By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated November 13, 2010
Diwa Elizabeth, my firstborn’s firstborn, is now five days old. I write this in the hope that one day, she will read this and know how happy we all are in welcoming her to this world. I also write this to herald a new and exciting stage in my life, lola-hood!
As a reproductive health advocate, I have been called names. I have been labelled as pro-death, a murderer, and a liar. Someone even said that my mother should be very ashamed of having me as a daughter. I do not mind these because I know what I stand for—rights, choice, and quality life. Ideals that as a mother, I strive hard to impart to my three kids, and now, as lola, would want Diwa to also learn.
I got pregnant with my firstborn when I was quite young and still in the university. Besides being emotionally and psychologically unprepared, we were also financially challenged. Thus, when we discovered that I was pregnant, we were not as happy as when my daughter announced her own pregnancy.
Mine was an easy first pregnancy, thus, I did not have regular pre-natal consultations. Contrast this with my daughter who, despite being a surgeon (and married to another), religiously went to her obstetrician-gynecologist to make sure that her pregnancy was going well.
Preparing for the new baby’s needs should be fun. In my day, I had to use flour sacks soaked and washed for days to remove brand names for diapers. Disposable diapers were unheard of then but even if available, we simply would not be able to afford these. The rest of the baby’s needs came from Divisoria, where things were cheapest.
My daughter and her husband on the other hand, made several trips to the malls. It was fun watching them decide what to get for Diwa. It was also educational for me to discover the array of things for babies (many of which I thought unnecessary) now being sold. I felt for pregnant women who would want but could not afford these. Our “diaper discussion,” while still considered costs, largely dealt with the merits of cloth vs. disposables. A far cry from how I did my shopping then.
Throughout her pregnancy, my daughter and I had several discussions and always, she expressed anxiety about giving birth and her baby’s health. If a surgeon who has prepared, who was not exactly poor, assured of the most advanced medical technology and services felt this way, I can only wonder how a poor, unprepared, unschooled, pregnant woman would feel.
My daughter and her husband also talked about financial requirements of raising a child and how they would cope. These are surgeons worrying about money for one child! I can only think of the stress and anxiety of poor parents with many children to raise and who are without the means to do so.
When my daughter said that they were on their way to the hospital, we knew it was the day. My daughter, who was born in a small public hospital, delivered Diwa in one of the best private ones. I was alone during labor (husbands were not allowed in labor rooms then) and could only cry from the pain, while son-in-law, and all of us, including my two boys, were there to support my daughter as she was having labor and when she decided to have a painless delivery.
Diwa was born shortly after my daughter was wheeled to the delivery room and was welcomed by her father who was allowed inside. I was alone when I received the message that my daughter has given birth to a bouncing, healthy baby girl. I was thankful for the moment to fully savor the sudden flooding of feelings that engulfed me. I felt tears swelling perhaps because of relief that my daughter was safe, and joy that my first granddaughter was healthy. I realized then that despite everything, I was also anxious.
A few hours later, we all saw Diwa, the new celebrity in our family. Her birth made everybody happy. My two usually quiet boys were quite excited when they saw Diwa. There is no doubt that my granddaughter is well-loved by all of us. As I carried her in my arms for the first time, I knew then that hers will be a good life. Better than mine, better than what her mom’s when she was growing up. We managed to pave the way for Diwa so that many of the problems we struggled with would no longer be there during her time. Diwa’s birth is a celebration of life and the future.
Recently, we have been hearing of disturbing news about fetuses and babies left in churches and other public places. From August 5 to November 12 of this year alone, 23 of these cases were reported. I wonder how many more did not make it to the news. While many would blame the women for doing this, I feel very strongly that such are acts of desperation. We can only guess what situation and hardships pushed these women to do this. As a mother, I can only imagine the suffering that these women are going through right now.
As the debates on the reproductive health bill rage, more and more women will have unplanned pregnancies. Many who are without my daughter’s access to RH services will die of complications. Millions of babies will be born with uncertain future.
I know however, that the reproductive health bill will soon be passed and Diwa’s generation will be free of the problems presently faced by millions of poor Filipino women. One day in the future, I will tell Diwa how her lola fought so she and her friends will enjoy their rights and have a better life.
My daughter, Mabs, and her husband Eli wish to thank doctors Pilar Lagman-Dy, Sherwin Saquing, and Lovely Dayrit-Siasoco for taking good care of Mabs and baby Diwa.