General, Uncategorized

Lazy, Happy Mamahood

Hello, my name is Jaye, a first time mom to a little boy born in February of 2018. Let me say this upfront: this is not going to be a blog about how magical motherhood is (it is), how much it has changed me (it has), and how I am now this rock-steady pillar of fierce love and gentle grace (not sure, but trying :)).

This is a blog about learning how to be a lazy, happy mama. That is to say, achieving optimal outcomes with the LEAST amount of energy, effort and resources expended. That is to say, navigating through the crazy jungle of intensive,  FOMO (or FOMKMO – Fear Of My Kids’ Missing Out) parenting and figuring out what our kids truly need so that they can be the happy, thriving, kind human beings we want them to be. There’s nothing wrong with giving our kids what we think is best, especially if we see them enjoying it. What’s wrong is when it becomes a competition — a competition of how young our children were when they started kindermusik, or how long we managed to exclusively breastfeed, or how many hours baby can sleep straight at night. Then I’m too lazy for that kind of oneupMOMship. I say no thanks.

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I’ll also use this blog to share tips and hacks that worked for me, as well as those that didn’t. Those with littler babies will learn from my mistakes, and those with bigger babies can laugh at them and maybe see themselves in me.  I’ve had enough of toxic mommy groups filled with sanctimonious mommies with dogmatic parenting philosophies. I believe in kindness and safe spaces, in equality and community, in not not judging moms because motherhood is f&%#ng hard enough as it is.

If these are things you believe in too, come, join my village. Let’s be lazy, happy moms together.


It’s in the genes!: My review of the CircleDNA DNA test service

I saw it randomly as an advertisement on my Facebook feed and out of curiosity (and maybe boredom), I clicked to find out more. I’ve always been intrigued at the idea of using DNA material to unlock information about health and diseases, especially since I have relatives with hereditary diseases like cancer, diabetes and stroke.

While I still think there is something a tad Black Mirrorish about the idea of using DNA to organize society, (can DNA test for intelligence? If yes, should these results be used to determine access to universities and other privileges?) it cannot be denied that genetics can help us access information to benefit our lives. In my case, the information I wanted to learn most about was the health risks we might have managed to pass on to Jan Andres.

And as you’ll find below, was I glad I did!

So I bought two Premium kits for me and my son (husband didn’t want to lol), paid for it at the website, and waited for the kits to come. You can choose from around 3 options with various price points but I got the premium one because it seemed to be the most bang for the buck with 500 reports in 20 categories.

It only took a few days before I got the kits sent to me via FedEx (price is all-inclusive) and I opened the boxes immediately to to extract the DNA. It was a straightforward process of swiping the provided cotton swab in one’s inner cheek and then putting the swab in a vial with a solution. You then seal the vial and put it in the FedEx bag (also provided) with a pre-paid stamp to send back. In my case, I sent it back the same day through the fedex guy. You download an app and wait 3 weeks for the results.

The results came a bit earlier than the date on the app and I excitedly downloaded them. Will share some interesting things from our results.

For my son, apparently he’s 53% European and 47% — something that my European husband is chuffed about because, in his words, there’s more of “him” ( I carried that boy for 9 months, was bedridden for one month, and apparently that doesn’t matter?? 😫🤣).

We were also quite intrigued upon learning that his European side is predominantly Eastern European. Considering his Dad is Dutch, it must mean that their European ancestors migrated from Eastern Europe, close to Russia. According to his results and mine, I am also more East Asian than Malay — another bit of surprise.

The entire document they send you for the premium kit is quite a long PDF file with several categories, of which ancestry is only one. You get diet and lifestyle, behavior, health and disease, family planning, and drug response.

For behavior, for example, my results say I am not so agreeable. (I’m not sure I agree! Haha!)

I’m only going to post a small sample of our results to give an idea of the information that can be retrieved via DNA testing. (I will also not post any results on intelligence and aptitude, particularly of my son.)

I also found very helpful the portion on sports and fitness because they tell you what workouts are optimal. As you can see, my fatigue resistance is below average and I should go for high endurance workouts.

The disease risk was what was very important to me, and you get to that after a LOT of information — including mosquito bite risk (apparently I’m at high risk for mosquito bites. 🤷🏻‍♀️). They start you off with the common diseases. These are my common disease risks. I have 7 common disease risks out of hundreds of common diseases so I guess it’s not so bad.

Then they go to the big guys. Luckily, my son and I tested negative for cancer-mutating genes. Thirty five types of cancers were tested and we were negative for each one. But the test was quick to remind that there are non-genetic factors as well.

But here’s the biggest part — we learned something big and concerning in Jan Andres’s test results. We found out that he is a cystic fibrosis carrier. As you can imagine, it was quite distressing for us, but especially for my husband who had two relatives who passed away from cystic fibrosis.

The fact that the test was corroborated by real-world evidence (ie, the deaths in my husband’s family) spoke to its reliability, at least in the testing of disease risk. I frantically did Google research and found out that an individual only develops symptoms if BOTH parents are carriers. Since I tested negative for CF in my own results, it reassured us that my son will not develop symptoms. However, his future partner will need to be tested to ensure they don’t pass it to their kids.

So for that piece of information alone, the cost of the test was worth it.

