It Does Take a Village (Musings of a First Time Mama)

When I was pregnant, I read a lot about babies and parenthood as much as I ate Doritos with grapes (yeahp, these two at the same bite). But when the baby came, most things I thought I learned from all that reading did not necessarily become useful as I ended up turning to firsthand advice from every super mother I know (who is basically every mother. Yes mama, you are amazing!) It just feels more valid and more reassuring when I hear it straight from a momma herself. And yes, I have been listening to a lot of mothers. A villageful of them.

I learned that the best thing to have when having a baby is not that adorable set of onesies or that fancy sterilizer. The best thing to have to successfully raise a baby is a village.

‘Inin-a’
Art Work by James Gabriel Wandag

You lose your brain for a while especially during the early stages of parenthood. It’s akin to climbing Mt. Everest with zero conditioning. But your village makes sure you don’t drown or get lost in an avalanche. Your village is there to remind you that life is not all about poop and spit-ups and having one boob out at all times. They are there to reassure you that you are imperfect and have human failings when you start getting too hard on yourself. Though early motherhood proves challenging, your village reminds you it’s a finite period and you should therefore embrace it.

I felt clueless and scared navigating the hows of baby care and even self-care during the earlier days. That Youtube instructional video on how to bathe a newborn felt gibberish. My village had to physically show it for it to make sense. I never knew about breast pads and nipple creams. My village made me aware that I can do something about leaks and sore nips. I panicked over every rash that I notice on my bubba. My village assured me that these are common for newborns and that I’m like every other mama who overreacts to anything when it comes to our babies. My village fed us with hearty broths, showed us how to swaddle, how to do a proper latch, gifts the baby with diapers and clothes and cuddles, and gives me a break from feeling isolated when they visit or chat me up online during this so-called fourth trimester. My village even enabled me to follow tradition when they came together for my baby’s native name giving ceremony–this is really one for the books. My village made sure that that my baby was doing okay, that I was doing okay, and reassured us that we will be okay.

Although being with my village has proven to be a challenge with the restrictions and protocols this pandemic, I’m still beyond grateful for everyone who visited, reached out, shared advice, listened and supported (physically and virtually) our little family in the early stages of our parenthood. Thank you family, friends, social media forums and health websites for being my village. And we know you’ll be there with us moving forward. Wink, wink.

A Rainbow in Winter

Winter Rainbow by Carol Warner

The phrase “rainbow baby” is common among parenting forums these days. It’s a simple, beautiful phrase that tells a whole big story. A story of loss, coping, healing, elation yet again for being blessed, and the guilt that comes for being happy after your tragedies. For someone who personally experienced losses and is now anticipating the arrival of our greatest blessing yet, I can fully relate to the myriad of emotions that come with having a rainbow baby.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To learn that talking about this sensitive issue is changing for the better is very encouraging. Because pregnancy loss is one of those things that we don’t talk openly about when in fact 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet even with its prevalence, many grieving parents feel like their loss is minimized, dismissed. But with how easily accessible information is these days, it’s not difficult to find resources that could help one understand and make sense of what happened because undergoing such an experience should never be discounted. If you’re someone who went through a loss, do know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Your every emotion is valid and you don’t need anyone telling you otherwise.

I consider myself very fortunate to be in a country where we have multiple health and support programs that guide women who have undergone similar tragedies. Aside from a strong support group from friends and loved ones, being open to the idea of professional help can serve as a tremendous help. If resources and support programs are regrettably not available in the area you are in, the internet is a rich source of information and teeming with forums that talk about these issues. It really helps to listen and be heard by people who understand.

I am emboldened to talk about loss and grief seeing how many women do so now these days. We share to let others out there know that they are not alone. At some point, I thought shutting myself in my own little bubble would be the best way to process my grief and anger. It works for some time but I realized I needed to be in touch with people who actually got it.

Aptly named “rainbow baby”, we are beyond grateful to be meeting our bundle of blessing in a few weeks’ time. The pregnancy journey itself has been a challenge in a sense that I was scared for the most part of it. I could not truly get myself to enjoy the process as I was dealing with PTSD. The intervals between doctor’s appointments feel so long, and every update or development is a huge milestone. I can say that I started feeling truly joyful again after being assured multiple times that our little bean is developing wonderfully and healthily. At this point, I am now as big as an orca and have only two or three clothes that fit me so I keep on stealing whatever I can from my husband’s closet, but I have never felt more glamorous!

For anyone who lost a blessing, heal at your own pace and remain hopeful. You are a wonderful creation of God! A strong and brave woman, graceful and beautiful. You deserve all the happiness in the world and the pure joy of being a mother, in God’s perfect time. Blowing some baby dust your way!

