So. I'm pregnant. (SURPRISE!) Baby #4 has impeccable timing! Marital issues, emotional issues, financial strain, and an 18 month old who at the time of conception was still nursing three times a night. Needless to say, we have adjusted our lives dramatically and are hunkering down for the four months of misery that is my hyperemesis gravidarum. If anyone has prayers they're willing to give out, please send some my way.
We have had mixed reactions to the news of our unexpected blessing, ranging from the sublime (from my sister who said "God has His reasons, and I know that beauty and good are going to come from this") to the ridiculous (my husband is hesitant to tell his work about the situation because "It's not like you have cancer. I mean, people have ideas about pregnancy being preventable.")
I am not thrilled that I have to go through 16 weeks of torture as I throw up constantly and struggle to keep from being dehydrated and hospitalized. I am not looking forward to missing out on everything my kids do for the next four months, or going to bed at 7 pm every night, or having to watch holidays from afar while other people enjoy decorating, eating festive foods, and celebrating. I fully understand this is a lot to ask of our family, and I am humbly and exceptionally grateful for any help whatsoever.
But this does not change my commitment to NFP. Here is why:
It's such a fine line between faith and expecting things of God. I know that the Saints asked God for miracles and trusted that He would provide. And I know that what He may provide me is different than what I may expect. But I have felt this way with every pregnancy, the anger, the injustice of it, the confusion and "why me?" and disappointment. I don't know God's plan. His ways are mysterious to us. It doesn't matter anyway, I know that I'm supposed to soldier on. I still pray and still feel His comfort. I just wish I could have a miracle, you know? A real tangible sign of God's presence and power. Something that could turn Dan's very hardened heart and make him realize that there is more out there. Maybe that's not the way God wants to reveal Himself to Dan, though. I don't know.
The thing with rules is that they're not there for their own sake. The rules are meant to order our minds and priorities to what God values. They reveal something about what God wants and who God is. So when He says from the Mount: Thou shall not kill, He is revealing how much He values human life. Now, secular culture says that babies and pregnancy are burdens that should only be undertaken when the circumstances are perfect. God says that life is a gift and it needs to be embraced and welcomed in any circumstance. I have friends who follow the contraception mentality, and they have one child, or two children, because "It's too hard" or "I need my sleep" or "It will affect my career to take time off" or "We can't afford another one" which is such a lie in this country of prosperity. One friend won't speak to me anymore because she is so hurt by the fact that she is infertile after waiting so long to try again for a second child, whereas I get pregnant without trying. I think about how much joy a child brings into the lives of the family, and it hurts my heart to know how many babies are aborted or contracepted against for the sake of convenience. I have read in magazines stories about women who refuse to have another child, even though their husbands desperately want more children, because they don't want to sacrifice their careers or because they don't like having to get up in the middle of the night to feed a baby. Like, seriously? One or two years of discomfort to provide your son or daughter with a sibling, and to fulfill your husband's heart's desire, and you're unwilling to do that? Not to mention that one article said the husband would do the night feedings, and she still refused because "he shouldn't have to do something I find so distasteful!" Talk about improper priorities and closed-mindedness.
The Church's teachings are there to help us understand God's truth. They are not based on nothing, but rather on thousands of years of divine revelation. They are true for all times, places, and people. Yes, they're meant to work with your conscience and your particular situation. When I talked with my Pastor about contraception he said that there could be an argument for someone in my position to use a barrier method for various reasons (married to an unbeliever, long periods of abstinence required, grave danger/distruption with a pregnancy.) But the point is, getting a vasectomy is closing a door and saying "I place the secular values of sex without consequences and material prosperity above the joy and privilege of bringing new life into the world."
It's a slippery slope. We can see the evidence in the culture around us. What is the outcome of the contraception mentality? Anti-family, anti-mothering attitudes that view staying home to care for your children as a little death and a waste of your time and education. Abortion, because no one should have to bear a child unless they want it and it's in perfect circumstances. Devaluing of those who DO make the sacrifice to bear a child (like Dan's firm thinking cancer was an acceptable reason to help out a family but pregnancy is not.) Disavowing of responsibility to help mothers and children, because it's solely a woman's CHOICE, and why should a man have to care for a child he helped conceive when she is the one who chose to bear it? Or what about the rise in surrogacy and IVF because having a child is a RIGHT not a privilege and by gosh, it's perfectly acceptable to abort six fetuses to carry one child to term or to use some poor woman in India for her uterus in order to satisfy our American attitude of What I Want When I Want It! Pope Pius XI warned against all this, and predicted exactly the attitudes and issues that our culture is facing right now when he wrote his encyclical against contraception in 1960 and he was dismissed as an old fart with no understanding of the needs of a modern woman. I understand that it's difficult to be infertile, and to long for a child without being able to conceive. It's difficult to get pregnant unexpectedly and have your whole life change! But sometimes suffering makes us better people because it requires us to value something above ourselves and our plans! Our society has lost the sense of sacrifice as a virtue. Now sacrifice is unnecessary, it's a problem. If you're making a sacrifice it's not valued! It's considered irresponsible, particularly if your sacrifice requires other people to make sacrifices too. Jesus gave His life for us. I think I can give 9 months of nausea for this precious new life. This burden is temporary. When you weigh it against a whole person's life, it's worth it.
As I've said before, I would have a serious conversation with Dan about getting a vasectomy if it's something that he needs and if it will make the difference between a good marriage and a divorce. It would be a sacrifice I would make for our marriage, because his well-being is very important to me, and I believe there is space to make decisions based on circumstance. But it is going against my beliefs and my values, not just because the Church speaks against it, but because I truly believe that God wants married couples to be open to life.
I believe it should be HARD to be a good Catholic. If it's easy, then we're not doing it right. The Christian message challenges us in every way to be counter cultural and a light on a hill. My conscience wants to follow Church teaching because I am in clear understanding that the teaching is for my spiritual good. I still struggle. We are all human and it's true: our souls are in our own hands and not the responsibility of anyone else.
I remember talking with my spiritual director once after Maizie was born about how scared I was to trust God with NFP before my cycle returned to normal. He said, "Well, you're doing the right thing by following God, and I think He will reward you for it." I said, "Yes, Father, but what if He rewards me with a baby?" I feel that's what God has done. He has forced us into baby #4 because we weren't going to go there on our own. I would have preferred more time in between, but people have babies closer together than this and Maizie is going to be fine. Just because it's not ideal doesn't mean it's not a blessing. How does that poem go? Whatever comes, Praise God. For good or ill, Praise God. In sickness and health, Praise God. Or something like that.