A vasectomy tale

Theirs was a love story like many others - cradle Catholics who'd known each other since parochial school, fell away from their faith in college, married at 22, and finally returned to the church after the birth of their first child 18 months later.

But they returned to the church on their own terms, still using abortifacient - euphemistically known as birth control - pills. As Mark Faas recalls, "We were 'cafeteria Catholics,' for sure."

When their daughter was joined by a brother three-and-a-half years later, Mark surveyed the new normal - a wife worn out at the end of the day, 20 minutes to pack two kids in the car - and decided two kids was plenty. Bragging to friends, "Our kids will be out of the house by the time I'm 40," he didn't tell his family until the day before he sealed the deal with a vasectomy. Their second baby was barely 8 weeks old.

In the meantime, Mark and Jen were continuing to go to church and getting involved in Bible studies. Just six months later, Mark was at a men's retreat when his conscience kicked in: "What have we done here?"

Trying to right their wrong, the Faases turned to adoption, applying to bring home a daughter from China. Still, they were haunted by the enormity of their decision.

"We had spit in the face of God and the gift He had given us," Mark says.

Desperate to know what they could do to "get right with God," Mark and Jen went to confession. "Our priest did not let us off the hook," Mark says. "He told us 'This is a mortal sin and you must get it fixed.'"

Mark began researching vasectomy reversals. He found that while his vasectomy had been covered by insurance, a reversal would not be - and the cost was a whopping $30,000. But then he got a tip from a friend about a surgeon who made a ministry of vasectomy reversals: Loddie Roeder of New Braunfels, Texas, charged only $3,000. Mark journeyed there in June 2009 for the procedure, but their excitement at getting a fresh start waned as month after month Jen did not get pregnant.

Still, the adoption process was moving forward. In December the Faases received notice that a baby girl was waiting for them. She had a heart defect, which Mark and Jen agreed to have corrected. Mark and Jen brought her home in time for Christmas.

Still they hoped Jen would conceive again. After several more disappointing cycles, Mark took a fertility test that revealed his sperm count was nonexistent. Dr. Roeder advised him that vasectomy reversals have an 80 percent success rate for the first attempt, 60 percent for the second and 30 percent for the third. Their course of action seemed clear: Mark made a second pilgrimage to Texas in October 2010.

Three months later, Jen was pregnant and in October their fourth child - a son named Logan - was born.

When Mark began telling me his story, and his game plan of finishing raising kids by 40 - as though scheming for an early retirement from a tiresome job - I had to stifle my tears. But by the time he finished the story of his and Jen's faithfulness and God's, my tears of sorrow had turned to tears of joy.

How the world has tricked so many good people, convincing us that children are a burden we should try to limit or avoid. And how we have been deluded into thinking that anything - material comfort, playthings, convenience, financial security - are worth more than the most precious gift God has given us. How could we accept the word of the world over the word of the Lord?

"Children too are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward" (Ps 127:3).

Hooray for people like Mark and Jen, who are unafraid to admit a mistake and do what it takes to correct it. And hooray for a God of forgiveness, grace and second chances.

Curtis, who blogs at mommylife.net, is a mother of 12 and author from Lovettsville.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012