Do I recommend the test? It depends. If you’re like me and want to be prepared for any contingency, like if you want to know if you have the cancer gene to maybe prepare financially for it in the future, then go ahead. Our DNA never changes so you can get your kids tested and it will be relevant information even two decades from now.

But I also have friends who say they aren’t emotionally prepared to be confronted with unpleasant information and prefer to live life unburdened — I totally get that too. I also know people who don’t want to know if their kids will be genetically good in Math, Languages or the performing arts because that encourages a fixed instead of growth mindset, and I kind of agree so yes, I took that information with a giant grain of salt. The reason I’m not even posting it here because I can’t risk my son seeing it 10 years from now.

Overall however, the health and disease aspect is immensely valuable for me.

For those with no kids, you can also get the test to help your lifestyle and wellness goals. I think the cheapest variant of the test gives you insights on workouts, nutrition and overall wellness and maybe that’s important too.

If you want to know more about CircleDNA and get a 30% discount on kits, you can use my referral code by clicking here. 🙂

Baby Love My Baby Love


Dear Jan Andres,

Yesterday, Facebook reminded me of your second birthday last year. We had a little party in your play school, with all your tiny friends gathered around your George Pig cake. Then on the weekend, we went to a kiddie farm in Tagaytay where you played with the animals, ran to your heart’s content and frolicked without fear or worry. It was less than a month before our world would be changed forever, but our photos showed no hint of the dark clouds looming in the distance. You ran through the wide green spaces with playful abandon, not knowing that soon we would have to lock you up in the confines of our urban home.

What a trooper you’ve been this past year, Jan Andres. Maybe it was because you were (and still are, really) too young to process any of these overwhelming changes, but I prefer to think that it’s because you just intuitively know what the people around you need, and you give it with such earnestness, innocence and love. Once last year, I can never forget, I was lying in bed and feeling sad, you lay down beside me hoping for attention. I didn’t turn to you and then after a few moments I heard you whisper, “the gentle seeds of patience”. I know, I know, that’s the title of a book you’ve been reading, but it was still startling to hear you say that — you who have only been in this world for all of thirty months and yet know how to draw from your limited well of words to make human connection.

It hasn’t been easy of course. You aren’t always easy, and I am not about to romanticize you as this docile, well-behaved toddler just because I’m your mom LOL. You have pretty clear ideas about what you want, and are not afraid to express it. You demand attention, and demand it frequently. Sometimes, it can be exhausting. I have to teach myself to be gentle and intentional with you, to learn how to set limits with you but at the same time be your safest space. Sometimes I wonder how other parents do it: tempering the desire to spoil their children with toys and gifts and endless attention to assuage the guilt of keeping them locked up, with the crucial need to ensure this pandemic doesn’t create a generation of self-entitled, sociophobic brats.

I think the answer is in trusting your kids more. Learning to trust you, learning to trust the process, learning to trust that, yes, the gentle seeds of patience will grow magnificently if we let the earth do its work. Several months ago, I was a little disappointed when you told me you weren’t ready to give up your slide. It was not a toy you played with frequently and frankly, it had gotten too small for you. You said you were ready to give it away, but at the last minute, you stopped me by going into a tantrum. Of course I respected your desire, but a very small part of me wondered if I hadn’t been modeling generosity enough. But a month later, you came to me and said “let us give the slide to the babies”. Then just a few days ago, with no prodding and no recent prior conversation, you pulled me to your cabinet of baby toys, and you said “these toys are for the babies.” That didn’t just amaze me, Jan, that taught me that I needed to trust you more. And that kindness is best sown and nurtured with gentle hands.

I do not know when this pandemic ends, and like the rest of the world, I hope it will be soon. This has been, after all, my most difficult year in all my 40 years in this world. At the same time, I say thank you for the chance to bear witness to your life in ways that would not have been possible without this global health crisis. It has been a profoundly transformative year, and the parts of it that are beautiful are because of you.

I love you, Jan Andres.



Home fitness routines: pandemic edition

A question a friend asked me at the start of the year was: what is the one thing you hope won’t end when the vaccines come. My answer came easy — zoom fitness classes! I just love how I only need to throw on my workout clothes literally 5 minutes before the class and as soon as the class ends, I can hop right back in to what I was working on in my laptop, or whatever it is on my plate for the day. No traffic, parking, Grab issues. No temptations to pass by that smoothie joint located just outside my gym (although admittedly that was nice).

Today I’m going to talk about some of the online-based fitness classes I’ve managed to try and why they’ve worked for me. If you’re like me, you’ve probably made your fitness goals for the year. Maybe this will help. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list — just a very short list of the things I’ve personally tried and liked.

For yoga, I’ve tried a few yoga classes at Urban Ashram. What I like about them is they have different classes for different skill levels. You never have to feel shy about being a beginner. They also have different yoga practices so whether you do Hatha or Ashtanga or Vinyasa, you’ll be right at home. They also have restorative or relaxing yoga, which is more meditative, and I like to do that at the end of a long day (or a long zoom webinar!) They often have promos, especially for beginners, so you can try it out first at a budget-friendly price.

