I call him my little dragon. The wish that came true.
My second son, Viktor Ludovik, was born on the 29th of August 2012, the year of the dragon. My husband was born on the same such year, so we have two dragons in the family, I proudly say.
I don’t remember when I started to want a second child, it was an idea that began with wistful thoughts of babies and how it would be nice to have another child. But it wasn’t a desire we pursued in earnest, thinking if it came then it will. A couple of years passed and still no new baby. We started to wonder about ourselves, thinking we’ve become barren or sick. Wanting a kid became a dull ache, often ignored and overlooked but always a presence between us. The longing became more pronounced with news from some friends that they were expecting. I remember distinctly hearing the news that our masseuse, Milyn, was pregnant after almost ten years of not having a kid, and being for the first time aware that I was jealous of her and her new baby. It would have been so nice to have a kid during the year of the dragon, I thought.
I started to feel sick with arthritis in December of 2011, I would wake up feeling tired to the bone with joints aching and fingers bloated. Imagine the most tiring day of your life, for me it was the morning after the Edsa Dos Rally/Uprising (when I went home so painfully tired from walking all the way from UP to Katipunan, down the length of Aurora Boulevard all the way to Cubao then walking that whole way to the Edsa Shrine in Ortigas) and then imagine replicating that pain and tiredness on a typical morning, realizing this is all wrong, to feel so tired and everywhere so painful, when you just woke up. It was on one of those bad mornings when I realized, deep in my gut, that I was sick and I could not keep ignoring the signs my body were giving me.
I was fortunate my brother, the doctor, came to visit for the holidays that December and he gave me some pills to take for a week and miraculously, the arthritis disappeared. I thought to myself that prednisone was a wonder drug. But with getting better and being busy, I soon forgot about my aches and pains and got back to work and living.
One thing kept bothering me though, my period, which was always kind of wacky since I gave birth to my first born was late. Later than it usually is. I took a pregnancy test, feeling giddy about the thought of having a baby but was disappointed by the negative result. I forgot about it again until my brother came home that April for a short visit and I told him about my period being (like four months) late and getting a negative on a couple of pregnancy tests I did. He said if I wasn’t pregnant then something was up with me and I should have myself checked by an ob-gyne and he referred me to one of the best fertility experts in the country, saying if there isn’t anything obviously wrong with me, then I should at least have myself “worked up” and earnestly try having a second baby.
It took me a month before I went to that doctor. I went there alone, without telling my mother or my husband where I went, pretending I was just off to buy my son school supplies for the start of classes that June. I don’t know why I kept it secret from them. Only that I was so scared of finding out something was wrong with me and wanting to keep that knowledge to myself – if it came to that. I was nervous as hell going to that doctor’s office. In her cramped waiting room were a couple of women, one pregnant after trying for so long and another whose been trying to have a baby for months under the tutelage of the renowned doctor. I felt like a misfit then, not really knowing what was up with me. I went into the clinic and it started as a typical interview about myself and my history. I told her my menses have been delayed for months but I’ve gotten a couple of negative results spread out over a four month period (I took the tests January and then March). She moved closer to do an exam of my belly, and with a sudden furrow of her brow, said there was indeed a lump. The doctor called out to her nurses and had them prepare the ultrasound machine in the other room. She told me carefully that she’ll be checking the lump she felt and if it was indeed a mass then she might not let me go home and have me admitted to the hospital immediately. Tears welled up in my eyes. I thought my worst fears have been confirmed. I lay down on that cold table and she started to do the scan. With my heart in my throat I waited for her to say something. There was a sudden gasp and she blurted out in Filipino, “this is no lump, it’s a baby!” I sat up and burst into tears. Oh no, I thought, what have I done! To be pregnant and not know about it. I was disbelieving for a few seconds but the doctor, her nurse and assistant seemed quite pleased, if a bit exasperated, by the discovery. They expected a mass, most probably cancer, and when it turned out to be a baby, the situation turned from grim to humorous.
We got back to her desk, her smiling and me crying. She then started berating me about the stupidity of it all. Saying, and I remember this clearly, if she were talking to some illiterate provincial lass it would be excusable but the sister of a doctor and a UP alumna…
She seemed happy over all, assuring me she will take care of me. When I kept crying she asked what was bothering me, I told her I’ve been taking maintenance medications for my migraine. Then she turned serious again. She asked about the name of the meds I was taking and then pulled out a thick book, a list-of-drugs kind of book for doctors, and checked out the meds and their properties. She then told me the meds I was taking were a pregnancy category C. Meaning there were no studies done on the effects of these drugs on pregnancy and the unborn child and it was generally recommended that one avoid these drugs in case they turn out to have a negative effect on babies. I kept crying, scared of what I might have done to my six/seven month old baby during all the time I didn’t know about being pregnant. She reassured me by saying at least it’s not a category X, where it’s definitely confirmed that one took drugs that have a detrimental effect on a pregnancy. These drugs include oral contraceptives and the derma drug retinol. With a category C, at least there is still a chance the drugs have no effect on the baby and his development.
For our peace of mind, she ordered a congenital anomaly scan. This is a more specialized ultrasound scan where a doctor checks all the parts and organs of the baby to see if everything is normal or if there are, well, congenital anomalies in the kid. I went home from that visit sad and sobered by the sudden discovery of being pregnant for months and not knowing. I called my husband and told him the truth. That I went to a doctor and found out I was six months pregnant. I was crying in the hospital’s stairwell when we talked. Pouring out my fears. I couldn’t be happy. I was too scared.
