Witnessing the miracle of birth again
Awesome experiences within my family are my cup of tea. In 2010, I spoke at the wedding reception of my daughter Claudine and Art. I called the ceremony the dramatic ending of a telenovela love story that was full of joys, tears and dangers. The audience had a good laugh and gave me a big round of applause. All of them were privy to the thrills and spills in the love affair saga of Claudine and Art.
Now hold your breath! Art was a member of the infamous military clique that mounted the media-hyped Oakwood uprising in 2003. He was an idealistic PMA graduate and a member of the special forces of the Philippine Navy. The uprising dramatized Magdalo’s objection to the corruption in the military and the bureaucracies of the Arroyo regime. The uprising resulted to a back to barracks for the Magdalos and Art spent seven years confined in a military camp.
Art became Claudine’s boyfriend months before the Magdalo uprising. I was, of course, totally ignorant that Claudine’s boyfriend was involved in a cloak and dagger scheme.
Claudine at that time was banquet sales executive at a five-star hotel in Makati. She studied Hotel Management at Endicott College in Massachusetts and Les Roches in Switzerland. As my youngest daughter, she was labeled by her friends as “Daddy’s girl,” a bit spoiled and a bit petulant. In her professional and social roles, Claudine was our family’s poster girl for over-the-counter charm and femininity. She never ran out of boyfriends (and tearful breakups).
She and Art fell in love two months before the Magdalo uprising. I worried a lot.
Hold your breath again! One night, Claudine woke me up to say she was pregnant. Before I could react, she stopped me and said, “Daddy, I don’t want you to feel sad. I love this baby, and I want to be a mother.” Claudine was so cool. I became cool.
I remember how, when I got widowed in 1984, I panicked at the thought that my two daughters Karen (aged 15) and Claudine (aged 10) will grow up without a mother. “How do I raise girls?” I asked my old priest friend. “Easy, Minyong. Just love them.”
I tested his advice mentally: “What would I do if in the future my daughter tells me she’s pregnant—and she’s single?” I answered my own question, “Easy! Just love her.” That’s the time when she needs my support and understanding. My old priest friend was right.
During Art’s years of confinement, Claudine’s love for him grew. She dutifully and regularly visited Art to bring him food and needed things. The only sob story was, she pitied herself when she was lining up and being searched together with wives and girlfriends who visited the Magdalo soldiers in their confinement.
I was amazed at Claudine’s development from a free and happy-go-lucky girl to a devoted girlfriend making sacrifices. Natuto siyang umibig ng wagas. Sa hirap at ginhawa. Wow! Claudine gave birth to her firstborn son. She became a single mom while Art was still in confinement.
Last October, Claudine gave birth to her second son. This time, her husband Art, an extremely proud father, was with her.
I see a miracle every time a new life is born into this world. Like all the previous ones, I was astonished at the first sight of my new grandson. Suddenly, there was this helpless, innocent, lovely and fragile little infant out in the daylight of our world. Slowly he wiggled, stretched his neck and let out a small cry. He took my breath away.
A newborn baby is a miracle of life, so evident in the miracle of birth. I’ve watched the phenomenon with amazement since the birth of my first daughter in 1969. I’ve had three, another girl in 1974 and a boy in 1991 (from my second marriage). All had magic.
When they were newly born, I tried to catch my children in transit. When Claudine was born, I stopped the nurse who carried her on the way for cleanup.
Fresh from the womb
I had this compulsion to make the first contact with a newborn baby fresh from the womb, still bloodied, symbolizing her mother’s pain of labor and her birthing efforts—still bathed in amniotic fluid that served as her liquid cradle in the womb—the umbilical cut still open, the cord that gave her nutrients from her mother.
Her eyes were still closed but I wanted her to see me, so I coaxed and cajoled to make happen the opening of the newly born’s eyes. Her eyes and mine must meet, stay fixed for a brief moment. And when with great effort the baby finally opened her eyes upon hearing my voice, and fixed her gaze to me, that was the magic moment.
At that precise moment, I claimed my fatherhood. I welcomed her with the assurance of my care and love forever. Her brief gaze is an acknowledgment of my fatherhood.
When birth occurs, magic moments follow. Observe the mother as soon as the newborn is brought to her, clean and cuddly. Her first reaction is awe, suffused with feminine lovingness. Then she becomes teary-eyed the moment she holds the baby in her arms.
The baby’s tenderness is angelic, the skin scent so fresh and human, and the exclusive statement of motherhood is so spiritual. What’s transpiring is another miracle in the realm of the visceral, the elated sentiments of maternal instinct.
Observe the father, frozen at first, then jubilant next at the helpless little human being he helped procreate with his beloved wife and God the miracle maker. To the father, his masculinity asserts itself. He perpetuates his progeny. He enjoys pride of authorship of life. His duties to the future of his forebears is fulfilled.
Whether it’s the triumph of a wedding ceremony or the birth of a new baby, the miracle happens in our midst. To fathom a miracle, you must have a childlike sense of wonder. Feel deeply. Be loving. And have poetry in your heart.
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