Thursday, March 15, 2007

A response to Peter Fournier, part 1: Terrified of whom? or of what?

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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Forgive me if I missed it elsewhere in your blog, but I'm curious what your minister has had to say.

Something I've heard from a few ministers is that sin isn't necessarily a deed, but a failure of striving to be the best person one can be. Therefore, we aren't really choosing the lesser of two sins, but seeking to do our best. To me it looks like doing your best would be working to preserve your marriage.

It isn't necessarily a perfect concept, but we're not perfect beings, and it's hard to beat.

Anonymous said...

And one more thing: For the love of my life, the woman I've committed myself to no matter what, I'd risk an eternity in Hell. I think that's what love is.

(I've got the scar to prove it.)

Dad said...
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peter.fournier@domestic-church.com said...

The women in the house (my daughter is visitng today) got ahold of this response.

Now, hold the phone: My wife is not terrified of me. ... 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.


Their reaction?

If someone shoots at you, you are afraid of the bullet, but you also have to be afraid of the person holding the gun.

Now, in my experience of the women in my life, they do tend to jump to the personal.

I report their comment as a general point they think worth making: you cannot separate yourself, your being, from your sperm. It is not something that is in some way apart from yourself.

If you believe that your sperm is apart from yourself, your being, then this discussion is still in the pre/post-Christian phase of integration. You are not you, and your wife is not herself because either of you think: being comes before thinking.

For myself I look forward to your 2nd response, but hope it is not based on the notion that your sperm is somehow separate from your personhood.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I thought contraskeptic and his wife had discussed that very thing.

Contraskeptic's wife has told him no sex until after a vasectomy (and probably 6 months wait and a negative sperm test). She seems to be sure that Conraskeptic can be separated from his sperm and they can have sex, without fear of pregnancy and uterine rupture. Medically, a person can be separated from their sperm.

Contraskeptic has said that another child would be a disaster. True, abstinence does work to prevent pregnancy. I'm sure we all know that no method of birth control is 100% effective, but vasectomy does come close. She won't be afraid of pregnancy, because it is extremely unlikely to happen.

Its not about a fear of sex, its about a fear of pregnancy. The pregnancy issue isn't going to go away until after menopause. The sperm issue is up to Mr C, here. Or Mrs C can quit waiting and have her tubes tied. From previously reading this blog, other birth control methods are not an option.


"For myself I look forward to your 2nd response, but hope it is not based on the notion that your sperm is somehow separate from your personhood."

A lot of people consider their reproductive capacity to be a part of themselves. But I seem to have missed how being able to have more children is more important than a healthy marriage or further abdominal surgery. A lot of Christians, myself included, shake my head at that idea. We are not on this earth to be babymaking machines above all else.

We are here to love each other and take care of our families.

Contraskeptic, what does God want from you? The ability to bring a new life into this world, or to be a good husband and father to your wife and the children you have now?

I know people have asked you this before, but I don't think you've really answered it. And maybe that's why this blog is still going.

Contraskeptic said...

Peter, why shouldn't my sperm be separate from my personhood? And I don't understand your second to last paragraph at all.

To extend your gun analogy, if the person with the gun is firing blanks, there's no reason to be afraid of getting hit.

To the person who said he'd risk an eternity in Hell for the love of his life: I suspect you don't believe in Hell or eternity.

To the March 18 4:14 p.m. anonymous (please pick a screen name so I can keep all the anonymi straight!) -- what does God want from me in regard to contraception is the whole point of this blog. If I didn't care what God wanted, the decision would be simple. In the first post I wrote that,

Contraskeptic said...

(Sorry -- hit send too soon.) In the first post I wrote that, "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."

Anonymous said...

To the person who said he'd risk an eternity in Hell for the love of his life: I suspect you don't believe in Hell or eternity.
Sure I do. It's a town in Michigan. ;)

Seriously, some years ago, I realized that fear of eternal damnation isn't a healthy basis for a spiritual life. I can't accept that a loving God would be so hasty to send people to Hell.

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Ellie said...
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