Catholics Do What?,  Contraception,  Culture of Death,  Marriage,  NFP,  Pro Life,  Sex,  vasectomies

Risky love and the culture of loneliness

This morning was…well, let me back up. We quit preschool yesterday (and that’s a whole other post) and then went on to enjoy a fairly idyllic, sun-dappled pumpkin patch sort of day, so we all know what comes after that.

This morning, after very unwisely staying in bed with the baby while the dropouts watched an hour of SuperWhy, we proceeded to test the acoustics of every living area in the house and then the garage and then reheat the same cup of coffee three times. Which is not the same thing as drinking three cups of coffee, unfortunately.

So we went to the library.

There’s something magical about watching your kids interact with educational, unbroken toys in a somewhat civilized manner and knowing that you, the taxpayer, earned it. And that you won’t be the one cleaning up, because for some reason the public scrutiny makes them more helpful.

I’d settled into the feral children’s corner with my massive stroller after a fruitless search for an outlet to plug in ye olde laptop, whose lifeblood had been siphoned by SuperWhy. Alas, this was to be a non-working trip. (Why no outlets in children’s section, librarians?)

It turned out to be fortuitous, because no sooner had I settled in to nurse Luke then I met a unicorn. Another mom sidled up to me, baby strapped to her chest, and watched as her daughter and Evie exchanged fake fruit and Duplos and magnet tiles. She smiled and asked how old Luke was, and after I told her she asked what number he was.

“He’s my fourth,” I smiled, bracing for the gasp/smile/blink that almost always follows, but instead she smiled and pointed to her little passenger and said “same here!”

See? A unicorn.

(And I know plenty of other families with more than a couple kids, it’s just that I’m either related to them or they go to our parish or are in some way affiliated with the Catholic or Mormon church. So to meet someone totally organically, in a public place? Totally magical.)

We talked for a half an hour, easily, covering everything from naughty toddlers to nursing to not losing weight while nursing (lies, lies I tell you) to homeschooling to letting your dog eat all the crap off the floor under the highchairs to being really, really happy to have all these kids, because it’s totally worth it. They’re totally worth it.

It was pretty great. And I was seriously refreshed to just meet someone and be able to connect with them as a fellow mom and not have to answer a litany of questions about planning and birth control and life goals and sex.

Until right before we parted ways.

Casually, oh-so-casually, almost as a preprogrammed afterthought, she turned and asked me as she was preparing to leave,

“So, are you done?”

Oh, here we go.

“Well, I don’t know. We’re open, so it’s hard to put a definitive cap on family size.”

She smiled, “yeah, I know what you mean. That’s what I say too! But I told my husband, you need to make that appointment or we’re going to have 5 kids. So it’s on him now. I can only control myself, after all.”

Her friend nodded her head in understanding, “we only have two and I have been telling him the same thing! Gotta make that call and get in for your vasectomy, babe. Tick tock.”

They looked back at me expectantly, waiting for me to chime in.

Here’s the thing. I’m pretty good on paper when it comes to articulating what I believe and why, but actual interactions in real life? Those can be tougher. I don’t want to scare someone off, and I’m well aware of the need to “earn the right to be heard” before jumping in deep with someone about delicate topics, however readily they raise them.

But I’m also never not going to be shocked when a perfect stranger starts talking about her husband’s vas deferens. It’s just so weird. No matter how many times it happens, it always, always catches me off guard.

I guess I’m old fashioned like that?

I cleared my throat and volunteered this feeble tidbit, “well, it’s kind of cool that your husband isn’t eager to have it done, most women I hear from say that their husbands are the ones applying the pressure to stop having kids, and they’re usually sad about it.”

She tilted her head to the side thoughtfully and began to nod. “Yeah, I know he would love any kid we had, no matter how many.”

The conversation wound down as she and her friend collected their stuff and started to move toward the exit.

“I’m sure I’ll see you here all the time,” she threw back over her shoulder.

I smiled and told her I hoped so. But we didn’t close the deal. No numbers were exchanged, no phones whipped out to collect names or emails.

My hands were full of baby so I’m telling myself that was the reason, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as they walked away. And a little lonely. Not because I don’t have my own village – I do, and it’s thriving – but because I felt acutely the empty weirdness of our culture, the piercing normality of discussing one’s sex life and reproductive choices with strangers. And that the default answer to “are you done?” is, “yes, of course, and here’s when I’m scheduling the surgery to disable that part of my body that will make certain of it.”

