Milk and Blood

Thursday, April 29, 2004


CHILDREN ARE INNOCENT, NEVER ILLEGITIMATE

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word illegitimate as unlawful, invalid. The Oxford American defines it as born of parents not married to each other; contrary to law or rules; (of a conclusion in an argument, etc.) not logical, wrongly inferred.

I call it a cruel way to call a child born out of wedlock. What has that innocent soul done to earn such a label? It adds insult to injury when it is not even in that soul’s power to change that label. No acts of kindness, no feats of athletic strength or scientific genius can change it. It is solely dependent on one’s biological parents.

It makes me wonder if old-fashioned conservative right wing Catholicism or Christianity has influenced our lawmakers to use that sad, highly judgmental term.

If they have, then how dare they. They bang their drums loudly against abortion yet by the same token they condone the unabashed use of that cruel word. “If you terminate the pregnancy even at an early stage, you have committed a horrible sin. Yet should you choose to keep the baby, he or she will be called ILLEGITIMATE.” How’s that for an act of kindness and charity? Which reminds me, did Mary and Joseph get married in a church in Bethlehem before Jesus was born? I don’t remember reading that in the bible.

If there’s anyone who should be called illegitimate maybe it’s the parents. But spare the baby. Though anyone who calls me or my son illegitimate truly deserves to be held still while I have a go at them with my Arnis sticks. I’ll make sure they won’t have a legitimate face after that.

Maybe someone can confirm this but I believe the State of California no longer uses that word in their laws. If that’s true, then hooray for them. We can only do what we can to make sure children of the future never have to enter this world being called illegitimate.

August 2002



Friday, October 25, 2002


IT ALL COMES TUMBLING DOWN

Sometimes I zone out mid sentence. Or I talk at sonic speed and then all of a sudden, silence, like someone pulled the plug on me. I walk to a mall and completely forget what essentials I needed to pick up for myself or the baby.

As if it's not enough for me to be a single mom and a budding entrepreneur, my father recently had a major stroke. He was confined to Intensive Care for close to two weeks. Tonight he's in a regular hospital room but watched over by a nurse and Nurse Racil. He remains aphasic (meaning his language, memory and comprehension skills are affected) and his physical movements are quite limited.

And tomorrow my son turns one.

My friend PWee who will be doing the catering came over to take a look at the common area outside the apartment. She was saying that most of the first birthday parties she works on have considerably more grown ups than kids. Well I tell her, while a child's first birthday is truly a special occassion, it's also a celebration for the mom (especially for a first time mom). It's like a re-birthday. Nothing changes you like mother / parenthood.

Let me just wrap this one up with one of Lawrence Fishburne's movie lines: "Any man with a dick can make a baby, but it takes a real man to be a father."


JUST CALL ME MAMA MORTICIA

Went to the magazine store in Megamall to get a few extra issues of the October issue of Good Housekeeping. Wahoo! From rock and roll / goth girl to single mom with three pages devoted to her in Good Housekeeping. Who would have thought? I took a copy to my grandmother's house when I had lunch there last Sunday and my cousin Alvaro found the idea of me in that magazine absolutely hilarious. "What, have you got a recipe in there?"

I know where he's coming from. I find it absolutely funny, completely out of character but it's the truth.

Though now I think I should come up with my own magazine for single goth homemakers. I'll call it GOTH HOUSEKEEPING. Mwahahahahaha.


Wednesday, October 09, 2002


I wrote this article for Good Housekeeping (who would have thought I'd be doing that???) and they'll be publishing it in the October issue. I had to make it less irreverent and wicked of course.

POST PARTUM DEPRESSION

Your body takes a beating. Whether by Caesarean section or natural childbirth. And that’s just the beginning. Your breasts swell up and get sore. You lack sleep. You leak for weeks. Your stomach remains large, flabby, tender. You look like a zombie in cotton pajamas. You are grateful to have the time and the energy left to brush your teeth or take a bath. Your lifestyle goes through a tremendous change. To top it off, you now have the primary responsibility for a newborn baby who will need to be fed, changed or put to sleep every so often.

Even without your hormones rocking, rolling, raging and running wild, each new mother could fill up an entire roll of toilet paper enumerating a list of factors that contribute to post partum anxiety.

Post partum anxiety (or post partum depression or to put it mildly, the baby blues) is REAL. In as much as I believed the strength of my will would keep that condition at bay, I felt myself slowly sinking into a depression two weeks after giving birth.

Prior to getting pregnant, I was a thirtysomething single woman, happy with a career in media. I was able to travel independently once or twice a year. I could make my own schedules, I had privacy in my apartment and I could fit into small sized shirts. I was putting away money for a semester or two of study at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I had sent for catalogs and started on the application, when, on a routine check up at my gynecologist, I saw a blinking white light on the ultrasound machine in her clinic. That moment, everything changed.

