Substitute Human

The cat had lost her appetite, yet she did not have a physical ailment.

Her heart was broken.

Her owner, my husband had not been cuddling with her as much. She used to sleep on his side of the bed, acting like his little spoon. But due to his recent shoulder injury, he had not been sleeping on that shoulder. He had been sleeping facing away from her.

I know that the cat’s heart is broken. Not only did she stop waiting for him in the foyer to come home from work. She also just came to my side of the bed… to me, her less preferred person, at this odd hour to cuddle with me and ask for petting. She was so lonely, she gave her paw to me twice, and I stroked it, hoping that for now, I am enough.

Heart on my sleeve

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I love how you kiss me before you leave for work, how you text me every weekday just to say hello, how you do the laundry conscientiously (thanks bjj), how you cook the best dinners and weekend breakfasts, how you take me on Community Day dates, how we rotfl while catching up on our shows, how you play with Niko and look after him while I’m busy or tired, how you gobble up the food I make even if it’s meh or of questionable quality, how as an IT professional and all-around techie, you put up with my Luddite qualities, how you understand and appreciate me. I want you to know, that even if you don’t say it often, I feel it. I love you, too.

Happy Valentine’s, Papa Bear!

Second Birthday Blues

Hi Niko,

It’s your birthday.

You turn two today.

Time goes by so fast. I’m happy you’re growing into a smart, handsome, kind (sometimes crazy) boy. But at the same time, I feel bad that so much of your life is passing by without me at your side.

I often wonder how other moms do it. How do they go about with barely any sleep, cook all the meals for the family, keep the house clean, do the laundry, do budgeting, spend 50-60 hours working and still care for a young child?

Truth is, without your father and Tita (and/or Grandma) – I really don’t believe I can manage. I either go nuts trying to get work done or I feel extreme separation anxiety when I am unable to spend more time with you. So yes, the house is constantly a mess and the next meal is always a mystery. For someone who plans ahead and manages a lot of projects at work – I just plain suck at managing a home.

Often, I come from work tired out of mind – that I am not even able to give our family quality time.

But know that if I had a choice, if we can afford it (this state, and country in general is insanely expensive), I will leave the corporate world in a heartbeat to care for you full-time. I am not sure if I will be any better at keeping up with chores but I know I’ll be the best damn mom that I can be, not half-assing like I am right now.

Know that I keep working not only because I want you to have a better life, the best life. I also keep working because I want to excel at something (in addition to being your mom). So that when you grow older, you’ll know that at some point, in some other way, your mother rocked. Then, maybe, I could hope to inspire you like you continue to inspire me.

I love you, Son.

Hope you have a happy birthday!

Love,

Mama Bear

Your Anxious Mother

Dear Niko,

People tell you many things before you become a parent. But there are things people forget to tell you or intentionally don’t tell you, perhaps, because some topics are deemed too grim. So here is one of the most commonly skipped topics.
Long before you decide to be a father, I want you to know that until you become a parent: you have never known fear, not like this.

I have always been anxious regarding a lot of things growing up. I get scared by potential sources of conflict, failure, helplessness and loss. So, believe me when I say I have never been this scared before. Why?
I worry about you, your health, your safety, your development, your future… and most importantly, I worry about the possibility of losing you.

You got sick when you were 2 weeks old and to be on the safe side, the doctors did a septic work-up on you – which was apparently a series of tests that required poking a baby all over, even taking spinal fluid from you (to rule out meningitis). You were admitted and confined in a hospital on your first Thanksgiving. So, imagine me and your father clinging miserably to each other because we couldn’t bare to see you suffering… and quite spectacularly on a night when our family should have been celebrating. I wept, wondering what we could have done differently – maybe we should have waited longer to take you out of the house, maybe we didn’t keep you warm enough or cool enough, maybe my breastmilk was not giving you the antibodies you need…image
Thankfully, on the third day, you were cleared of any concerning infections and we were able to bring you home. I can see why people don’t like talking about this. Up to now, thinking about this event brings me to tears.

You’re a week away from turning 5 months. You’ve had 2 sets of vaccinations already. You’ve maintained a healthy weight (consistent 90th percentile). I’m still paranoid about you catching sickness, but I gain a little more confidence every time we go out on an excursion with you. However, I’ve gotten myself a new fear to face… every night within our home.

You’ve been rolling a lot and you’ve discovered the comforts of sleeping on your belly (I was also a tummy sleeper before I got pregnant with you). That’s fine although what’s terrifying is how I’ve been catching you sleeping face down. I’ve lost plenty of sleep, pondering if you would always wake and turn your head without fail in case you had difficulty breathing. You see, Son, your mother sometimes gets over-educated by the Internet which worsens her anxiety. As an example, I learned the meaning of rebreathing.
Hence, I did some more research and purchased you a breathable mattress pad and breathable sheets. Even with all the positive reviews for these products, I’m still afraid. I still regularly check-in through the night to make sure you’re breathing and to turn your head as needed. I hope that in just a couple more months, the worries about safe sleep would go away like the forums say they would.
I can tell though that there will be another cause for fear after this and that my list of fears involving you will just keep growing and growing.

Now, I have heard people say that nothing can make you appreciate your parents more than becoming a parent. Based on my limited experience, I find this statement to be true.
I want to thank my parents, your Grandma and Grandpa. I’m just in the early stages of motherhood and if I’m already frightened by so many things, then, I can’t even begin to fathom how scary it must have been to raise me and my two sisters over the last three decades.

Ma, Pa, for all the times I scared you and still scare you, I’m sorry. For all the things I was too little to know or recall and for all the things I do remember – like when my head got stuck between the balusters of our balcony as a toddler, or when I stayed out too late without bothering to give a heads up as a teenager, or when I went to the emergency room multiple times as an adult.
I want you to know that I love you and that I appreciate all the fears that came and come with caring about me. I could only hope that someday, Niko will see all the love behind my fears and appreciate how scared I am, too.

