Closing the Door on Baby-Having

By Veronica

Yesterday, I had a tubal ligation.

My friend Deb drove me to a small medical center where an anesthesiologist put me under and my OBGYN zapped my fallopian tubes. The hospital where my babies were born is a Roman Catholic hospital, so the procedure could not be done there. At this point in this post, more liberal bloggers might complain indignantly about religious hospitals denying women medical care. I am not that blogger. I believe profoundly in religious liberty for everyone, including organizations that have convictions against birth control. We do not extend religious liberty to people only if they do not inconvenience us. Besides, I benefited from those Catholic religious convictions, both by the charitable program for uninsured mothers during my first pregnancy, and in the confidence I had during every other pregnancy that no matter what went wrong, no one at this hospital would pressure me to abort my children.

So you just keep doing what you’re doing, Catholic hospitals. I’m grateful.

But my husband and I do not have religious convictions against birth control, and we had decided that our current three-month-old would be our last baby. At Thanksgiving, I found my heartfelt prayer was “Thank you, God, that I am not pregnant.” Being not-pregnant has felt like coming out of a fog. I can handle the nausea and the heartburn and the sciatica of pregnancy, but the exhaustion overwhelms me. I can’t say that I will never again want a baby – how could I say no to a baby? so sweet! so wonderful! – but I know with certainty that I never want to be pregnant again.

But thinking about this subject has reminded me of many posts I’ve read on the subject of fertility from other bloggers, most of whom have different beliefs than mine. Gretchen at Lifenut, though not opposed to birth control,  wrote about when the decision to become infertile may be foolish in her post Scarred for Life. Although I do not come to the same conclusions as Jennifer F. on birth control, I have been very moved by her blog Conversion Diary, where she explains her Roman Catholic beliefs on abortion and contraception in her post How I Became Pro-Life. Amy at Amy’s Humble Musings wrote about her convictions as part of the protestant Quiverful movement.

My different beliefs about birth control are based on a different understanding of vocation and the ways the abstract acceptance of God’s will should be manifested in the concete, but I am grateful that there are women who see as their vocation the welcoming of all children under any circumstance. That is a powerful message in a world that too often views children as “mistakes.” And no, if I miraculously conceived a child after a tubal ligation, that child would not be a “mistake.”

Deciding to end my own fertility also makes me keenly aware of what a privilege it was. I had four babies in five years, each one a welcome addition that was easily conceived. So many of you have had different experiences. Antique Mommy’s birth story you probably all know. Robbin at My Level of Awareness wrote about the consequences of her own decision to wait for children in her post, A bad example is sometimes the best one. And GiBee of Kisses of Sunshine wrote a great guest post at Shannon’s blog about what she’d like people to know about infertility. It is easy to take fertility for granted, and the writing of these bloggers has shown me how intensely grateful I am for the privilege I have been given. Thank you, bloggers, for that.

My sister tells me that this is the “end of an era” for me. I suppose it is, though the busyness of motherhood will not give me much time to absorb that. But today’s heavy sleep under the lingering influence of morphine, I find myself well-rested enough to recognize it and cherish all I have been given.

Veronica blogs at Toddled Dredge.

75 Responses to Closing the Door on Baby-Having
  1. Krista
    December 31, 2008 | 12:33 pm

    I agree children are a blessing – no matter what. I also agree that family planning can be a life saver – physically, emotionally and mentally. Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

    As to those who say NFP is the way to go I do have a few civil comments. It works best when the woman has regular, predictable mentstrual cycles. NFP/FAM methods are much harder to practice, and thus less effective, when a woman has irregular cycles either normally, or due to impending menopause. It is also harder to use when nursing and periods have not yet returned. You never know when that fertile season will return, and may have many signs (mucus or other) that it is on the way for months without actually ovulating. I had many patches of fertile CM over 7 months before my cycle actually restarted.

    To Fr Tom, How is using NFP (approved by the Catholic Church) to avoid pregnancy “Being Fruitful and Multiplying”? Where does scripture specify how much multiplying is multiplying. Has not the married couple with two children multiplied?

  2. Sharon
    December 31, 2008 | 12:41 pm

    As for having to have regular cycles to effectively use NFP-when properly trained by a certified instructor, it is actually VERY manageable.
    I have never had regular cycles. I always struggled w/ it, and that’s true even to this day.

