Once upon a time I taught cyberpunk fiction to middle schoolers and we would talk about body modifications. Now I’ve got one of my own, even if it doesn’t come with any dystopian grime or anti-heroism…
In Christian circles, there is perhaps a received wisdom that children are a blessing, and therefore, the more the merrier. While there’s no doubt some truth to that, common sense should never go unexamined.
What follows reflects my own attempts to work this through. Some of it is very specific to our own situation, although even apart from that, it’s not hard to think of circumstances and reasons that might point in a somewhat different direction. This is a sketch of how things have played out in our own family.
I began considering a vasectomy after we had our first child and probably before we had come to a decision on how many children we would try for. It’s a step I wanted to take as a way of fully taking up the burden of birth control.
There’s also a more personal side to that. Both pregnancies were uniformly unpleasant and debilitating for Tamie. A vasectomy became a very tangible way in which I could safeguard her wellbeing.
Another reason is specific to the nature of our marriage. The partnership between Tamie and I involves an evolving negotiation of the different gifts and opportunities we each bring to the party. Because of Tamie’s gifts and plans, we have wanted her to spend a limited time in the early childhood years of parenting in order to open up other God-given opportunities. A vasectomy is one way in which I can create space for her to explore this.
Why stop at two though? Why not have a third child? That’s more to do with the situation of our family unit as a whole. The life we have chosen will, for a number of years to come, involve living cross-culturally. This life is made possible only by the generosity of churches and individuals. This life also means our children are growing up as TCKs, with unique experiences and needs, and we want to be wise with the resources we have in order to care for them. For these reasons of stewardship, our sense has been that there is wisdom in two.
But stewardship also pushes us beyond this immediate context into the realm of ecology. How do we care for creation? As Australians, we are part of a society which leans heavily on the Earth as a matter of course. For a family to remain under replacement level fertility could, in combination with simple living and other decisions, be a way of signalling that we must revisit our collective responsibilities.
There is another ecological angle also in play for us as Christians. We believe that the church grows through people being born again rather than simply being born. Jesus did not exactly preach against family, but he certainly relativised it by speaking of a greater family, a greater place of belonging, nurture and stability. Family matters, but not in the way we once thought, and so a Christian family unit needs to find ways of giving voice to ‘new creation’ realities, and demonstrating how to unhook ourselves from traditional and often idolatrous ideas about family. Our own bodies are caught up in that (even in choosing baby names).
There is a huge scope to these last two points about ecology. The way they relate to reproductive decisions is perhaps more ambiguous, and a vasectomy is hardly the only or the best way of signposting these things. However, I wonder if it might be one way in which to do so — especially when you consider that the other points above might also be ways of heralding the new creation.
What do you think?
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.