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Catholic/Non-Catholic Vasectomy question

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
Starting off by saying yes, I will be talking to my priest about this. But I would like an idea of what to expect. And I am not looking to debate church teaching on birth control or child spacing.

I am Catholic, married to a Lutheran minister. Our children are being raised Lutheran. Up until now, my husband has always deferred to me and my conscience when it comes to birth control/child spacing. We've practiced NFP at times but mostly have just allowed the babies to come when they may. In the past 11 years, I've had 3 miscarriages and 6 children, the last being twins who were born 7 weeks ago. I am 38 years old.

I almost died twice over the babies' birth. Not only did I lose 3600 CCs of blood and have two separate procedures done on my uterus to stop the bleeding, but I also went into heart failure and have been diagnosed with something called peripartum cardiomyopathy. The complete story is in the birth stories forum here on MDC or on my blog.

When I went for my six week check up, I was told that another baby would, in all likelihood, kill me. I usually don't trust doctors when they make dramatic statements like this, but based on my own research I firmly believe that this was no exaggeration. I feel like I am extremely blessed to have walked out of this alive with my two babies and I am still not out of the woods. There's no guarantee my heart will improve or recover.

My doctor said I shouldn't have sex until my husband had a vasectomy AND passed the 3 month test. As a Catholic, I struggle with this. I don't want another baby (I mean, I do, but I have accepted the fact that I shouldn't have one) and I don't want to die. I don't want to put my family through this again. I want to be here for the children God has given me. I wish they had just done a hysterectomy when I was bleeding so I wouldn't be in this position. If I had my way, we would just be celibate for the rest of my child-bearing years, but that could be the breastfeeding twins hormones speaking.

DH is willing to get a vasectomy. He wants to, actually. I know I am not morally responsible for his decisions, but I feel really guilty that I feel relieved that I have an "out". I know that according to church teaching, sterilization is wrong. This is the first time I've ever felt completely at odds with church teaching. I feel like this last birth was a pretty clear sign that we're out of the baby making business.

I don't know what I am really looking for here-- does the fact that I'm relieved he can/will get a vasectomy somehow make me morally responsible for the decision? am I a horrible person for not wanting to risk another pregnancy? I am having such a difficult time with this.
post #2 of 38

I wanted to offer hugs.  I couldn't read and not respond.  I am not Catholic, btw.

 

You have done nothing wrong.  Remember that guilt comes from the enemy.  If you have a clean conscience before God, then all that guilt you are feeling is just the enemy trying to pick on you.  Satan is the accuser of the brethren, day and night.  It's his job to accuse you of all kinds of things you are not responsible for.  The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Just keep enjoying the Lord and tell Satan to get lost!  I hope things go well for you, and I pray that your priest will have wisdom from God to shepherd you through this.

 

ETA:  congrats on the twins! and praise the Lord!

post #3 of 38

Please don't feel guilty. You are not a horrible person to feel relieved that this obviously huge stress will be gone from your life after your husband has his vas. Stress is not good for you either. I can imagine it will be very refreshing to no longer have it hanging over your head. So, in short, enjoy your family, celebrate your life and relish every happiness that comes your way! 

post #4 of 38

Take this with a grain of salt, because I'm Catholic and strongly disagree with exactly this sort of across-the-board, one-size-fits-all Church teaching.  I pray that you have a kind and understanding priest with whom you can discuss this matter, because a hardliner with only make you feel worse about the whole thing.  Do you have a spiritual direction program in your diocese?  This sounds like a perfect situation in which you might consider choosing a Spiritual Director.  In my diocese the SD program includes priests, deacons, and nuns.  B sees a wonderful nun once/month for Spiritual Direction, and it has helped him enormously with both major decisions in his personal.professional life (he's a CEO) as well as everyday challenges.

 

In reading your post, it sounds like you already know what the answer is, and that you are okay with it.  So I pray that you find the proper suppport and kind understanding that such a situation requires as you discern your decision.

post #5 of 38

My parents are doctors, and conservative Catholics.  From what I have gleaned, you do not need to feel guilty for two reasons...1. Even if it is illicit contraception, it is not you that is "committing" it. 2. Things done with a primary purpose to save your life, and a negative secondary effect (in this case, no more kids) are not illicit.  That (not dying) is where your feelings of relief come from, and you should not feel guilty about them.

