HARD CASES #2 - SHOULD I CONSIDER ANOTHER BABY?
Steve Koob’s comments to Anne are in italics.)
Hello! Thank you very much for your wonderful web site (www.OMSoul.com). My name is Anne and I am a 43 year old mother of two girls ages 11 and 9. My husband and I have been married for almost 19 years. I came into a "conversion" in 1999 at the age of 34 after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick at age 34. I had a disease called Peripartum Cardiomyopathy which is heart failure after a pregnancy. I almost died from the disease, but am happy to say am doing well and "cured". I was a "cafeteria Catholic" prior to my conversion in 1999 and did not understand the Church's reasons against contraception, but I do now. After I was healed from Congestive Heart Failure, I was told by several doctors not to have any more children. I was scared to death at the time, and my husband went ahead and had a vasectomy soon after I had recovered with the heart problem.
My first question would be for the doctors. If you are healed/cured, why should you not have any more children? Many doctors these days have an ingrained anti-life mentality. It 's the way they were trained, AND it supports an often very materialistic life style. I have been questioning in the last few years whether the doctors were correct that I should not have any more children, and I have talked to my husband about having the vasectomy reversed, however he feels strongly that since he went to Confession (and myself, as well) that he does not want to have it reversed. It is true that the Church does not require reversal of sterilization following confession and absolution. However, some theologians would argue that when reversal is possible/feasible, it should be done. We publish a book of 20 sterilization reversal stories that includes two appendices by such theologians. The argument is quite simple: The body created by God has been mutilated; justice demands that it be repaired, if possible. Also, the fertility that God gifted to you and your husband has been stolen, forgiveness is not warranted until the gift is returned, again, if possible.
All 20 couples (all Catholics) saw their marriages tend toward failure after the sterilization; all found their marriages healed after reversal. Unnatural birth control, including sterilization, attempts to separate the two ends/purposes of sexual intercourse--bonding and babies. Any and all such attempts will cause damage to the relationship between the spouses and between them and God. It is inevitable!!
I have prayed about this, but now at almost 44 years old, I feel it may be too late to even consider having my husband "undo" the operation, since most likely I would not be able to conceive at this point due to my age. My mother was completely through menopause by age 48 and I am already going through a lot of the pre-menopausal symptoms at my age. My question for you is, if I have been to Confession and prayed on this issue, at this point, what else can I do? As we all know, you can't reverse the clock and change the past. We are loosely following NFP in order to honor the Church even though a baby will not be conceived. The other issue is my period is very irregular and it's a little challenging to follow NFP to the letter. So again, my question is, is there something else I can do for my own healing with this issue?
I suppose it is obvious, based on what I have already said. If you are healed of the heart problem, and there is no other serious reason to prevent conception, then you should be open to new life. That is the essence of the act of sexual intercourse and the essence of the sacrament of marriage. Yes, your husband should seek reversal, even if you are infertile or have limited fertility remaining. That would be reversing the mistakes of the past, to the best of your ability. Then, recognize that a child is the supreme gift of marriage for the parents and siblings, especially, but really for the entire universe--most obviously to your local church and community. That is my opinion, and I think it conforms to God's will, and following God's will always heals the heart and soul.
May God bless you abundantly.
A Medical Opinion from Dr. Mary Martin M.D.:
I have managed patients with peripartum cardiomyopathy during subsequent pregnancies without problems. Someone who undertakes such risk should be managed by someone with experience and with convenient access to high risk facilities. But having said that, NFP is satisfactory for someone seeking to avoid pregnancy for medical reasons.
From a theological standpoint, restoring fertility to the marriage restores the integrity of the marriage act and is essential for reparation unless his health or financial circumstances would prevent it. The wife's age makes future pregnancies less likely, but should not be used as an excuse for restoring fertility to the marriage.
Mary W. Martin, M.D., FACOG
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB