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  • 'My Child Fighting for Her Life Made Me Realize Why I Became a Mother'

    She didn't want to be a mom at first, but she soon realized her purpose after seeing her sick child.
    by SmartParenting Staff .
  • Parenting can be a lonely job. What helps is having a community who cheers and listens without judgment. And that's what our "Real Parenting" section is for: a space where parents can share the joys, pain and the mess that is parenthood.
    PHOTO BY Unsplash

    Motherhood was not on my radar even after I got married. I had a relatively satisfying career and was comfortable with the predictable and steady inertia of my everyday life. I didn’t want to disturb that peace as I was generally content and happy. Moreover, there was no compelling reason to progress to the next level of married life and have children.

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    One or none?

    My boss is the founder of an advocacy called “One or None Foundation.” But it was really more of the “none” as he is a great believer of not having children. He lectures us on the economic perks of being child-free. He said that having one child is equivalent to spending on thirty vacation cruises. So, by not having a child, you can afford that many cruises.

    He also warned us that one child delays one’s retirement by five years. So if you had more children, the longer you are tied to working. What if you had a job from hell? Then that would be lifelong torture.

    There were also attempts to make us guilty. Having children would further contribute to the country’s intensifying population problem and that it would add to Mother Earth’s carbon footprint.

    Come to think of it, with my lifestyle — long hours at work and still more work even when at home — inserting a child into the picture did not seem plausible.

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    And then there was one

    I had the shock of my life when I learned I was pregnant. I knew it could happen, but I was not prepared at the time. The reluctant mother in me was downright scared, troubled, and lost. I was not mentally nor emotionally prepared for this imminent life-changing event.

    My pregnancy was also not helpful in transitioning me into this next episode. I was looking forward to experiencing that “pregnancy glow” they say you would have, and eating heartily like there’s no tomorrow. I had none of those.

    I was throwing up the whole nine months and needless to say, I was not glowing. I dreaded waking up in the morning because it meant the start of my vomiting episodes. In the office, I would step in and out of meetings to rush to the bathroom and puke. I was tempted to bring my laptop in the bathroom and just hold office beside the potty.

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    I hated that the nausea was bogging me down. I could feel the disappointment in my superiors as they were not used to me taking sick leaves or passing up on weekend tasks that nobody wanted to take.

    “The pregnancy was only the trailer. Motherhood had a huge sign that said ‘Now Showing’.”

    On my eighth month of pregnancy, I had a threatened premature delivery. The tiny human inside me wanted to come out too soon. I stayed in the ICU for ten days bombarded with anti-contraction meds to keep the baby inside until it reached full-term.

    Exactly on the 37th month, the full-term mark, I delivered a beautiful baby girl. I thought my suffering was over now that the tiny human was out of my body. She could not anymore wreak havoc on my hormones or other bodily functions, but I had the surprise of my life because little did I know the agony and horror of motherhood were just beginning.

    The pregnancy was only the trailer. Motherhood had a huge sign that said “Now Showing.”

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    Facing more challenges

    I think breastfeeding is Eve's curse. Whoever said that it was simple and easy like a mother's instinct has never breastfed before. He must have also been the creator of that TV commercial which showed a mother smiling down at her baby in full motherhood bliss uttering the words “breastfeeding is best for babies until 2 years.” That ad does not capture 99.9% of the breastfeeding experience where the mother is in agony from the pain of a baby chewing on her nipples.

    A more accurate picture would be a woman in a floral "daster", preferably one who has not taken a shower for a day or two, with deep, dark eye bags and disheveled hair. The baby is in her arms struggling to latch and the mother crying in pain from breastfeeding. That is probably a more relatable ad.

