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.

It Does Require Sacrifice

“Your vocation is to be a wife and a mother.”

I read and re-read my grand-aunt’s letter to me. She was a holy, elderly Carmelite nun who had given me a one-on-one retreat a couple of weeks before my wedding. I had just shared with her the great news that my husband and I were expecting our first child; she responded with joy and that simple statement reminding me of our talks.

I was a few months shy of graduating from my MBA program and both my husband and I were excited at the prospect of my working full-time and bringing in some much-needed income to augment his lowly salary. We were looking forward to vacations, new cars, and enjoying all the pleasures that money could buy. So when I read those words from my grand-aunt, I thought, “Is she crazy? Does she not realize how much we had to put in for me to finish my MBA? Is she asking me to abandon my education and become…of all things…a stay-at-home mom?!” I resisted the idea and put the letter away, but those words just kept gnawing at my heart. As my baby grew inside me and I felt every little movement of life inside my womb, I felt pangs of love and I couldn’t, for the life of me, imagine giving that baby to someone else to care for. Our families lived out of state and we didn’t have the emotional and family support that other couples may have had. As I grew closer and closer to my due date, I made the decision: I was going to stay home. My husband was disappointed with my choice but knew that it was the best for our family. I promised to start working once the baby got into school, but one baby followed and soon another and another. Before I knew it, 20 years had passed and I remained a stay-at-home mom. When people ask me if I regret that decision, I immediately tell them “No.”

Truly God is good! With my decision to stay at home, I was able to help support my husband’s career one hundred percent and we enjoyed a charmed life. With no career for me to worry about, I was able to follow my husband to Asia. We traveled around the country and vacationed for free. We saved enough money to get ourselves out of the debt that we incurred in the beginning of our marriage. We raised 4 beautiful children who are solid in their values and faith. Our marriage is stronger than ever, as we learned to prioritize our faith, marriage and family before anything else.

We may not enjoy the luxuries of a huge house, several cars, or fantasy vacations that would have been easily acquired if I had made a different career choice. But the blessings that came with that decision are immeasurable. A good and loving marriage, the joy of having children, and the peace that comes from submitting to the Father’s plan are truly treasures that money cannot buy! We were never in need of anything and even in the lean years and during the times when my husband lost his job, God always provided. Today, with my youngest in Kindergarten, I have finally started working full-time as a religion teacher. It is truly rewarding to be able to share the faith with other children, to be home when my own children are home, and to augment our income as expenses rise and college tuition is on the horizon. God is truly a generous Father and wishes to bestow on us all His blessings, but we just need to give Him a chance to do so. In all these years of walking in faith, I’ve learned that the more I say “Yes” to him, the more He blesses me. It’s not always easy and it does require sacrifice, but it has strengthened my hope and trust in His love and promises.