For those who don’t like live classes because their schedules are erratic, I recommend the Down Dog app. Their primary thing is yoga, but they also have HIIT classes. What I like about it is you can choose the body part to focus on, the skill level, the music genre, the pace, and even the voice of the instructor. Here’s their website in case you’re interested.

My home fitness habit, however, and my online “home” for all things fitness is Plana Forma. I’ve been going to their studio since 2014 (albeit on and off) so I’m familiar with the Plana Forma barre routine. But more than that, unlike a lot of studios, they transitioned to virtual really well. Booking for the class is intuitive and done through the website, they send you a zoom link and when you enter the zoom meeting room, everything feels organized and professional. There’s an “admin” that first announces the house rules, then the teacher comes in to brief on the movements, then 50 solid minutes of hard work. It’s fun, never repetitive, and there are always modifications in case your body wants to take it easy for the day. The teachers are friendly and accommodating to newbies. Check them out here.

Do I miss the socializing at the gym? Or the quick coffee date after a yoga class at the studio? Yes, of course. But that will come in time. Meanwhile, there are lots to be happy about in just clicking a zoom link and pulsing at the barre (or makeshift barre aka dining room chair) or finding yourself in Warrior 2. Also you can snore during shavasana and no one will mind!

As a yoga company said, nama-stay at home!

My workout buddy and me

Boracay in 2021? Yes please!

After our experience with COVID-19, we have always been extremely careful about virus exposure. We limit our discretionary activities, avoid crowded places, say no to social gatherings, and of course, wear masks whenever we go out. But the months indoors in our little condo in Quezon Cityhave started to weigh down on us, we had leave days from work that we did not want to waste, and we had airline travel credits that would make our flights free (well, not free, but prepaid). In the end, however, what tilted the decision in favor of traveling was the requirement of RT-PCR tests. “Every tourist in Boracay would have had a negative swab test before flying in, going to Boracay will be safer than going to Megamall on a weekend,” my husband pointed out.

Friends have asked about the details of our trip — from the pre-trip preparations and paperwork, airline and hotel health protocols, what to expect during the trip, restaurants that are open — so I have decided to write about our Boracay 2020 experience. To guide you, yes, but also to encourage you, because, number one, the health protocols are really strict, and second and equally important, I’ve been to Boracay maybe 10 times already, and this is the most beautiful I have seen it. I hope that our Boracay 2020 experience will be helpful in planning your Boracay 2021 experience.

Beautiful Boracay


As you probably know, an RT-PCR test is required 72 hours before your flight. The 72 hours is counted from the time of extraction. Our provider of choice is the Philippine Red Cross in Mandaluyong because on both times that we got swabbed there, we got our results via email in 7 hours. You don’t even need to call them, they have a very reliable booking platform that you can access here. Cost per head is PhP3,800.00, which you can pay via credit card. Make sure you come 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Please note that parking is rather difficult in the premises, so either go via taxi/Grab, or bring a driver. Process inside Red Cross is very straightforward and the staff is kind and know what they are doing (they disinfect like, literally every minute). If your group has a senior citizen or a child, you get priority seating. Speaking of child, they are so nice and patient with children. The swabber was so good and fast that my son didn’t cry at all, and when he was done, they all said to him, “Congrats, Superman!”

When you get the results via email, now you need to send them over to the Aklan LGU. Everything you need to know is in this link. Make sure you have your flight itinerary, hotel booking information, and a photo of one valid ID per guest, which you will email together with the swab results to this email: If you are a group, you can email the documents in one go, just make sure that the file names are properly labeled. If staying in the same hotel and having one flight itinerary, you can have attach one document only, but there should be separate documents for the IDs and swab tests. My experience has been that they respond very quickly (within an hour) and they send a QR code per person via email.

It is possible to just save the QR code in your phone and show it digitally, but printing it on paper for each person is so much better, especially when travelling as a group. Why? Because you will show that QR code at least three times before you get to the island, and if in a group, one person can just have all the documents with QR codes in hand. Holding 6 sheets of paper is easier than holding 6 mobile phones. You may also want to print your swab results as this will be asked in the airline check-in counter.

And for my last pre-trip tip, if travelling through NAIA Terminal 3 airport, download the TRAZE contact tracing app on your phone at home. It is necessary in the airport, and it eats up a lot of time if you download the app and register your information in front of the counter.


NAIA Terminal 3 is comfortable and there are not enough flights yet for social distancing to be an issue. The main differences are the temperature checks, the contact tracing (via the TRAZE app), and the stricter health protocols upon check-in. In addition to ID cards, the check-in personnel will ask to see your swab test results, your QR code and your hotel booking. This makes the process longer, but one of course understands. I would say, to be sure, arrive in the airport 2.5 hours before your flight, especially if you have check-in luggage. Of course, it goes without saying that you need your face shield and your mask.

After check-in, you can proceed to your gate as normal. Some, but not all, restaurants and cafes are open. You’ll have enough to choose from, I guess, should you find yourself hungry while waiting. We travelled via Air Asia this December (flight credits!), and one issue that I have with them is that they sell food in a one-hour flight. This means that some people would be taking off their shields and masks. When I travelled via Cebu Pacific in October, the airline had a very strict face mask and face shield policy, which I found comforting. Cebu Pacific also had a one-seat-apart rule while Air Asia did not. (To be fair, we traveled via Air Asia during the holidays when there were more tourists travelling.)


