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  • My Birthing Story: Chynna Ortaleza-Cipriano

    For the very first time, Chynna tells all – the friendship that has led to marriage, the birth of their daughter, and why they have chosen to live their life away from the spotlight – in this exclusive interview.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.

  • Chynna Ortaleza-Cipriano
    Actress / director  
    Wife to Kean and mom to 6-month-old Stellar

    She started her showbiz career as one of the hosts of the documentary show 5 and Up as a pixie-haired pre-teen, then was cast in GMA’s popular youth-oriented show Click. From there, things have looked up for Chynna Ortaleza as her career continued to challenge her abilities through different roles and show formats. In recent memory, she captivated her audience by playing the role of a lesbian in the soap The Rich Man’s Daughter, a role which some fans took too seriously. 


    On New Year’s Day 2016, news broke that Chynna had tied the knot with actor and Callalily frontman Kean Cipriano, and after a few months had started a family with the birth of their daughter Stellar. 

    In our interview, she answers all the questions we throw at her while she and Kean quietly steal glances like new lovers. She takes a moment to play with Stellar, who at 6 months is a very calm and observant baby.

    Stellar's delicate features will tell you she has good lineage, but we couldn’t decide whether she looks more like her dad or her mom. She has sparse, light brown hair, thoughtful eyes, and a smile that enchants.  

    For the very first time, Chynna tells all – the friendship that has led to marriage, the birth of their daughter, and why they have chosen to live their life away from the spotlight – in this exclusive interview with SmartParenting.com.ph

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    SP: First things first, can you share with us how you and Kean got together?
    Chynna: We met each other way back, while in Boracay. It was 2007, and we were both in a relationship then, but I found him interesting – not in a romantic way, not like “he’s cute” or anything. No. He was just very interesting to talk to. 

    In 2013, I worked with him and really got to know him in-depth, and I admired him for his passion for art. He had really good views on life. He was the person I’d run to if I had questions, like, Is this a good career decision, or How do I get into film? Or, I’m frustrated about this thing or that. Du’n na nag-start yung deep conversations about life, art, and anything spiritual, which are very important for me. My father is a creative thinker so I grew up in that kind of environment, with a father who has always supported me. Now I met somebody like that. Sobrang ina-admire ko sya. 


    Kean would understand me right away, or sometimes he’d give me clarity. 

    After a while, he started really pushing me to get into something different, like directing. Sabi nya, You won’t be able to give life to your ideas if you don’t jump. One time he just called me randomly and asked, Hey you want to be my assistant director? Kean is into making music videos, but I don’t know a single thing about direction. Natakot ako in the beginning. But sabi ko, sige, jump na lang. So that’s when it started; we did production work together, nag-bond kami lalo because of that. The first time was for the song "Umay" by Rye Sarmiento (of 6cyclemind). Kean directed the music video and I was his assistant director. We worked well together. Sa mga aspeto na weak sya, like scheduling, dun naman ako stickler. So, nag-balance kami. Yung mga excess namin, nasa tamang lugar. Then we did more projects. 


    That same year, I went through a break-up. I needed to focus on myself first, on what I love. Yung 2013 to 2015 was so crucial for me because I felt like a child again – I would draw, write stories, the flow came back, just like in my childhood. I showed Kean the poems that became songs (with the help of fellow GMA actress and friend Glaiza de Castro), and he said, Sino pang makaka-interpret nyan kundi ikaw? So I got into music. Very spontaneous. That’s when I realized, I’m in the right place, with the right people. 

    Then naging best friends kami ni Kean. My prayer was, ‘whatever it is that You want to happen in my life, I’m willing to jump into it because I trust You that much. If there’s a guy for me in the future, I thought it would be nice if it would be a relationship that has roots in what I believe in. So nagulat na lang ako na Kean and I found ourselves going to Church more often, praying together.


    One time he said, “Something is pushing me to go this direction, and I’d like to commit sana. What do you think?” I said, "Ask Him, not me." So yun na. We became a couple in Church.

    SP: Was your pregnancy planned or a surprise?
    Chynna: It was planned. Actually, when we were still just friends, Kean and I would already talk about those things. He would ask me, “Do you want to have a child in the future?” I’d say, “Yeah, yeah.” Then he’d say, “Do you want to have a child with me?” And I’d say, “Yeah!” We were just open that way. It’s weird, because friends don’t talk that way normally.

