JOHN AND JOANN, like many young couples, wanted “to get to know each other for the first two years before planning for children”. On her first visit to her gynaecologist, Joann learned that she was “sub-fertile” and had been scheduled to undergo a procedure to help her. But before she could go through it, she got pregnant.

The couple shared that their second child had been conceived while the two of them were staying in England for their studies, and the third and fourth children had come along while Joann was building up a career in law after having switched from being a school teacher. Their fifth and sixth child had come at the time of the financial crisis in the late 1990s when money was tight.

“We lived one day at a time,” recalled John. He explained that in raising a family, a good approach is to “have one more child, then adjust the lifestyle and finances to accommodate the new addition”. This practice that has served the Ooi family well over the past 20 years places greater importance on the child than on lifestyle and finances, and is truly a attitude that values children.

The couple shared that while they did practise NFP, they did not follow the guideline strictly. “Breaking the NFP rules was letting God have his way,” said John. “One of the Christian virtues is to have faith in God and to be generous to the children that God gives us.”

Indeed this seems to be a fundamental difference between contraception and NFP, even if both appear to achieve the same results in delaying a pregnancy.

To be sure, John and Joann had many a disagreement when raising a family in the Catholic way that is faithful to the message of “Humanae Vitae”. John shared that the passage which he had the most trouble with, was:

“… responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” – “Humanae Vitae”, . 10

John shared that the particular order of the words helped him to
realize that responsible parenthood
meant making the first choice (generously decide to have more children), and to take the second choice only if there is a grave reason not to have more children.

“We’re glad that God has given us six children. Maybe not when the babies were coming,” Joann shared frankly. “A lot of my friends and clients who are elderly with their children all grown up say that we are doing the right thing because looking back, they all wish they had a large family.” – By Daniel Tay