Miserable medical situation - No good options


I have never asked for advice here, but I am in a bad situation and my wife and I need some help badly. I guess I am at the point where I can’t be ashamed to admit that I don’t have a good answer.

11 years ago my wife had our first daughter. The pregnancy was straightforward and we had a healthy baby. Two years later, my wife became pregnant again. This time things were not so simple. About half way through her pregnancy she started to have severe pain in her pubic region. By month 7 she was unable to walk and had to use crutches and a wheelchair to get around. I had to take time off work to care for our two year old and the house, as well as my wife. Financially, this was very rough for us. My wife was in miserable pain. Fortunately, she delivered another healthy daughter and her pain subsided within a few weeks of delivery.

Three years after that, my wife became pregnant again. We were excited, but cautious because of the severe pain and disability she had experienced in her second pregnancy. At about 4 months in, she was in severe pain worse than before. She was on bedrest and confined to a wheelchair by month 5 and had to take narcotic painkillers just to sleep. She had to wear adult diapers at night because she could not get out of bed to use the restroom. It was awful, humiliating for her and obviously it is not healthy to take narcotics during a pregnancy. I had to take off work again, which I absolutely could not afford to do. I lost a promotion. My wife’s mother had to take time off of HER job to help me with the kids and the home. It was a terrible time in our marriage. Praise God, we had a healthy son. Unfortunately, her pain did not dissipate after the delivery and at 6 weeks postpartum, she could not walk or even move about the bed without excruciating pain. We went back to her OBGYN and she was diagnosed with something called Pubis Symphysis Dysfunction. He said her case was severe. Basically, the ligament that holds your pelvis together at the pubic bone was totally shot from her pregnancies. He told her that there was no cure, and that surgery had very poor outcomes that could ultimately leave her totally disabled.

He sent us to a top orthopedic surgeon at a large teaching hospital. They did an MRI and said that her separation was massive and that there was nothing that could be done about it, except for a very risky surgery with a low success rate. He said absolutely never to become pregnant again, because this condition only gets worse with every pregnancy. He sent her to an outstanding physical therapist.

For about a year, my wife busted her tail working to build her pelvic muscles to compensate for the shot ligament. She was able to get by just on OTC painkillers after about 6 months and regained a lot of her mobility. Life was almost normal. Then I got her pregnant again. We were using the MOST conservative model of NFP at the time (Marquette.) We were VERY careful, I promise. No “what the hell?” episodes, exacting charting and record keeping. We could not believe it. While happy about the baby, we were devastated for my wife’s health and the future. We knew this would be terrible on her body, and it was. She was on complete bedrest, adult diapers and a wheelchair from week 10 on. It almost destroyed our family. The kids did not get enough attention, ate terribly, I was run ragged trying to work, take care of the house, take care of the kids. It was miserable and my wife took narcotics the whole time. I cannot tell you how awful it was to hear her crying at night in pain. I felt terribly guilty and I still do. I did that to her.

She delivered a fourth healthy child via C-section at 36 weeks because she was out of her mind in pain and going nuts from being in bed for so long. She suffered terribly after the pregnancy, and this time the physical therapy was harder and took even longer to be effective. Two years later, things are not great at all. She still takes narcotics most days and cannot run or play with the kids. She can’t sit on the floor. She can’t lift more than 15 lbs. She has been depressed on and off because of her pain and limitations.

We are happy to have a large family, but our OBGYN told us “NO MORE CHILDREN.” He has always supported us in being open to life and using NFP. In fact, we chose him because he is pro-life. He has been wonderful to my wife during these years. Last appointment, he told her that he was very serious about no more pregnancies, and that she needed to make a decision. He gave her three options:
One of us get sterilized
Use a combination of hormonal birth control and condoms without error
Abstain from intercourse totally until menopause

He said that we cannot risk being “open to life” anymore, and that NFP is not going to cut it because my wife will be “permanently disabled, probably confined in a wheelchair for life and on narcotic painkillers until the day she dies. She will not be able to care for her children, or her home. She will be in agonizing pain. This is very, very serious.” Knowing our beliefs, he sent us to another OBGYN for a second opinion - one who is Catholic. He told us the same thing. He said, “It is wonderful to be open to life, I have 6 kids of my own, but your body cannot tolerate another baby and you need to use your God-given intellect to make a decision here that is in the best interest of your family and your health.” We went back to the orthopedist, and he was just as firm about it.

We are devastated. My wife is only 33 and I am 35. We are not ready to give up on ever having sex again. In fact, I think that would destroy our marriage. I don’t even know how that could work. We would need to sleep in separate beds and never touch to avoid a mistake. I can’t live that way.