Upon disembarkation, everyone queues for the check of the QR code. There are many counters, so this will not take long. There are personnel to speed up the lines and ensure social distancing. I have to say, I was really impressed with Aklan LGU for the efficiency of this process. It does eat around 15 minutes of your time, but it also makes you feel safe. After passing through the counter, you now look for your transportation provider to the resort. We had Klook credits, so I booked Boracay transfers from them. The provider is Southwest Tours. IMHO, you might be better off booking hotel transfers or exclusive transfers if you want to feel super safe.

There is another queue to check the QR Code before getting on the boat. It is still possible to do everything DIY, but it really helps to have pre-arranged transfers because they guide you on what to do and the boat tickets are bundled with the price. Even if you’ve been to Boracay before, the new procedures may be a little confusing.


After what may seem like a looooong process after the plane ride, you’re finally at your hotel. On our first night, we stayed at the Hue Hotel, and on our second to fourth nights we moved to the Henann Regency in Station 2. (Why two hotels? We decided to fly an earlier day and instead of adding one day to our paid booking at the Henann, we chose to experience another hotel.) Hue Hotel was great — very very clean rooms and everything was sparking. My only issue was that most of the small food stalls in Station X were closed (or had closed down?) and that was why I wanted to stay in Hue in the first place.

Poolside at Hue

We then moved to Henann Regency the next day. I had good memories of the Henann Regency from several years ago, and since we wanted to be close to restaurants (and were afraid that some food places would still be closed) we decided to book there. Although the beds were still comfy, the rooms do show signs of age.

Both Hue and Henann were very good with health protocols. We received sanitation kits in both hotels, with alcohol bottles and face masks. There were temperature checks as well.


BORACAY. IS. GORGEOUS. Full stop. One look at the sunset and I knew I made the decision to bring my family here.

The sand is still blindingly white, the sunset still spectacular, and the ocean the bluest I have ever seen it. Boracay has amazing restaurants, world-class hotels, great massages — but at the end of the day, it is all about the beach. And the beach is still flabbergasting.

Of course, we did get to try some of our favorite restaurants in Boracay and I am happy to report that the oldies but goodies are still around. We ate in Lemoni Cafe and Aria, and it’s nice to know that these two well-loved restaurants are still alive and kicking. Another excellent find was Cha Cha’s Beach Cafe, which was so good we ate there twice. Just look at that Poke bowl!

Poke bowl at Cha Cha’s

And finally, I should also recommend the Mandala Spa. When we went there, all services were at 60% off! It was so good that I told my husband it was the best spa experience of my life and we should plan to go there for our tenth anniversary. It may also be worth noting that the masseuses were in masks, shields and PPE the whole time.

Mandala spa

And as a final word (and gentle reminder) on going to Boracay in 2020, or Boracay in 2021, there will be a lot of a locals offering services from hair braids to boat trips to Henna tattoos to what have you. It will be repetitive and, at some point, exasperating. Please remember that these locals have gone without livelihood for months. Tourism is their only source of livelihood and that source was plugged twice: during the cleanup of 2018, and the pandemic of 2020. Patronize when you can (and PAY FULL PRICE, NO TAWAD!), and if you cannot, say no gently.

I hope this post was helpful and that your takeaway message is: Go to Boracay in 2021!

Special Occasions

To a kinder year

Well, it has been quite a year, hasn’t it? Much everything has been written about what an extraordinary year this has been. I am only sorry that I haven’t been able to write about it more on this blog. I guess I took to the busy-ness and minutiae of everyday life to give myself a reprieve from the turmoils of this year. Subconsciously, I guess I was afraid that writing would lead to (too much) self-reflection and self-reflection would be a rabbit hole that would take me to places I did not want to go.

No looking back now. Here’s wishing you all a better 2021. Read a new book. Try out a new recipe. Find a cause bigger than yourself. Reach out to a friend. Patronize a new small local business. Say no to fake news. Do one lifestyle switch that will be good to the earth. Forgive yourself. May the year not only be kinder to us, may it also make us be kinder to one another.

Pregnancy and Childbirth


Nothing, absolutely nothing, in my obnoxiously-easy and sheltered life has prepared me for that early morning of Sunday, April 26 when, covered in sweat, consumed by grief, and shaking from the rivulets of pain wounding around various parts of my body, I delivered my dead baby. Alone. Well, not alone, if you count the lone nurse tending to a ten-bed hospital ward whose face underneath the mask and goggles I never saw. Not alone, if you count the other women in the other beds — either bringing new life in, or, like me, saying goodbye to eternally-sleeping children. But more alone than I’ve ever been, or ever felt.

Like most wards around the world at this time, the delivery room ward was extremely understaffed. I told myself I wouldn’t call for help unless absolutely necessary. It had been a few hours of contractions, with the time intervals  getting shorter and shorter. I tried to summon the breathing exercises from a birthing class three years ago, but couldn’t remember anything. When the pain became unbearable, I begged the nurse for some painkillers, a request she gently declined. The resident doctor came to check on me and perform an internal exam. I was told it would not be long anymore, and she would call my OB-gynecologist. Suddenly, a searing bolt of pain came and I felt something slip out of me. “Nurse, nurse,” I screamed at 5:00am. I could not recognize my own voice.

