*FAITH, *MOTHERHOOD, Down Memory Lane, Marked on the Calendar, Mi Familia y Mi Amigos

My Birth Story, etc.

December 14, 2020. It was supposed to be just another ordinary “check-up” day. I was expected to give birth any day that month but based on my previous check-ups, my cervix wasn’t cooperating. I was stuck at 1cm for the past two weeks.

When my OB-GYN (shout-out to Dra. Ceres Nazareno of Manila Doctors Hospital — if you’re pregnant or in need of an OB-GYN, I highly recommend her!!!) told me to have two tests on that day (biophysical profile score and non-stress test), it turned out that my amniotic fluid was leaking. My entire pregnancy was healthy and smooth-sailing (except maybe for the first trimester nausea and vomiting! LOL!), so learning that my amniotic fluid wasn’t enough anymore at 39 weeks was a surprise. Since I’m already at full term, my OB-GYN decided to induce my labor. At 39 weeks, there’s no point for my baby boy (we found out at 35 weeks that he’s actually a BOY!!!) to further his stay at hotel utero when it wasn’t safe anymore. I was immediately admitted, and my plans on having brunch at a coffee shop after my supposed check-up was replaced by hospital food.

My Firstborn’s Birthday: December 15, 2020

I was admitted at Monday morning and gave birth at Tuesday evening. My husband wasn’t allowed inside the labor and delivery rooms (it’s the protocol of my hospital even before the pandemic), so I stayed in the labor room all by myself for almost 31 hours surrounded by unfamiliar faces of OB-GYN residents and nurses manning their shifts. In between those hours, I experienced the most painful physical pain in my life so far — from the contractions to the repetitive internal exams (IE) of my cervix. But no tears came from my eyes; just constant begging from the residents to stop what they’re doing to me (haha). To which they replied that I needed “pain” to deliver my baby. True enough, as my cervix dilated one centimeter at a time, the pain just got more intense. I think at 5cm, I was sedated and already given an epidural —- but I couldn’t really remember the exact details because I was already groggy from all the meds being given to me.

I’m thankful that my prayers were answered, though. Not exactly the way I imagined them to be, but as always, God’s plans are better. For the past nine months, my constant prayer (with constant intercession by Mama Mary) was to have a healthy and safe pregnancy and baby, and a pain-free/painless delivery as much as possible. I had more specific prayers in between those and in fairness, most of them were answered — including having some familiar faces when I give birth (three of the pediatricians who were allowed to be with me in the delivery room were friends: two are of my sister’s [shout-out to Doc Maan – also my baby’s pedia!; and Doc Faye – a neonatologist who “caught” my baby boy right after I delivered him and helped me with my breastfeeding journey]; the other is a friend from my Catholic prayer meeting, The Feast [shout-out to Doc David!]). Add to that the fact that in both the labor and delivery rooms, a crucifix was consistently in my line of sight (when I was still in pain due to the contractions, all I did was stare at the crucifix and be reminded of Jesus’ suffering, too). After the epidural, my prayer of an almost pain-free/painless delivery was granted, and it was like I was in a trance and every thing happened in a blur. While 10cm dilated and on the way to the delivery room, my OB-GYN even commented that I’m such a calm patient because I wasn’t complaining, and it looked like I didn’t feel any pain and was at peace. Upon arriving at the delivery room, it took me around five pushes before my baby finally came out. One of the OB-GYN residents said that I had a “good push” so thanks to all the squats and deadlifts I did prior to getting pregnant because pushing involved A LOT of strong leg muscles! So yeah, when I find myself in the gym *SOON*, those are the two non-negotiable exercises I’ll do again — plus planks! 😉

Anyway, I still didn’t cry when my baby was handed to me in the delivery room. Like I said, I was so groggy I was just going with the flow of events. We did have immediate skin-to-skin contact and he was able to breastfeed already (colostrum was already present in my breasts a few weeks even before I gave birth, thank God!). It was only in the regular room, though, when tears of joy started to flow from my eyes — the moment when I held my baby boy in my arms and it finally sunk in that I’m already a mother.

