As I begin to respond to what Peter Fournier has written regarding my dilemma, I want to say again that I appreciate the time he spent thinking through the issue, taking my concerns seriously, and setting out a response. I intend to show the same kind of respect to his thoughts that he has to mine. I am going to depend on you, dear reader, to reread his piece as necessary. I won't try to recapitulate the whole thing here.
He begins his essay with the issue of terror, which he calls the elephant in the room. He quotes this comment from PerpetualBeginner on an earlier post:
My simplest argument is that loving one another is high on God's list of priorities, and as I stated above, terror is not conducive to love. I am terrified of what an additional pregnancy would mean (much like your wife), with contraception, this terror has little to no effect on our marriage. Without it, I would be living with it constantly. Every time he gave me a hug, I would be thinking "what if he wants more?"
In the first section of his essay, Peter correctly assumes that my wife and I made promises to one another when we married, including the promise to love and honor one another in sickness and health. (We used the traditional Church of England service and vows -- the one that begins "Dearly Beloved," albeit the slightly modernized version that appears in the Episcopal Church's 1978 Book of Common Prayer.) Taking this promise and PerpetualBeginner's comment together, he writes:
If your wife is terrified of you, surely this is a symptom of not living out the promise to love and honour in sickness and in health. Having a wife/lover/cohabitation partner/whatever, terrified of you does not indicate that she is being loved and honoured in sickness and in health. It means precisely what is obvious: she is terrified of you, terrified to the point of not being able to accept a hug for fear of the possible consequences.
Now, hold the phone: My wife is not terrified of me. She's afraid of certain consequences of becoming pregnant. Most particularly, she's worried about the risks of enduring yet another abdominal surgery in her mid to late 40s. (I'm worried about that, too!) She's also concerned about other health risks to both mom and baby which increase as a woman ages.
While a fourth C-section is not the only issue, it's a significant one. Vaginal birth would not be an option -- it would be foolish and dangerous to try. The first C-section was an emergency C-section due to fetal distress -- cord prolapse. The second time around we went through the LaMaze classes for VBAC, but the baby was late and big and the doctor advised us to schedule a C-section. The third time the baby was even bigger (10 lbs!) and there was never any question that it would be a C-section.
The bottom line is she's not terrified of me. She's terrified of my sperm reaching her egg. She's afraid of what can make her pregnant and put her in risk of uterine rupture and possibly death.
If the sperm can't reach her, the terror goes away.
Part 2 tomorrow or over the weekend.