 The nurse was at my bedside quickly and took a look under the thin hospital blanket. The changed expression on her face confirmed what I already knew. “Let me just get the doctor,” she said. It took a few minutes before the resident doctor came, and I lay there waiting with my legs spread, tasting my tears and sweat, struggling to reconcile the gelatinous mass on the sheets with the baby in my tummy I sang tender lullabies to just a few days before. “The products of conception have come out,” the resident doctor calmly said to me when she arrived at my bedside, uttering a phrase that sounded as alien as her protective gear made her look. My husband Jan was in our home, sleepless and waiting, prohibited from being by my side. I would soon realize this was only the first of multiple cruelties that COVID-19 would visit upon my family.

Only sixteen hours before, I was happily pregnant and watching Netflix with Jan while chomping on chocolate chip cookies I had baked. Lockdown in Manila, where we live with our two-year-old son, is severe and militarized. On the one hand, I was – like many people in this country – alarmed at the disproportionate impact of this lockdown on the poor; on the other hand, I was admittedly grateful for the time to rest and protect my pregnancy from a rampaging virus. We were overjoyed to learn that we had managed to conceive a child during our holiday in Venice to celebrate our 5th anniversary, and two successive ultrasounds confirmed the heartbeat. “Your baby is so cute and hyperactive”, cooed the radiologist during the last ultrasound before lockdown. We had passed the ten-week mark and the statistical risk of miscarriage was nearly-negligible. COVID-19 caused me stress, but for the most part, we were happy and eager. New life was on its way. My two-year-old would be having a sibling.

I knew something was wrong when I woke up early in the morning of April 25, Saturday, to go to the bathroom, and there was blood on the tissue paper after wiping. I had miscarried in 2016, and déjà vu swept over me. My gynecologist told me to go to the delivery room of the hospital immediately. It was my first time out of the house since March 12 and it was a hospital that had recently announced it would no longer accept COVID-19 patients because of overcapacity. I pushed the thought of miscarriage out of my head and worried about exposure to infection. When I got there, the nurse got a fetal doppler to look for the heartbeat. “I can’t find it, but let’s wait for the resident doctor.” Then resident doctor then came. “I can’t find it, but sometimes at this stage, it’s still hard to find the heartbeat.” They recommended me for an ultrasound. Finally, certainty came. “I am sorry, there is no heartbeat,” the radiologist said. I was told that they would induce labor and when my cervix was ready, the extraction would be performed. I had given birth to my first child via caesarian and my first miscarriage was a blighted ovum at five weeks, so I knew nothing about labor.

“Do you have any questions?” my doctor prodded. “Will it hurt?” I asked, choosing the dumbest, easiest question from the universe of questions in my head. “Yes, it will,” she replied softly through her mask, looking into my eyes.

First though, I needed to take a COVID-19 PCR test and a chest x-ray. Routine protocol, the nurse told me, preparing the long stick to be used to swab my nose. “I probably don’t have it,” I told her, sharing that I had never left the house since mid-March. I also had no cough, no fever, no shortness of breath. I was told that the result of the PCR test would come in a few days, but the chest x-ray took only minutes. If the chest X-ray came out clear, I can be placed in the delivery room with the general population. The X-ray did come out clear, which was how I found myself in a bed at the ward until I got discharged on Sunday afternoon. All I wanted was to go home, hug my son and lie next to my husband in our own bed.

Three days later, I got the call from the hospital informing me that my test results came in and I had, in fact, tested positive for COVID-19. I was asked if I had symptoms – none – and then was told I immediately needed to isolate in a room and have no further contact with anyone. My household was required to get tested too.

We’ve seen how COVID has changed the contours of our world and our modern life in big ways: transportation, work arrangements, health systems. But I did not know how COVID also changes how we grieve and how we comfort the broken — until I was one of the grieving and the broken. When I had my first miscarriage, I asked Jan to take me to a sushi restaurant and I marked the end of a pregnancy with raw fish and wine. When we went home that time, I curled myself in a ball and breathed out my sorrows onto his chest. My mother rushed to my side and held me while I cried like a child. My colleagues came for a visit bearing flowers. My best friends and I met up for coffee. This time, I found myself alone in a room, recovering from the emotional toll of a sudden, painful, late-term miscarriage away from my husband and son and everyone else.

I now understand when people in some form of isolation say that the hours blur into each other and each day melts into the next. I busied myself with social media in the daytime and feared the silence the night brings. I started, but could not finish books. I explored foreign films and series on Netflix, but I’ve found it to be difficult to read subtitles through one’s tears. Yoga has been recommended, but it reminds me too much of the prenatal yoga I used to do right before I miscarried. Grief is a virus; physical isolation incubates it. I wanted to grieve as I have grieved in the past: physically enveloped in love, with the cultural rituals designed to remind the grieving of the temporal nature of pain and the constancy of family and community. COVID19 said, not yet.

