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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Restoring Openness to Life
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Learning the truth about contraception set the Borges family on a radically new path.

Borges family
Dave and Tima Borges with their sons Donovan and Evan.

November 12, 2010. Milton, ON. Contraception had been the hidden culprit behind many of Tima and Dave Borges’ difficulties, and it would take time—and a whole process of conversion—to recognize it and root it out of their marriage.

They did not start out as practicing Catholics. As Dave Borges puts it, “Once we were married, we left Christ at the altar.”

They were contracepting even before marriage—and it was because of the birth control pills that Tima lost her first baby. After discovering she was pregnant, she immediately stopped taking the pills, but it was too late. The miscarriage came three days later.

Difficult deliveries

It was then that they decided to set the pills aside and open their lives to children. Before too long, they were blessed with their first boy, although the pregnancy was complicated. Donovan was born with what is called a “face presentation,” which means that his face, not his crown, emerged first. Face presentations are traumatic for babies, since the muscles and bones in the face cannot stretch the way the crown does. Donovan’s entire face was swollen and he had to remain in the hospital for a week to recover.

While he was there, the doctors also found a ductal anueurism in his heart. Newborn babies normally have small holes in their hearts that eventually shrink up and close but Donovan’s weren’t shrinking, so it was thought that he might need heart surgery soon after birth.  In the end, he did not need the surgery, but he will always need to see a cardiologist to make sure there are no further complications.

Watching her little boy undergo so much suffering was a painful experience that drove Tima to her knees.

“During that week, I went to the chapel and knelt before the cross to pray for our son,” she said.

“I felt a desire to be a better father, to show him the faith, to be a good role model,” said Dave. The baptism preparation classes offered at their parish had moved him to return to Sunday Mass and start living his Catholic faith more fully.

But soon after the birth, they were contracepting again, not knowing what the Church taught about it and simply intending to space out the births a little.

About three and a half years later, their second son, Evan, was born. This time, Tima decided, things would be different. She would not watch her baby suffer again. Not like Donovan.

“Lord,” she prayed, “if there are any complications, let me take them on myself. Give the suffering to me, not to my baby.”

That was exactly what happened. As she went into labor, the anesthesiologist came to give her the epidural, which is a shot into the spinal region that numbs the lower body. Normally, an epidural should take about fifteen minutes to administer. That night, it took an hour. The anesthesiologist kept missing the correct spot and had to pierce her over and over again to get it right. When he finally did insert the needle, he accidentally hit her spinal fluid, which resulted in intense shooting pains and a migraine headache that lasted for about ten days. Tima was incapacitated for a week and a half.

But the baby was healthy and had not suffered anything unusual during the birth. Her prayer had been heard.

Spiraling down

Shortly after Evan’s birth, Dave decided to get a vasectomy.

The couple had various reasons: the complicated pregnancies, the question of finances, the discovery that one of the side-effects of the birth control pill is cancer… After ten years on the pill, Tima was at risk, so he decided to go forward with the operation.

But instead of finding more peace and security in their marriage, they found themselves spiraling downward into mutual resentment.

“That was when things in our marriage started to surface,” said Tima. “We became like two adults living in the same space. We were going in circles around the same issues, all around our intimacy. How often, whose initiative, putting pressure on each other, counting how many days it had been since the last time… It was a sore spot and we started to build up some resentment.”

After going through the same cycle over and over, they decided to turn to the Church for help. On a weekend couples’ retreat, the communications lines were opened up again, and they realized that their intimacy issues really were important.

“It was the first time we had heard anyone say that that aspect of marriage was important, that it was a mirror of God’s love for us,” said Tima.

After the awakening of that retreat, they felt called to help other couples in the marriage preparation program. During a course with other leader couples, they heard for the first time that a vasectomy was against Church teaching.

The ride home that evening was a quiet one, and they both went to confession soon after. Afterwards, things between them did improve, but they were left with two big questions.

Why is it wrong?  And… now what do we do?

One Sunday, their son Donovan picked up a flyer and was playing with it during Mass. A nearby couple noticed the flyer in the boy’s hands and approached the couple after Mass to say, “That’s a very good program for parents and families. We really recommend it.” The name of the program was Familia.

