The day I was born, the day I first ate solid food, the day I learned to say “mama,” the day I learned to crawl, the day I took my first step… These are milestones of my life that I have no memory of. But I have been marking my baby’s milestones since I delivered him when I was 19. It’s fairly common for many young people in our society, but like most anyone else, I believe that my life is unique.
April 28, 2010, was when I bought my first pregnancy test (PT) kit. My partner and I looked for a pharmacy in a not-so-crowded place. He made the purchase while I waited from afar. From TV shows, I had learned that two parallel lines in a PT meant “positive.” I left the toilet without looking at it. My partner looked, and smirked. “Positive,” he said.
I was an incoming third year accountancy student at that time. My father was working overseas to fund my studies. My partner and I were batch mates. His family’s disposition was not so ideal, too. It was difficult for his parents to fund his college studies, but they strived to support him as best as they could with the hope that he would eventually be the breadwinner of his younger siblings. So, me getting pregnant? It could not happen. No.
We went to an obstetrician to verify. The result: I was two weeks and 10 days pregnant. We carried along with the ultrasound result emotions battling within us. We knew it wasn’t fear that pushed us to a certain decision. It was pity, mixed with guilt, for the people who trusted us.
We searched Davao for an abortionist—until we found a manghihilot who promised to grant our wish. But nothing happened. I was three months pregnant when I went back to my obstetrician. The baby’s vital signs were stable; there were no signs of harm upon him. I told the doctor what we had attempted to do. She promised to help us keep the baby healthy as long as we followed her instructions exactly.
I did. I faithfully took my vitamins and drank milk often. Despite this, my partner and I constantly argued. But we had no choice. We faced it, without any other person aside from the two of us knowing my condition. There was a time a teacher told me to leave the room. He strictly prohibited eating during his class, but I could not resist my craving for sampaloc candy. I tried so hard to hide it but a seed fell to the floor and rolled down the aisle.
We spent quality time with our friends—going out of town, having movie marathons every other night, singing everywhere with the choir, all in the anticipation that these times would never come again. None of our friends noticed my condition although my tummy was getting bigger. They noticed only my eating habits.
We confessed to them when I was five months pregnant. They adopted us and for another month, my partner and I were able to hide my condition from our parents. I was almost seven months on when they learned. It was especially devastating for my parents. I still remember that feeling of sorrow as I looked at my mother crying. I wanted to ask her to disregard her weariness and just never leave my side. My parents viewed my partner and me as having the strength to carry on; they never saw that we were actually shattered, that we were afraid to move forward. But we could not risk letting them know we needed their rescue. We thought that perhaps we ought to show them we could do it, so they would worry no more.
I chose to continue my studies—or at least that was what they thought. The truth was, I wanted to quit school. It’s difficult: other students in their uniforms and yourself wearing a maternity dress, with their eyes on you as you pass by. But I guess I’ll consider it an accomplishment to have surpassed it all. With very supportive friends and classmates, I actually did.
December 2010 was when I delivered my baby. There was no one else apart from my partner and me. All I can say is that there’ll never be a single moment in your life that can compare with that event. Pain will seem to have overcome you, and yet you’ve actually given birth to two new people—your baby and the mother in you.
The baby had to be isolated in hospital for more than a week after his birth because of an infection I acquired during pregnancy. A month later, the doctor detected an unusual sound in his heartbeat. After a medical examination, he was found to have a congenital heart disease requiring certain medications. But his condition was made up for by the love of the people around him. Everyone was so happy. His overwhelmed grandmas instructed me on every detail: how to keep him clean, how to prepare his milk, what his cries mean—and who will ever forget their favorite superstitions on child-rearing?
In time my partner and I had to live by ourselves. At first, everything was so exciting. I was forced to learn to cook, to wash clothes, to wake up at regular hours. But those were just the preliminaries. For months every aspect of our lives was a struggle. We wondered: What financial scheme would fund milk, diapers, groceries, and medications? Mind you, we were still students, too. Out of pity, our friends would bring us groceries.
Looking for a nanny was another big problem. Sometimes a ninang would offer to stay with the baby at home so my partner and I could go to our classes. At times we’d bring the baby to school. I’d ask my teacher to allow him inside the classroom while my partner was taking an exam. (My teacher and classmates would dote on him.) When we both had exams, we’d ask a friend to stroll with the baby around the campus and hope he won’t have a tantrum. (Once, I took an exam distracted and unfocused because I could hear my baby crying outside the room.) Sometimes, too, my class would end at 2:30 p.m. and I’d grab a taxi to get home so my partner could make it to his own class at 2:35.
We were graduating students and our schoolwork was not coping well with the situation. I’d write my papers while the baby slept. My partner would recite his lessons while doing the laundry. I really don’t know how we overcame the odds. He got good grades. I got a high rate on my final study. I guess our graduation was a rewarding moment, not just for us but also for everyone who backed us in every step we took.
We are now career people. Times are still tough, especially financially. Last November, the baby had to be confined in hospital for a severe cold that led to a mild heart attack. He needed to be scheduled for a bypass operation to prevent complications. Last March 21, my baby had open-heart surgery, and it was a success. I feel I owe his life to the company I work for, which has helped me greatly.
Twenty years of existence have taught me that in every person is an abyss where struggles just seem to fade out, and that everyone is blessed with unexpected courage. I may have been down, depressed, and helpless. Life may have seemed an endless struggle. But I will always be reminded of one reality: When you give birth to a child, you become more than a person. You become a parent, a mother. And that stays for a lifetime.
Princess Kiezel Sultan, 21, is a customer service professional at Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc. and a finance graduate of Ateneo de Davao University.