    I understand that’s a common misconception, but again, we are fortunate to have so many advances made in the area of NFP to allow for it to STILL be used effectively, even despite irregular cycles.

    I completely understand the patches of fertile mucus before fertility actually returned. Trust me! However, after learning a little more, I was happy to find I could manage just fine, as we’ve been doing for over 5 years now.

    Regarding Fr. Tom’s comment-the Church does not tell us to have as many babies as possible. So YES, a couple w/ only 2 children HAS multiplied. However, the Church DOES ask us to be open and respectful of life, and that is where the differences arise. Practicing NFP-and alone w/o artificial or barrier methods-is the only method that allows the utmost respect for human life beginning at conception. So it’s the intent and means to an end that allow for NFP, when used with good intention, to be not harmful to a marriage compared to the use of birth control.

    If you have never been trained in Creighton, I HIGHLY recommend it. It was a lifesaver for us when I was breastfeeding.

  3. John Mallon
    December 31, 2008 | 12:44 pm

    I thought I would post what a wonderful woman OB/GYN has to say about some of this See here:

    It sounds like many people are making these decisions in a vacuum without complete information. Claiming to be Catholic but with only a caricature of what the Church really says on the matter, with no real understanding. For more information go here:
    To see what the Church really says go here:

    God bless you,

  4. John Mallon
    December 31, 2008 | 12:49 pm

    One of those didn’t come out as a hyperlink. Try this:

  5. tanyetta
    December 31, 2008 | 12:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey!
    4 babies in 5 years is much to be celebrated!

    God has truly blessed your family. 🙂

  6. Krista
    December 31, 2008 | 1:12 pm

    I’m not Catholic. I am a Christian. I do believe in the sanctity of human life and that life begins at conception. I personally do not believe that barrier methods are contrary to these beliefs. I do prefer a more natural approach though and enjoy knowing more about my body. I charted temps, cm and cp for 18 months before conceiving my daughter. My cycles varied from 38 – 66 days and were very inconsistent. My body made so many failed attempts to ovulate during that time. Had I abstained during all of the time my body appeared to be nearing ovulation, I would have been abstaining more often than not. To me, that is not acceptable and would have strained my marriage. Fortunately, we were trying to achieve pregnancy much of that time, and so it was a non-issue. The irregular cycles were frustrating and the fertility signs were misleading

    I am glad to say, that for me, after nearly a 14 month break in cycles post-partum, my cycles have been quite regular, and dare I say, close to normal. NFP or FAM is quite easy for me now and I no longer temp and feel reasonably certain that monitoring CM and CP are working well for me at this point. I appreciate the information on Creighton and I will look into it.

    I stand by my opinion that NFP and FAM – either to avoid or achieve pregnancy is harder for those like me, or rather like I was with irregular cycles. I still have all my charts and notes to show what I mean about multiple fertile “patches” in one cycle, which was about the only thing constant in my charts.

    I’m not putting down NFP or FAM. I still like it and it helped me achieve pregnancy and learn more about my body. I just understand that for some, it is much easier than for others. I don’t believe it works as well, without stressing a marriage, for everyone across the board.

  7. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    December 31, 2008 | 2:59 pm

    It is so interesting to read everyone’s different points of view.

    Although I do feel that Fr. Tom Euteneuer’s comments are the type that can turn people away from religion. I am a Christian, but I don’t understand all of God’s ways or teachings… so I’m not going to try to argue.

    I don’t think any woman would argue that fertility is definitely a gift. (But I don’t think that means that birth control is not a necessity too.)

    I struggled for over 3 years to give birth to my first girl and then I miraculously also had a second girl. I am soooooo blessed. But I also feel that because of my anxiety issues, and I’m already spread so thin, and the fact that I am already 35, that I likely won’t try to get pregnant again.

    It is a bit sad for me. Part of me wishes I was the type to be able to handle lots of pregnancies and a family full of lots of children… but I don’t think God made me that way.

    I think God gives us all different talents and blessings and we need to use our talents accordingly and be grateful for our blessings.