 

My understanding is that Catholicism would frown on "I'm sick of having kids, I'll make 'health reasons' my excuse, whoo-hoooo, I'm DONE!!!!" but not on "My husband does not want me to die and a sad but real consequence of that is that we don't get any more kids out of my body".

post #6 of 38


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post

My parents are doctors, and conservative Catholics.  From what I have gleaned, you do not need to feel guilty for two reasons...1. Even if it is illicit contraception, it is not you that is "committing" it. 2. Things done with a primary purpose to save your life, and a negative secondary effect (in this case, no more kids) are not illicit.  That (not dying) is where your feelings of relief come from, and you should not feel guilty about them.

 

My understanding is that Catholicism would frown on "I'm sick of having kids, I'll make 'health reasons' my excuse, whoo-hoooo, I'm DONE!!!!" but not on "My husband does not want me to die and a sad but real consequence of that is that we don't get any more kids out of my body".

I'm not catholic, but I'd have to say I come down on this side of it.  Would you object to a life saving procedure in the event of an accident?  Did you have any regrets or feelings of guilt after the procedure required to keep you alive?  If your answer is yes, then I can understand your difficulty.  If the answer is no, then I don't see how this is functionally any different.

 

I wish you peace, and suspect you may need some more time to process this.  Perhaps you can sit in prayer and see if you get any comfort there.  From what you've said, it sounds like you know intellectually it's a good decision and just need to reconcile that with your spiritual life.  I understand and respect that.  I hope you can come to a place where you can relinquish any feelings of guilt.  It's really okay to feel gratitude about the fact that you will remain safe to continue your work on earth.
 

post #7 of 38
Ok, so I am a Catholic and I very much agree with the Church's teaching on BC. In your situation, however, given that your dh is not Catholic and wants the vas, I think you should let go of your guilt. As long as you don't coerce your dh into getting the vas (which I know you aren't doing) you are not held accountable. Also, being relieved is not a sin. Of course you are relieved! You're a human being who went through a horrible trauma and I would imagine that you are probably very scared. Please be gentle with yourself. This is a time for you to heal.
post #8 of 38

I am also a Catholic who agrees very much with the Church's teaching on birth control.  This is a very heavy burden because of your health issues and your relationship with your spouse.  As far as your health/life is concerned, a Catholic couple would be asked to prevent another pregnancy through total or partial abstinance (being very, very careful, adding extra days of abstinance).  This is not an easy thing for any couple.

 

The complicating factor in this plan is that your husband is not Catholic, and in his faith tradition, not only is he justified in getting a vasectomy for any reason, but in this situation, perhaps his conscience would tell him that it is the more loving thing to do.  As a non-Catholic, he is not bound by Catholic teaching.

 

You said yourself that you would be willing to abstain for the remainder of your childbearing years, in effect, willing to follow the Catholic teaching on how to deal with a situation such as this.  The issue is your relationship with your non-Catholic husband.  He is not choosing contraception out of selfishness or because he thinks he knows better than the Church.  He is choosing it in accordance with the faith tradition of which he is a part.

 

I'm sure you feel relief that this soon will no longer be a matter between you two, and I'm sure it feels awkward feeling OK with something that goes against Church teaching.  It's not that you have an "out" just because your husband is not Catholic.  It's that you have a situation where you need to respect and love your husband from another faith tradition.

 

I think it would be helpful if your husband would be open to doing something to respect your faith as well.  It might be helpful to explore more about why the Catholic Church holds to its teaching on contraception, even is such difficult situations and work to align your will with God's more completely.  If your husband is truly adamant that he should get a vasectomy, perhaps you could respect your faith by practicing NFP even with the vasectomy.  Regardless, if you choose to not be completely abstinent, you have to accept that there is a small (even tiny) probability that you may get pregnant, and you must accept that probability, willingly accepting a miracle, and if you do get pregnant again, praying for another miracle to save your life.  Prayers for you.

post #9 of 38

I read your birth story and thank God you and the babies are ok!