I tested negative almost two weeks to the day that I received my positive results. Each day after that was a step closer to the “normal” I remembered. I could fold myself into my husband’s chest again. I could hug my two-year-old again and feel his tender and sticky fingers on my face. It was a relief to putter around in the kitchen once more. I was grateful to stand outside in the balcony and get just a little bit of fresh air on my face.

But I was not pregnant anymore, and normal was back but at the same time, normal could never be back. I thought nothing could be more emotionally heart-wrenching than feeling my lifeless child slip out of me like the end of a whisper  — it turns out that watching my other child toddle up with a big smile, carrying the home fetal doppler and demanding excitedly, “I want to listen to the baby” comes very close. While I was in the hospital, Jan busied himself by hiding all the small accompaniments and accoutrements of pregnancy. But there would always be that one random thing. That bottle of prenatal vitamins hidden in the far corners of the medicine cabinet that comes up in one’s search for eye drops. That pamphlet for blood cord banking stuck in the pocket of a bag you accidentally see while looking for someone’s business card. Yesterday, while replying to some work messages on a Telegram group, a message pops in. “Hello pregnant mommies, discounts on so and so, if you do so and so.” And the grief that you thought you’ve done a fairly good job of keeping at bay comes hurtling back, like a battering ram.

When Jan and I were talking to each other in tears after the ultrasound, we both agreed that we did not want to know the sex of our baby. At eighteen weeks, the sex would be discernible already. It seemed the right decision at that moment,  we clung to any way that might be able mute the grief and loss we were feeling with so much intensity. “Please don’t tell me,” I whispered a reminder to my OB-gynecologist again, right before I was put under sedation.  I wonder now though if it would have been any different if we knew. If we would have grieved differently. And on some particularly difficult days, I wonder if we had been disloyal to the memory of our youngest child – making them less human just to make ourselves less sad. And on those days grief and guilt and regret swirl like a toxic cocktail in my head.

“It gets better,” I’ve been told the past weeks, hundreds of times. “You’re getting better”, “you’re back”, I’ve also been told, diagnosed by well-meaning people who see the side of me that functions, the side that bakes and brags, the side that writes policy briefs for work, the side that comes up with social media posts on this or that political shitstorm of the day. “COVID didn’t get you, lucky girl” they also would say.

And maybe they are right, maybe I am. Lucky. Getting better. Back. But I wake up each day still knowing that longing and memory will color my mornings, and I go to bed feeling the weight of loss on my heart, the emptiness bearing down on a belly that is no longer growing. Grief on some days, is a battering ram, you don’t need to do anything, it charges fast and furiously, and there is no escape. On other days, it is a landmine, one misstep triggers it by accident. Yet other days, it is Pied Piper, and sadness is a seductive song you follow and follow and follow, as all other paths seem to be invisible or illogical. But all days and all the time, it is a gray mass hanging over you, changing you forever.

Baby Love My Baby Love

“Not scared”

It’s only been two months, but it feels like the world I was in when I first found out I was pregnant with my second baby is completely different from the world I am in now. In January 2020 B.C. (Before COVID), my husband and I could step out and celebrate our growing family in any restaurant of our choice. My parents could come to our house and my Mom could yell at me in person not to go up and down the stairs too much. I know I can see my doctor anytime anything felt wrong, and the hospital that’s been my family’s go-to would always be there to welcome me with piano music at the lobby and the rhythmic — never chaotic — movement of patients and doctors. In January 2020 BC, I was reasonably certain of how the next few months would look: me, still going to work daily but with perhaps a more temperate schedule, some weekend excursions, regular doctor’s check-ups and ultrasounds to monitor my growing belly, perhaps a couple of baby showers, and a worry-free childbirth in one of the best hospitals in the city.

March 2020 AC (After COVID) and that image has been razed to the ground. On March 17 — incidentally the same day I turned 40 — the government put the entire Metro Manila under Enhanced Community Quarantine. Everyone save for frontliners were asked to work from home, malls and restaurants shut down, public transportation stopped running, cars were disallowed on the street for all but the most essential of movement. All to halt the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. I know that I am luckier than most: quarantine, for me, means staying at home in a relatively-comfortable flat, with the capacity to work from my laptop, and with the reasonable certainty that my family and I would not go hungry.

But this quarantine period, as well as this pervasive threat of COVID, brings its own set of difficulties for a pregnant woman. I am anxious everyday. I realize now that I have not completely gotten over the trauma of my miscarriage in 2017, and some days I wake up in cold sweat scaring myself with the thought that my baby has died inside of me. In Life BC, I knew that I could step into an ultrasound facility whenever I wanted, swipe my credit card, and I could see my baby right in front of my eyes. Bit alien and jelly-like in form, yes, but still my baby. And still moving and breathing. Now, I don’t know when my next appointment will be, when I can go to an ultrasound next, or if I can actually go to an ultrasound at all before giving birth. I bought a homemade doppler from someone selling her old one on Carousell, and freaked myself out further because I could not hear the heartbeat (my OB-gyn friend told me not to worry, the baby is still too small at 14 weeks for an untrained hand like mine to find the heartbeat quickly). I watch the news and see footage of hospitals in Italy completely overrun by COVID patients, like World War 2. I wonder how it would be like here in September and worry about where I would give birth if we escalate to Italy-levels.