    I think some of the things I’m sure of in life are:
    – we are all different,
    – God loves us and created each of us,
    – He is ultimately in charge but gives us free will to make decisions — and we can try to discern His will and try our best to make wise decisions.

    Some decisions are harder than others. And choosing to end your fertility is definitely one of the tough ones. Thank you Veronica for you honesty and for opening up this important conversation.

  8. Heather Perry
    December 31, 2008 | 5:09 pm

    I chose to have a tubal immediately following the birth of my second child. Main reason being that even though I was on the pill, I got pregnant. My children are only 21 months apart and I didn’t want to have a baby every two years. I LOVE my children and others and do regret a lot of the time about having one, especially at such a young age (i was 23). I have longed for another baby, but my hubby says we are done. It is a controversial subject, but I think that it is up to the individual.

  9. Marisa
    December 31, 2008 | 5:47 pm

    I come from a religion that doesn’t say anything against birth control, but it is the belief that man and woman are to replenish the earth and most families are large. That’s what made the decision for my husband to get a vasectomy a hard one, even though we felt we were done after 4 babies in 5 years (one baby died.) I had exhausting pregnancies too, and don’t feel like I could handle another one. If we feel like in the future that we might want more, we will look into fostering and/or adopting unwanted children (not babies.) 3 of our 4 babies were not planned for– meaning that I was using some form of birth control, including the pill.
    Kudos to you for sharing your decision and your insights.

  10. The Diaper Diaries
    December 31, 2008 | 6:02 pm

    As always, you have written a powerful post that has caused me to think a lot. It is hard right now as I struggle to get pregnant to think about what we will do. I have tried temping, charting, checking cervical fluid and everything else to try and get pregnant and although it served me well the first 2 times, my body is a mystery right now.

    We strongly feel God has led us to adopt and would like to expand our family that way, but hopefully I will have one more first. AFter that we will likely do something permanent, most likely me cause of the strong history of breast and ovarian cancer in my family. I will most likely get everything out. But I know that will be a heart breaking day.

    I think to not struggle with this decision would be hard for me to understand. The ability to give life is such an amazing priviledge. But while I completely understand both sides of the coin, I think to presume that we completely 100% know God’s will for each and every person on this subject is harsh. Unless you are in fact God, commenting on this post, I think you should reserve that judgement for him.

  11. Kari A.
    December 31, 2008 | 11:29 pm

    I have 3 boys and when we scheduled the last c-section, we also signed the papers for my tubal. I had gone back and forth during the first 6 months of pregnancy but as it got harder and harder to move – I decided this was it. The hardest part was acknowledging the fact that I will never get to have the baby girl I had dreamed of. But to have another child just because I wanted to have a girl (odds were not in my favor) would have been so selfish. I know my limits and these 3 are it. I can be a great mom now and not just a mediocre one that is just trying to get by. I take my hat off to those that can parent more than 3 children. I am just now one of them.
    I feel silly since I hadn’t known any negativity towards my decision and hadn’t given it any thought until now. Glad I hadn’t but hope I would have been as strong and brave as you to stick to my own views and beliefs.
    Thank you for sharing and to all the others who shared as well. I feel I am in a great “club” of women now.

  12. Tiff
    December 31, 2008 | 11:52 pm

    The thing I like about NFP is that you don’t necessarily HAVE to take your temp. I used it while nursing, and once my cycles came back, but my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night, I monitored the other fertility signs.

    Granted, we had a longer “cautionary period” each month where we abstained or used barrier methods, but it really wasn’t bad at all. In fact, even when I’m NOT nursing, I forget the thermometer anyway…and never had an “oops” pregnancy. 🙂

  13. Tiff
    January 1, 2009 | 12:22 am

    I have a couple of stories to share, if that’s alright.

    One is of my mother. She is the youngest of five children, after TWO vasectomies. My gparents had three kids, after which they had a vasectomy. They then had my uncle. And another vas. Then, they had my mom, and sued the Dr!

    I learned from this that men make plans, but God’s will prevails.

    The other story is that of my own parents. My parents discussed kids, and decided two was their magic number. They had myself, and then my sister 18 months later. They didn’t do anything permanent.

    My mom began having the weird experience of putting myself and my sister in the car to go somewhere, then turning to put “the other baby” in, but there was no baby. Sometimes, she’d even run back into the house or store to get the baby she’d “forgotten.”