How did we get here? And what should I have done differently in my interaction with her, I’m asking myself still, hours later.

She was happy. She had a good marriage, a beautiful family, and a husband who was willing to build that with her. And she still wanted to pursue sterilization. Because it’s what one is “supposed to” do in our coldly civilized world. And because she has been lied to and convinced that it’s best for her marriage, for her future. Too risky to live otherwise.

But wait, I wanted to ask, don’t you want to see what might happen if you continue living this story out the way you have been? And aren’t you nervous that there may be unintentional side effects to severing sex from procreation so permanently? Do you think it will be good for your sex life as a couple? Do you worry that there might be a reason humans weren’t designed for all-you-can-eat-buffet-style sex?

But of course, I didn’t say any of those things. And I wonder if anyone ever will say them in a way she might be willing to hear, might be able to hear.

Because we’ve been told so many times that our marriages can be good in spite of our fertility, that life can be comfortable and happy and manageable even though there are a couple kids hanging around…

But only rarely do we hear, if we hear it at all, that the thing we’re all supposed to be the most afraid of might be a good thing, after all.

That our fertility might actually be a significant reason why our lives are as beautiful and as joy-filled as they are. Messes and bodily destruction aside.

That it’s a gift.

That some couples – more than you might realize – would do almost anything, and often times do, in pursuit of the very thing you’re trying to protect yourselves against.

That’s what I wanted to say, but I lacked the time and the finesse and the relationship to do so.

But I hope somebody does say it to her one day. Before it’s too late.

And I long for an increasing recognition of this reality that our world seems increasingly blind to: that fertility is a gift, that our children are not the obstacle to our happiness and marital harmony, but more often the cause of it, or at least a significant occasion for grace and joy; and that life isn’t merely a series of contingencies and risks to be managed and shut down.

And that it’s okay for the plan to be “there is no plan.” At least not the kind of plan the world expects you to make.

risky love

50 Comments

  • Ally | The Speckled Goat

    Oh oh oh this.

    Oh this.

    I understand. I don’t have bunches of littles, but we’re on the other side of the coin. “Just do IVF! Why don’t you try an IUI? I could be your surrogate!”

    So much of the infertility world is about just getting pregnant, by any means, without a whole lot of discussion about the morality of what we’re doing. And as a Protestant couple who are deep into NFP – to achieve- and believe that God’s timing is best and healing my body is best and that understanding that I can’t control life is best… ugh. It gets lonely.

    I’m a little jealous of Catholics, actually. At least the mindset is somewhat there. Not everyone is open to life, not everyone practices NFP, not even those who are Catholic, I know… but at least it’s sort of… more… accepted? As a Protestant, I don’t have any framework there. Most of the people in my church don’t “get it.” They’ve been so so so molded to the world when it comes to family planning.

    I don’t agree with some of the theology of Catholicism, but this sanctity of life thing? You guys really have that right. I just wish I had some sort of community for it, too.

    • Amanda Teixeira

      Ally, I am right there with you. Mu husband and I have battled infertility for years and I will admit my protestant friends going through it as well just don’t get why we don’t choose artificial means of reproduction. I am part of an awesome Facebook group for couples experiencing infertility and choosing to pursue healing and treatment using NFP morally licit means, while encouraging one another to trust God’s wonderful plans for our lives…if you want to join, let me know and I will shoot you an invite 🙂

      And wonderful post here, Jenny. What a hard situation to be in! I hope you get to see her again one day and be the one to express what you’ve so beautifully articulated here.

    • Kelly

      Let me see if I’m reading this correctly. You don’t want to be judged by others for your views on birth control, number of kids you have, not planning kids, etc. Which that is your choice, and what you decide to do. So to rebutle how you felt when others question having an infinite number of kids and what safe and practices they have, you post a judge mental blog about them? Ironic.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        Um, not really sure you read what I actually wrote. No judgment here, (one word, btw) just sadness for a culture that has failed women so spectacularly and made it commonplace to announce to total strangers your plans for sterilizing your husband, believing that it will improve and not damage your relationship.

      • Seminarian

        The article is not about the person she met but the culture as it is and her exasperation at not being able to articulate. She said she can’t articulate her belief well, some people are introverted. I think it is rather funny instead of taking time to look over what she said and realize it is her opinion on a cultural norm you would do exactly what you accuse her of. When it comes down to it we all are judgmental, she is judging culture and actions, you are judging a person, the author. And I don’t think you meant ironic, I think you meant hypocritical. Ironic is a literary device I don’t see being used, but perhaps I missed it.