Below are a couple of articles that might be helpful.

https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/after-miscarriage/

Sagada Folk Tales: “An-ananga”

A long time ago in a quaint town by the mountains, lived a young couple named An-ananga and his wife whom he called his Princess. Such was the beauty of the woman that An-ananga was lovesick and could not bear to leave her for even just a second. 

He would gaze at her all day long. He would marvel at every detail of her face. He was so infatuated with his radiant wife that he chooses to just sit by her side and feed on her looks.

The wife, being more pragmatic than the lovesick An-ananga implored, “My love, I welcome your affection but what will happen if we both stay at home all day long? Our pantry will not refill itself with rice and crops if you just sit beside me idly through the long summer days and rainy ones too.”

With hesitation, An-ananga agreed to go back to the fields to work. Heavy-hearted, he plowed the fields and was barely done with ten meters when he decided to go right back home to his Princess wife.

Surprised but very patient, the wife said, “Dear husband, maybe you can try again tomorrow. This time, bring my photo with you. Two of them. Nail one to one post and one to the opposite post. That way when you plow the fields back and forth, you will see my face and perhaps you will miss me less.” Seeing how the idea might possibly work, An-ananga agreed and thus he set forth the next morning with the two photos in hand.

True enough, he was more energized. He felt stronger and he was fast as he repeatedly made the back and forth trip from one end of the field to the other. The smiling face of his Princess on both sides of the field encouraged him.

Lo! The strong winds of the north came and tore a photo of the Princess from one post and blew it across the hills. It flew and fluttered until it reached the camp of weary but formidable soldiers and settled on the feet of no other than their fierce captain. He picked the photo and was instantly lovestruck.

He summoned his guards and commanded them to search for the face on the photo with the order to bring her and make her his bride.

Far and wide, the soldiers sought. They turned all the villages upside down till they reached the small town where An-ananga and his Princess lived. When they found the woman on the photo and learned she already belonged to another man, they were aghast. They believed it was not right to take a married woman to have her wed another man but at the same time they were scared of their fiery captain.

They bargained and reasoned with An-ananga until he at last agreed with the condition that he go with them, at least to join his Princess on her trip to see the Captain.

When they reached the camp, the Captain was in a hurry to get rid of An-ananga. But An-ananga was cunning. “If you want to take my wife, at least give me something in return.”

The captain, undisturbed said,”Anything you want, just say it so you can be on your way.”

An-ananga said,” Give me a bag of gold.” The captain laughed and willingly made the arrangements for wads of money and gold to be bagged.

“Take off your uniform and your medals. Give them to me.” Though puzzled, the captain did.

“Now with his uniform comes his title, I command you obedient soldiers to shoot this captain who is so vile as to take a woman who is already wed to another man, ” goes on An-ananga. Unhesitatingly, the soldiers obliged. They know their captain was in the wrong.

So with a bag of money and gold, a captain’s uniform and a woman of unparalleled beauty on his arms, An-ananga started his trek back home to his small town. With the bounty he unwittingly earned, An-ananga could afford not to work and he could just spend his days gazing at his wife’s beauty.

Writer’s Note: Narrative is based solely on recollections from an evening storytelling beside the dying embers of the ‘dapwan’. For any deviations that may in one way or another alter or debase the original, apologies in advance. Inputs are welcomed with gladness and enthusiasm. ūüôā

Be Kind, Be Inspired

There was, or there were junctures in the past when just about anything can inspire me to pen a jumble of either nonsensical, profound or passably read-worthy thoughts. Riding a cramped bus, the feel of gritty sand cascading through my fingers, the sunset, or even just a broken pencil–a lot of things used to switch on for that tap of words to spew forth.

But when you’ve ridden too many cramped buses, witnessed so many sunsets and broken a lot of pencils, you get jaded. Everything becomes unimpressive that you seem to blend with the dull. I still tried to write by resorting to refer myself in the third person. I got my dog to do it. Imaginative–not.

With the monotony that I managed to accept as life, hours can be killed by drowning into my secret abyss. Tuning out literally and figuratively from everything alive that’s happening around. People in buses stopped being interesting and sunsets became monochromatic.

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@ Renfrew & Hastings

 But some things just happen to awaken the dormant mind. A stimulating conversation, waking up on the right side of the bed, that encouraging prod from someone close to you. Suddenly what seemed normal becomes engaging. Like this sign that I’ve mindlessly passed every morning to work for the past 202 or so days, it spoke to me for the first time. It had meaning again. I just had to see.  It reminded me that next time I get on the bus, I would offer my seat with extra kindness. Not that I begrudged before but this time, do it wholeheartedly. I can start with that.

Maybe if I knew music, I’d create. Or if I knew art, I’d Cezanne myself my own “Boy in the Red Vest”. But no. So I must write. I must revive the appetite for searching things which are beautiful and be compelled to imprint them in words. To remind myself that humanity is interesting and thus I ought to be kinder. And that every sunset is different from the one yesterday and that I ought to be inspired.