    And oh, the baby’s cry. God must have so perfectly designed the sound, the pitch, and the decibel of that shrill. It gets into a mother’s nerves and summons a gush of cortisol into the bloodstream that is impossible to ignore. For months, I was running on less than an hour of sleep as my baby cried inconsolably day and night. The late nights of breastfeeding trumped all of the all-nighters in college and business school where one would cram for a test, finish a paper, or work on a thesis. I expected to drop from exhaustion any time from the lack of sleep and sheer fatigue, but for some reason, my waning physical strength was enough to carry me through the days.

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    Motherhood is a lonely job

    I decided to bring my baby to the doctor because apart from the endless crying which was driving me crazy, she was not gaining the necessary weight a normally developing baby should. A series of tests were done on her and when we received the diagnosis, I felt like I was swallowed by the earth.  It was “malrotation of the intestines,” a congenital defect where part of her intestines got twisted causing her not to absorb nutrients.

    When the doctor said the baby needed surgery as soon as possible, an indescribable wave of panic, fear, and helplessness came over me. It was like I was in a nightmare that did not stop and one that haunted me incessantly even while I was awake. It was my turn to cry like my newborn baby — inconsolably and desperately pleading to God to spare my child.

    My daughter underwent two major surgeries at three months old. After that, the long arduous road to recovery rested on my shoulders as she could only take breastmilk as her source of nutrition. My nemesis, breastfeeding, was there to stay and there was no way I could escape from it. I felt everything was on me as who else could breastfeed my child?

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    At night, deep into the trenches of motherhood, nursing my daughter practically 24/7 and watching her round the clock to check if she was still breathing, I realized that being a mother was a lonely job. While my husband and yaya were physically present, they easily slept through the night leaving me alone to listen to their snores while I watched over the little one. There were times when the tears would just fall and not stop especially when I see my baby in pain.

    She was too little to deserve that suffering.  The sadness was indescribable and all too consuming.

    Months of recovery passed and we celebrated her first birthday. We made it a thanksgiving event as I thought it was the most appropriate theme. Her recovery and healing were indeed answered prayers. At that point, I thought it was going to be smooth sailing from then on. We had surpassed the worst health crisis a child could have. But a few months later, we were bowled over by another one.

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    A mother's greatest fear

    My daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a condition where the antibodies attack the platelets causing it to fall to critical levels. I could not believe I was about to go through another crisis. It seemed like a pattern of punishment hung around my life ever since I got pregnant.  When will this series of unfortunate events come to an end?

    When the doctor said that my child had to be brought to the ICU for intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) transfusion, I felt numb, scared, and drained of all energy, but at the same time, I knew the drill. The emotions were all too familiar and all I could do was to surrender and follow the doctors’ instructions. We had blood tests every week for six months. My daughter was a familiar face in the hospital as she was known as the kid who always requested for a “girl nurse” to do her blood extraction.

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    For weeks, my daughter was absent from school because of the hospitalizations and the weekly blood extractions. Every day it broke my heart when she would ask if she could already go back to school as she missed playing with her classmates. Her doctor agreed provided that she wore a helmet to protect her head from injury. Trauma in the head could cause brain hemorrhage because of her low platelet count. I bought her a colorful helmet and she felt cool whenever it drew attention from the kids.

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    I read about autoimmune diseases and learned that the steroids which were prescribed to her had horrendous side effects. I sought a second opinion from a functional medicine doctor who advocated nutrition as a means to heal the body.

    We were instructed to change my daughter’s diet. She stopped eating anything that contained gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, red meat, preservatives, and many more. It was a diet that consisted largely of vegetables and fruits. It also meant that I could not just feed her with restaurant bought food or ready-made packed food as I did not know what magical ingredients were in there that made them taste oh so yummy.

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    I was forced to cook all her meals which was a big challenge because I don't cook. But I had no choice, I had to force myself to cook for my child. Bringing baon whenever we went out was the norm. To hell with corkage. I did not care if it looked embarrassing to lay out all the plastic containers of her food and transfer them to the restaurant’s plate so my daughter could start eating.