The Borges met another woman who also spoke highly of Familia and invited them to an upcoming informational session. Right away, Dave was hooked. Since he worked with a lot of Protestants who asked questions about Catholicism, he saw it as a good means to learn his faith and be able to defend it. Tima, on the other hand, was simply attracted by the joy, charity, and kindness of the women she met.

“I saw how happy these ladies were as moms and wives,” she said. “I realized, ‘I’m missing something and I want whatever they have.’”

During their first year covering Familiaris Consortio, her Familia team listened to Janet Smith’s contraception talk, "Contraception: Why Not?" Finally, the pieces came together. The “why” question was finally answered and she understood—in depth—why contraception is a marriage wrecker and a “big deal.”

At the same time, this newfound understanding brought an overwhelming weight of responsibility. She realized she had to act on what she now knew, and that “sitting on the fence” was no longer an option.

“I felt called to do more for the Church and really live my faith, but it was a struggle, especially looking back at the choices we had made,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dave was having a great time. He had found exactly what he was looking for and was making new friends.  He hadn’t mentioned any loss of peace over the vasectomy; it seemed that he was at peace after having brought it up in the confessional.

During a retreat, Tima felt a strong pull to restore openness to life, but the decision was not up to her, so she prayed for God to put it on her husband’s heart. Without her knowledge, Dave was feeling a pull. He had been bringing it up in spiritual direction and had been told, “You can fix this.”

Reversal and restoration

That message of “You can fix this” resounded even more clearly in his heart when they went to a Youth and Family Encounter in Atlanta and saw themselves surrounded by big Catholic families. In one way or another, that same message kept coming through, and he finally made the decision. It was time to restore openness to life.

On the day of his reversal, Fatima picked him up at the hospital. Dave was definitely in pain, but he was also smiling ear to ear.

“He was just so happy to be able to offer that up, to restore things and put them back where they should have been from the beginning. It’s a picture I’ll never forget,” said Tima.

Two years later, they are completely open to life. Although they have not yet conceived, there have been special moments when they have sensed God’s action and his blessing. On the one-year anniversary of the surgery, which happened to fall on Good Friday, they went out for a walk with another couple. The wife was expecting. To their surprise, the other couple asked the Borges if they would be godparents for their baby.

For Tima and Dave, it was a sign from God, a word of reassurance that he is with them, accompanying them, and that the financial and personal sacrifices they made to restore openness to life are not without a fruitfulness of their own.

“They had no idea how significant it was that they asked us on that day,” said Tima.

Coming home

Since then, other things have changed in their lives as well. Tima used to work full-time as an assessment officer for Legal Aid, but over time she had felt a clear calling to return home and be a full-time mother instead. Again, the thought of the financial sacrifice was an obstacle, so she hesitated. There were also some altruistic reasons to stay at work; for example, she was able to help one suicidal client recover hope, and she was sure her prayers for him were an important contribution. So she wondered if perhaps God wanted her there so that she could pray for the people who came through her office.

But the answer came through loud and clear. “I’ll use you wherever you are, but the work I need you to do is at home.”  It was the first time she had ever heard God’s voice speaking so clearly in her heart.

The decision took time, but the more she and David delayed, the more circumstances made it impossible to avoid.

For example, there was the intense physical pain that had surged up in her neck and arms, caused by a herniated disc and a pinched nerve.  Whether she wanted to or not, she had to take time off from work and stay home; she could no longer sit at her computer. After two months home on short-term disability, she started to feel some relief. And that was when she decided to make the break and quit her job, opening a day care in her home as alternative revenue stream.

“Opening up my home to children really appealed to me,” she said. “It was another way to restore that openness to life.”

Looking back, the Borges find themselves on a road marked with definite moments of conversion. There were initial mistakes born from ignorance, patches of suffering and struggle, moments of light and clarity about what is true and good, and a sincere effort to respond to what the conscience saw in prayer. And though it has not always been an easy journey, it has been a blessing: openness to life has enriched and opened their lives as well.

This article is part of a series about God’s action in the lives of Regnum Christi members who turned to him in prayer. If you have a story to share, please contact us at this link.



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