    When we were a couple na, he asked me if I was ready for a child. I said I think so. So we just had fun, enjoyed our relationship -- hindi naman kami nag-try nang nag-try -- and then finally, we got pregnant. It was so funny kasi ako in denial. It just felt like PMS in the beginning. My boobs felt swollen. But then I looked at the calendar and realized, oo nga no, hindi pa ako nagkakaron. Feeling ko talaga hindi ako buntis, pero si Kean wanted to get me tested right away.


    Finally, I agreed after three weeks. I took a home pregnancy test, and all of a sudden it was a reality. Takot na takot pa naman ako na baka mahirapan akong mag-conceive because I’m already in my 30s (she is 33), plus the fact that both Kean and I were so busy, so we were super happy to know that I was pregnant. We told our parents the good news, and then we went to the doctor. 

    SP: When did you get married?
    Chynna: We got married in November. All our family and friends knew. Hindi naman namin gustong isikreto sa public, it’s just that kami ni Kean, we were enjoying our newfound chapter in our life. People say we’re madamot, and may narinig din ako na kaya namin itinatago yung baby namin kasi special yung bata. Well, special talaga yung anak ko. Ang daming speculations just because we don’t follow the mold.


    We weren’t keeping things private, we were keeping them sacred.  

    In truth -- and my friends know this -- marriage was not in my plans [when I was unattached]. My goal was to get pregnant with a foreigner. I knew I wanted a child, but a family, a husband? I did not see that coming. I told my mom about it, and she thought I was joking. But then she would suddenly get serious and ask me, “Have you really stopped to think how difficult it is to raise a child alone? Think about it long and hard.” So nag-stick naman yung sinabi ng mom ko. And now that I’m here, wow. Hindi nga pala madali, kaya kudos to all the single parents in the world. 

    So when people ask me, how did you know that Kean was the one? My answer is, you’ll know. It’s such a powerful force. Hindi mo sya mare-resist. At wala syang formula. You’ll just know that this is the person that is meant for you.


    SP: What was your pregnancy like?
    My pregnancy was light. I didn’t have morning sickness. In the first trimester, I just felt sleepy, but the rest of it went by like a breeze. However, during my sixth month, I encountered varicosity. The doctor said it’s normal for pregnant women to get it since they carry a lot of weight in the belly. I had varicose veins around my genital area, and it stung, so I had to wear support [clothing]. It’s not available locally so I had them shipped from the States. My case was still manageable, but it was weird because it looked like you’re growing an alien [inside you]. But it goes back to normal naman after you give birth. 


    SP: Did you crave for any specific food while pregnant?
    I didn’t know that I was starting my lihi. I only realized it when, one time, I got angry at my dad for eating my lanzones. Kean bought around ¼ kilo lang for me. Nung kinain ko, natuwa ako, so nagtira ako ng ilang pieces, then when I was looking for them, they were gone! My dad ate them pala. Napikon talaga ako!

    Nagsumbong ako kay Kean so he bought me a kilo of lanzones, and I was so madamot. Besides that, I remember always asking for carbonara when I was pregnant.

    SP: How did you prepare for the coming of your baby?
    I love to read, and research is part of my system, so when I found out I was going to be a mom, I did more research. I consulted with my best friend who had just given birth, and Kean had a barkada na kasabay ko din na pregnant. I downloaded apps, I read books, my mom and Kean’s mom were very helpful, or kahit sinong naging mom tinatanong ko. Na-prepare talaga ako. 


    SP: Take us to the day you gave birth.
    My goal talaga was to experience normal delivery, so two weeks before I gave birth, I would walk around every chance I get para maging madali yung birth ko. There were several times na nag-false [labor] ako. My OB-gyn, Dr. Sally Macapagal, told me, when you have contractions, you don’t have to go to the hospital right away, unless your water bag breaks. Since you live near the hospital lang naman, mag-relax ka lang muna sa house kasi sayang lang yung time that you will spend in the hospital, mag-i-incur ka pa ng cost. If it’s not yet every five minutes, don’t go to the hospital. 

    I was told to come back to the hospital on my 40th week. When I went there, closed pa yung cervix ko so my OB-gyn’s resident tried to “open” it through an internal examination (IE). Naging 1 cm. Balik na lang daw kami the following day kasi baka mag-open na. 


    That didn’t happen. I was 1 cm pa din the next day. And then nag-spotting ako. We were sent home again. 

