“Each of our six children seems a miracle,” say Sean and Michele Lynn of Calgary, Alberta. But in a special way, the last three are “miracle babies” — children they were told they would probably never be able to conceive.
Married in 1984, the Lynns had their first three children quickly. Sean was a driller on the oil rigs then and was away from home often. “Life was extremely difficult,” Michele recalls. “I was basically a single mum with three small children.”
Financially strapped, emotionally overwhelmed, totally clueless about the moral teaching of the Catholic Church in which both had been raised, the Lynns finally took the step that family and friends had been urging as the most reasonable and responsible solution to their problems. At age 25, Sean had a vasectomy.
Vasectomy makes men sterile by blocking the tubes through which sperm pass into the semen. Each year, more than half a million men in the U.S. undergo the procedure; in Canada, the figure stands at about 50,000, roughly the same population percentage.
Proponents of vasectomy hail it as safe, simple, and relatively inexpensive birth control that is nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. It is usually permanent. Vasectomy reversals are difficult and most often unsuccessful. For a variety of reasons, only a small percentage of the 36,000 American men each year who have reversals go on to father children.
But in 1989 Sean and Michele weren't thinking much beyond “enough's enough.” They had their family, and that year Sean also got his “dream job” with the Calgary police department.
But police work was stressful, and hard on marriages. “Michele and I were struggling,” says Sean. “And although we considered ourselves good Catholics, we certainly weren't looking to God for answers.”
Faith issues came to the foreground when Sean's youngest sister left the Catholic Church and became a Mormon. “Are we practicing what we believe?” the couple began asking themselves. “What exactly do we believe?”
A conversation with fellow police officer Jim Amsing, a Dutch Reformed Christian, pointed the Lynns in the right direction. As he and Sean patrolled the streets one night in October 1994, Jim explained that he and his wife did not use artificial birth control. It was because of something he had read while studying theology at a Protestant college, he told Sean: “Humanae Vitae. As soon as I read it, I said to myself, ‘This is the truth!’“
“What's Humanae Vitae?” Sean wanted to know. In twelve years of Catholic education, he had never heard of it. Jim responded by presenting the Catholic teaching on conjugal love and contraception, as articulated in Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical. For the first time, Sean realized that vasectomy, like other forms of direct sterilization, isn't merely a matter of personal choice: It is forbidden by the Church since it contravenes a married couple's full openness to each other.
A month later, the Lynns spent a quiet get-away week studying and discussing Catholic teaching. It was a total conversion to the faith, they say — ”an awakening, like Pentecost.”
They decided to seek a vasectomy reversal. “We knew from talking to our priest that the Church doesn't require this,” says Michele. Still, the couple wanted to make some reparation for having opposed God's purposes for their marriage. No matter that the chance of success was small. That's “completely up to God,” they decided.
Today, the effects of the Lynns' 1994 season of grace are abundantly obvious. The Lynns have become informed, committed Catholics who are eager to share their faith.
Michele focuses on providing a solid spiritual formation for the children, whom she now home schools. Sean has organized men's conferences and told his story often. With three other police officers — including Jim Amsing, whose whole family has come into the Church — he began monthly prayer sessions where officers meet to pray 15 decades of the rosary. As time permits, the Lynns run a Catholic book ministry.
But the most visible consequences of their radical change of heart are the three children born since Sean's vasectomy reversal: Emily (4), Peter (2), and Patrick (1). “It's so humbling to be entrusted with new life after having refused it for so many years,” says Michele.
Sean agrees. “To have messed up so royally and then to be so blessed with these little ones…. I can't imagine life without them. But you know,” he adds in reference to Meghan (almost 16), Kelsey (almost 14), and Timothy (12), “all our children seem more of a miracle to me now. Each is such a gift from God.”
“Sometimes,” Sean admits, “I think about the other children — the ones who should have been in that spot between Timothy and Emily. That's a hard way to look at it. But when I remember how good God is and how he turned everything around for us, I forget the gap and the guilt. I just thank him again and again for his grace.”