I can restart with that.

T2 Reverie (15th May, ’17)

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One of Mab-an’s many outtakes during our little excursions.

An airport is either the happiest or loneliest place. I sit here contemplating the obvious with a half-eaten, overpriced hotdog sandwich and a lukewarm cappuccino that would have otherwise been downed in a jiffy under different, happier circumstances.

It’s not the first time I said goodbye to family and friends. Been through this heart-wrenching process a lot of times already but every single farewell seems to be a first. You succumb to this dragging drift of misery as you question yourself yet again why you had to leave in the first place.

I’ve been looking forward for the longest time to 30 days in sunny paradise. It came and went rapidly. So fast that by the time it was over, I was in complete denial. Still am. Lugging my belongings into place was a harrowing, dreary task. I went through airport queues in a trance while replaying vivid images of my teary-eyed mother and Byte cluelessly yawning as I blew him kisses through the car window.

The whole procedure of goodbyes and reassurances that we undergo takes an emotional toll during the days or even months that come after. We know the heartbreaks and chest constrictions that come with it but we willingly submit ourselves to this in exchange for fleeting escapes from routine that is our life. We let ourselves be subjects to such arduous pain because we know it is more than worth it.

This summer’s indulgence with the sun as I basked around the love of family, friends and home made me reconceive that every single moment is immensely significant. Even sleep was a costly option as every moment should be a waking one. I literally bought a day or two more by rebooking flights and cancelling reservations. Time is pricey. That’s why it is meant to be savored.

I certainly don’t anticipate dealing with jetlag that involves eating rice meals at two in the morning and bingeing on cooking shows during ungodly hours, while reminiscing all those moments that I wish I could freeze.

So with the stoutest heart I could muster, I walk the jetbridge that would literally disconnect me from the sun and all the love it has brought me during the last 30 days towards the reality of routine, bills and adulting. Till next time.

22/09/16

Today I woke up feeling apprehensive. I’m a year shy of hitting the big three-O and I feel like the forces are mocking me today; reminding me of those long-forgotten things I jotted in my to-do-list way back yesteryears.

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Last vibrance of summer.

Bold and ambitious, I used to dream about globe-trotting, having a job that won’t be confined to a desk but nonetheless earn enough to afford me a beat-up truck that would enable me and my one-eyed St. Bernard trips to countrysides. I could not wait to skydive, win at a casino, make love with a dashing young man on a hot air balloon, do all things outlandish–live the life.

With youth comes the gifts of vitality, idealism and ambition. But as the reality of life starts biting you past mid-life, one tends to gradually lose these. Work, bills, slowing metabolism, and adding up to the years submit one into an unremarkable routine of waking up to finish a day that would more or less repeat itself the next one. The best things have become catching up on sleep, a new release on Netflix, clocking out after a shift, finding a pair of old jeans with buttons that don’t unexpectedly pop and those rare alarm-less mornings.

And as I am one of the unfortunate species with a brain that reminds me of all the bad decisions I made in my life before I get any chance¬†to fall¬†into oblivion during the end of the day, I often get to think about the current life I am leading and question every single thing. I finally succumb to troubled sleeps with a resolve that I would do something extraordinary the next day but then¬†wake up feeling uninspired. I guess I’m growing old. Or not.

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Afternoon beach walk with Kaidu.

Everyone around me seems to be having babies and growing toddlers while here I am wanting to get another puppy. That does not make me forget that ten or so years ago, I said to myself that if I turn 28 and I’m still single, I would Angelina Jolie a baby of my own. Today though, all I could think of is adopting a rescue dog or cat at the local shelter.¬†Interesting how the years can change you.

I catch Pokemon and give them weird names. I share the bed with my husband¬†and occasionally with our¬†handful Kaidu when he decides the sheets are not as tasty as bacon.¬†I have not started¬†to eat¬†more responsibly; our cupboards hold a full section of food¬†that have¬†the same nutritional value¬†as that of a cardboard¬†which we indulge in ever so often. I’ve reached the age when jammies feel sexier than cropped fitted tees, and my idea of a fun night is¬† watching medieval war movies with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. I guess I’m growing old. Or not.

Then there’s that guilty excitement of buying new cutlery. A house ware section¬†beckons me more than a clothing department does. I like buying plates at the plate store. I like our salt shaker. I like the sound of our pepper grinder. My Amazon account boasts not of shoe purchases but dog tags and leashes. So adult.¬†

But although I’ve been independent since I left the University,¬†I still have that urge to look for Mama when stuff becomes unpleasant. I guess I’m growing old. Or not.

Now I’m thinking of that way overdue bungee-jump (times ten) and that spontaneous trip to Machu Picchu. If I wake up one of these days feeling less conventional, spontaneous and¬†impulsive,¬†things might start happening, again.¬† And with newfound determination, I end this day. *snuffs candle out*

 

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