  • Therese

    Beautiful post. I was also sad just reading about it, to ‘hear’ those women speak that way, but how do you call them on it when it is such the norm? I hope for more people to read this blog.

    • Katherine Schmidt

      Ally, I really admire you for having the courage to navigate the world of infertility with probably less social support for your moral decisions than some Catholic women receive. Stick to your guns, girl!

      P.S. Turning down offers of surrogacy = most awkard conversation EVER. My poor friend wouldn’t talk to me for days!!

  • Olivia

    I think your response was actually pretty good. It will make her think. What’s the rush to sterilization if her husband is indeed open to more, perhaps? If nothing else, I bet they chat about it at home. And maybe it will lead to other discussions…and you didn’t scare her away to the point that you couldn’t perhaps become better acquaintances and talk about the natural aspect to NFP and perhaps change her mindset. You never know…

    I feel for those people who morally object to IVF or surrogacy, as the woman above mentioned…. there is a real sentiment out there that if you refuse to pursue those means to have children then you’re not really infertile, you’re just stubborn, and you could have kids if you really wanted them bad enough, but you don’t cuz you’re not willing to do whatever it takes. It’s sad. And lonely, I assume.

    I was asked the other day by a devout Catholic if we were done. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was just generally curious… but even that little bit of discussion made me uncomfortable. I hope i’m never “done” responding to new life, caring for new life. Whatever that means for our family.

    • Gina

      A few excerpts:

      “She was happy. She had a good marriage, a beautiful family, and a husband who was willing to build that with her. And she still wanted to pursue sterilization. Because it’s what one is “supposed to” do in our coldly civilized world. And because she has been lied to and convinced that it’s best for her marriage, for her future. Too risky to live otherwise.”
      Sounds pretty judgmental to me. In your brief interaction you said she seemed to be happy, have a good marriage and a nice family. So why do you assume that this woman did not come to the decision on her own based on her life circumstances as opposed to being so weak-willed that she let societal pressures dictate her reproduction? Who is doing this lying? Did you ever consider maybe her and her husband could not afford to have any more kids? Or that maybe there are other factors she chose not to get into with you? No, you dismiss all of that and state that it must be our cold society lying to her and her feebly accepting the hand being forced upon her.

      “But wait, I wanted to ask, don’t you want to see what might happen if you continue living this story out the way you have been? And aren’t you nervous that there may be unintentional side effects to severing sex from procreation so permanently? Do you think it will be good for your sex life as a couple? Do you worry that there might be a reason humans weren’t designed for all-you-can-eat-buffet-style sex?”

      Again who are you to pass judgement on her sex life? Exactly what side effect would there be from ‘severing sex from procreation’. Yes sex is the means by which we procreate but it is also the way a man and woman share intimacy and pleasure, none of which are affected by the amount , or lack there of, of sperm present. I am also confused as I have never seen the manual on what kind of sex our bodies are designed for, have you? Everybody has their own level of comfort with sexuality. I’m sure some couples are perfectly happy having sex a few times a month, whereas other may enjoy their partner on a more frequent basis, either way sterility is not a factor.

      • Cami

        Gina, not sure if you’ve visited this blog before but… Look around. As you can see many readers identify with this post. I perceive your comments to be due to a lack of understanding of the theology behind Jenny’s point of view, which is consistent with current culture. You may get additional insight if you poke around this blog more (or the web) and read more about Theology of the Body. It’s brilliant and healing and LOGICAL. It was completely life changing for me. If you enjoy high level reads, go to the source and soak in the book Love & Responsibility by Karol Woltyla (Pope John Paul II). Author Christopher West offers simpler reads on the topic. I pray you explore this further and are open to how it moves you.

  • Jessica

    I have been in that spot with closer friends and I still find myself unable to find the right words. On the one hand, I want to share the beauty of the truth, but I also feel like its such a private thing that it’s not my place to add in to the conversation (which yes, is weird, because I’m not the one to have brought up her husband’s getting “snipped”) And the conversation almost always happens right after a baby, when life is overwhelming anyway.

