Friday, August 13, 2010

Not on Friday the 13th: A Baby I Planned and Prayed For

When my second daughter was less than two years old, I had a longing for another baby. With the difficulty of two placenta previas and two Caesarean operations still fresh in my mind, I could have sworn that the maternal urge was more hormonal than emotional.  But it was very strong.

Since John and I already had two daughters, I consulted my OB-Gyne doctor for tips on how to have a baby boy. She advised me to take my temperature before rising from bed every morning, and to try to do “it” when my temperature rose (which meant that I was ovulating).

My in-laws, who are Chinese, suggested consulting the Chinese calendar. Computing from when I was born, I could find out which months of conception would produce a boy, and which months to avoid conceiving – if I did not want to have a third daughter. Unfortunately, nobody could produce that precious calendar.

Even with the well-scheduled “encounters,” I was not conceiving. After more than year of attempting to get pregnant at the right time of the month, I gave up. It was not fun sticking a thermometer into my mouth every morning, and pulling my workaholic husband from work so we could do “it.”

After coming up “negative” every month for over twelve months, I decided to stop trying hard, and declared that if God could will me to be pregnant, then He could will me to have a son. I left the business of getting pregnant entirely to God, and of course, to John. ;)

Then, in November 1982, I became pregnant! Alleluia!! I was so excited that even before my tummy started to bulge, I started wearing maternity dresses. When people who did not know John or our two daughters, Ching Ching and Kathy (then known as Ann Kay), would ask if I were on my first pregnancy. I would very proudly and confidently say that it was my third pregnancy, but my first boy. To those who knew us, I declared with as much confidence that I was going to have my first son.

I did resist the cliché to prepare baby’s things and clothes in blue. I was not going to typecast my children. I was going to teach my girls not to fear math, computers or mountain climbing, and I imagined myself teaching my son, as well his sisters, how to cook and bake, how to paint and draw.

My baby was due to be born on August 13, but I did not want my son to be teased about being born or celebrating his birthday on Friday, the 13th (like today). Instead, I asked my doctor if it was all right if she delivered my baby on August 12. She said yes.

I also resisted my doctor’s offer for me to undergo ultrasound tests. I innocently thought that I could will my baby to be a boy simply by declaring it to be so.
Many decades ago, when I was born, there was no such thing as an “ultrasound.” Parents, relatives and friends had to wait until the moment of birth to find out the gender of the newborn – so birth was a much-anticipated event, not only to welcome the new addition to the family, but also to find out if it’s a boy or a girl.

My third Caesarean was scheduled at the Medical Center Manila (MCM). I had an unpleasant experience at the Makati Medical Center where my two daughters were born, and I decided to change hospitals and change doctors. My obstetrician was the sister-in-law of a very close friend, and we often swapped stories about daughters – she has three of her own, and no sons.

Everywhere I went, I kept proclaiming that I was going to give birth to a baby boy. That is, until the hospital orderly was wheeling me into the operating room (Caesarean births are done in the operating, not delivery, rooms). Suddenly, I was filled with anxiety and apprehension about having a son. What if he became disobedient or disorderly, or rough and uncontrollable? I had remembrances of my brothers being scolded for not coming home on time, or being spanked for their mischief, while my sister and I were always conscious of obeying our parents. What if he became a juvenile delinquent, what if he became a drug addict, what if he grew up too short or too frail and his classmates would bully him, what if…

Then at that moment of great doubt, I prayed. I whispered to God to forgive my arrogant and foolish declarations about having a son. Please let me have another daughter. Please, Lord, please.

I was still praying when they gave me a sedative. I had insisted on being awake, so I was given only regional anesthesia. As the sedative kicked in and the anesthesia that was meant to deaden my body from my feet to my chest somehow seeped into my brain, I just surrendered to God and to the doctor whom I trusted with my life. But just before I went into semi-consciousness, I hastened to remind her of my request to please remove my keloids at my previous CS scar, and oh, could she also remove some of my belly fat?  But I am digressing. ;)

Half awake and half in limbo, I heard my doctor declare, “Harvey, you have a baby girl.” I was filled with excitement and became fully awake. She showed me my beautiful baby, and I was happy and grateful (for my baby and the additional procedures). I thanked her, and I thanked God for listening to me.

We named our third and last daughter, Sacha. She was born on August 12, 1983.

Happy birthday, Sacha – today should have been your birthday.