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  • "I think I was born to be a mom" was 29-year-old Pauleen Luna's answer when SmartParenting.com.ph asked her if having kids was something she prepared for with her husband, TV host Vic Sotto. "I adore kids, I super love kids."

    Pauleen, whose pregnancy was revealed by Vic on their noontime show, Eat Bulaga, often played nanny to the kids of her co-hosts. Now, she has a little one of her own: 6-month-old daughter Talitha Maria, a blessing she most definitely prayed for. 

    In an exclusive interview, Pauleen shared with Smart Parenting her pregnancy journey, that one critical moment during childbirth that left her shaken and speechless, and why motherhood makes it all worth it.

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    SP: How far along were you in your pregnancy when Vic announced you were expecting last year?
    Pauleen: I was a little over three months pregnant then, and ang usapan lang namin wag muna namin sabihin, but on his birthday in-announce nya. Pati ako nagulat. Hindi ko din alam. We didn't really want to announce right away because I've seen a lot of stories where unfortunately may mga nangyayaring bagay na syempre hindi naman ine-expect. I can't imagine how heartbreaking it is for a couple to experience that, tapos ang dami pang may alam. While nothing is certain until you give birth, sabi nila after the first trimester, it's almost safe to announce that you are pregnant. 


    Light blue dress with tropical prints from Mango; orange closed slingback heels from Charles & Keith

    SP: Tell us what happened after you found out you were pregnant.
    : I have been thinking about [the pregnancy] every month. Ang dami kong pregnancy tests sa banyo because I really wanted to have a baby. But that particular day, I was delayed na, and we were supposed to go to the doctor and magpapa-blood test dapat ako. Pero hindi ako makatulog, so I took a test around 2 a.m., and it was positive. So I woke Vic up and sabi nya, 'Bakit mo inunahan?' Sabi ko I couldn't sleep, so mas lalong hindi na ako nakatulog when I saw it was positive. Ang sabi lang ni Vic don't get too excited, let's wait for the blood test kasi it's more accurate. So we went to the hospital, I did a test, and then a few hours later I got a call na positive. We were so happy.

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    We actually had a gender reveal backstage of Eat Bulaga. My friend LJ Moreno made lollicakes for us — kung blue, boy and kung pink, girl. We were so excited, tapos lokohan pa namin if it was a girl, we're gonna name her Jessica Sotto [a play on GMA news anchor Jessica Soho's name]. Tapos 'pag boy daw Lebron (after NBA star LeBron James) kasi favorite ni Vic yun. So nung reveal, merong 'Team Jessica' and 'Team Lebron.'

    At first, Vic was hoping for a boy, and then we found out it was a girl. But it was Vic who reminded me that when we were three years into the relationship, he told me, if I was going to have a baby girl, [we will] name her Talitha. Even before we were married, may name na sya for a baby girl. It's from the Bible, it means "little girl" and it refers to a child na binuhay ni Jesus Christ from the dead.

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    On Pauleen: White deep V crepe blouse and floral high waist paper bag shorts from Mango. On Talitha: floral top and shorts from Gingersnaps 


    SP: What changes did you notice or feel during the first months of your pregnancy?
    I think I'm one of the few women who didn't really crave for anything. I was really sensitive lang sa amoy ng garlic, onion, and other strong odor. It really made me dizzy. But hindi rin ako dumaan sa stage na nausea or yung pagsusuka. My pregnancy really took a toll on my skin — I had breakouts. But for the most part, I actually had an easy pregnancy. Magaan. I think the environment in Eat Bulaga helped a lot because we were always laughing, super happy sa set. 

    SP: How did you prepare to be a mom?
    Pauleen: I was always surrounded by children dahil sobrang hilig ko talaga sa mga bata, so I think medyo sanay na ako sa mga kids. And I was lucky enough to be with other mothers in Eat Bulaga like ate Ruby [Rodriguez] and Pia [Guanio], who share their experiences with me. Si Pia dun sa firstborn nya, kay Scarlet, parang late na din syang nag-start ng maternity leave so nakita talaga namin yung buong pregnancy nya. Nakatulong sa akin yung marami akong natatanungan. I also have friends who are moms, so if something's bothering me, ang dami kong matatanungan.

    SP: You gave birth before your due date. What were the events leading to that?
    On November 4, a Saturday, we had dinner with all of Vic's children. That was the topic of my conversation with Danica [Sotto-Pingris] and Kristine [Hermosa-Sotto]. Paano mo malalaman kung nagle-labor ka na? How would you know kung kailangan mo nang pumunta sa hospital? Kasi when I was around five and a half months pregnant, I was already contracting. So by the time na tumuntong ako ng seven or eight months, medyo sanay na 'ko sa feeling na yun.

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    On Talitha: Pink dress with ruffle sleeves from Gingersnaps

    So that night we went home, okay pa naman. Around midnight, I felt I was contracting, but parang may dysmenorrhea-kind of pain. It wasn't painful, but it was very different. Then naka-tatlong wiwi ako na color brown. Nung nakita ko, sabi ko baka blood. So I called up my doctor, and she said I should go to the hospital na. I didn't bring the baby bag, kasi I wasn't ready. It was only the 35th week of my pregnancy. 

