Thanks to all who posted comments to my previous entry -- even to those who had some harsh things to say. I have been ill the last few days, which is why I haven't updated until now.
I do want to emphasize a point that several commenters seemed to have missed. My previous attitude about having another child -- that it wouldn't be a disaster -- did change after our third child was born. I agree with my wife in her desire not to have another child, particularly (but not only) because of the physical risks she would face, having a fourth C-section in her mid-forties.
Several commenters asked if we'd considered tubal ligation. The moral issues are the same as for a vasectomy. Setting moral issues aside, it makes more sense for me to get a vasectomy than for my wife to get her tubes tied -- less invasive, less risk of complication, less costly. Getting her tubes tied during the last C-section wasn't an option, as the delivery was at a Catholic hospital. (It's the best hospital in town, and it's where her obstetrician -- the same one she'd had for the first two -- did all his deliveries.)
One commenter says we should discuss NFP. We have discussed NFP, but it has a significant drawback -- it's not 100% effective. That's also the drawback with barrier contraception (again aside from the moral issues). Hormonal contraception is not an option because of genetic risk factors for breast cancer. In any case, my wife has ruled out everything except sterilization.
While I'm grateful for the link from Feministe, it has brought a very different audience than I originally had hoped would respond to my request for advice. As I wrote in my initial entry:
If you don't believe that there is a God to whom we owe worship and obedience and that what we do with our bodies matters to him, this whole topic will seem silly and pointless to you.
If you take God out of the equation, there's no dilemma at all. I get a vasectomy, and my wife and I get to enjoy lots of non-procreative sex.
But I believe that when God forbids something, it isn't because he's a colossal killjoy, but because, as our Creator, he knows what is best for us, both in the physical and spiritual dimensions.
God forbids long-term abstinence in marriage. The negative consequences are apparent -- estrangement, temptation to stray.
As I've detailed in previous entries, many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, believe that God also forbids contraception. Contraception, they say, is a refusal of God's blessing of children, a withholding of one's self from one's spouse, a perversion of the marital bed. They say that contraception has spiritual and emotional consequences as well, such as estrangement and divorce.
The people who say these things are people I respect, people whose views I take seriously. I had hoped to hear from some of them in response to my request for advice. So far, I've had only one commenter from that perspective offer advice: Andy, who suggested NFP, which, as I explain above, is an option that has already been ruled out.
I'd like to reserve the comment box for this entry for those Christians who believe that contraception is a sin, to suggest solutions to my dilemma: How do I protect my wife from a dangerous pregnancy while avoiding the sin of abstinence and the sin of contraception?
If you don't fall into that category, you're welcome to post a comment on the earlier entry.