A fellow mom reassured me that all will be fine and that it’s no different from 50 years ago, when you don’t really get ultrasounds and you only find out the sex of the baby when you give birth, yet everything still works out in the end. But I don’t want it to be 50 years ago — I want it to be 2020, where you can get an ultrasound right before a movie, and see the results on your mobile phone an hour after; or when a drop of blood from your finger can check your child for 35 different genetic disorders, and then some. Or rather, I want it to be 2019, where life is normal and death via respiratory droplets is not a shadow casting itself on literally every aspect of daily life.

My son, he is two. And he smells of cupcakes and promise. Like many two-year-olds, nothing fazes him. One night, however, he and his dad were tinkering with a camera app on his dad’s phone. It was a camera app that distorts your features and morphs you into a monster or a dinosaur or whatever. I guess it was a particularly scary distortion, because he suddenly cried out and hugged both of us. It was the first time I saw my brave little tarzan really scared of anything. I whispered softly, “are you scared, love?” He looked at me with big, watery eyes and then after a few seconds suddenly sat up and pursed his lips. “Not scared!” he yelled. “What did you say, love?” I asked again. “Not scared, not scared, NOT SCARED!” he repeated over and over.

And in that snippet of a moment, I got just the image I needed to tide me through my fears. It was my son — so innocent, so pure — deciding that his conviction was bigger than his fear. That he can talk down to whatever it is that makes his afraid.

And as he does, so I must do.

To a virus so virulent it can kill thousands and ground modern human movement to a halt, to a government that uses a public health emergency to silence its enemies and consolidate its powers, to a present so uncertain and a future even more so: we say, in the stillness of our hearts, or together as a community, we are “not scared, not scared, NOT SCARED.”


Work-away-from-home Mom (and happy to be)

My son goes to a baby class every Saturday. Many times I join him, but the nature of my work sometimes requires me to work on weekends. So there have been times when only my husband goes, or Leizl, Jan’s trusty Tita-yaya.

Last Saturday, I was there, after many Saturdays not being there. The teacher assistant, with a bright smile, told me: “So good to see you today, Mommy! I guess you have no work today! It must be so hard for you when you have to work on weekends.” I think she meant nothing by it, of course, but it gnawed on me nonetheless. I felt reproached, attacked, and — most of all — guilty. Because, well, I realized that it has NOT been particularly hard for me when I have to work on weekends.

In 2019 in the Philippines, or at least in the urban middle-class section of it, work-away-from-home moms (my boss gently corrected me when I described non-stay at home moms as Working Moms, because all moms are working moms 😊) are the norm. Women don’t get judged for pursuing careers. But it seems that women still get judged for loving their careers or overtly coveting professional success. It’s like, yes ok you can work, but please be pained about it, please fulfill our social expectation of you as a reluctant, agonizing, guilty career woman. (In contrast, men are told to be as driven and as ambitious as they can possibly be.)

See, I love my job. I love it with a passion. I like that I am able to help influence national policy and legislation, particularly for women and children. I know myself enough to know that I cannot be a SAHM — I don’t have the patience for it and honestly, I can only read Green Eggs and Ham a maximum of two times a day (I do not like it Sam-I-Am..) before I go crazy. And yes, I do recognize the privileges I enjoy that allow me to pursue the things I pursue, and I know that these privileges are not available to a lot of women.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s super important to be present in your child’s life. I won’t miss any of his milestones. I’m happy to take a leave from work if he falls sick. I’ll cheer wildly at all his sports games (or spelling bees or master chef competitions). But I’m also going to put on my office clothes and high heels with a pep in my step, not with a huge albatross around my heart.

There’s this famous commercial in the Philippines that asks “para kanino ka bumabangon?” (Who do you wake up for?). And it suggests that people wake up and slug it out in the rat race for their family and the people they love. I’ve always felt ambivalent about that commercial because, well, I wake up for my family, but I also wake up for myself. I wake up to a new day to make me a better person, to be part of the conversations that matter, to improve and develop the parts of me that aren’t necessarily mommy.

And, at the end of the day, doesn’t THAT make me a better mommy?


Visiting a DevPed: what to expect, how to prepare

When I told some friends that we were going to visit a Developmental Pediatrician for our son, many told me it was a needless expense. There’s nothing wrong with your kid, they all said. He doesn’t have any learning disabilities, they assured me. Yes, Jan was hitting all his milestones, but I was still concerned about what I perceived to be a speech delay and wanted to discuss with an expert how best to navigate a trilingual household with a toddler.

It was just one visit, after all, and we do monthly trips to the general pediatrician to check if all moving parts are working. Shouldn’t we make that one visit to a devped to see if our child is developmentally at par with his peers? I felt that the answer was yes, and after our visit with the devped, I am more convinced that all parents should see a devped with their babies at least once.

We didn’t know what to expect for our first visit, honestly. There also weren’t many resources online, especially for Manila-based folks. I thought this little guide might be helpful for first-timers like us:

1. Set an appointment way in advance and prepare to wait.

There aren’t a lot of devpeds in the country. For a population of 108 million, where young people are the majority, we only have around 51 devpeds as of 2018. When we called to make an appointment for a devped in a hospital convenient to us, I was told that the next availability was February 2020! Good thing we found a schedule with Dr. Melinda Francisco Best. I called in June and got a schedule for August in Pasig Doctors Medical Center. Don’t be picky with the location, as a devped isn’t like a regular Pedia where you have to go monthly.

