I consider myself very fortunate to have a lot of mom-peers and mentors who have coached me in this journey of motherhood. I have learned and picked up tidbits from each and every one of them, be they through face-to-face interactions, hour-long conversations, or through virtual communication. Sometimes it’s also just from links they share over social media or things that I pick up when I read their blogs. I believe I wouldn’t be the kind of mom that I’ve become today without their influence in my life and I am grateful.
In my little ways, I try to pay the good deed forward and share what I’ve been taught with moms and friends who’ve asked for my opinion. As I mentioned before, I started My Mommyology in the hopes of helping other moms and learning from them as well. Most recently, I was lucky enough to have been given an opportunity to do that through some face-to-face encounters with other moms as well.
A few weeks ago, some of the SoMoms took a trip to the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. We’d been invited by the Johnson & Johnson team to participate in their Touch Therapy advocacy (more on this in a minute) and to share with the moms who had just given birth our own experiences on breastfeeding, attachment parenting, baby wearing and basic newborn care.
On the ride over I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, even if we’d been briefed to anticipate the worst. For instance, we were told that moms in labor were in line outside the delivery room and were only let in once they hit active labor (that made my knees wobble). Most of the moms share a ward and 4 moms and their newborns share two beds. There are at least 80 births a day (versus the bigger, more sophisticated privatized hospitals which cater to 5 deliveries in an evening!), and so they have to move people in and up into recovery as fast as possible (thus the Hospital’s nickname – The Baby Factory). Read: no epidural. Ack! Sometimes, the families don’t even have enough money to pay the already subsidized amount of labor and delivery (which is peanuts again compared to the atrocious costs in said sophisticated privatized hospitals) so they either stay for long periods of time before they are sent home (as the bed space is needed). Some moms also go there alone because it’s too costly for any of their relatives to make the trip with them. I just — really couldn’t imagine it. The lack of privacy alone (well, maybe alongside the absence of an epidural), was enough to cause my head to spin.
Admittedly the other bit that was making me nervous was the fact that I was going to talk to other moms about newborn care. I kept wracking my brain, trying to remember my own two experiences. I know that I share what I know with friends or acquaintances that ask, but I just felt that this was taking my “mommy expertise” to a new level. I questioned myself: Do I even know enough to share with these moms? What if I say something wrong? Looking around the group, we had moms who were breastfeeding and babywearing advocates and have been imparting their knowledge to other moms for longer periods of time. So yes… I was very nervous.
We entered the facilities and were shown around the key labor, delivery and recovery areas. We were then ushered into the Johnson’s Touch Therapy room where we were briefed by Dr. Imperial on the information that they normally give the moms on the said topics. The Touch Therapy Room is a place where they also invite the moms to come and learn about the different massage techniques they can give their babies. Then she demonstrated the use of a pouch that they sell for the moms to keep their babies on them as much as possible — the kangaroo hold.
Dr. Imperial said to the group that while they do what they can on a daily basis, the sheer volume of moms and babies makes it impossible for them to share a lot of information a lot of the time. Sometimes the moms in attendance for the seminars they hold number in the 30s — and from experience with big groups like that it is hard to make an impact on each and every one of them.
Once that was done we were asked to individually approach a row of beds with moms and talk to them about newborn care and answer any of their questions. As we walked out the door, my nerves got the better of me and I quickly asked if we could go in two’s instead (and promised we’d still cover the same number of beds!). I felt it was a little less formal, and we could feed off of each other’s stories. Thankfully it was a welcome suggestion and so Tin of Manila Fashion Observer and I paired up and headed to our first row of beds.
At first I felt slightly awkward and I wasn’t sure what to say. Then quite instantly (and maybe miraculously), it wasn’t so hard after all. I found it easiest to talk a little bit about my girls and ask if they experienced any of the concerns or problems I went through. Some of the moms were happy to engage us and to listen, and others were really just tired (having just given birth that morning, I understood of course!) but smiled nonetheless. There were a few moms who told us that it was their nth child and so somehow, they’d also become a source of information to the other moms around them. Apparently sharing beds has its advantages, as it allows the moms to make instant mom friends and they can help and learn from one another. Most of the babies, to my surprise, were fast asleep (and it was quite noisy!).
There were a lot of people, but the atmosphere around the entire ward was light. Moms were smiling and posing and they put up a positive front, which was great to see. Eventually it felt like I was just conversing with another mom I’d just met — and really that’s what it was. My favorite image (that stays with me until today), is what Dr. Imperial calls KFC: Kangaroo Father Care. She says newborn care is indeed a whole family affair and the father is more than welcome to help out in that respect. And, it is great father-child bonding. I love it!
As cliché as it sounds, it was heartwarming to see them in good spirits. It reminded me that labor and childbirth, while a painful process, is in the end it’s the best blessing in the world. I learned from these moms too, and I gained a new-found respect for the strength and endurance that women (mothers in particular) innately have.
I was glad to be a part of this trip and left feeling that somehow, in my own small I was able to help. I may not be as knowledgeable as some of the other moms I know, but as a mom myself, I think I knew enough. Sharing from my own personal experience was more than enough support, and it’s really all any other mom can do. It’s enough because it sends the message to a new mom that she’s not alone as she goes through this phase in her life.
To Dr. Imperial and the other doctors and nurses of the Fabella Hospital, who do this job day in and day out with the smiles on your faces: You are truly my new heroes. 🙂