A Special Surprise
“I hope you won’t change the way you treat me as a friend and view me as a person once you hear what I am about to say,” I told my friend Jocelyn as we head back to the office after our coffee break one afternoon in June, 1989.
She turned to me and asked with eagerness, “What is it, Irene?”
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
I watched her eyes widen with excitement.
“You’re the first one to know,” I added.
She was the only one at my work place whom I trusted.
I was 24 and single. Mama came home during the Christmas holidays. We had such a good time. Mama had been in Canada since I was 15 and she would come home for a three-week visit once every two years. Mama stayed with me at the house I was renting in Pasig. My sister and her family came over several times during Mama’s vacation. That January we threw a birthday party for my niece, who turned one.
Then Mama came back to Canada. I was alone and the house was quiet again. I felt so lonely and I turned to my boyfriend for comfort.
Two months later I was experiencing these headaches and nausea. I had been throwing up every single morning. I remember one time, I was riding a jeepney and I couldn’t hold it in. I was sitting close to the entrance and I just threw up right there and then.
I didn’t understand at first what was happening to me. I would come home from work so exhausted with this throbbing headache. I would lie on the couch and cry. I couldn’t even get up to prepare supper for myself.
I went to see a doctor at a free walk-in clinic and he prescribed me Dramamine. When it didn’t work, he suggested that I see an eye doctor.
Ate Connie, my neighbour, thought that my headaches could have been brought upon me by a Nuno sa Punso (dwarfish old man under the anthill). That previous month, I went with a group of friends hiking and we had a picnic in the hills of Binangonan, Rizal. When nature called, the only other girl and I relieved ourselves in one of the bushes. We were very careful and chanted, “Tabi tabi po.” (Please excuse us.)
In the Philippines, the old folks believe that there are these invisible dwarves, locally called as Nuno. They usually live under anthills, under trees, near riverbanks or even people’s yards. One has to excuse oneself when they pass by these places just in case they were in their way. You don’t want to hurt them because they might harm you in return. But I didn’t believe in such folklores.
I guess I was just in denial. My boyfriend and I were very careful and I couldn’t believe that I could get pregnant just like that. But it had already been three months since I had my period and I knew it was time to have it confirmed. I went to have a pregnancy test. It came out positive.
LIES AND DILEMMAS
Oh boy. Was I surprised and confused. So many things came to my mind. There was no doubt that I would carry the baby. The other option didn’t even cross my mind. And I was also sure that I wanted to keep the baby. I witnessed a girl give up a baby for adoption and regretted it later. I knew then that I would never do that to my baby.
And the disgrace I have brought upon myself and my family. It’s true that a girl or woman getting pregnant out of wedlock was not that unheard of in Manila during those times, but Filipinos are mostly Catholics and premarital sex was still taboo.
At three months, my belly was starting to bulge. I was starting to show. I lived in a compound where all the residents were relatives of my boyfriend. I knew that I was already the talk of the town, in this case, the talk of the compound. You know, living alone by myself and my boyfriend coming to my place frequently.
I was always late for work and I wasn’t able to come in on Saturdays. A six-day workweek was just too much for me to handle. I needed rest. Co-workers have also noticed my paleness. They were concerned about my health. Mrs. Bautista, the owner of the pharmaceutical company that I was working for, offered to give me Vitamin B shots for free. Oh no, I wasn’t going to have any drugs injected in my body. Not with a baby inside me.
That’s when I decided to tell my supervisor the truth. Well, half of it. Actually, I told her a lie. A big one. “Remember that week I was off from work and I told you guys that I was going to Baguio with my mother? Well, I did go and also, my boyfriend and I got married in a civil ceremony that weekend. And now, I’m having a baby.”
She was so happy for me. And the girls in the accounting department were so excited when they heard the news. “Are you getting married at church?” “Are you changing your last name?” “My boyfriend and I are also planning to get a marriage license. How much did it cost?” These were just some of the questions that I was asked. And I answered them all with lies.
But I couldn’t lie to my neighbours. They knew the truth. As my belly grew bigger, I just dropped my head and lowered my eyes when I got of the house and people stared at me. Yes, I felt the shame. I should have married first before I got myself in that situation. I might have gotten pregnant in the heat of a moment but I loved the father of my unborn child. We had been together for five years but we were both not ready to get married. My mother was sponsoring me to go to Canada and I just learned that my papers were approved. There I was faced with another dilemma.
