Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



A Baby Hippo Could Save Your Marriage

September 28th, 2010, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

A baby hippopotamus was born recently at the Topeka Zoo. While hippos may not be the most attractive of God’s creatures, you have to admit that this little guy is cute. His birth, however, created quite a stir at the zoo because his arrival was a complete surprise. The zoo had recently acquired a male hippo, Tucker, to accompany the already resident female hippo, Mara. On the surface it doesn’t seem so surprising that a new little baby hippo would result. However, this situation has a few twists and the facts may just save your marriage.

You see, the zoo keepers didn’t want Mara getting pregnant so they were giving her a high dose of a contraceptive grain. The comments of a zoo official caught my attention.

“They had noticed that Mara and Tucker were beginning to try and mate, so they wanted to make sure they were giving her the right amount of grain.”

That seems logical enough. If two hippos are going to mate and you don’t want a pregnancy you should make sure that the female is on the correct dose of contraception, right? The following comment throws the first one into a whole new light.

“[T]hey…upped the grain and Tucker seemed to not want to mate anymore so that was a good sign that it was working.”

Did you catch that? The fact that Tucker was interested in mating with Mara was a sign to the zoo keepers that something must be wrong with the contraception. They knew they had fixed the problem when Tucker lost interest in Mara. This reminded me of something that I had learned about contraception within human relationships a long time ago.

I was once at a conference with the famous Theology of the Body scholar Mary Shivanandan. She presented a scientific study on the use of contraception throughout the world and one particular stat has stuck with me to this day. She presented the findings of a study that showed that couples who practice Natural Family Planning have sex way more often than couples who use contraception. I assumed this had to with the greater relational communication that is required of couples using NFP as well as just the more authentic love that is expressed among these couples.

Fast forward a few years and I was at another conference listening to the equally famous Janet Smith talking on contraception. She presented a study done with monkeys in which a male monkey was placed in an environment with multiple female monkeys. When the females were given contraception, the male monkey lost all interest in the females, began engaging in sexual acts by himself and then eventually with other male monkeys. A farmer pointed out that anyone who works with animals knows that “when a cow is in heat the bull will practically rip down the fence to get to her.”

These two conferences came back to me when I read the story of the new baby hippo. Zoo keepers are smart enough to know that males are attracted to females that are fertile, but not to females that are infertile. This is part of God’s design. When is a female infertile for an extended period? When she’s pregnant. That’s how contraception works. It tricks the woman’s body into thinking she’s pregnant…for a long time. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the zoo keepers misjudged the hippos. When Tucker lost interest in Mara they thought it was because they had gotten the contraception right. The truth was that Mara was not experiencing the “fake” pregnancy of contraception but was actually pregnant. The symptoms are the same.

Think today about how many people use contraception because they want to have sex more often and whenever they want. They think that NFP would mean less sex, less often. The studies above and the new hippo show why this is completely backward. We tend to think that we know everything about how our bodies work and that we are in control. The truth is that things are way more complicated than we realize, especially when it comes to attraction among men and women. Even the sense of smell plays an important role. Contraception messes up God’s design in ways we don’t even understand. We should, however, be smart enough to learn a lesson from some hippos.

Zoo keepers knew the contraception was inadequate when Tucker wanted to mate with Mara and they knew that it was working properly when Tucker lost interest. Women, does it seem that your husband has lost interest in you or that your love life just doesn’t have the excitement that it should? It may be surprising, but some hippos may just save your marriage.

1 Response to A Baby Hippo Could Save Your Marriage

  1. Bill Donaghy

    Thank you! A hippo evangelist, brilliant. I hope it can open some eyes to the hard data, and again show the Church’s wisdom in it all.


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