  • Rose

    Boy have I had this conversation…all the time…I don’t really expect anything different anymore, which has gotten very depressing. My quandary is the same as yours here, though — what do I say? How am I supposed to witness to this mindset that is so alien to most women I meet? Especially when I’m clearly exhausted being pregnant with my fourth and not much of a poster child for a happy mommy right now. It helps a lot to read your affirming words here — maybe after you’ve thought about it for a while you can come up with a script for next time to help us out 🙂

  • Sarah

    I hear what you are saying and I believe it, but man I am drowning with 3 kids. The thought of adding one more seems unfair to my current children when Mom is already a basket case. I dont have a “village”. My husband and I are pretty much on our own. I know I am supposed to be open to life, but these kids have sucked the life right out of me!

    • Holly

      I will pray for you Sarah! I have three kids- 5, 3, and 1.5 and I know what it’s like. Some days are great, some days are not great. And I am grateful that I am not mormon and can enjoy coffee in the AM and the occasional wine in the PM!

    • Colleen Martin

      Oh Sarah! Three is sooooooo hard (I have six now, but three was the hardest!) I often felt overwhelmed after adding another baby, and did not want to add anymore. We are in the same boat – no help unless we are paying for it and I just want you to know that using NFP to space out any future children because it’s what’s best for the mom and dad and other children in the house is perfectly acceptable! With NFP, you can decide not to have kids right now, but then you aren’t shutting the door to it completely for the rest of your life. And I’m not trying to downplay how hard living an NFP lifestyle can be, I just want you to know that I completely understand where you are and I have felt that I was “done” and then a few years later, wanted more kids so bad. You never know! I’ll be praying for you 🙂

  • Lisa

    Such a great post, Jenny! I had pretty much the *exact* same experience last summer while out shopping- down to the other mom bringing up “so, are you done?” right as we were winding up our conversation. I stammered out some reply about being open to more and then she got a bit defensive about their reasons for being done. It was supremely awkward. I hated that she felt I was judging her, and all I had wanted to do was enjoy my shopping outing!
    Anyways, I (obviously!) can’t speak for these women down the road but what always comes to mind when I hear talk of permanent “fixing” is something a former co-worker I greatly admire shared with me- she said she had her tubes tied after her 2nd kid and some years later wanted more children. When she realized it wasn’t possible to reverse the surgery she went through a rough period of depression. My heart hurts so much for her! Again- not saying her story is every woman’s, but it just always comes to mind in those situations.

  • Amanda

    Coming to the homeschool dark side?? The never leaving the house side?

    I’m up to 5, and when I see people with that many or more kids, I want to hug them lol. I chatted up a guy about his 15 passenger van at Steak ‘n Shake. (And he convinced me not to rush it .)

    The lack of certainty is hard. It’s worth it – it makes a lot more sense to decide important matters as we go, really – but I sympathize with wanting to just KNOW. It’s impossible to picture my life in 10 years. I wouldn’t have pictured this a decade ago! Simcha Fisher has a line about not trying to solve your future self’s problems with your current self’s resources, and that’s my life mantra. I’m always trying (right now I’m anticipating sleep problems from the 7 week old that haven’t happened yet) but it’s solid advice.

  • Jennifer

    I have this conversation all the time too. Something about being 33 with 3 kids under 5. Everyone at preschool is constantly talking about vasectomies. I have had 3 c-sections (and would love another baby), so I’m always looking for discussion with other moms who are facing more c-sections. I don’t know anyone personally who’s had more than 3 (c-sections). Everyone has different trials with pregnancy though, and the birth part happens to be mine.

    • Rose

      My Grandmother had 5 C-section, in the 1950’s and 60’s! And she always says she can’t imagine life without her two youngest boys, one of whom lives with her and takes care of her now 🙂

    • Renee

      Jennifer, I am in a similar situation with 3 c/s under my belt, but also have 3 natural birth as well (6 kids age 16 to 10 months), and at age 39, we are still open to as many as God would have for us, but the c/s issue definitely plans a role in our thinking nowadays. My OB has said that all the future births would have to be c/s, and in his opinion, it is safe to have up to 5 total c/s, so we’ll see what the future holds for us…Always take your struggles to God and ask for His peace and be assured of my prayers as well!! And wonderful post as usual Jenny, you always make me smile and I enjoy your column so very much!!!

    • Jessica

      Jennifer, I’ve also had 3 c-sections and am now expecting number 4. My doctor doesn’t seem concerned, so I’m not either. This pregnancy was God’s decision, so I’m trusting him as well. 🙂

    • Audrey

      I’ve now had 4 c-sections and got through each of them with happy, healthy babies. It never got harder for me either. My doctor didn’t advise I have any more, though. We are Catholics and dealing with contraception. It’s so hard! Where is the balance? If you have the answer I’d love to hear it.