 

But, you want honesty here. What your husband does is not up to you. However, as far I understand, you would need to tell your husband that you are not ok with a vasectomy and then let him decide. Basically, due to what JMJ said.

 

I would actually think that (if it were me) I would feel safer with super strict NFP than trusting the vasectomy. I think it might really help you to try to find a couple who have been through something similar. Probably not easy, as people may not talk so openly about their pains, but maybe your priest would know of someone.

post #10 of 38

I wish I had some answer to give you.

I, too, hold to the Church's teachings regarding BC.  If your DH was Catholic, I would recommend very conservative NFP and/or abstinence during your childbearing years.

Since he is not, however, I have no answer.  I think, actually, that a good solid orthodox priest may be your only option.  He will have a through understanding of the Church's teachings, and will be able to accurately advise you as to what is best for you, your family, and your soul.

post #11 of 38

I am a Catholic, and my Catholic friend (a former nun married to a former Benedictine monk) was in a similar situation: she suffered cardiac arrest while laboring with her third baby, and was advised that another pregnancy could kill her.  She did consult with her priest and spiritual director about the issue.  My understanding is that, in her case, the greater moral consideration was to remain alive so that she could care for the children she already has.  I believe that this very subject is addressed in paragraph 10 ("Responsible Parenthood") of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html

post #12 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for your responses, and for being loving and gentle and grace-filled.

I do need to let go of the guilt. I am so, so thankful to be alive. I cherish every single day with my babies and other children, and I know how it could have very easily gone another way. I'm trying to remember that guilt is non-productive and isn't from God.

I definitely will talk to my priest. When I mentioned strict NFP to my husband, he said "that would be intolerable." And to be honest, I don't think I would ever enjoy sex again. I would be too scared of getting pregnant. Heck, I don't know if even the vasectomy would feel "safe" enough, but that's something else I am going to need to work through.

I know I've been kind of quiet and unresponsive; I'm just taking it all in and thinking about it. This was just so outside my plan. My plan was to just accept babies if/when they came.
post #13 of 38


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post


I definitely will talk to my priest. When I mentioned strict NFP to my husband, he said "that would be intolerable." And to be honest, I don't think I would ever enjoy sex again. I would be too scared of getting pregnant. Heck, I don't know if even the vasectomy would feel "safe" enough, but that's something else I am going to need to work through.

I know I've been kind of quiet and unresponsive; I'm just taking it all in and thinking about it. This was just so outside my plan. My plan was to just accept babies if/when they came.


I will respond to the bolded bit first:

That was something I wanted to point out before, but wasn't sure how to.  Vasectomies aren't 100%.  As much as it is presented as being 100%, there is still a chance.  A very slim, very very rare chance- but it is there.

 

Your last comment:

I don't think any of us would expect you to be constantly replying in the thread.  You have a very hard decision ahead, and one that requires a LOT of prayer.  Being unresponsive is ok.  It won't make us love you any less.

post #14 of 38

Ughh I wrote out several replies but nothing sounds right. I am so sorry you are in such a difficult position. hug2.gif

 

I guess, if it were me, hard as it would be, I'd go with ultra-conservative NFP, but my DH is Catholic too so it's really not the same at all. If your DH is not willing to adhere to strict NFP then... I guess I would try to make my beliefs known (and I'm sure they already are, but I would restate them etc.) & then let my DH make his own decision since really you cannot control his actions.

 

The other thing I want to say is, you aren't even 2 mos post-partum. The feelings you have now may not be the same as what you will feel in a few more months. I had a comparatively uncomplicated birth and no admonitions to not get pregnant, and I STILL thought I'd want to remain celebate for the rest of my life... until I reached about 6mos postpartum... Things that seem easy now may be difficult later, and things that seem impossible now, might not seem that way a few weeks/months/years from now. So I would be cautious about YOU making any decisions so soon. I won't say anything about your DH's decisions now since that's not something you can control, but I would not willingly agree/disagree to anything while in this emotionally/hormonally vulnerable state, if that makes sense?

