• Iya Villania: 'I Said Goodbye to 8 Hours of Sleep When I Had Primo'

    Iya reveals the first two months of motherhood were the hardest. Here's how she eventually got her groove back.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .

  • Iya Villania-Arellano
    Actress / TV host 
    Wife to  Drew, mom to Antonio Primo

    Like many first-time moms, Fil-Australian TV host Iya Villania was anxious about so many things when she first learned she was with a baby: "What will my pregnancy be like?" "Will I last one month breastfeeding?" "What kind of a son will I raise?" But, as she eventually realized, nothing prepares anyone for motherhood, and that one just has to go through it with positivity and an open mind.

    SP: Was your pregnancy a surprise or was it planned?
    Iya: Yes, Drew and I planned for me to give birth in 2016, but I probably conceived three months earlier than we planned.  

    SP: What were your first thoughts when you found out you were pregnant?
    Iya: At first, I thought I just wasn't getting my period because of stress. But I called my OB, and she said to take a test. My first test parang walang lumabas. Kung meron man, it was very faint, and I understood it as a negative. Parang nalungkot ako, I would have preferred na buntis na lang ako rather than it being a negative, kasi it would make better sense why wala akong period. My doctor said maybe it's just too early and to try again in another two weeks. 

    So I waited another two weeks. Hindi ako makatulog, I was just so nervous about it. When I took the test, patak-patak-patak, then lumabas na yung unang linya, and then I kind of put it behind me because I didn't want to see it yet. I washed up, brushed my teeth, and then I looked at it. Dalawa na yung linya. And it was clear! Sabi ko lang, "Oh my God!" Para akong kinilig na na-excite na kinabahan na ewan ko, [knowing] that I was pregnant and that I was going to become a mom. And even though I know that I still had nine months before actually having the baby in my arms, [my thoughts were] "Oh, my God, nanay na ako!" 

    As for Drew, he was just straight-up excited, he was so happy, he couldn’t wait for it. Actually, if it weren’t for me, he would be fine being a dad earlier, but because I really wanted to wait for two years first [before getting pregnant, he was], okay.

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    SP: When you found out that you were pregnant what kind preparation did you do? 
    Iya:  Well, a year before we planed on getting pregnant, I was already putting oil and lotion [on my tummy] because I was so scared of getting stretch marks -- yun yung ultimate fear ko. I wasn’t that consistent, but as often as I could, I would. But when I [learned] that I was pregnant, every day, morning and night yan!  

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    SP: Did you also change your diet?
    Iya: I tried to eat more of the greens, because they say that if you eat more greens malalasahan daw yun [ng baby] sa milk mo, tapos it will be easier daw to feed them veggies.  

    SP: How did you modify your exercises while you were pregnant?
    Iya:  Since I’m young and it's not a high risk pregnancy, I continued exercising. It’s something that my body has always been used to, so why change now? I guess I was also very lucky that I had a fairly easy pregnancy, so I carried on as usual, except I needed to be careful with my movements. So, even if I wanted to run 20 kilometers I wouldn’t. I really had to listen to my body; if I felt something different I’d slow down.

    I informed my trainer that I’m pregnant, so he made some adjustments with my routine. He didn’t make me do jumps anymore, [no more] pull ups -- anything that would require me to hold my breath while exerting effort. And nagpapaalam ako sa OB, and she would say, try not to do this first, kaso matigas yung ulo ko. After a while of seeing that I was fine, sabi niya, “you know what Iya, you know your level of your fitness, so ikaw din ang nakakaalam. So basta, if you feel anything, you know you should slow down.” I’m just glad that everything was okay.


    The truth is I lost a little bit of confidence after I got a lot of negative comments on my Instagram posts where I'm exercising. I was hoping that I could encourage and inspire other moms, but the negative comments were a little bit of a shock na pati ako medyo natakot, and then it started to kind of influence my thinking. But then I would look at all these other pregnant moms who are bigger than me and doing even more extreme exercises than me, so that’s when I regained my confidence. I even reached out to some of them through a direct message saying I'm from the Philippines, and they would encourage me. I found people who would support me and not bring me down.

    I exercised up to my ninth month of pregnancy, but I stopped with weights roughly a month before giving birth. But I kept on biking. And I would run as much as I could. But then, towards the end I couldn’t really run anymore because heavy na. 

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    SP: What was the most challenging thing you experienced during your pregnancy?
    Iya: Since I was still working on TV, the weight gain. But I guess, because I was active it didn’t happen so fast. But the most challenging was having to face the negativity, hearing remarks from the people na, “ah umiitim yung whatever niya”, “ah lalaki yan”. [I know] some people don’t mean for it to be an insult, but for a pregnant woman, that’s not what I wanna hear. Or “ay, tumataba”. I mean what do you expect, isn’t it normal? Kapag hindi ako nag-gain ng weight sasabihin nila masyado akong conscious; kapag nag-gain naman ako ng weight sasabihin naman mataba ako. So I was just trying to get a balance, trying to filter out the things that you need and things that you don’t need.