2. Make sure your child gets lots of rest before the appointment.

There will be lots of tests so it’s not a good idea to come with a cranky child. Make sure he or she gets a long nap before the visit and is well-fed and comfortable.

3. Come early

Coming early means your kid can get used to the environment first. Also, sudden tantrums, hunger issues, diaper issues can be addressed without rushing. This is really important because the child will be given a series of tests to test his skills and he or she needs to be in the right frame of mind.

4. Come with the child’s daily carer

A lot of questions will be asked about the daily routines of the child, questions that can be a challenge for the work-out-of-home parent, no matter how involved or loving. It is important to bring the daily carer of the child — yaya, grandparent, primary caregiver parent. Not only because the doctor will ask questions about the daily routine of the child, but also because advice will be given on how to interact with the child moving forward.

5. Be encouraging but don’t pressure!

The child will be subjected to maybe half a dozen of tests. Shape-sorting, identifying parts of the body of him/herself and of another person, matching household items with uses, grouping together same colored objects — all these tests in quick succession. It can be a bit stressful (naimagine ko na sarili ko pag nag-uUPCAT anak ko lol) but don’t show stress or anxiety to your child. Encourage good work, don’t look disappointed when your child can’t do some of the tests (it’s a diagnostic, not qualifying test!) and most of all don’t pressure.

6. Answer questions honestly.

Most parents’ natural tendency is to brag about their kids, but the clinic of a devped is not the place to overstate or go on and on a child’s achievements. Save that for mommy dates or shindigs with other parents. The point is to diagnose problems, and to diagnose them early. The doctor is trained to ask questions that will ferret out development issues, and honesty is absolutely critical.

7. Disclose.

Nobody wants to be shamed for how they parent, but full disclosure is important in allowing an optimal exchange between doctor and the parents. If your child is exposed to gadgets and TV has become a substitute nanny, that information has to be shared to the doctor. If parents are working through marital issues and they think it has been affecting the child, that information should be discussed as well.

8. Have a list of prepared questions.

Maximize the consultation by having a list of prepared questions. In our case, we wanted to ask questions about our peculiar language arrangement at home, about Skyping with his Dutch relatives and about encouraging speech.

9. Ask for tips

Similar to number 8, don’t be shy to ask for tips. Our doctor gave us a number of tips on how to stimulate our child’s brain development and language skills, considering that he doesn’t get to socialize with other kids. These included enunciating words very clearly, finding opportunities for interaction with other children, reading books several times a day.

10. Make sure you get the written evaluation of your child’s development

Your doctor should give you a written evaluation or your child’s development in all areas tested. It was helpful for us to see the areas where our boy was ahead of the pack (reasoning skills of a 2-2.5 year old, lol, hello future annoying teenager) and where he needed more help. If we come back after a year (our doctor said we might want to, just to check progress) then the written report is a helpful baseline.

***Our devped is Dra. Melinda Francisco-Best. You can contact her through her secretary at 09161128267. For the list of devpeds in the Philippines, check this out.


There’s a baby on my bed

When I gave birth last year, my husband and I were VERY clear about the fact that we would not co-sleep. Nope. Uh-uh. No, sir. “Our marriage bed is ours alone”, “He needs to learn independence” — these are some things we told ourselves even when our son was a month old. For my husband, it’s the only parenting style he knows. For me, to be honest, after the long days of maternity leave and the rhythm of breastfeeding and baby caring, I welcomed and needed the, well, adult ‘energy’.

We even got ourselves a sleep coach who taught us all about routines and schedules. We knew our son wanted to snuggle in between us and could always sleep faster when burrowed deep in one parent’s armpit or splayed on one parent’s chest, but we wanted him to grow accustomed to sleeping alone in his bed. And for a while, he did. Fast forward to now:

Humble pie, right? 😂 We were as smug as a bug in a rug until we, umm, had to share the rug.

I think I know how it happened, and when. My husband — who had been running our small businesses and previously worked on his own time — got himself a job in BGC and found himself out of the house for long hours. He would come back to a sleeping baby who he had barely enough time to be with in the morning. So when Small Jan would cry for his midnight feed, Big Jan would scoop him up and put him next to us. It was his time with his son.

But sooner than soon, “baby energy” was all over our bed, along with toys, milk and random drops of pee. And of late, this baby energy also moves and kicks like crazy. And bends it like Bekema. (Haha. Yay me, good one.) This baby energy has colonized our bed completely. Husband barely gets sleep — last night, he actually moved to the sofa bed in the nursery after a particularly strong kick from our little tyrant. Me, I wake up earlier than I need to. A baby shaking you at 5am tends to lead to that outcome. And owing to all these, mornings feel stressed and harried.

This is not going to be a post with some big-ticket message at the end on how the nights are long but the days are short blah blah. This is a post about pee on the pillow, a happy meal toy poking up one’s spine, and all the other oddball 2am things about parenthood that don’t get written in hallmark cards.

And a shoutout to fellow harried parents just to say: hang in there, you’re not alone.