    The night before I gave birth, may naramdaman ako na kakaibang contraction, malalim. First time yun, so sabi ni Kean i-time ko na lang. Una every 15 minutes, nakatulog pa ako. Then I’d wake up kasi magco-contract ulit, hanggang naging 10 minute intervals, seven minute intervals, until my mom who helped monitor the contractions said, "Ayan pwede na, five-minute intervals na." 

    Pagdating namin sa hospital ng 4 a.m., 1 cm pa din ako. At 5 a.m., the mucus plug came out, then they tried to open my cervix again, so nag-4 cm na and in-admit na ako [sa labor room]. Luckily, I didn’t feel any pain. We stayed in a high-risk pregnancy unit room so that my husband could be there with me. 

    My doctor, however, felt that my contractions were not strong enough, so she needed to help me out a little bit by giving me Oxytocin. In the beginning, it was fine, kaya ko. At saka kakapanood ko ng One Born Every Minute (a British documentary series on what happens in the maternity ward), alam ko na lahat.


    In my mind, eto ba yung sinasabi nila [na masakit]? Wala ito. 

    Nung tinaasan yung Oxytocin level, naramdaman ko na yung contraction every two minutes. Masakit na sya, and then finally naiyak na ako sa sakit. Hanggang sinabi ko, “I just want to rest!” – at alam ni Kean na pag nag-English na ako, either galit ako or in pain. So sabi nya, pag sobrang masakit na, hawakan ko lang yung kamay nya. He’s very supportive.

    When they did the IE again, 4 cm pa din. Sabi ko, bakit 4 cm pa din, ang sakit sakit na? And every now and then, the doctor would check on me kung gusto ko nang mag-epidural, but I refused kasi in my mind tatagal pa lalo. Finally, nag-decide na si Kean na i-epidural na ako. 

    My anesthesiologist arrived to administer the epidural, and after that, relaxed na ako. The next time na i-IE nila ako, 9.5 cm na! Binihisan na nila ako. Sabi ni Dr. Macapagal “Chynna, we’re going to deliver na ha, marunong ka bang mag-push? Mag-practice push tayo.” 


    On the other side of the story, si Kean naman nag-CR and he took out the Snickers bar from his Daddy bag. Nahihiya daw sya sa akin so kumain sya sa loob ng CR. Also, he was thinking, "Makakatulog na ako, na-epidural na si Chynna.” Tapos paglabas nya, may lumapit, sabi, “Mr. Cipriano, eto na po yung scrub suit, suutin nyo na po.” 

    Tapos hinihintay sya. Tinanong daw ni Kean kung pwede pa syang mag-CR, sabi daw, “Ay hindi na po. Manganganak na po si Ma’am.” So kinuha nya yung camera, which is his push gift to me, para makapagkuha sya ng picture. 

    Pagpasok nya, I was doing practice push, and he got ready to take pictures. Nung magpi-picture na sya, biglang, “Okay sir, magpu-push na po tayo, dito lang po tayo sir. Sabi ng doctor, Okay, 1, 2, push! Si Kean nagre-ready pa lang to take a picture then someone said, “Okay, baby out.” Hindi na nakapag-picture si Kean kasi in shock na sya. Our baby was out! It took only two pushes. Yung first push ko, my water bag broke and sumabog dun sa residente. The second one, lumabas na si Stellar. 


    Ako naman, hindi makapaniwala when I was looking at her na yun na yung laman ng tyan ko. After that, nag-Unang Yakap na, and we tried na ipa-latch sya. Ganun lang kabilis. Feeling ko ang swerte ko dahil alam ko maraming nahihirapan manganak. Ang labor ko, nasa four hours, and yung delivery, mga 20 minutes lang! 

    My daughter Stellar Cipriano was born at 8:55 a.m. on her due date in April 2016. She weighed 5 pounds. We call her Peanut because on my first sonogram, mukha talaga syang peanut.  “Stellar” is the title of a song by the band Incubus, which Kean and I both love. 


    SP: Describe your first moments as a mom.
    I felt mighty proud of myself and very thankful that the pregnancy and delivery both went smoothly. Yung first few moments nya sa mundo na kaming dalawa lang, I treasure them kasi pagkatapos nun, andyan na yung dad nya, andyan na yung grandparents, so yung times na kasama nya ako, that was precious. Very symbolic.

    Iba talaga ang bond ng mother and child. All of a sudden, I felt really strong as a woman. 