    Physically, I had a bit of lower back pain towards the end of the pregnancy, kaso hindi rin ako pwede magpa-massage kasi gusto ko talaga hard massage, and that’s a no-no. Trying to find the right sleep position [was also a challenge]. 

    SP: Take us back to the hours leading to when you gave birth.
    Iya: August 29 pa lang, at 6 in the morning, I was already feeling contractions, so Drew and I thought, oohh I’m gonna give birth on the 29th and I was happy kasi June 29 [ang birthday ko]. Around lunch time, the contractions were consistent but not that too close to each other, so my doctor said to go to the hospital to get checked. So I went after lunch and I was 3 cm pa lang, so I just went home first, nag-merienda na ko sa bahay, nag-dinner na ko sa bahay. 10pm na nagtitinginan lang kami ni Drew. Parang, okay, I guess it’s not happening today. So, we both tried to just sleep it off.

    Around 3 am the following day, medyo dikit na ang contractions. We went to the hospital at around 4 am, and when I was checked nasa 6cm na ako. I kind of dilated pretty slow, and I was like “are you sure 6cm pa lang, hindi pa ba 8 yan?” Sabi ko kay doc, “When do you think I’m going to give birth?”, sabi niya, “Probably before lunch time." So I was like, “I have to endure this pain?” Actually, it’ll worsen as the time progresses." How am I gonna get through this?!

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    And that was when I told Drew, “Honey, I know I said I wanted to go natural, but would you get disappointed if I get the epidural?” Natakot na ako, sabi ko, “Beb, this isn’t gonna be our last baby, and I don’t want this to be our last baby, baka ma-trauma ako.”

    It was already pretty painful. Drew says, “Honey, kilala kita” as if implying na “I know you can do this.” But in my head I thought, “You have no idea what I’m going through right now”.

    Before it was too late, I decided to get the epidural, which, I discovered later, was only half-epi "para mas maging efficient sa pag-iri," according to the doc. Kaya pala ramdam na ramdam ko pa rin! Sabi ko, “Doc, I think this is it, I think I need to poo”. Apparently that’s the sensation. Of course this is my first time to give birth so wala rin akong basehan. Tapos mawawala, and then nung medyo malapit na, sabi ng doctor, “Ok Iya, do you wanna try pushing?”. Sabi ko ok. So I tried pushing. Tingin siya tapos called my mom and Drew, then said, “Ok, prepare her”. So biglang on yung ilaw, tapos tinaas yung legs ko. Nung may parating na contraction, sabi ko “doc, doc, can I push?” sabi niya, “No Iya you can’t push it kasi hindi pa handa lahat”. Sobrang laughtrip, I still remember it so clearly. 

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    SP: How many pushes did it take?
    Iya: Probably 3 contractions, two pushes each. My mom asked the doc, “Doc tama ba yung pag-iri ni Iya?” cause she thought that I was doing it wrong, but the doctor said, “Mommy, magaling si Iya umiri”. So when the third contraction came, oh wow! When I pushed, beastmode! Beastmode! I just wanted that baby out. Actually, ayoko rin sana magka- episiotomy eh. Gusto ko sana natural, ayokong mahiwa. But at that point, Doc said, “Iya I’m gonna cut you ah” sabi ko, “Doc, do what you have to -- just get the baby out!” So yeah, I got an episiotomy, and then Antonio Primo Arellano was out. Action, grabe!

    SP: Where did Primo's name come from?
    Iya: Honestly, it was Drew’s younger brother who said, “Kuya we have to name your baby something astig, very masculine, very manly, ANTONIO PRIMO!” But really it was [also because of] Optimus Prime. But I said “Honey, we’re not gonna call our son Primo, are you kidding me?" Drew kept on calling him Primo and I kept on calling him Primo until eventually nasanay na ako. And then nag-research na ko and I discovered that in Italian, Primo means “first born”. So na-convince na rin ako. 'Antonio' is my father-in-law who passed away before Drew and I got married, whom we know would have been sobrang baliw over his grandson.

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    SP: How did you feel the first time you saw your baby?
    Iya: Yung paiyak pero hindi ako nakaiyak. My reaction was, “Oh my gosh! Hi, my love!”. It was just amazement, “Wow! This is our baby”. He latched on me, and he was able to get milk. I'm still breastfeeding Primo exclusively. 