She does not want to take birth control or get sterilized because she is terrified of going to Hell for it.

So that leaves me with getting a vasectomy. Let me tell you, this is NOT something I would ever do just to avoid having more kids for convenience sake. We were, at first, very open to having a huge family if God sent one our way. In fact, we’d still love to adopt. But I cannot stand by and possibly put my wife through that hell on Earth again. I just won’t do it to her or to our kids. As a man and as her husband, I refuse to put my wife in harm’s way. I adore her, she is a wonderful mom and a beautiful wife and NO WAY am I going to sacrifice her. If that means I go to hell, well, so be it. I think that I can stand on my last day in front of the Lord and say, “I did what I had to do to protect my family. If God will damn me for doing the only thing I possibly could to save my wife from being imprisoned inside her own body, then I don’t want to be in his Heaven.”

My wife is, of course, worried about my salvation. She says that she guesses we just can’t have sex for another 15 or 20 years. That is not acceptable to me. And neither is even a remote possibility of getting her pregnant again. She said to me that she cannot stop me from getting any surgery I want, but that she cannot say she agrees with it either and that we both know what the Church teaches. Why would God do this to us? He wants us to be fruitful and multiply, to be open to life, but then makes it impossible? He wants us to enjoy marital intimacy, but then makes it so risky that it must be avoided for decades? I don’t get it and I’m angry.

I’m at a crossroads. I have a consult next week with a urologist to discuss the procedure. I don’t want to get it done, and I have doubts. But I am not sure what else I can do. Lord knows that I absolutely WILL sacrifice my own salvation to protect my wife and kids. I am just having a hard time with it and so is she.

Thanks for hearing me out. Not sure if there is any advice here and I know the situation seems crazy. I just am pretty torn up over it.

I don’t have answers, but i feel for your situation.

Dont do anything quickly. You can last a few weeks to let things become more clear.

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My heart goes out to you. I have no words of advice to offer you except see a priest. I hope he can give you an answer

What a terrible situation. I am very sorry that you and your family are going through this.

Only the third option provides a complete guarantee against another pregnancy. All forms of contraception, including sterilization, are imperfect and carry risk of unplanned pregnancy. So whatever you do, if you want to continue having sex you carry some risk.

And of the three options presented above, only one is morally acceptable for a Catholic.

Is this really the case? You can protect your wife and children, and your own soul, by abstaining from sex. I can completely understand your desire for further marital intimacy, but many Catholic couples need to abstain for various reasons and can still enjoy fulfilling marriages without sex.

If I had to abstain for whatever reason, I’d be mad and sad and frustrated too. I’d want to find a way to wriggle around Catholic morality, or convince myself that it didn’t apply because it isn’t intended for such cases. Then I’d like to say that I’d do what is right, but since I’m not faced with such a desicion it would be little more than a throw-away line. So I’ll offer you my prayers and I hope God leads you through this.

Well…this situation is tough! I’m totally with underacloud" .

A few issues in your post I’m worried about:

  1. If your doctor is saying you can get sterilized…you don’t have a NFP/pure pro-life doc. Google search catholic NFP doc in your area and consult. They are around and they have different methods and information.

  2. That you would give up your salvation out of love for wife/kids. NO NO NO…this is deformed way of thinking. Your salvation depends on your actions with/for your kids and wife.

I thnink you need to abstain right now. You need to do some research…and plesae…cancel that appointment!

Lastly, you may be looking at having to refrain from sex for life (if NFP catholic doc’s can’t give you an answer…if you have to call your bishop’s office…there is someone that can get you to a properly catechised doctor’s office that specializes in NFP ).

You have to do what is morally acceptible (not doing any of your options you proposed) and what is best for your wife…which in this case would be getting her to the kind of doc I mention AND/OR refraining from sex for her health…thereby winning salvation for yourself, leaving a legacy for your children on how to life a life of love (sacrifice) an image of CHrist, and showing how much you love your wife by self-denial which will be very life giving!

God bless you


You’re going to sacrifice your soul for sex.

The sex will not be unifying if it is sterilized. Get the mortal sin out of your head, it is not an option. Ever.

God doesn’t send people to hell, they go there themselves. God loves you very much, He must be so moved by what you all have gone through to try and be as faithful as you can be to him. Get the vasectomy, be sure they do a really good job. Then love the Lord your God with all your heart and trust in His Divine Mercy. I was just thinking, maybe in a few years, if you are still open to life, and want a bigger family, you could think about adoption. God brings good out of everything. He’ll bring good out of this, too. You stay close to Him, He loves you. Never forget that. So don’t be mad at Him and trust Him.

Of course your wife is worried about your salvation.

The moral option is to abstain.