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    Feeding challenges

    Because we could not add condiments such as soy sauce, or stuff that would make her food delicious such as butter, cheese, or cream, her food tasted bland. And because the mother was no chef, the dishes were perennially the same: broccoli sautéed in olive oil and garlic with a dash of salt; cauliflower and carrots sautéed in olive oil and garlic with a dash of salt; chicken sautéed in olive oil and garlic with a dash of salt; green papaya and malunggay sautéed in olive oil and garlic with a dash of salt. Repeat one million times.

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    It was getting extremely challenging to feed her because the food was not just repetitive, it was also not tasty. Eating is like a chore and finishing the food on the plate is painfully difficult. Our meals were, and still are, a two-hour saga.

    But to my pleasant surprise, only after a month of changing her diet, my daughter’s platelets started to become normal.  And now, a year and a half later, her platelets have been consistently normal.

    Has my jinx left me? Can I rejoice now? Will I now be able to take care of a sick-free child?

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    God's design

    The truth is, after a tumultuous start in the world of motherhood, I never imagined that being a mother would be like anything that I experienced. No one thinks about these things when shopping for maternity clothes or cute baby stuff.

    Motherhood is chaos, horror, heartbreak, and helplessness.

    But even as I dread going through another turbulent episode, I accept that this is how God designed motherhood to be. Because in our helplessness, we are forced to bow down in surrender and become smaller so that God could become bigger. And isn’t that what God wanted all along? For us to surrender to him in humility so that he could carry out His beautiful plan for us.

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    Looking back, as I was struggling through those trying times, I realized that by Divine Providence, everything that I needed to get through was made available to me. I was pointed to the best doctors for my daughter’s health conditions. My doctor friend told me that I was lucky that my daughter’s case was handled by this certain team because she said, they are really the best, you cannot ask for anything more. I am grateful that the diagnosis was swift and we did not have to go through the ordeal of a witch hunt in determining what was wrong and what needed to be done.

    When I was setting an appointment with a developmental pediatrician to have my daughter assessed for neurological issues, I was immediately given one. Developmental pediatricians are notorious for Armageddon appointment waiting times. Some take more than a year up to two years before you could see them.

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    When I had to stop working and was worrying how to make ends meet, amidst the mounting medical expenses, somehow the finances panned out and there was always enough. Lastly, while it still drives me crazy that my daughter takes two hours to finish a meal, I am thankful that after a million meals that have tasted the same, to this day, she still eats what I cook and it is what nourishes and heals her. Nobody eats my cooking except her. 

    I never thought I could give and love with so much fervor until I had a child. I have never loved anyone this much.

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    A mother's unconditional love

    So now I get it. I get why in spite of the hardships and heartaches that motherhood brings robbing you much of your dignity, dreams, and tears, people still go through great lengths to have children. Because really, motherhood gives you a glimpse of God’s love and mercy. Motherhood makes you give unconditional love which is God’s love for us. I never thought I could give and love with so much fervor until I had a child. I have never loved anyone this much.

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    And then there is your child’s love for you. A child is the most forgiving of all creatures. My four-year-old daughter?  No matter how many times I have scolded her to stop squirming while eating, to chew her food faster, or lost my patience while we practice piano, reading, and writing, she forgives me. Every single time. She forgives me left and right. She may not say the words, but I know she is sincere as one can be. We wake up the next morning, and there is no trace of grudge or bitterness from our previous fight. As if nothing happened. We are always on a clean slate just like God who is ever so merciful and forgiving.

    So to my daughter who was a giant tsunami that rocked my so-called peaceful world, you are worth all the sacrifices I have been through and will still go through because, in you, I get a glimpse of God’s love and mercy. And to me, that is enough to make everything worthwhile.  

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    That is the compelling reason I have been looking for.

    Want to get something off your chest? Or share a slice of your parenting journey with fellow moms? Send it to our Facebook Messenger or email at smartparenting2013@gmail.com with the subject "Real Parenting." Join us at the Smart Parenting Village here.

     

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