    SP: How are you able to do that with your work?
    Iya: I bring him to work with me if I know that I will be away for long. If I know it’s just gonna be around 3 hours, I’ll express milk for him. Actually, it’s so much easier now because he only feeds ever 3-4 hours. Dati every 2 hours, so hindi talaga ako nakakaalis for long. And he takes solids now, so it’s so much easier.

    SP: How was it like breastfeeding your baby for the first time?
    I: I was fine the first week. On the second week, that’s when the nipples started to get painful and really sensitive, yung tipong when you take a shower, and dry yourself, yung mahagip lang siya (ng tuwalya), “awwww!” A lot of other breastfeeding moms have advised me that you just really have to get through the first two weeks, and then you’ll get used to it. And they were right. Although, I do remember doubting myself kung aabot man lang ba ako sa 1 month of breastfeeding? 

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    SP: Did you have any difficulty with the amount of milk?
    Iya: No naman. Yun lang, because I would direct feed, wala akong basehan of how much milk I had, so I kinda get scared if he is getting enough. But every time I go to the pedia, he would be gaining weight, so sabi ng doc ko, as long as he’s gaining, as long as he has this number of wet diapers, and he’s pooping, then you would be fine. 

    SP: How has life changed for you now that you have Primo?
    Iya: I’ll be honest and admit that my first two months was like hell. I was not used to the puyat, I felt like I couldn’t enjoy being with Primo. Because I’m so tired, gusto ko lang siyang patulugin everytime I'm with him. He was one baby na hindi niya type matulog, so hindi rin ako masyadong nakakatulog. The first 2 months were hard. It was so hard, pano ginawa ni Mommy ‘to? I don’t know how my mom did it, at wala pa siyang yaya nung time na yun”. But after the second month, I started to find my groove. Things got easier, he was starting to reciprocate, he was starting to smile back and that’s really when the magic happens. I loved him from the start, but it was like a one-way relationship kasi syempre he can’t really express himself, all he does is cry. When he started to smile back, especially now that he really reaches for me na, “Oh my gosh, sobrang sarap!”.

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    A lot of moms would say “ang hirap pero sulit”, ngayon ko nararamdaman yung sulit. Even if I have to wake up in the middle of the night to change diapers, or put him back to sleep, even if nag-goodbye na ako sa 8 hours of straight sleep ko, it’s worth it when you see how much a little human being depends on you. It feels so nice to be needed and it’s so satisfying when you can give that comfort to someone. 

    And some moms would say na 'wag mong sanayin sa karga, 'wag mong i-spoil, 'wag mo sanayin na matulog sa tabi mo, ang akin, eventually, darating yung point na aayaw na siya. So right now, if that’s what he wants, I’m gonna give it to him.

    SP: How do you divide the baby care tasks between you and Drew?
    Iya: Most of it would be me because I’m the one who’s normally home, but when Drew’s home he takes over. He’ll entertain him, keep him busy. Recently because Drew has had a little bit more time in the morning, he’d take Primo for a walk, change his diaper when I ask him to. He takes over in the morning, I told him, “Honey, at around 5:30 if he wakes up ikaw na bahala, I’m gonna go to sleep.

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    SP: How would you rate Drew as a father in a scale of 1 to 10? 
    Iya: I’ll give him a 10 because for the type of person that he is, being a dad is tough, so it's a 10 for the effort that he’s putting in.

    SP: What tips can you give to new moms or those who are yet to give birth?
    Iya: One tip would be to enter pregnancy and delivery with an open mind. We moms usually plan things to happen a certain way, but you know, on delivery day, you really don’t know what’s gonna happen. So my advice is, if it doesn’t go your way, just take it for whatever it is. What’s important is that you’re safe and healthy, and that you’ll get to enjoy the mommy-baby bonding time. Try not to let things get you down.


    Second, prepare as much as you can, research, ask other mommy friends, try to get up-to-date with products that are out there. My mom nagulat siya, “ganyan na pala yung mga sterilizer ngayon, wala nang tubig? Pindutan na lang parang microwave?” Try to stay informed, but don’t overanalyze.

    Third, stay positive, try to keep your sanity, do what you need to do, even if it means having to pass your baby [to someone] for 2 hours just to get some hours of “me time”. A happy mom equals a happy baby, 

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    Fourth, have a good support group -- that includes help at home, people that will help you keep the house organized when you’re busy being a mom na. As much as you might want to do everything on your own like I tried to, don't. My mom would say, “anak ako na”, “hindi kaya ko ‘to”. I guess I just wanted to prove my mom na “kaya ko ‘to, na kaya kong maging isang ina”. Don't be like that. If someone is offering help, take it. Trust me! Take it, appreciate it, because being a mom is tough.

    Check out the gallery below for more photos of Iya and Primo!




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    Photos by Lai de Guzman. Hair and makeup by Anne Castano. Shot on location at Galleria Regency Ortigas.

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