    She just knew that there was supposed to be a third child, but was afraid to broach the subject to my dad, because he was so adamant that two was it. So, she began to pray.

    Later, my dad approached her and told her that HE was having the same experience she was! She was really relieved, and shared her heart with him, and they decided to go for it one more time. My baby sister was born 5 years after me, and 3 years after my middle sis.

    My dad had a vasectomy, and my mom says they’ve both been completely at peace ever since.

    This taught me that if you are a believer in Jesus, you can count on Him to reveal His will for your life to you when you need it.

    While the Bible is clear on God’s love for children, that they are rewards and blessings, it is not spelled out anywhere that controlling the size of your family is a blatant sin.

    (Rabbit trail: Beware what chemical birth control you use though, as some have abortive properties. RESEARCH EVERYTHING!!! Never take the Dr’s word for it – they often don’t really know fully what BC does anyway.)

    Anyway – I’ve learned in my walk that if I need to know what God wants me to do, I need to ask Him, search the scriptures, and ask Him. (Said that twice on purpose.) The Bible is VERY clear that God WANTS to reveal His purpose for our lives to us. He WANTS us to ask Him, because He WILL answer us.

    And we’ll KNOW it’s Him. Because we know His voice.

    So. My hubby and I have had four children in 4 years and 2 months (but who’s counting? 🙂 ). He just got his vasectomy a couple of months ago. And we sought God’s face long and hard before deciding anything, using NFP in the meantime, despite my lack of a cycle until one month before he went in for surgery.

    We are at peace about our decision – the peace that passes understanding, and is deeper than our emotions. My emotions were mixed. Up and down. I grieved for awhile. But, I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had given us a nod in the affirmative. We did the right thing.

    I’ve enjoyed reading ALL the comments on this post, and I can’t wait to read the other blog posts you linked, Veronica. I really appreciate the respectful tone of this whole thing – I can sense the love of the body of Christ functioning the way God intended it to here. I hope I’ve added to the conversation in a way that blesses…

  14. Erin
    January 1, 2009 | 12:48 am

    I have a bit of a different perspective. My hubby and I went off BC a few years after we got married and at the same time, found a little girl who attended the school I taught at who was in foster care. We decided to adopt her — she is 8 now! We have not used BC since 2005 and I have not gotten pregnant yet. In the last few months, we decided to start trying to get pregnant. If it happens, great! If not, we are at peace with that as well. I applaud you for your decision – four kids in five years is a lot. I don’t know that I could do that!

  15. Kim
    January 2, 2009 | 12:01 am

    I got my tubes tied after my third baby primarily because of my age. I was 40 when my very much a surprise third baby was born. My special needs daughter was also part of the reason why I decided to do this. If I were younger, I wouldn’t mind trying for a fourth baby. But since I’m now 41, it’s best we stick to three kids. There are times when I’m sad that I won’t ever have another baby, but if God wants it to happen, it will happen.


    I left this comment at 5 Minutes for Mom as well.

  16. Jenean
    January 2, 2009 | 5:30 am

    I can understand that feeling of relief – no more pregnancy. Not every woman does pregnancy well. I considered my self fertile mertile. If my husband looked at me I got pregnant. Granted, I only had four kids, but considering today’s economy four kids is enough.

    Yes, there are times when I want another baby, but there are also many times when I’m just learning the ropes of parenting as my kids enter a new stage in life.

    Just because you have cut off the baby factory doesn’t mean that you can’t still care for a baby – especially with the many children in need all over the world who do not have parents.

  17. kristin
    January 5, 2009 | 10:43 pm

    Bravo! I was one who swore my first would be my one and only, here I am pregnant again.

    I’m just glad to see someone with balls actually write something honest. KUddos, your post was amazing!

  18. […] She says: … we had decided that our current three-month-old would be our last baby. At Thanksgiving, I found my heartfelt prayer was “Thank you, God, that I am not pregnant.” […]

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  20. […] denying that those beliefs cause anyone any hardship whatsoever. Consider some of the comments from my post about my tubal ligation. Like Job’s friends, they insist that if Natural Family Planning doesn’t work […]

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