Hindi talaga lalabas si Tets.”
I posted this on social media the first few days of the lockdown, setting my mind into it. I was only 22 to 23 weeks pregnant the week of March 15. Having miscarried twice and with my first child born prematurely because of my medical conditions, we prepared the best way we could, except for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As it turned out, I would give birth to my 900-gram beautiful baby boy on April 26, 2020 due to preeclampsia. He was only 28 weeks.
I have been to two hospitals in Laguna even before this emergency delivery. The mental battle was real — you fear the unknown, entering hospital facilities. When we heard the confirmation that the baby needed to be delivered at 27 weeks, my fear grew. Three years ago, we were lucky with my firstborn. What if we would not be as lucky this time?
“ “Mahaba pa ang lalakbayin natin,” said his doctor. The lakbay came with a roller coaster of emotions. ”
I did not go through a COVID-19 test but had to do an X-ray as per my lab results. Thankfully, the result was good, and it would be another week before I gave birth via emergency cesarean. The hospital was not ready for a 28-week baby due to COVID, so our OB helped us find a facility that best fits our budget and needs. From Quezon City, we transferred to a hospital in Sampaloc, Manila.
My baby stayed in the NICU as we were discharged three days postpartum. Our new normal will be the daily visits to him taking extra precautions. “Mahaba pa ang lalakbayin natin,” said his doctor. The lakbay came with a roller coaster of emotions.
“ To be at the receiving end of generosity also opened another realization — to ask help when needed and to never underestimate kindness. We should allow people to surprise us with their goodness. ”
My husband was an amazing partner in all this and it was unfortunate that he was unable to see our baby up close. Fathers were not allowed inside the NICU so he relied on (stolen) pictures of his little boy. Ironically on Mother’s Day, mothers were no longer allowed inside, too — all part of an updated COVID protocol. We celebrated it viewing our baby through the window with difficulty as his incubator was at the far end of the room.
If you are a parent, you would do the best you can for your children. So on our third week in NICU, my husband and I decided to put up a fundraising site to help sustain our baby’s medical needs. It took lots of internal debate before we were able to do it primarily because we were shy. It was only by God’s grace that I was able to overcome this pride. We did not expect much, because we know COVID has affected many household incomes, too. Nonetheless, we were overwhelmed with prayers and financial help that we received from people who had so little but still had so much to share, to friends who were abundant and happily blessing our little one. To be at the receiving end of generosity also opened another realization — to ask help when needed and to never underestimate kindness. We should allow people to surprise us with their goodness.
We celebrated his first month in NICU with pansit for the nurses while they indulged me in a quick visit inside. And in our second month, I could finally breastfeed my son. The first day was magical as I held him in my arms. I caressed him head to foot, attempting to memorize all parts of him, careful not to break his now 1.3-kilo body. I found myself looking forward to every day of breastfeeding, waiting right outside of NICU every three hours. In those precious moments of cradling this little person, I thank the Lord for life, miracles, and for everything that this baby has brought us — a stronger faith, patience, an even closely bonded family, and courage to face every day anew.
I connected with NICU moms throughout our stay. I have heard and witnessed different stories of strong babies and their stronger mommas, taking it a day at a time. Each has crosses to bear yet managing to smile. There was a mom who visited every day, relying on a barangay vehicle to bring her to the hospital; a mom, who, after two days of CS, rode a motorcycle just to visit her daughter, parents who opted to transfer their baby to a government hospital for financial reasons, or worst, a mother who lost a child. And again, I was reminded to be grateful, to celebrate each day as our wins. They said my baby was the smallest in NICU, and he was. He was also brave. As our stay extended, I would see babies come and go, hoping and praying for our turn to come home soon.
We knew that God was at work from the very first day of our journey. We were amazed by how, despite the difficult circumstance, everything was made bearable and smooth for us. We found all the baby's needs just at the right time — doctors, fresh blood for transfusion, PICC line, human milk fortifiers, even something as trivial as a musical toy to stimulate him. It was difficult sourcing everything, but help came. The baby was premature but without complications. It was all God’s mercy. My firstborn who was in her grandparents’ house while all of these were happening, saw her brother’s picture and said, “Oh, he will be alright.” And in faith we know, as we wait for our NICU graduation, he already is.
When a baby is born, the mother is born, too. This is motherhood version 2.0 for me. And while there is not much I can do about the pandemic, I can control what I can — to live mindfully, to be healthier, become financially secure, to be extra kind, to extend help, and most of all, to pray the hardest while truly surrendering to God’s plan. The goal now is to raise our kids like all these, too. One day I will tell my children about this crazy time, in that despite the pandemic, 2020 is a reason to celebrate life.
Edited by Büm Tenorio Jr.