  • Kris

    Beautiful, as usual! Can’t wait for the preschool dropout post! I gave up after the first two. My last couple never went to school.

  • Holly

    I lose my ability to think straight when people ask these questions- even friends! I had a friend over tonight (brogan’s mommy) visiting from Denver. First, she asked if I am pregnant (no), then, if I plan to be pregnant soon. My answer? Ummmm…. ummmm… I dunno… three’s a lot right now…. and my bulging disc… ummm… I definitely would love another… when the time is right. I am rolling my eyes right now at myself.

  • Thora

    I just had to comment because I never have here, but I am Mormon, and practice NFP (which reading Catholic blogs completely got me int0. It’s hard because I believe my church’s doctrine is in all right place about sexuality and kids – we’re just mixed up as people about appropriate practice). We have five kids, and when I was pregnant with my fifth I kept steeling myself for awkward conversations about whether I am done or not. I must be really intimidating, or something, because I basically never get that question, and until recently I lived in Ohio, where our family was basically the largest I ever saw out and about. Anyway, it made me laugh about the Mormon and Catholic comment, because I admit, when I see a larger family, I usually assume they are one of the two…kind of a sad statement in itself that I am usually right, that it is that easy in America to pinpoint, because others having larger families is so rare.

  • Carolyn

    Oh this is so good.
    I’m the same: how are people comfortable with sharing about their husbands vasectomies like it was just going in for a wax or a pedicure? Always super uncomfortable.
    But I agree with Olivia, I think you said what she needed to hear. Pray the Holy Spirit will work the rest out with her.
    This post is just the best. 🙂

  • Lynelle

    I just like to tell people that our children are the greatest gift and blessing of our marriage and that I couldn’t imagine saying “no thanks” to more. Love what Amanda said about Simcha Fisher’s quote – so true!

  • Megan

    I loved this post and have dealt with the same thing so many times. My husband and I have just left a Protestant church and joined RCIA classes. There were a lot of reasons (we think Catholic theology is right and all that). But having people tell us about their sterilization or plans for sterilization definitely helped push us out the door. A lot of people deeply regret the decision, we know of three couples who tried to have it reversed one successfully and two unsuccessfully. I have had many women look at me with my five kids and remark how they wished they would have had one more. Most people decide to do this right after they have a baby, and that is the worst time to think through if you will ever want another child and how it will affect your relationship with your spouse! My former protestant church offers classes to women to help deal with sex and intimacy problems and they are always well attended. But no one dares question the belief that all married couples will eventually get sterilized or believes it could possibly be part of their sex and intimacy problems.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      hey, welcome home! 🙂 Sounds a little like Kimberly and Scott Hahn’s journey in Rome Sweet Home.

      (and yes, if you ask a brand new mom if she’s “done,” she might just hand over one of her existing children so she can take a nap. Worst timing ever.)

  • AthenaC

    I think I shared earlier that my husband said he would get a vasectomy before we switched to NFP, but apparently he’s done some reading recently about all the ways vasectomies can go wrong (as have I – it’s kinda cool how we’re on the same wavelength), so thankfully that is off the table. I told him, “I would never ask you to do that to yourself.” And the more I read about it, the more it makes sense to me to look at fertility as something that doesn’t need to be “fixed.” But that doesn’t mean that it’s practical for the vast majority of couples to have as many kids as they possibly can.

    And for the record, that has nothing to do with what we’re “supposed” to do. If you’re like us and you’ve NEVER succeeded at gaining social approval, you really kinda stop caring what you’re “supposed” to do. Like when I was 20 and pregnant I was “supposed” to have an abortion; thankfully people stopped telling me that after I cursed them out once. Or twice, in some cases.

    My point is – if you look at the totality of your circumstances, sometimes a fewer number of children is all you can handle. Sometimes it makes sense to just close your eyes and take the plunge, taking it one day at a time and not knowing what the long game is, but sometimes it’s a mark of wisdom to stop when you know you NEED to.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      spot on. That’s why it’s so crazy for people to assume that not sterilizing/contracepting = becoming the Duggars. Well, no, not necessarily. We’re not animals, after all. And even couples who are radically open to life can’t necessarily conceive when they’re hoping/expecting to. It’s never a sure deal, no matter how much we want to believe it is.