The next day we went back to the hospital for the scan. A congenital anomaly scan is a tedious, serious procedure. Through this scan, the doctor pictures and measures different parts of the baby’s body. Counting fingers and toes, checking head circumference, eyes, nose and lips, checking for a cleft palette. Then heart, lungs, kidneys, liver. It goes on and on. And all throughout the doctor not saying a word, being very quiet and careful. It was nerve wracking to say the least. There was a light moment, though, when she asked if we wanted to find out the gender of the baby. My husband quickly said yes, and delighting (more like gloating) when told it was another boy. I was more palpably disappointed, always having wanted a girl. Even with my first born, I wanted a girl. But it wasn’t meant to be and in hindsight, maybe it’s better to have not had a girl, the burden and guilt of thinking I may pass on the lupus to my daughter too much to bear.
Then it was over. She said we should wait outside while she writes up the report. To say we were tense is an understatement. There wasn’t much we could glean from that inscrutable doctor, she’d be good at poker, I thought then. And so we waited outside, in their nice and modern waiting room with the great view of Alabang and the freezer cold air conditioner. It didn’t take too long. Around thirty minutes and they called us up. This time the doctor had a smile on her face. A very good sign. She then told us the scan was normal all throughout. She explained each and every part of the body she measured and studied and said our baby was perfectly fine, albeit a bit small for his age. She said I should start eating up for the baby and congratulated us on our new boy.
With a literal sigh of relief, we could start being happy and excited about the new baby. I remember after that scan we met up with good friends and celebrated dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen in Alabang. That celebratory dinner was followed by several more dates and events with various friends who were just as happy as we were and who all wanted to find out the weird story of my “late discovery.”
I spent the rest of my pregnancy in bed rest, because I started getting cramps toward my third trimester and we wanted to be extra careful. But mostIy, I just really wanted to rest and retreat and spend time with the baby. I remember wanting to keep very still and quiet, thinking I didn’t want to push my luck further.
Around 3am on August 29, 2012 I started having cramps which I thought was diarrhea but at 8am, my doctor confirmed I was in labor and told me we should schedule the ceasarian delivery at lunch that same day. So we went home excited and happy—this is it! The big day has arrived! It was a leisurely morning, I had breakfast (knowing I couldn’t eat after surgery) and took a bath, got dressed, went down to the office to discuss some last minute work and ‘to do” lists with my assistant. Wrote out checks and issued bank withdrawal slips for that week’s salaries for the employees – typical of my everyday dealings— and then with lots of hugs and laughter, we got on to the car and went to the hospital.
Prepping in the ER was spent talking to the nurses and having pictures and our video taken. I was then wheeled to the delivery room on the second floor of the hospital with my family in tow, a final wave to my husband with his videocam and I was inside the delivery room and into the OR.
Nobody was there except a couple of nurses lazily prepping the room and me in the middle being strapped to the table. This was to be my second c-section so I knew the drill, I thought I’d be more relaxed this time since the first time was an emergency procedure with doctors and nurses frantic and me panicking but quickly knocked out by the drugs. I don’t know what happened but something about being alone in that room, quietly observing the medical looking bottles around the area then staring at the big OR lights on the ceiling and finally looking at the numbers on the vital signs machine beside me, made me start to panic and get scared.
It was those numbers on that vital signs machine that got to me I think, I remember staring at a similar machine moments before my father died, watching the numbers go down and then turn blinking red and then become zeroes. I was looking at my own vital signs wondering why the benadryl hasn’t taken effect and why I was still awake, when it suddenly dawned on me that my blood pressure was up and my heart was beating really fast. I asked the nurse why I was at a 150/90 bp and why my heart rate was so high and he said/she said I was just probably nervous. I really felt something was wrong with me, like my heart was going to burst and I suddenly wanted to see my husband, I wanted to stand up and off that steel gurney and get out of the OR and see my husband. It was an irrational thought and I knew that as soon as I voiced that desire and started to stand up, those nurses would start to panic. So I then consciously forced myself to calm down, telling myself to take deep breaths, to not panic and focus on my baby. That I was about to see my baby in a few hours and that was what mattered and not the fear and panic of that empty room.
The long minutes of deep breathing seemed like forever and every time I checked my blood pressure and heart rate, it was still the same. But I told myself the doctors will soon arrive and I will be fine. Finally the anesthesiologist arrived and I told him I was panicking and he smiled and told me to calm down. I told him to make me go to sleep because I couldn’t stay awake any longer, that I didn’t want to have him start doing the spinal block on me while I was still awake because the last time I went through that, the feeling of “loosing feeling” and not being able to move the lower half of my body terrified me. I remember thinking this must be how dying feels, to still be awake and not feel your body. I didn’t want to feel that terror on top of the panic I was already going through. And finally, thankfully, everything started to blur and I went blissfully to sleep.
I woke up maybe a couple of hours later, feeling myself being stitched up by a couple of doctors. I remember feeling my body moving jerkily with the stitches being made. I remember thinking they were being quite rough with me and feeling like some raw meat. Then I fell asleep again and woke up in the recovery room, slowly starting to feel my toes and the pain in my body. I called out to the nurses and later, before being wheeled out to my room, I was given a glimpse of my baby boy. My little dragon come true. I smiled and thought to myself, so this is the kid who kept very quiet and still in my belly. For a newborn he was quite good looking, he had his father’s nose and my eye brows. That made me very happy.
To this day, I still don’t know what happened to me in the OR — if it was a panic attack or if I really had a problem with my blood pressure then. Whatever it was, the birthing turned out well enough but I am left feeling afraid and traumatized by the experience. I don’t ever want to give birth alone in a room with strangers again. But since I was recently diagnosed with lupus, I don’t think I will ever get pregnant again.
I have to admit that I will always regret not having a little girl, a daughter was always my dream, and I always thought I would have three kids– two boys and a baby girl. But some wishes come true and some not granted but no matter, I have two beautiful boys and our family is complete.