 

This is so tough & I wish you the best in working this out with your DH & priest.

post #15 of 38

Firstly, I would like to come back to this:

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
 
If I had my way, we would just be celibate for the rest of my child-bearing years

 

 

I'm not so certain that this is the correct position to take, either.  Remember that sex is an integral and important part of a covenant relationship.  Its purpose is not only procreation, but also sacred union.  It's really part of the ritual of the sacrament of marriage.  It isn't fair, or spiritual, to deny this to yourself and your DH.  IMO you would both suffer from such a decision.

 

Also, that could be a really long time.  I'm in my late forties, and still as fertile as the day is long. eyesroll.gif  No signs of waning fertility here ...

 

 

Quote:
 Sex is the physical expression of the total self-gift of one man and woman to one another given in the marital vows, states the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” The primary motive of sex is not pleasure, nor is it procreation, although those are both inextricable pieces to complete the puzzle.

The primary motive is the physical expression of the love God has given to the spouses and their complete offering of themselves to another. It is in short, a monumental act of love and sacrifice.

 

http://www.evangelist.org/archive/htm10/1007sex.html


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post

When I mentioned strict NFP to my husband, he said "that would be intolerable." And to be honest, I don't think I would ever enjoy sex again. I would be too scared of getting pregnant. Heck, I don't know if even the vasectomy would feel "safe" enough, but that's something else I am going to need to work through.

 

 

Aside from abstinence, no BC is 100% - not even "strict" NFP.  If your DH goes the vas route, be certain he gets the recommended sperm checks.  Hopefully this will help ease your anxiety.  Is he at least willing to try and avoid for a couple of days during the time you would likely be ovulating?

 

post #16 of 38

I am not a catholic but got all my sex ed from conservative catholics.

 

First of all you should not feel guilty.  This is a life or death situation here.  

 

My xh had a vas.  It was 100% selfish sin.  But it wasn't mine.   But at the same time I was so relieved.  I was against it but was still relieved that I would not have any more children with this man and after he had been so unwilling to provide me with children I grateful that he wouldn't be giving them to someone else (this may have been selfish thinking on my part but....).  At the time not having sex was not an option.  I was his wife.  NFP wasn't good enough for him.   It seemed like the least sinful option.  I knew I was going to be a single mom soon (and I was right.  he was already sleeping with another woman) and couldn't bare the thought of harming any more children in this marriage....blah blah blah.  so snip snip. 

 

And I agree, in your situation I would not trust a vasectomy.  I would continue to use NFP and abstain during fertile times.  Perhaps this would help ease your conscience as well.  Knowing that you would not be having sex at times you could conceive.  I did this.  it helped me feel not so guilty.  It helped me to feel  like I was just taking advantage of the situation.  

post #17 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

 

The other thing I want to say is, you aren't even 2 mos post-partum. The feelings you have now may not be the same as what you will feel in a few more months. I had a comparatively uncomplicated birth and no admonitions to not get pregnant, and I STILL thought I'd want to remain celebate for the rest of my life... until I reached about 6mos postpartum... Things that seem easy now may be difficult later, and things that seem impossible now, might not seem that way a few weeks/months/years from now. So I would be cautious about YOU making any decisions so soon. I won't say anything about your DH's decisions now since that's not something you can control, but I would not willingly agree/disagree to anything while in this emotionally/hormonally vulnerable state, if that makes sense?


With all due respect, not similar situations at all. Yes, it's normal to not want another baby when one's recent baby(ies) are little. However, in the OP case, she has a pretty clear cut danger of death that you do NOT have. For her, the issue is MORE pressing because as the months slip by, the decision doesn't get easier. It's not as if in 6 mos, she will say 'oh, what the heck, let's keep this option open'. Her risk of dying won't go down.

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lilyka View Post

I am not a catholic but got all my sex ed from conservative catholics.

 

First of all you should not feel guilty.  This is a life or death situation here.

 

Yes, this. I believe the Catholic church makes exceptions for this. I know that in medical conditions where one needs birth control pills (say, big fibroids, endometriosis) it is allowable to use them, since the primary use is medical, not because a couple didn't want children.

 

For all the other posters mentioning super strict NFP.....when does the health risk outweigh birth control being bad? I'm pretty sure that there is that option out there.

 

Also, complete abstinance, as another poster mentioned, sex is not just for procreation. So abstaining would technically be sinful in that case, since sex is important in a marriage outside of procreation.

