CCD classes once a week, and confession once in a blue moon.   We were one of the only big families that I knew of, and it seemed to me that like dinosaurs, big Catholic families had become extinct.  Neither my parents nor my parish were teaching the faith.  At my parish they talked about Jesus and God and love, but not about doctrine.  At home we said grace before meals and that was it.  On some level I knew that our large family had something to do with church doctrine, but I never learned about that doctrine at church or at home and I just never thought about it.

I stopped going to church when I entered college for a couple of reasons.  For one, there was no one there to make me go. The other reason was that I didn’t know the truths that would compel me to go.  The truth is very compelling, but I was ignorant.

I met my husband on campus, he was also a cradle Catholic.  After college we sought to be married in the Catholic church out of respect for tradition, ritual, and a desire to not rock the boat.  I don’t think either of us really understood what we were choosing.  Getting married in a Catholic church was just what you did in our families.  We went through pre-canna counseling during which the priest told us “the church asks that you be open to children to keep you from being selfish.  My married friends tell me that children have a way of doing that…keeping you from being selfish.” That was it.  I perceived this comment as a “oh by the way the rules are that I have to say this” comment.  Had I been better catechized I might have perceived it as an invitation to ask about church doctrine, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.

We contracepted.  Fifteen years into marriage we had 3 wonderful children, but something was wrong.  I was miserable and my husband and I were often fighting.   For Lent I decided that I would start attending my parish mom’s group meeting.  At one of these meetings a couple of moms started talking about NFP.  I was shocked.  By this time we had moved to Virginia and I knew that the church was against contraception but I didn’t know why and certainly didn’t realize that anyone was actually living this teaching.  I was so ignorant.  I really thought that no one could possibly be living this teaching in today’s world so I was floored that these women were living it and talking about it.

The next meeting I went to, a friend of mine was passing out Janet Smith’s CD entitled “Contraception Why Not?”  I was not interested.  I thought that even if the church was teaching it and some people were living it, it would still be impossible for me.   I ended up taking the CD and agreeing to listen to it, just to please my friend.  I thought to myself “there is no way that anything on this CD could change my mind and it would really please my friend if I listened to it, so I’ll do it to please her”.

A funny thing happened that day.  I listened to the CD and completely changed my mind about contraception.  For the first time I heard the church’s teaching and reasoning on contraception and I was blessed with the grace to recognize it as true, good, and beautiful.  I was done contracepting.

The next few years were a little bumpy as I began making significant changes in my life.  My refusal to contracept required my husband’s cooperation and it was a few years before he was on board.  Those years were difficult for me, having embraced the truth but not being able to fully live it yet.  I spent much time in those years praying and offering up my suffering in reparation for the years that I had lived in deliberate ignorance.  I began going to confession frequently and starting learning about my faith in earnest.  What I found is that at first glance church doctrine looks difficult if not impossible to live in today’s secular world.  However, as I began learning what the church taught and then living it, my life and my marriage kept getting better and better.

Living my Catholic faith can be a struggle at times but it is a joyful struggle.  I’d choose this joyful struggle over my previous ignorant misery any day and every day!

Submitted from Virginia