You know those stories you hear about love at first sight? I always wondered what that feels like. And on that day, I finally felt it. ❤

But wait, there’s more…

Postpartum: #TeamNoSleep, Breastfeeding,
and My Baby’s First Christmas… in the Hospital

Since I delivered via normal spontaneous delivery (NSD), I was able to go home with my baby two days after giving birth. To be honest, now that I’m in the fourth trimester (postpartum stage), I can say that giving birth is the easiest in this whole parenting thing! Wahahahaha!

First, I had postpartum complications such as gestational hypertension (first time in my life to have high blood pressure (BP)! I even had to be under the care of a cardiologist), anemia (I almost had blood transfusion), and bipedal edema (my legs and feet looked like they were about to pop!!!). My OB-GYN reassured me that I was still in the so-called “puerperium” — the first six weeks after delivery — so I shouldn’t worry much. Now that I’m past that, I’m happy to say that I finally recovered from those (although my cardiologist advised me to continue monitoring my BP at least once a week).

Next, I often heard that once the baby arrives, I have to bid goodbye to my sweet dreams and at least eight hours of sleep… well, I’m telling you that that’s an understatement. Haha! From the time I was in the labor room until I got home, I literally got about only three hours of shut-eye (not counting the hours when I was sedated). Add to that my breastfeeding struggles during the first few weeks as a first-time mom…

Three days after we were discharged, we went back to the hospital because my baby suddenly had poor activity and suddenly couldn’t latch properly, which made him dehydrated. We had to go to the pediatric emergency room and I felt like Mama Mary witnessing the Sorrowful Mysteries as I watched my little baby boy being poked and pricked with needles on both his tiny hands and feet (the doctors had a hard time inserting an I.V. because of his delicate veins) and as it’s hospital protocol, have a swab test — yes, a SWAB TEST on a newborn! Ouch!!! I kept crying the whole time those things were being done to him, though I’m proud to say that my brave and strong baby boy was able to recover quickly from his cries.

Since my husband and I didn’t have valid negative swab tests at that time, we had to leave our baby in the hospital for two days. He stayed at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU while we waited for our negative swab test results (dang this pandemic, really!). Once we had the negative results, we were allowed to be with him and transferred to a regular room. As it turned out, our baby was diagnosed with sepsis and he had to undergo antibiotics — which meant staying for a whole week in the hospital.

To make the long story short, the doctors traced the time my water bag ruptured before I gave birth. It happened 12 hours before, making my baby susceptible to infection and no one’s to blame; it just really happens sometimes. We spent our baby’s first Christmas in the hospital, and the few people who knew about this were our families and selected close friends (thank you for your prayers!). 🙂

Having shared that, I can attest how brave and strong our baby boy is. So whenever he cries during vaccinations or whatnot, I always remind him that he’s been through worse (even a swab test at a very tender age!), so that somehow also made our little family of three stronger and tougher too.

Anyway, my takeaway from this is it’s really hard to be a parent especially during these trying times. It takes a village to raise a child, so I’m grateful for all the help and support me and my husband are receiving from our loved ones. Also, I’m praying for all the pregnant women and women like me in the postpartum stage during this pandemic — our children are “batch mates” and always believe that we. can. do. this!!! 😀

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.”
-John 16:21

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FIAT & FAITH: Women Who Embody the "Feminine Genius"

FIAT & FAITH: Nour’s HeartBREAKTHROUGH Story

In today’s secular world, being a “woman of faith” and making it known (all for God’s glory) is no easy feat. I’ve known this month’s featured “female genius” (she’s actually my best friend! LOL) for several years now and I’m glad to say I saw how her faith journey developed (and continues to do so), the same way she witnessed mine.

Her name’s Nour. And here’s her story on how her faith helped turn her heartbreak into a breakthrough…

When I asked her when her “conversion” happened (as in her faith journey on how she became a devout and practicing Catholic/follower of Christ), she shared, “I grew up and was raised in a Catholic family. Attending Sunday Mass was a routine. There was a time in my life when it got boring. My mom is an active servant of the Lord in our church. I was secretly admiring yet curious where she’s getting all the fire in her heart. Until I heard myself telling God, ‘I want to know you more.’ It was a whisper within me but God heard it loud and clear.

