Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A VALENTINE STORY: The unread fine print

A baby Valentine dress fit for a Valentine Baby


MARIA (not her real name) came to see me one fateful afternoon more than two years ago. She was a former house help (kasambahay) of a close friend, but my kind-hearted friend sent her to college, and she was able to finish her course in business management. 

The last time I saw her was when she asked my permission to use my name as reference for her job applications. 

She and her sisters used to come over to my house as "alalays" to my friend, and I considered them already family.

I can still remember that day. 

Mary, I greeted her, changing her name to a saucier one.
“And how are you now?”

I was really happy to see her again. But she just smiled wanly, and said, “Ate, I’m pregnant.”

For a second there, I thought I heard wrong, but I kept my smile and said, “aren’t you happy then? And have you married? You did not invite me.”

She said she was not. 

“Oh, but does your boyfriend know you are pregnant?”

“ Yes,” she said, and he asked me to abort it. 

“And what did you do? He told me to take 20 tablets of xxxxxxxxx , all at one time.”


I did what he told me.”

“ What? And did you bleed? Was the fetus aborted?”

“No, Ate.”

“Did you want the child?”

“ At first, Ate, to tell you the truth, I did not want it because I had just started to work, and my boss said that I should not get married or get pregnant , or else I would lose my job.

“My sisters and my parents also did not know about this and I was sure they would kick me out of the house. But there was also a part in me telling me to keep it. But then, when my boyfriend told me to abort the child, I just followed him.”

“It was foolish of you to follow what that good-for-nothing guy told you to do (but I was really really tempted to say – How could you be so G-N-T-P, as in “gaga na tanga pa”). 

“You could have died after you took those pills, you know. You could have bled to death or gone into metabolic acidosis (the medical term when your blood becomes too acidic, so your entire body system is affected).”

“But Ate, my belly is getting big.”

“But of course, your baby survived and is well and growing. Surely, that means it is meant for you. You and your boyfriend should now accept that you are to become parents and plan for that eventuality.”

“But Ate, she said, those pills… they may have affected the baby and it may have developed deformities…. Joe (not his real name) told me to have it aborted again because it may be deformed . 

Oh, my Lord, Joe, not quite satisfied with the first attempt to abort, here now making a second attempt, even when the baby was already nearly four months old!

“Ate, I need to know if it is deformed or not.”

I asked her: “Will you keep the baby even if it is found to be deformed?”

She was silent, her head bowed . She gave no answer. 

So I said: “All right. You go to my OB friend. I will call her tonight and tell her you will be coming for a check up. She will help you. She will find out if there are deformities in your baby. If there are, and they are severe, the fetus will die a natural death. 

“But if the deformities are minor, you have to carry it full term. We will help you in that eventuality. If you can’t take care of your baby, then we will find somebody who can do so. 

“Do not worry.”

 After I have said these, I could see a perceptible change in her expression - like there was some bulb that lighted up in her fogged out brain. 

Yes, I have seen this happen many times - a little show of support and care can go a long way to change desperation to hope, especially among young people in similar predicaments. 

That’s the carrot. Now for the stick.

I told her also that aborting the baby is a crime, and she and her boyfriend can be jailed for it. 

Putting up my sternest front, I emphasized: Get it? That baby deserves a chance to live.

Whether I gave her hope, or she feared getting jailed, or both, Mary went to see my OB friend, and she found no deformities at the time of examination but told Mary that they could not be sure until the baby was born. 

My friend took care of Mary until the month of her delivery, but Mary chose to deliver in her home province with her parents. 

She delivered a baby girl, and after a month, came back to live with her sisters and worked while her sisters took care of the baby.

The kid was sickly, and her mother often missed out on her immunizations so she contracted chickenpox, mumps and a most severe pneumonia from measles. 

After that, she would suffer many other ailments - from sores covering her mouth and lips, to skin and urinary tract infections until she was one year old. 

Her pedia doctor, who is my friend, recently told me that Mary and the kid had not visited for a year to date. 

But then, last Christmas, Mary and her sisters surprised me with a visit, with the kid in tow. 

There was this smiling, happy, giggly, bright-eyed oh so beautiful two-year old baby girl. 

And she can dance Gangnam Style.

By the way, the kid’s name is Hannah, a name her mother did not choose, but was just suggested by an officemate. 

Mary did not know the meaning of the word then, and perhaps even now. She just found it nice sounding, so she adopted it.

And so Hannah. You did not choose your parents, but God chose you and enveloped you with His protective love and care, and perhaps even gave you that name, which means   "Grace from God” to remind us that indeed the Grace of God is overflowing. 

By surviving, you gave your parents the opportunity to realize the grave mistakes they committed (Mary got rid of Joe but allowed him to see the child, so Hannah is the apple of the eyes of both  her parents, her grandparents and aunts and uncles on both sides). 

I am writing this short article because Mary just called me and invited me to Hannah's birthday party - on Feb 14. 

Really, ain’t that something? There must be some fine print I am not reading. 

But whatever it is, the message must be something joyful.

Happy birthday, Valentine Girl!

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