Dr. Evelyn Billings AM, 94, is an inspirational woman with a long list of achievements. Together with her husband of 64 years, the late Dr. John Billings, she pioneered the Billings Ovulation Method, which has been taught to women, couples, medical students and doctors since the 1950s in more than 100 countries — in fact, it is the only official natural method for fertility regulation in China and has been successfully tested by the World Health Organization. It also has the backing of the Catholic Church, given its natural methodology for regulating fertility.
Looking back over your life, what has most surprised you?
I was surprised by where John and I ended up in terms of the Ovulation Method. I was surprised by the success of the method and at how well I was able to assist John in his work. He asked me to help him out with the female patients. I knew things that he didn’t know and he knew things that I didn’t know. So we were a real team.
You are an inspiration to many people throughout the world. Who inspires you?
I was greatly inspired by my husband because he was a good man and he had great respect for the Church. My parents were also a great inspiration. My children are a source of inspiration — you learn a lot from children. Then Mother Teresa and the poor people in India and China; couples from all over the world; Blessed Pope John Paul II; and there were many priests that came into our home who greatly influenced us — one priest in particular, Fr. Maurice Catarinich, helped us a great deal in our work and served so well as our spiritual advisor.
I was particularly inspired by the Ovulation Method teachers, because they were people whose faith was strong and they were usually women and couples who had experienced the method first hand and believed in it. The teachers often remark how their lives have been enriched by the friendships they have made, not just among themselves, but also among the people they’ve taught.
What were some of the major challenges in implementing and teaching the Ovulation Method?
From an academic point of view, it was pretty straightforward — we didn’t get any opposition among the medical students; they were very cooperative. I think some of the women were rather opposed to the idea because we were just at that stage in medicine where they were becoming very interested in advanced technologies for controlling fertility. People were very trusting of the new technology, so they thought we were on the wrong track and that we would be left far behind.
John also used to have a lot of opposition from obstetricians and gynecologists who were against his view which was that the natural way was the right way and the best way to go for women. But he didn’t believe that simply because of the Church’s teachings — people misunderstood this as a “Catholic method,” but instead it is a biological method.
So, it doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist — we just wanted women to know about themselves and to use this natural method of regulating fertility to their own advantage. We were very pleased when the evidence and success rates spoke for themselves.
Why did you and Dr. John Billings do this work?
We were doctors — it was our job to see that people were healthy and happy. We were extremely happy whenever we helped stressed or miserable couples who thought they were infertile — maybe the woman had suffered some damage as a result of using technological methods previously, or maybe they just didn’t understand the natural cycles of the female body — who were then able to conceive using the Ovulation Method. It was just wonderful.
How has your faith played a role in your life and work?
When I married I converted from Anglican to Roman Catholic. John believed that the Catholic Church had the authority and the truth and he couldn’t give it up. I wasn’t giving anything up either — I was taking on a whole lot more. I believe that faith is nurtured in the family; it’s where the questions are asked and answered.
These days, you meet so many people who don’t have faith. They don’t believe that there’s an influence of love in the world. They don’t understand the principle of love, which is simply seeking the good for the other person. Now if everyone agreed that this was a good idea and did it, the world would be a better place — there would be no abortion, no wars, and people would love the least and most vulnerable in the community.
You and your husband were married for 64 years. What is the secret to a good marriage?
You’ve got to be sensible and choose well in the beginning — marriage is a very practical thing. It’s not all smooth sailing, and there are hard times. Marriage vows recognize this. But if you really love a person then you can get through anything. To love another person is to seek their good and their happiness — that sums it up best for me.
Reprinted with permission from Kairos Catholic Journal, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia
Dr. Evelyn Billings, AM has published widely on the Ovulation Method, including The Billings Method: Controlling Fertility Without Drugs or Devices, which has sold more than a million copies in 22 languages. Drs. John and Evelyn Billings established the World Organization of the Ovulation Method Billings, which continues to teach the Ovulation Method throughout the world. More at woombinternational.org
By Fiona Basile
John and Evelyn Billings in Rome.
They have been consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Family
1943. Drs John and Evelyn Billings on their wedding day
Alternative Seeking others happiness from Living City July 2012