“A failed (romantic) relationship left me devastated and broken. Little did I know that the cracks in my heart is where God’s light will shine. I finally decided to attend a Catholic charismatic community named Light of Jesus (LOJ), it has a weekly prayer meeting/gathering called The Feast. There, we pray, worship, and get free spiritual talks. It’s Sunday Mass done with a fun twist! But that was just the start. I can say that my faith journey was not a walk in the park. My relationship with Christ was one roller coaster ride. Eventually, God made a way for my stubborn heart to finally say yes in attending a Jesus Encounter retreat (facilitated by LOJ, too). In that retreat, I literally encountered Jesus. I encountered His love for me. Countless times, my belief was shaken, but God’s love remained unshakeable. That’s when I finally realized that it is no longer about how much I love Him but being still and knowing that I am loved.

“…it is no longer about how much I love Him but being still and knowing that I am loved”

“His Love changed my heart in every way possible. Today, I am still a work in progress. I stumble, I fall, I am imperfect. But God has made Himself known to me. In Exodus 3:14, it says ‘I am who I am’. He did not say ‘I was’ or ‘I will be’. He is not just a God of my past or my future. But He is a God of my present and all the seasons of my life.

“So, thank God for my mom! Indeed, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. My mom and I now share the same heart for Christ.”

ON BEING CATHOLIC AND PROUD

With all the struggles she has been through, including in her faith life, Nour is proud to be Catholic (just like me! Hehe!). When asked why the Catholic faith, she answered, “I believe in the Old Testament. There is a saying that the old is gone and the new has come; but the old is never gone. Because like our past, we don’t hold on to it, we learn from it. The ‘new’ would not exist without the ‘old.’ There will never be a plant without the soil. I came to understand Jesus in the ‘new’ through understanding the ‘old’ — the ‘old’ where my Heavenly Father has revealed Himself to me: strict, a disciplinarian, but also tender and loving. The Catholic Faith is rich in so many ways. The priests, the Sacraments (especially confession), the Saints, the love for Mama Mary, the Holy Rosary, and the Mass.

“Before there were prophets and kings, priests were the first messengers of God’s Word to the world, just like when He first chose Aaron to be the first priest because Moses stuttered.

“Then there’s the conventional celebration of the Catholic Mass; it is a divine appointment. To me, it is a weekly renewal of faith and a reminder of the salvation of the world and glorification to the Father. It is heartwarming knowing that God the Father speaks through the first reading, the Holy Spirit in the second reading, and Jesus in the Gospel. Wow, right? And of course, the consecration of the Holy Eucharist. Isn’t it amazing to be invited to witness God’s miracle with the bread and wine every single week? There is power every time the priest lifts the bread and says ‘this is no longer bread’ but ‘this is the body of Christ.’ The consecration and the power of the spirit are real and mind blowing! I am reminded that we are more in need of the bread of life instead of the food that perishes. When I took time to study the Catholic faith and how things work, I have never looked at the Holy Mass the same way again.

“…I took time to study the Catholic faith”

“Lastly, the Saints — I love them! They are my heavenly barkada [group of friends]. Saints are our helpers. And for me, it is good practice to humble ourselves and admit that we need help and prayers. This includes my heart for Mama Mary and the Holy Rosary. She has been a big part of the woman I am and thriving to become.”

Her favorite Saints include St. Jude Thaddeus, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, and of course, Mama Mary — the ultimate intercessor and example of the feminine genius. Nour believes that we don’t choose our Saints, rather, they choose us. “During trials, they show up through ways I never realized possible. They speak protection and hope in my heart.”

a sneak peek into Nour‘s personal altar [note: “Bambini” figurines are available at St Pauls stores nationwide.]

Having said that, it’s also no surprise that Nour reads the Bible! After all, it was St. Jerome (a Catholic Saint!) who once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Her favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11,

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you — oracle of the Lord — plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

She mentioned that this verse has spoken to her in so many ways. Then, another verse from the same book eventually led its way to her heart, thanks to the Holy Spirit:

“When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart,”
-Jeremiah 29:13

Nour said, “It made me believe in the power to intentionally seek Him with all of me. And today, this is where I found His plan for me. No matter what season I am in, I am comfortable, contented, joyous, and living in peace. Remember, if your story is not yet good, then it is not the end. He is faithful to His promise.”

