Corey, a medical doctor and his wife, Julie, are Couple Empowerment Programme (CEP) presenters who have taken the Humanae Vitae (HV) charter and are currently among the first batch of 50-plus students of the Maryvale certificate course.
When they first got married, the couple practised Natural Family Planning (NFP) simply because it was the right “Catholic” thing to do. However, when the kids came in quick succession, in intervals of about two years, they started to feel the strain of coping with a big family.
“While we knew theoretically that the use of contraceptives was frowned upon by the Church, we had problems grappling with what seemed to be a rather archaic concept in the modern world, where contraceptives are widely used and prescribed,” explains Julie. “The prospect of Him blessing us with even more children became more difficult to accept especially since we could hardly cope with the children that we already had. The practical considerations of the typical Singaporean parent spoke much louder than the teachings of the Church and it was easy to find many excuses not to practise NFP.”
The fourth delivery really led the couple to question their reliance on NFP. “As my wife lay in the delivery room just after delivering our fourth child, she developed postpartum hemorrhage, a severe maternal complication,” recalls Corey, “and this left me with serious doubts about the wisdom of NFP.”
After much deliberation, the couple decided to try ‘the pill’, but as Julie explains, what started out as a seemingly rational solution to the issue of family planning began to affect their relationship in subtle ways. “I was never quite at peace with it and there were times in the midst of our intimate moments together when I felt that Corey could not quite look me straight in the eye, perhaps because we were no longer truly in sync with each other. Our love relationship was affected in ways that I could not fully understand. Perhaps that is what Pope St John Paul meant when he said that ‘the body has a language’. Through my body, I make a total gift of myself to Corey in love. It is unconditional. But the use of contraceptives runs contrary to this. It was as if Corey accepted me but without my fertility and I felt that our love was being shortchanged.”
The situation was made worse by Corey’s great reluctance to talk about the issue, and that troubled Julie, as she had always deeply treasured their close relationship. She prayed fervently as she waited for Corey to be ready, and her prayers were answered when CEP came to their parish in 2008. “CEP came with childminding, which couldn’t have been more perfect… but, more importantly, it provided the much-needed platform for us to start talking.”
“We shared about our innermost fears and our dreams for our marriage, and we prayed,” adds Corey. “Over time, I realised that the fundamental obstacle to my acceptance of NFP had nothing to do with the method or its reliability, but my unwillingness to trust God and allow Him to be in the driver’s seat.”
Julie understood that, for Corey, reverting back to NFP involved no less than a complete change in mindset. “I thank him for loving God and me enough to make that decision for us. We took the Humanae Vitae Charter and never looked back. Through it all, we have come to realise that it is only when we let Him take over that He truly empowers and transforms us. The verse in Corinthians rings so true that it is indeed “God who causes all things to grow.”
God blessed them with their fifth child, whom they welcomed in 2013 . Even though the pregnancy brought back some of the old fears along with some new ones, but with contraceptives out of the way, they felt that they were back in full communion with God and each other and that gave them the quiet assurance that, come what may, He would be there to see them through.
“Joshua will always be a permanent reminder of His love for us and of our refusal to compromise on our love for each other,” Julie concludes, “It is indeed by the grace of God that we have come this far.”