Should I go or should I stay? I was worried of leaving my boyfriend behind. Canada was so far away and we would be apart for a long time before I could sponsor him and we could be together again. What if he found somebody else, or what if I did? I knew we loved each other but I didn’t know how a long distance relationship could keep us together. And yet I also couldn’t imagine how we would financially support our baby. He was in school and unemployed. I was working but I wasn’t earning that much. I couldn’t even survive on my own income. I was still getting help from my mother.
I was anxious to leave my boyfriend behind. But my motherly instincts kicked in and I knew that it would be best not only for my child, but for all of us, if I went ahead and seek for greener pastures abroad.
It was a chilly September midnight when I first set foot in Winnipeg, Manitoba. With a heavy handbag on one shoulder, a huge long carry bag on another, and my 6 ½ month pregnant belly in front of me, I waddled my way to the airport washroom before I even tried to claim the rest of my baggage. That’s where I saw this lady, a Filipina, and I asked her if she was there to pick up a relative. It turned out that she was Mama’s neighbour and they, along with a bunch of friends, were there to pick me up.
When we got out of the washroom, I saw Mama and her friends. They were very excited to see me. They embraced me and my huge belly as if I belonged to their family. It was an overwhelming feeling. There were these strangers who had seen me for the first time and they welcomed me warmly, regardless of my condition. Quite a contrast on how my neighbours back home, who had known me for a while and yet treated me coldly when they learned that I was pregnant. And to think that the father of my unborn child was a member of their family. That night, we all went to Mama’s apartment where she prepared a small feast for my arrival.
Mama took a day off the following day and we got busy applying for my Manitoba Health Card and Social Insurance Number. She also got me a doctor’s appointment. But the days following that, I spent mostly alone at home. The days got colder and snow started to fall. I was just cooped up in the apartment. There were times when I felt so lonely and started to think if I made the right decision leaving my boyfriend behind in the Philippines. Then one day Ate Alice, Mama’s friend, came to pick me up. She said that we were going to her friend’s house and meeting up Mama there. Her friends threw a surprise baby shower for me. Mama’s friends were really sweet and very supportive.
I wanted to help Mama out. I felt embarrassed giving her this burden. But I couldn’t work even if I wanted to. For who would hire a 6 ½ month pregnant girl? I asked Mama to teach me how to crochet these tissue box holders, which she sold to her friends at $10.00 each. I was happy to help her out with even that little income.
As my due date drew closer, I just tried to enjoy the last days of my pregnancy. My belly grew bigger each day and my baby got busier inside. I could literally see the movements and I could tell that it was the baby’s heel that was poking me from the inside.
On November 19, I started to feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit long. I couldn’t stand long either. By this time, my stomach was already so low. But I wasn’t due until a couple of weeks more.
At around midnight of November 20, I was tossing and turning in bed. I was feeling what I later on learned was labour contractions. At one time, I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. There was a little bit blood when I looked in the toilet. I knew it was time. I took a quick shower before I woke up Mama to bring me to the hospital.
“Take a deep breath whenever you feel a contraction coming,” the nurse told me. “Didn’t you take pre-natal classes?” I just shook my head as she went about how I was probably relying on my mother to teach me what she learned from experience. I didn’t even know anything about any pre-natal classes. I think my doctor here in Winnipeg mentioned that but it was already too late for me to sign up. The clock ticked away that day and my contractions became closer. I was later on given an epidural. I was not given any food, nor water, just ice chips to relieve the dryness of my mouth.
After 21 hours of labour, I was only 5 cm dilated. The doctor decided to perform an emergency C-section. I was nervous but my mother was there beside me at the operating table.
At 9:00 p.m., I heard REGINALD’s first cry. The nurse wiped him clean and brought him to me. He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. He looked like his father. I knew right away that those eyes would turn out to be like his father’s deep-set eyes. I felt a tear roll down my cheek. I was overcome with emotions. I couldn’t believe that his father and I created this beautiful baby and that this baby developed and grew inside my womb.
Later on, the nurse taught me how to wash my baby and take care of him. He had this tiny body, with ten perfect little fingers and ten perfect little toes. And how I treasured caressing that familiar little heel that kept poking me when he was still inside my womb. I continued to marvel at this being. This baby whom I didn’t expect to have nine months before. An unplanned pregnancy which some may consider as a mistake, an accident. But no. Isn’t an accident something that happened that you wished didn’t? Reggie was not an accident. He was a surprise. Something that I didn’t expect but I was glad that he happened to me.
Born at 21 inches long, this little baby now towers me at 5’ 5”. He has grown to be a kind, compassionate, responsible, and talented young man.
My boyfriend, Ronald, and I got married about a year and a half after Reggie was born. He later on joined me here in Winnipeg. Reggie now has two brothers who love and adore him.
Last updated on July 6, 2008