SINGLE AND BASKING IN GOD’S LOVE

As of this writing, Nour‘s making the most out of her current life season as a single woman. “I am single and I am 35. Some say it is late, some say it is a curse, some say it is better. I can either frown and sink into the world’s standards, or believe that delays are not denials but only God’s timing. I believe that all seasons are temporary, including our life here on earth. I am not in this season alone because I am in a ‘dating’ season with God —- enjoying and immersing myself in an intimate relationship with Him through studying His word, praying, journaling, reading spiritual books, committing myself to journey with my fellow women in need of God’s mercy, and practicing daily life with a heart like Jesus’. Is it easy? No. It is challenging just like any relationship. But my life has never been fulfilling and joyful as it is today. I learned to rest my personal desires on His hand, trusting and hoping in obedience to Him.

“So to all my fellow single women out there, learn to submit yourself to God because only His love will teach us to submit to our future husbands.” I say amen to that! 😉

Aside from single women, what advice can she give to fellow Catholics struggling with their faith? “The Catholic mass is a form of God’s grace but the Catholic faith doesn’t start and end there. God blessed us with free will. Pray to God that He may give you the will, way, and wisdom to read and understand the Bible. This is your ‘manual,’ your ‘handbook’ in life. Know that even the most expensive gadget has a manual for us to know how to use it. This is exactly my journey in reading God’s Word. I randomly catch myself saying ‘I should have known this earlier in my life.’ Being a woman and mastering my self-worth has been quite a journey. With mercy and grace, God led me to His Word. I have known myself better through knowing my Creator. The Bible is the most treasured gift the world has and my prayer is more people would really take the time to read it. It is God’s love for us — never forced, freely given, and always available.

“Remember that you are created in His image and likeness. You are amazing as He is! So spread the good news.”

Check out Nour‘s Youtube vlog channel HERE and continue to be inspired
(and laugh out loud at times! Haha!)

Here’s one she made for my wedding (as in we played it while guests were waiting during the reception!) 😛 ENJOOOY!


For more about the “Fiat & Faith” blog series, click HERE.

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*FAITH, FIAT & FAITH: Women Who Embody the "Feminine Genius"

FIAT & FAITH Blog Series: Women Who Embody the “Feminine Genius”

*COMING SOON*

Tupac Shakur once expressed to respect all women because we all came from one.

Well, I couldn’t agree any less! That’s just a fact of life and we can’t change it. Then there’s also the term “feminine genius” first coined by St. John Paul the Great (then Pope John Paul II). In his letter to women in 1995, he wrote:

“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”

The first time I encountered the feminine genius years ago, I have to admit that I got interested but I couldn’t understand it right then and there. I had to read articles, books, etc. to somehow comprehend it. Realizing that I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, and soon-to-be mother — different roles, but with the same purpose of loving others — made me close in truly embodying it, though I’m still a work in progress (aren’t we all?).

One writer summarized the feminine genius in four aspects: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity (physical and spiritual).

All women embody those four aforementioned aspects. But I’ve come to realize that yes, each woman is still unique so there’s no one “formula” to the feminine genius. To exemplify this, I came up with an idea. Before I rebranded this blog to what it is now, I used to feature travelers. And yes, I miss collaborating! So I decided that this time, I’ll start a new series featuring fellow women of faith who embody the feminine genius in their own way.

That’s when “Fiat and Faith” was born. Just like Mama Mary — the ultimate example of the feminine genius — it all starts with saying “yes” (fiat). So thank you to the women who already agreed and will agree to be featured in spreading God’s message to the world, especially about authentic femininity as He designed it to be. ❤

This blog series will start this month, October – the month of the Holy Rosary, so watch out for that! 🙂

To know more about the feminine genius, here are some additional reading/links from other websites:

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

“Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
-Proverbs 31:30

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