How I Married Your Father 5 Years Ago

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Your father and I had 90 days to get married from the moment I entered this country. You see, I came here on a fiancée visa and we were in a long distance relationship for 7 years before he proposed to me.

The Proposal

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We have already finished and passed the interview for visa approval at US Embassy in Manila. To celebrate, your Father took me to a bed & breakfast in Tagaytay called The Boutique, which I had been raving about. We walked in and asked for a room. To my surprise and immediate suspicion, the best room had already been booked under your father’s name.
That night, we had dinner at this fancy place with a view of Taal lake called Firelake Grill. There I was, waiting for him to pop the question. But he didn’t.
We went back to The Boutique and your father requested champagne for our room. I gleefully checked my flute, hoping to spot an engagement ring sitting in the bottom. But there was nothing.
My heart sank. Having been a drama queen my whole life, even if I knew better not to expect a formal proposal (since we had already agreed to get married so that I could migrate and be with him) – I still wanted it. With the night as good as over and me tipsy from the bubbly, I lost hope in getting engaged and started crying.
That was the point your father nervously asked me what’s wrong and told me that all he wanted was to make me happy (he said other things too although I forget due to my drunken bawling). He was comforting me by the bed and next thing I know, he was grabbing a tiny box from the side table drawer, kneeling with a diamond ring and asking me to marry him. Of course, I wept even harder and of course, I said “Yes.”

The Wedding

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Our wedding was beautiful. The ceremony happened outdoors in the gardens of a park in Tenafly. Until the last few days, the forecast warned of rain. But on that day 5 years ago, the sun was up and it was a tad warmer than usual for October.
I think what made our wedding so beautiful was how so many people pitched in to make it happen. Your father and I didn’t have anything saved up for our dream wedding so, your father’s family and family friends offset most of the wedding expenses by contributing time and/or money.
We didn’t have to pay for the reception venue and food, our clothes, my hair and make-up, the flowers and decor, the video/photographer/s, the DJ and giveaways.

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We were truly blessed with love and friendship that day. My only wish was that my sisters (your aunts) were there. Their visa application was denied so they couldn’t make it. The younger one, Denise (whom you will be meeting soon) made a video for me. I cried and ached for my family to be complete that day.
What helped eased the sadness was this: I had not only gained a husband that day, I had also gained his friends and family.

Son,

Your father and I have been married for 5 years. The first year was the toughest especially because our relationship took a gigantic leap from long distance to close quarters. From being his only priority during his trips to the Philippines, I had to start sharing his time with his work, his folks, his buddies and his hobbies. The next years offered different challenges but as your father and I got more comfortable communicating with each other, I think we found each year of marriage a little bit easier.

Now, here we are. I am 35 weeks pregnant with you, on our 5-year mark. There is a lesson (I’m afraid there will almost always be a lesson) from all this:
There will always be disappointment in life. Every expectation comes with risk and more than once, the results or lack thereof could upset you. But Son, if you give life a chance, if you wait a little bit, if you keep your heart and mind open, only then can life surprise you with something even better.

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Rainbows and Rain

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Sadly, I was born and raised in a country where too many still associate being gay with weakness and sin. I have always believed that God is love and that He wouldn’t be so great if He stood in the way of true love. Why does love have to be between a man and a woman?

Religion may be founded on God’s principles but because people uphold and propagate religion, it is too subject to invention, manipulation and reinterpretation. I would rather believe God is love than swallow a judgmental narrow-minded tradition that attempts to prevent love in any form. I would rather believe in my God than in the flawed, sedentary thinking of people.

I have friends, loved ones that are gay. One of them, I know I’ve lost to his internal battles. He couldn’t love himself because his religion told him God couldn’t accept and love him for who he was. If he had been in an environment which encouraged his right to love whoever he wished, to love who he was, I wonder, would he still be alive?

I am happy that you will be born in a country that just a couple days ago, made a bold statement to support all kinds of love. Although legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide may do little to modify the mindsets of people, you will be born on a year that will be noted in history for what I think is an amazing, positive change.

Love still has many barriers to break, probably the biggest frontier being the one surrounding my home country, the Philippines (notably the only country which hasn’t legalized divorce but let’s not get started on that). But winning this battle in the United States, such a powerful country of influence, gives me hope that you will grow up in a better world.

Love and the Rain

On rainy nights like this one, I remember being younger…

You see, your father and I didn’t use to live together. We weren’t even in the same country or continent. During his summer vacations from school, he flew to the Philippines to visit me. Summer in the United States meant the rainiest months in the Philippines. Having only a couple of months in a year to spend together, we didn’t mind the rain.

We went on dates, with umbrellas that were pretty much useless with the downpour we experienced almost everyday. After my classes in college, and years later, after my work hours, we ate dinner at nice places, watched movies and played at arcades. If we had enough money and time, we went on trips.

We felt the need to compress a year’s worth of romance into his limited time in the country. The days always went by too quickly. And on the night before his flight out, all the fun and happiness would turn back into the misery of separating and resetting the cycle of waiting.

Eventually, we got tired of the distance. We found a way to finally be together but we don’t recommend long distance relationships to anybody. It takes a lot more than going out on rainy nights for two months in a year. There are those 10 other months or more to deal with… that can make or break you.

Your father and I now detest leaving the house when it rains. Still, as I’ve told some of my friends, the rain makes me nostalgic. I like to smell the rain and imagine our younger selves barely fitting under one puny umbrella. How we’d laugh ourselves silly as we got drenched to make the most of our time together.

The rain reminds me of how your father and I started, and how long we’ve loved each other. I look forward to the years to come.