    On our way to the hospital, sabi ng doctor ko, i-time ko yung intervals ng contractions. I was having contractions every two minutes. When we got to the hospital, [nilagyan] ako ng monitor. I was having pre-term labor na pala nang hindi ko alam. Sabi ng doctor ko, you're contracting, but you cannot give birth now kasi yung lungs ng baby baka daw hindi pa fully developed. I was given a booster shot immediately and then another one after 24 hours, so that if I had to give birth, okay lang. But for the meantime, sabi ng doctor, we'll give you meds to control the contraction. Kung mawala na yung contraction mo, you can go home. That was around 3:00 a.m. ng Sunday, November 5. 


    Tropical baby pink dress and washed denim pants from Mango; pink peep toe slingback heels from Charles & Keith

    The problem was the meds gave me really bad palpitations. I could literally see my chest moving. It was that bad. My heart rate was at 120, sobrang bilis nung pagtibok ng puso ko [the normal heart rate is from 90 to 100]. Yun talaga yung effect nung meds para mag-stop yung contraction. Sinabi naman nila yun from the very start.  

    Around mga 9 p.m., I asked for medicine that could counter the palpitation kasi parang aatakihin na ako sa puso. Di ko na talaga kaya.

    Sabi ng doctor lalagyan na lang ulit ako ng monitor, kasi baka naman nawala na yung contractions. It was around 1:00 a.m., then I fell asleep.

    Later on, yung doktor tumakbo palabas, tapos may two female doctors na pumasok sa loob. One of them opened my legs and pushed the baby in because apparently her heart rate dropped to 70 from the normal na 150 because she was trying to come out na. Nasa 1 cm pa lang ako. My placenta matured early at 32 weeks at sakto naman, that time nag-detach yung placenta ko.

    The baby was coming out, but there was no opening kaya nasu-suffocate na sya, so the doctor had to push the baby back in (by putting her hand inside).

    For a solid eight minutes, I was speechless, I was shaking. After that, they decided to open me up, kasi they couldn't take a risk na mangyari ulit yun ng another time na wala akong monitor.

    I gave birth [via emergency Cesarean section] to Talitha Maria Luna Sotto on November 6, 2017 at 3:15 a.m. Luckily, she was 6.9 pounds, which is more than average for a full-term baby. Malaki syang bata so they didn't need them to put her in an incubator. But the day before they didn't make me eat so much in case na manganak ako, but the problem was her sugar was zero [when she was born]. A few minutes pa lang [nya naipanganak] nilagyan na sya ng I.V.


    I felt no pain the whole time. Parang nagshe-shake yung body ko, but I didn't feel anything. Funny, that Saturday Ruby brought me to this church called Sabsaban in Carmona, Cavite. She said it was miraculous, and it only opens once a month. The mass was three hours long, and it was in Latin. Meron ka lang booklet para maintindihan mo. We were there, I prayed for an easy, fast, and painless delivery. The next day, I gave birth. It was really painless, fast, and easy.

    Vic really didn't want to go inside the delivery room. Takot na takot sya talaga, sabi nya, 'Babe, mahina ako dyan.' Pero nagulat ako, pumasok lang sya. He took a video of everything.  

    When Talitha was born, I really cried. Hindi ko pa sya nakikita, narinig ko pa lang yung voice nya, umiiyak na talaga ako. Kasi I've been wanting this for so long.

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    SP: How was your recovery?
    On the second day, I was walking. They took out my pain meds, and they told me to walk. So I walked. It was kind of painful, but sabi nila para daw mas mabilis yung recovery, you have to walk right away, or at least stand. Sa una, parang di mo talaga maangat yung head mo, but okay naman. I went home on the fourth day. They actually gave me [take-home] meds for pain pero 'di ko na sya nainom. So hindi ko pinagsisisihan na tumayo ako kaagad on the second day kasi I think that really helped. 

    SP: What's it like being a mom?
    I think the perfect term is 'a beautiful mess.' The 'beautiful' part is the child, and the 'mess' is the mom. First time ko na-experience na para akong zombie, like I was floating. I had ulcer attacks kasi I was breastfeeding 24 hours a day, and I wasn't eating on time, I was neglecting the fact that I was hungry. But actually nakaka-miss yung time na yun na talagang she was so little. Every morning is a favorite memory kasi Vic, Tali and I sleep in one bed. The moment she wakes up and opens her eyes, nakangiti na yan. She's a very happy baby. 


    SP: What advice can you give new moms like you?
    Don't be too hard on yourself, this is a journey, and it's normal na sometimes you succeed, sometimes hindi. Kasi I see moms who are too hardcore, who think na I have to be the perfect mom, I have to make no mistakes— no. That's impossible. Magkakamali at magkakamali ka. And there will be a time na you will feel so tired, and it's okay, wag kang makonsensya na napapagod kang pakainin ang anak mo. Don't be guilty na ganun yung pakiramdam mo. You'll learn about the mom that you should be along the way. 

    Photos by Lai de Guzman. Styling by John Karunungan of Styledit Group. Hair and makeup by Anne Castaño.

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