A little over 10 years ago, Julianne Matyac of Destin, Florida made the life-altering decision to be surgically sterilized under the worst of all possible circumstances while in the throes of labor as she prepared to deliver her second son.
“No One Told Me”
Julianne and her husband Matt had previously discussed having the surgery but had not yet made a final decision. Both were church-attending Catholics who were aware of Catholic teaching prohibiting contraception and sterilization, but they lacked a real understanding of the reasoning behind the teaching.
Although Julianne hesitated a bit after giving birth, she did eventually sign the consent papers and have the tubal ligation. It was a decision she would regret almost immediately.
“Nowhere in those papers did they warn me about the tremendous empty feeling I would have afterwards. No one told me that I was going to feel rotten,” says Matyac.
“It was heart-wrenching. I used to have the ability to give new life and now I no longer had that gift.”
Julianne tried to put the regret out of her mind. A few years later, however, she befriended a group of what she calls “more serious Catholics” who inspired her to learn more about Catholic teaching on a variety of subjects.
The little voice in the back of her head telling her that the sterilization had been wrong and needed to be reversed became undeniable. Matyac found a doctor in her area who performed the reversal surgery at a reduced rate out of charity and, with her husband’s support, she elected to have it done.
The results were tangible and immediate.
“When I heard the doctor telling my husband that the surgery had been successful, I was ecstatic,” she says. “A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was just smiling all over. From there on, it was up to God.”
God did not let them down. Almost two years later, the couple welcomed a new daughter into their family. Then they were blessed with another daughter two years later, and in the spring of 2005 God blessed them yet again… with twin boys.
“It would have been worth it even if we never had any more children,” says Matyac. “Once you realize you have made a mistake, if you follow God’s will, He will always bless you for it.”
A Definite Difference
When John Long made the decision to have a vasectomy over 20 years ago, he and his wife Patricia were church-going Catholics and the parents of two children. Long convinced himself that his vasectomy was morally acceptable because his wife’s second pregnancy and delivery had been fraught with complications.
“I knew the Church’s teaching on sterilization,” explains Long. “But I also thought that my reasons were a good enough excuse to disregard those teachings. How wrong I was.”
Unbeknownst to one another, both spouses eventually came to regret the sterilization and sought forgiveness through confession. Years later, they finally shared their feelings of regret and openly discussed the possibility of having John’s vasectomy reversed.
“The desire to reverse did not come from wanting more children,” explains Long. “It was rooted in the desire to do whatever God was calling on us to do.”
After having the reversal surgery, John noted a significant difference in his marriage.
“Now I really feel that we truly are one in our most intimate moments and that God is part of that oneness. It is a satisfaction and fulfillment that goes beyond anything I can describe.”
Though in the ensuing years the couple went on to experience the sorrow of three miscarriages, they still had no misgivings about their decision. In fact, as a testimony to the joys that can be found in embracing God’s will, Long gathered the stories of other Catholic couples who have had sterilization reversals. He published the collection in a book published by One More Soul in 2003, Sterilization Reversal: A Generous Act of Love.
After suffering the loss of their first three children through stillbirth, miscarriage, and rare genetic disease, Susan and Thomas Prokop of Blaine, Minnesota were overjoyed when at last Susan gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After a second healthy pregnancy, it was out of fear of further suffering that the couple decided to have Susan’s tubes tied.
“We knew it was wrong,” admits Susan. “But we didn’t really understand why it was wrong.”
About two years later, however, after hearing stories of Marian apparitions, Susan was moved to explore her Catholic faith more deeply. It was then that she began to understand the dignity of the human body and the offense that contraception and sterilization are to the sacrament of marriage.
She came to regret the sterilization and eventually Tom did too. The two brought the matter to confession and found God’s forgiveness there. Though a priest told them a reversal was not necessary, within a few years they researched the possibilities and decided that they would have the surgery done.
“We wanted to restore what we had taken from God,” Tom says.
“Even if we didn’t have more children, I wanted to have it done,” adds Susan. “I wanted to be whole.”
After having the reversal, the couple experienced a new sense of joy and vitality in their marriage. When Susan became pregnant two-and-a-half years later, though they were nervous and uncertain, the Prokops placed their trust in God. Nine months later, Susan gave birth to Jonathan a healthy and beautiful newborn son.
They were elated.
“We held him and we were just crying,” Susan recalls. “It was like we were getting a new start and had a chance to do everything over again. It was such a miracle.”
Today, Tom urges other couples who regret their sterilization to consider having their surgeries reversed.
“Do it as an act of faith and love,” he says. “Do it because you love God and want to recognize His presence and His creating power in your marriage.”
Danielle Bean is a freelance writer and mother of seven. Her newly-released book is My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom. Read an excerpt, order your copy, and read her daily musings at: www.daniellebean.com.
(This article originally appeared in the Our Sunday Visitor and is used by permission of the author.)