 

Ami

post #18 of 38

Quote:
Originally Posted by JTA Mom View Post

With all due respect, not similar situations at all. Yes, it's normal to not want another baby when one's recent baby(ies) are little. However, in the OP case, she has a pretty clear cut danger of death that you do NOT have. For her, the issue is MORE pressing because as the months slip by, the decision doesn't get easier. It's not as if in 6 mos, she will say 'oh, what the heck, let's keep this option open'. Her risk of dying won't go down.

 

Not what I meant at all -- I meant that this is an emotionally vulnerable time, and if she's not planning on having sex anytime soon anyway, then it might be better not to rush into making a decision... My DS's birth was incredibly traumatic for me (though not in the same ways as the OP's)... Being celibate might seem easy now but hard later, or getting a vasectomy might make the most sense now but in the future some new information could come about... I don't know, maybe I'm just not being clear about what I mean here. It's hard to fully weigh risks & benefits during such a vulnerable time as the post-partum period, I guess that's what I mean, and if it were me I would wait until I felt completely ready to make a choice either way.
 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JTA Mom View Post

Yes, this. I believe the Catholic church makes exceptions for this. I know that in medical conditions where one needs birth control pills (say, big fibroids, endometriosis) it is allowable to use them, since the primary use is medical, not because a couple didn't want children.

 

For all the other posters mentioning super strict NFP.....when does the health risk outweigh birth control being bad? I'm pretty sure that there is that option out there.

According to my understanding of the Catholic church's teachings -- if a medication is used to treat a health condition, it is acceptable, even if it has the secondary effect of sterility. However, this is not the same thing as preventing a pregnancy because of the potential health complications. Artificial birth control is never acceptable for contraceptive purposes, even if preventing pregnancy will save the mother's life. However, the OP's DH isn't Catholic so that complicates things... plus there's the fact that you simply cannot control another person's actions...

post #19 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by JTA Mom View Post

Yes, this. I believe the Catholic church makes exceptions for this. I know that in medical conditions where one needs birth control pills (say, big fibroids, endometriosis) it is allowable to use them, since the primary use is medical, not because a couple didn't want children.

 

For all the other posters mentioning super strict NFP.....when does the health risk outweigh birth control being bad? I'm pretty sure that there is that option out there.

 

Also, complete abstinance, as another poster mentioned, sex is not just for procreation. So abstaining would technically be sinful in that case, since sex is important in a marriage outside of procreation.

 

Ami

 


This is not an accurate summary of Catholic teaching.  While the church does make allowances if the birth control itself would resolve a healthy problem, her husband's vasectomy will not cure the OP.  While the couple certainly has grave reason to avoid having more children and is certainly not acting in selfishness, just because they do not want children, the action of the vasectomy would be to prevent children rather than to treat a health problem.  I understand that many of you on this forum view this differently, but in the eyes of the Church, this is how it is.  Abstinence is the only Catholic response to the need to prevent pregnancy.  The extent of this abstinence (NFP, strict NFP, post-ovulation only + added days, or even total abstinence) is a decision for the couple as part of their call to responsible parenthood.  Complete abstinence would not be sinful in this case while a Catholic couple resorting to birth control would be considered sinful.  I admit that it is hard to understand, and many disagree with the official Catholic teaching that complete or almost complete abstinence would be allowable under the principle of double effect while birth control would not.  As the last poster pointed out, the fact that the OP's Protestant husband views this differently than the Catholic Church is what complicates this.

 

OP, I've been thinking and praying for you a lot recently.  It sounds like your husband will likely choose to have a vasectomy because that is what he believes is best.  If he chooses to, it may not be your sin at all, but as Catholics, we don't just teach that contraception is wrong because we want people to be obedient.  We believe that it has a negative impact on families that is there even if there is no sin.  I mourn for you to be in a situation that seems to have no good solution.  I wonder if there is anything that can be done to counteract the negative effects of contraception.  You are in my prayers.

post #20 of 38

JMJ - Thank you for writing such a nice post, those are the things I would like to tell the OP as well but I just could not find the right words. BIG HUGS to the OP. grouphug.gif

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