    Kean told me that after seeing me give birth, na-realize nya na iba yung strength ng babae. He was telling his friends, mapapaisip ka talaga bakit nagkakaroon pa ng infidelity if you see what your partner goes through to carry your child. Ang hirap talikuran non. He said he was very thankful that the world allowed him to witness it. 

    SP: Did you gain a lot of weight during pregnancy? 
    Well, my doctor told me that a 30-pound weight gain is still normal, but she said to monitor it because anything beyond that goes to me, my body – made-deposit na sya sa katawan ko. We really monitored it so I was able to keep my weight gain to only 26 pounds. After I gave birth, I was back to 110 pounds.


    Since I had to stop breastfeeding because I got sick, my struggle was getting milk for my baby. It took three doctors to convince me to stop breastfeeding. Because I was sick, they said I might pass on the virus to Stellar. My options were to get supplement breast milk from a trusted donor, or buy from the hospital. Buti na lang, I talked to Chariz Solomon (a fellow GMA actress), and told her my supply wasn’t enough. She said just keep Stellar latched, and she was going to donate breast milk (Chariz gave birth to her second child in December 2015). When I really couldn’t breastfeed anymore, she donated a lot of breast milk for Stellar, considering she was also still breastfeeding her two sons.

    Stellar is now on organic formula milk. I got a lot of flak, and some moms even laughed at me because of that. I would have appreciated it if, instead of criticizing, they reached out to me and asked if I needed breast milk. I don’t think we should criticize people just because they’re not as lucky as us. 


    Sabi ng mama ko, don’t be too idealistic. You have to follow the cues of your child more than the opinion of everyone else.

    You have to take a look at your child and see if she’s happy. That’s how you know you’re doing the right thing as a mom. After a few weeks, I saw the difference. Sumigla na ulit. Before that, she was crying non-stop because she was hungry and had colic, which we had to live with for three months. 

    SP: What tips could you give your fellow new moms or expectant parents?
    For pregnant moms, start preparing as soon as you can. May nagsasabi kasi na hindi dapat mag-prepare nang maaga kasi baka maudlot yung pregnancy. Ako, I started preparing for Stellar’s arrival as early as 13 weeks. I was always looking for good deals online, I was always on the lookout for sales and baby fairs. Every month, meron akong goal na bilhin, like a crib this month; next month iba naman. After nine months, kumpleto na lahat, we were prepared na. Kung bibilhin mo yun nang isang bagsakan just a month before manganak, ang dami nun! At pag nagmamadali ka, hindi ka na makakahanap ng good deals.


    I asked for hand-me-downs. I told my relatives and friends, Hey, I’m pregnant. If you have any hand-me-downs, they’re welcome. And this was even before I knew my baby’s gender. I understand that some of them are also raising their own kids, so [if they want to give me something] no need to shell out money. Just anything that their kids don’t use anymore will do. 

    We also prepared well for the birth itself. We got a very good OB-gyn, and we were also very honest with her. You have to be upfront, kasi walang price ang honesty. Sometimes kasi pregnant women are nahihiya. Be honest with your doctor na you can only afford this much, and find out the options. In our case, nag-quote sila, then naglagay kami ng buffer because you can’t really tell [what will happen].

    Pagdating ng 37th week, hinihintay na lang talaga namin ni Kean na dumating yung baby, walang pressure na, naku saan manggagaling yung pera? Kaya ka nga binigyan ng nine months, so you could prepare. 


    I discovered in this journey na frugal pala talaga ako. If there’s something I want to help moms with -- especially new moms --, it’s how to be frugal. I don’t know if I want to write a book or blog about kung pano ko na-build lahat yun on a budget. Ang dream ko is to build a community or shop that will cater to moms who don’t have a lot of budget. 

    SP: What are you most thankful for?
    Ang pinasasalamatan ko ay yung faith naming mag-asawa; na malakas yung support system namin – our parents, our siblings, and friends whom we consider as family already. Even my management was telling me to slow down, to enjoy every step of my pregnancy. I'm thankful for the kindhearted people; we have good souls around us.

    SP: When will you share a photo of Stellar with the public?
    We can't say. Maybe she'll do it on her own! 


    Photos by Lai de Guzman. Makeup by Dino Lazaro. Hair by Dave Grona. Styling by JP Dizon. Shot on location at the Avida Towers Centera Project Pavilion (Reliance Street corner Mayflower Street, Mandaluyong). For more information, visit www.avidaland.com.

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