I want to begin today by telling you a short story about my journey as a husband and father. Seventeen years ago I got married to a wonderful woman. Both of us were new to the Christian faith and excited about our new journey in Christ and marriage. Obviously, one of the first things we discussed was our desire to have children. Heather comes from a family of 4 children and I have one sister. Although our families were not perfect we loved them and they us – therefore we were excited about the possibility of having children of our own. Ideal!
For the first ten years of our marriage we tried to have children. It did not happen. We tried fertility treatments and they failed. We got pregnant several times and each one ended in miscarriage. Our track record wasn’t good and the experience left us frustrated and angry at God. Our friends had children. Folks that didn’t want to have children had children. But nothing we did, through prayer or medicine, worked. Searching for answers to our predicament led us to adoption as the next best option. While reading about the requirements for adoption I found out that Heather was indeed pregnant again. We were cautiously optimistic. Hormone levels were good but not great. Heather was healthy but one question remained, could we have and eventually deliver a baby?
Nine months later we had Aislinn in our arms. Her name means dream or vision. The vision we had for so long came true and we were holding the fruit of that vision in our hands. We were so thankful to God who remained so good to us throughout this process. A short twenty-one months later we held our second child Mary-Claire in our hands. Together, we were overjoyed at the gift God so graciously lavished on us. Now, as a family of four living on the mission field we felt whole and happy. It was during this time in our lives that we began actively exploring the Catholic faith. After we came into the Catholic Church we had discussions about our family size and future. We decided we were happy with our girls and the current size of our family (actually quite GRATEFUL). I was in grad school, looking forward to graduation and to the next steps we would take as a family as I actively sought to serve the Church.
During this transition period I concluded that our family size was perfect. In light of the facts that we were in transition, I was looking for a job, and money was tight I came to believe that having a vasectomy was the responsible thing to do.
Theology of the Body:
I was both familiar with Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and unfamiliar with it at the same time. I was new to the Church hence my understanding of its full implications was underdeveloped at the time. In addition, I was influenced by well-meaning family members, friends and a society bent on forwarding the two child policy – two being more than enough. I figured it was just enough to allow us to live life just as we had imagined. Plenty of time for ME and the kids. Therefore, I went to the doctor and left with an appointment in hand. I was going to solidify my family’s place in history and free myself and my wife to engage in the act SEX whenever we wanted without worrying about the possibility of an “unplanned / unwanted” pregnancy.
The Car: It Changed My Life
I will never forget where I was when it happened. I was driving my car in New Haven, Connecticut heading home after a long day at work. Heather was in the passenger seat when it came to me. I felt uncomfortable about getting snipped, clipped and stripped of my ability to produce children. I was not excited about having a vasectomy for a variety of reasons. But one reason trumped them all – Heather and I concluded that neither one of us (even in our ignorance) felt comfortable with this decision yet neither of us really knew why nor did we discuss it with each other until now – in the car. I immediately called my spiritual director, Fr. Glenn Sundano CFR., and asked his opinion. I will never forget his first words, “Did you do it?” I said no, but I had the appointment and was uncomfortable about the decision. He went on to explain the position of the Church. I (we) went home and did some reading and decided that we agreed. Both in spirit and with the Church’s position on the subject. We decided not to go forward with sterilization.
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The ideas within the Theology of the Body and the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding marriage, marital relations, marital union (SEX), and family just made sense to us. In addition, when we looked deep within we agreed that we may not be done with our desire to have children.
Five years later we had our third child, Joseph and fourteen months later had our second son, Thomas. As I look at my newest edition sleeping in my arms I say aloud – “how grateful I am that God has given you to us.” The opportunity to experience this gift…this life was almost forfeited. I am so glad that I chose to stay open to the possibility of life.
After four difficult pregnancies, although Heather remains healthy, we will begin the process of Natural Family Planning. For many this process is too arduous and demands too much time. For us it is the necessary path we must accept in the exercise of our faith’s call to remain open to the possibility to life – even if it is not exactly on our terms.
Copyright 2013 Eric Neubauer