      Cheers to not doing what we’re “supposed to.”

      • Sheila M Cronin

        Jenny, I am a Catholic and Chicago author. The name of my novel is THE GIFT COUNSELOR. Winner of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award, the story centers on a Catholic single mom who works in Santa Monica, her ten year old son, and the man who enters and changes their lives one December. I’d be happy to send you a copy to review. My parish–Old St. Pat’s–has selected my book for the November book club meeting; other Women’s Clubs, too. The Santa Monica Public Library has added my book to their catalog. If you haven’t time to reply, let me compliment your well-written blog. Especially the insightful use of the word ‘gift’!

  • Laura S

    SO MUCH YES. This conversation comes up at work all the time with my coworkers and vendors… WHYYY do we need to discuss private health issues while reviewing door hardware schedules and millwork shop drawings? Why yes, I am planning on having more kids (hopefully lots if my subfertility cooperates)… but clearly I’m not going to escape this conversation whether I work outside the home or work at home with kiddoes… shoot.

  • Emily

    I think you did a wonderful job with a difficult conversation. Don’t under estimate the seeds you may have planted. So many women have a contraceptive mentality because it is all they have ever been exposed to. You gave her something to ponder. And you are right in calculating that your relationship with her wouldn’t support any thing stronger or more direct. It is a fine to art to meet people where they are….hopefully infused with a lot of Grace and Holy Spirit.

  • Ari

    I think you hit on it here, “…but I lacked the time and the finesse and the relationship to do so.” You HAVE to have relationship with people before you can really speak deeply into their lives. I think the best thing is to have a pat answer, ready to go, that is friendly and might be thought-provoking, like you gave. Nothing wrong with that. We can’t give ALL information to people in ONE conversation, especially not knowing them. If anything, that would turn them off. While talking about “snipping” the husband is certainly shocking to those of us in the all-pro-life/NFP camp, it’s often par for the conversation course. I have also failed in this area when the moment comes up, and I had a chance to say something. That’s why having a one sentence answer in mind before it happens can help us maintain our pro-life witness without having to think on our feet.

  • Hannah

    I think your answer to her question was great. There’s never enough time to go into everything (even when you have all the time in the world! still not enough!) and I bet it planted some seeds in her heart. I’m sure all of us reading will be praying for them. 🙂 Also, YES – why does no one else think it supremely awkward to talk about such private things as if they’re appointments to get haircuts??? I will never ever understand that.

  • Fernanda

    I can so relate to this story. I have the same trouble articulating the beauty and depth of a way of life that is consistently open to life (may be postponing using NFP for the time being but never DONE), which takes an active part in working with God to make creation as well as to give all of oneself (fertility and all) to one’s spouse in the sacrament of marriage. I’m always shocked and saddened by people announcing their decisions to get tubal ligations and vasectomies at the weirdest times and they say so with such finality that there’s no talking them out of it… and anyway, even the same people who make an announcement will also insist that it’s a private matter. I feel like I never say the right thing ever. I either come across as too judgmental or too tolerant. I can’t just speak my heart in those situations, and like a lot of people have articulated here, feel like my words would fall on deaf ears anyway. I do think, though, that the reason people talk about it so much, even with total strangers, is probably because even after they’ve made the decision and acted on it, even the ones who have “prayed about it” and “felt God’s peace about it,” know on some deep interior level that something is wrong. That unsettled feeling accumulates in their interior and they can kind of vent it and make it go away for a while by talking about it, by convincing themselves and whoever happens to be around anew that they did the right thing after all, and maybe they get some relief for a while, until the unsettled feeling returns and they are compelled once again to bring it up. It is truly painful to be in the audience. On the other hand, for those still thinking about it, it really might not take too much to spark some further reflection and maybe give it some more time, and perhaps that may be enough. I truly hope the young mother you met will find herself pondering your words, however inadequate they might have seemed to you, and that those words, along with maybe other similar encounters, will be enough to cause her and her husband to indefinitely postpone that vasectomy. Perhaps one day you will be reading a blog post about that life changing encounter in the library and the three additional children who came about as a result. I sure hope so 🙂

