Is a vasectomy possible after two horrendous pregnancies?

My husband and I went into marriage practicing NFP and always keeping an open mind that we would have as many children as God blessed us with. Then I experienced hyperemesis TWICE!

For those who don’t know what it is, it’s debilitating nausea and vomiting that landed me in the hospital with IV hydration and nutrition for a good 10 weeks both times. The effects are devastating on both the mother and the family. It was worse the second time around because I had a child to care for who was constantly afraid of Mommy dying, and to be honest, so was I. The pain and agony from the nausea (along with the complications that came with the sickness), and the constant thirst and hunger is a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. While in the hospital I was visited by a priest who was shocked by my condition (it’s rare). I told him I knew the teachings of the Catholic Church and wanted badly to abide by them, but there was no way I could go through this again. He said he completely understood and that it would be okay for me to get an operation after my baby was born (we’re due in December).

After talking with my husband and comparing the risks, he thought it would be safer and quicker for him to get the vasectomy procedure. Now I’m being told by my very Catholic mother (who butts into my business too much) that the priest I spoke with did not know what he was talking about and that I should speak with another priest and that we could be excommunicated! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Of course she doesn’t want to see my go through that again, but she has no other options for me that would guarantee I’d never be pregnant again (unless my husband and I never have relations again) and I can’t believe the Catholic Church would want to put a woman at risk and that there aren’t exceptions. I’m totally sick over this. Any advice/help is much appreciated.

I can only imagine the pain and fear you’ve been through. I’m very sorry to hear how much you’ve suffered and will pray for you for a successful delivery and that you regain your health quickly.

I’m also sorry to say that the priest did give you bad information. Perhaps he was so startled to see how much you were suffering that it clouded his judgment, but the correct information is that neither a vasectomy nor a tubal ligation nor any kind of direct sterilization can be done for any reason whatsoever. There are two options that you have:
[LIST]
*]You can consult with the Couple to Couple League for assistance in how to use NFP correctly for preventing pregnancy. If, after your first pregnancy, you became pregnant again unintentionally, it is possible that you and your husband need additional training and other assistance in how to correctly detect and chart your fertile periods. You may even need to take further precautions, such as abstaining for additional days “just to be certain.”
*]Or, yes, you do have the option to abstain completely from marital relations until you finish menopause. This particular route is very difficult and not often recommended because of the strain it can cause the marital relationship, but it is a possibility. If you and your husband try it, I can only recommend that you ask a priest whose orthodoxy is trustworthy to recommend a spiritual director. You might also wish to get marital counseling from the Pastoral Solutions Institute, a Catholic counseling apostolate.
[/LIST]What you cannot do – and which is the reason direct sterilization is never permitted – is to engage in marital relations while actively frustrating the natural result of children. Not only is it immoral, but sterilizations for both men and women have the possibility of causing even more debilitating, even in some cases life-threatening, health problems than the one you are currently attempting to avoid.

Recommended reading:

That Celibate Bachelor Was Right! by Rachel Fay

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