It is not what you want to hear, and you, as a couple, will certainly have a cross to bear. But, your wife is looking at the big picture and what is the right thing to do.

It willl be tempting to contracept, or sterilize yourselves, but that is not the moral thing to do. She knows it, and you know it.

I am very sorry for your wife’s condition. Please continue to stay in touch with your doctors, you never know when that surgery will go from having a poor prognosis to a good prognosis, there are advances in techniques all the time.

I am sorry to hear of your situation. In reading it I had 2 thoughts. The first is that their might be more to the story. Not exactly sure what it is, but any time a story comes with only options which are untenable, I always think there is something else; either not being seen by those involved or intentionally over looked. I would just say be open to the option there might be something your emotions are causing you to overlook.

Second thought was to seek out an NFP ministry and a priest. You and your wife are not the only ones who have ever been through this and my guess is others have worked through the situation and have information you have not found yet.

Of course, also speak to a priest. Preferably one very familiar with the pro-life movement as they will have information most parish priests might not.

This is a terrible situation, but sterilization is NOT the answer. To do this would be objectively a mortal sin, with a very high potential of losing your soul.

Suppose you wife had become permanently so disabled that marital intimacy would be physically impossible? Would you try to get around that? In effect, this is what has happened, on the moral level.

There are many in this world who are called to celibacy, even involuntarily. Awful and unexpected as this is, this is now the situation you and your wife find yourselves in. You must protect her by this sacrifice of yours.

I hope that you and your wife will be able to persevere in finding the spiritual support you will need in this very difficult time.

FoxFanForty, you have framed the issue in a way that you will only consider an immoral option. You need to be open to another solution and not shut it out. When you say you would do something immoral to save your wife, you are not being honest with yourself. You could accomplish the same thing by moral means. You are really saying you would do something immoral to save your sex life. I understand, as a husband, how valuable that part of marriage is. But perhaps you could seek counseling with how to deal with it.

Another option would be to seek out an orthopedic surgeon who is skilled in treating pubis symphysis disruption. You may want to expand your horizons in this regard and perhaps find someone at a teaching hospital who specializes in pelvic trauma. I have run into a few of these in my line of work as a result of trauma, and while outcomes aren’t great, your wife’s response to conservative treatment hasn’t been that great either. With the ones I saw at work, the patients became quite functional again. While they weren’t pain free, their pain was significantly reduced and they were able to resume their lives. When conservative treatment fails, many physicians will consider a surgical approach. Your wife might be a surgical candidate if she meets objective criteria. In looking up treatment outcomes, I ran into this from the National Institutes of Health:


RESULTS: Mean age of the patients was 32 years (range, 24-37 years). Mean follow up was 29 months (range, 5-139 months). The mean postoperative Lindahl score was 68 ± 14.6 points (range, 38-80 points). There were three excellent, four good, two fair, and one poor result. Fair or poor results occurred in one subacute and two chronic cases. There were two revision surgeries. One patient underwent implant removal resulting from dyspareunia 3.1 years postoperatively. One subacute patient had conversion to symphyseal fusion after implant failure as a result of a fall 11 years after index surgery. Major complications occurred in two and minor complications in three patients. Radiographic loosening of implants was observed in all subacute cases. All fusions healed and symptoms improved at last follow up.
Operative management significantly improved the functional outcomes of all three subgroups and can be an acceptable treatment option for labor-induced complete symphysis pubis disruption.

If it were my wife, I would ask for a referral to an orthopedist who specializes in pelvic injuries, or find one myself. I would ask about long term outcomes, and what happens as a person ages. I would not consider something that might preserve the body but kill the soul.

Well put mdl.

I’m really sorry you’re going through this, but I think your only moral option is to abstain until your wife is no longer fertile. Nothing is worth committing a mortal sin for, and our crosses are always painful. It may seem unfair, but if you weren’t bearing this cross you’d be bearing another.

It sounds like you two really love each other, and God wants spouses to help each other to Heaven. Sometimes that involves abstaining from sex for years at a time if it’s not safe. :frowning: I don’t know exactly how you feel but don’t make the mistake of rebelling and turning against God. He has a plan to bring good out of this pain, no matter how pointless and unbearable it seems now. He doesn’t permit anything that he doesn’t intend for your good ultimately.

God bless the two of you. I will keep you in my prayers.

“Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about–however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way–either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be content.” --Moby Dick

I guess I don’t see it as sinning for my sex life, but risking myself to preserve my marriage. There really is no marriage without the marital act, and we’re too young to just give up and live like roommates raising kids together. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but how can a healthy young man married to a beautiful wife simply cut off a huge part of his relationship with her and expect to remain happily married? We’re just not built for that. To me that is a very bleak, miserable cold way to live. I got married so I wouldn’t have to live that way. While I can abstain for a month, two months, three months - 20 years? There will be nothing left at that point. It’s unfathomable and desperately sad. I connect with my wife through sex. A lot of women might say, “Just quit for 20 years and watch your wife grow old without embracing her…” Men should understand where I am coming from. You might as well ask me not to speak to my wife for 20 years. Really. No exaggerating. I know it would destroy that part of our marriage and in 20 years we’d just be a couple of old roommates - or worse, I’d develop bad and sinful habits from 20 years of “look but don’t touch.” How can I live with this woman that I love so desperately, that I find beautiful and appealing and sexy - and never enjoy that deep level of intimacy with her? Does our Lord REALLY want that for us? Is that what we get for being open to life??

I don’t want to sin. I don’t want to be in this situation

For those that suggested an expert in pelvic trauma - she sees one at a premiere hospital. The truth is, even if she could become rehabbed to a decent point now it would still not give her the green light for more pregnancies. She called some Catholic institute for OBGYN issues and they basically told her the options were to accept a pregnancy and the physical fallout, or abstain until menopause. I’m sorry, but I’m angey that 99.9 percent of the population wouldn’t think twice about the vasectomy and this is causing me so much heartache.

I sympathize deeply with you, FoxFanForty. I do.

As a wife, though, I know that I would rather forgo sex until menopause than be the cause of danger to my husband’s immortal soul. My job as a wife is to help my husband get to Heaven, and the thought that because of my health issues my husband was willing to damn himself–well, let’s say I would never enjoy sex again.

Perhaps your wife is different, but she seems like a loving, devout woman. In your wife’s place, I would blame myself were you to get a vasectomy. How could I give myself to my husband knowing that, for the sake of having sex, he risked damnation? It is not for your wife’s health that you would be sterilizing yourself; it is, as others have noted, for the sake of having sex.

I do not underestimate the importance of sex in a marriage. Believe me, I don’t. In fact, my sex drive is higher than my husband’s. I understand that part. I understand that this cross is indeed an extremely heavy one. I am not in any way trying to make light of this. But as a wife, it would break my heart if my husband sterilized himself because of my health issues. :frowning:

And what would you do if the sterilization failed and your wife got pregnant again? That happens, too. Would you then tell your wife to murder your child?

Whoa - murder our child? Where did you come up with THAT?!
I never said I was going to get a vasectomy because of her health issues. I would be doing it so that we could have a healthy marriage. For a man, sex is communication. It’s the main way we show our love and fidelity. It’s how we feel like men capable of providing for and protecting our families. It’s a whole lot more than just scrating an itch.

God Bless you man!!! We are in a similar situation, though no kids, but pregnancy would be catastrophic for my wife’s health and would surely kill or disable a child. We seeked help too and looked into various forms of NFP without success, charts are all over, instructors cant figure them out, even had it analyzed by a “panel” at a NFP conference. We were also told by various NFP agencies to “just get pregnant”. What they don’t realize, i think, in situations like this thatt pregnancy is not a game, we absolutely can NOT gamble like that. With the total lack of support for those of us who fall thru the cracks of the church like this, we are cursed with celibacy, like you for 20+ years (we are still sorta newlywed). We are scoffed at by clergy and NFP people and thrown into darkness, personally i’m starting to feel they frankly just don’t care honestly i your situations doesn’t fit in the perscribed box,It is a bleak miserable feeling. But God i’d do anything for her. And part of that is abstaining so she can still maintain her health and recieve communion/sacraments. I know what that means to her. So from across the Internet man…bro hug i totally sympathize with you and hope you the best. God be with you.

As one father (or four) to another, I really hope this isn’t what you think and you’re just voicing some frustration. Sex is great, but there are so many other, more important ways to express your love for your wife and family. If sex is the “main way” for you, then perhaps this situation is given to you so you can learn to express love in better ways. I don’t mean this to be rude and I’m sorry if it comes over that way. But most of us men have to come to the realisation that our wives would probably prefer us to: do some household chores, cook a nice meal, give her a backrub, watch some **** movie with her, or just have a conversation.

If I asked my wife whether she’d rather I didn’t have sex with her again, or didn’t cook for her again, or didn’t do another household chore again, I wonder what she’d choose? Actually, I don’t want to know!

I do mean exactly what I said. I think that’s how most happily married men feel. My wife’s sister can do chores, watch a movie, cook a meal, rub a shoulder… What my wife and I have that is unique is our intimate relationship. I’d be shattered if my wife wouldn’t mind never having sex again. It’s not just a fun activity lime playing canasta or an urge to be fulfilled!

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