  • Angelie

    I totally understand this! I grew up in a large Catholic family, (youngest of seven.) I loved it, and have yearned for having a large Family of my own since I was a little girl. I never understood why anyone would want less than a basketball team size family! I’ve always felt sad for people who say they only want one or two kids. I want everyone to know the feeling of being surrounded by a big loving family like I was. I have come to understand it a little more after growing up in this society that treats children as little more than a burden on you, your personal life, and your relationship. (Not to mention the lecture I get about ocerpopulation any time I bring up wanting a big family.) But luckily I managed to snag a good Catholic husband who also yearns for the house full of kids, and we got started on it this summer giving birth to our first little guy. 🙂

  • Mark

    Great post. As a father of 2 under 2 my biggest frustration is that in these sustains I never feel like I can say anything because the moment you start bringing God into it the other person immediately shuts down. The guys I talk to are especially not receptive to anything NFP-ish. After that there is basically no chance at evangelization.

    Thanks for your blog.

  • Evelyn

    “Well, I will most likely be fertile for another decade, so who’s to say!” that’s how I answered last time. But maybe save that one for someone you don’t want to see again?

  • Jean

    I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog immensely, Jenny. I’m a grandma who delights in seeing your younger generation raise families in a faithful Catholic tradition.

    Though my dad was Catholic, my mother was Protestant and growing up all I ever heard about marriage and babies was that to have more children than you could afford to care for was negligent, despite the fact both of my parents came from large families who didn’t starve. As a result, upon the birth of our second child, my husband and I bought into what we were told by our elders “Now you have two, one of each, a millionaire’s family. Be responsible and don’t have any more children.” Now my babies are grown, one is married with children of his own and lives on the other side of the country. Love my kids, grandchildren, still happily married to my husband of 42 years – BUT – if there is one thing I regret about my life it’s not having had more children, having bought into other people’s perceptions of what was “enough” as well as their understanding of what “responsibility” meant.

    There is a small window of opportunity through which to build a family and once it is closed that’s it, there’s no going back to do over. Yes, we can be open to fruitfulness in other ways, but there’s nothing that compares to bringing forth new life, to co-operating with God by being open to the gift of life.

    Society has been and is lying to us all. Nothing new about that, but as believers we are called to live in this world not be of it. It’s never been an easy cross to carry.

  • Becky

    Okay. It’s weird when a stranger discusses her husband’s vas deferens … but it’s not weird at all to blog about a total stranger’s vas deferens? Because the wife mentioned it first?

    There’s a disconnect in your writing sometimes–a sort of quasi-Victorian vapor-sniffing hand-waving type thing when you’re confronted with Things That Make You Uncomfortable ™ such as strangers discussing their reproductive/birth control choices. And yet … you blog a lot about sex. That’s totally okay–I don’t know how you could promote NFP and honestly discuss your experiences with it without discussing, even obliquely, matters concerning the marital bedroom.

    But there’s really no need to pull out the smelling salts over the fact that other people also care about, and talk about, things pertaining to human reproduction. You are more than welcome to find their perspective unwholesome, ungenerous, un-Godly, etc., but discussing vasectomies with strangers doesn’t seem any weirder than blogging about vasectomies (and why you don’t believe anyone should have one) … for an audience composed primarily of strangers.

    I’m really not trying to be a jerk here. I’m just trying to point out the disconnect that made this post feel a bit “off” to me.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I mean, I guess? But what else do writers write about except stuff that happens to them, either obliquely through fiction or more directly, like here?

      And it’s super weird to me that people feel perfectly free to comment about their sex lives in target/the park/the library. I can write about NFP and sex all day long, but I’m not about to sidle up to someone at Starbucks and start giving them a play by play on my charts. Would you admit there’s a difference between using the literary technique of “I’m going to tell you a little anecdote from irl to make a larger cultural point” and, for example, my telling my mailman that I’m getting spayed next weekend, or that I’m having my eggs harvested and frozen? Context matters.

  • Becky

    As I think I made clear, I don’t have any objection to writing and blogging about sex. I’m just saying that America is a “sharing” society, and moms with young kids often find themselves discussing things such as “do you want more kids?” “why or why not?” and, because it is something of a norm (as unfortunate as you may find it to be), “we are making sure we’re done via vasectomy or tubal ligation!”

    I’ve been asked by strangers more times than I can count whether I had c-sections or delivered my children the more traditional way. Total strangers have also shared with me their sterilization plans, or lack thereof. It has never occurred to me to be shocked or offended by these discussions, even if I disagree with the choices and logic, but hey! Maybe I over-share myself. I’m an American, after all.

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