Eight months later, all the trappings of that “old” life disappeared. I had to let go of my job (which was big source of pride and self esteem), my idea of travel was equivalent to a trip from my house to the mall, the baby made my schedule and privacy was something I imagined I could have again in about 30 years. The money I had set aside for studies abroad went to the hospital bill and it would have to tide me over until I was working again.

The stress from the turnaround in lifestyle, the physical trauma, the emotional upheavals, the worry over being a single mother and the onslaught those out of control hormones was too much for me to handle.

But I knew I had to do something. My son deserved and needed a mother who would be strong both emotionally and physically. I could not afford to cave in and crumble. As a young single writer, being depressed was something I could surrender to and indulge in and I could probably come up with some of the best writing of my career. And it might actually even be “cool” for that to happen. But with a soul placed in my care, falling into a depression was a luxury I could not afford.

I was pretty much “hanging by a thread.” What kept me from falling off the edge of the sanity cliff were my friends. Their concern and the concern of my father and other relatives is what pushed me to take the steps I needed to pick myself up and get myself back on track again.

I had to make a plan. I thought first things first: Work on my emotional well being. My friends and my cousins were great, they were incredible, I could not have asked for better people to be by my side at that time. They called up, they texted, they e-mailed, they dropped by, they brought me cookies and brownies. My cousin based in San Francisco came home to Manila to cook me soup and help take care of the baby (even if she herself had never experienced motherhood!) However, I wanted to enjoy my friends and my cousins—I did not want to be constantly burdening them with the pain I was feeling. I decided to get professional help.

There’s a bit of a stigma attached to getting that kind of help. Many people think it’s just catatonic schizophrenics, the criminally insane, the delusional and the drug addicted who get therapy. However a few of the most wonderful, well-adjusted people I know have admitted they have seen psychiatrists at certain points in their life. It wasn’t that much of a big deal. You do what you can to get better.

It was one of the best decisions I made. Being able to talk to an objective yet concerned professional helped me understand myself better and helped me make more sense out of my situation. The therapy has stopped but I know I can always go back to my doctor if the need arises.

Midway through therapy, I decided I also needed endorphins to boost my mood. Those incredible endorphins you get from working out. I also needed to feel good about my body. I believe that being physically “strong” can also make one mentally and emotionally “strong”. My only problem was after six hours of labor, I had to get an emergency CS. After my son turned 3 months old, I went to my gynecologist and asked her when I could possibly work out. She noticed I had a good 20 lbs. to lose and I knew she would swat me like a fly if I even mentioned diet pills.

She gave me a quick test and wrote a on a piece of prescription pad that I could get into any kind of sport—no restrictions. My reaction to that was, Whoooooooooaaaaaaaaaaa!” I had been wearing the same boring black smocks every day since I gave birth. My sadness was beginning to cling to their fibres. Now I could actually foresee the day when I could slowly, one by one fit into my old clothes. There was just NO WAY I was going to buy new ones.

I eventually enrolled myself in morning taekwondo classes at the Olympians Taekwondo Training Center three times a week over the summer and went weight training in between. Taekwondo was great because not only did it give a good sweat, it gave me a sense of accomplishment and boosted my self-image. Not only that, I trained under one of the best instructors--with about 30 children as classmates! There’s nothing like it to get your energy up. I’m taking arnis once a week now but come next summer, I’ll be ready for those taekwondo classes all over again.

When people make a comment abou how I’ve gotten in to shape, I always tell them it didn’t come naturally. I had to train like the devil. This is a product of bruises, sweat and tears. I may not have the body of a supermodel or a Baywatch babe and I sometimes catch the flu—but this is my body, it tells my story, it fits into my old jeans and that makes me happy enough.

Next part of my plan—my career. I read in a previous issue of GH about a study which showed how women managers consistently outscored their male counterparts on 37 of 47 critical management qualities. The main reason there weren’t that many women at the pinnacles of corporations is women have THE CENTRAL role in the family. I now have to take my responsibility to the child into consideration when figuring out career options. I am currently working on the family business that keeps me, my retired father and my son afloat. Though it is more managerial than creative. I am also making the blueprint for a small, independent venture where I can pour in some creative juice with a few friends, work my own hours and make money to buy all the Lord of the Rings collectibles—for my son, of course.

I had worked so long on reclaiming myself and adjusting to the “new” normal in my life that I hardly gave a thought to relationships. I had survived a 14 month “dry spell.” I got a high from jumping over cones on one foot in Taekwondo class. I had a supply of Johnny Depp films at home and I was finally able to laugh with my friends. I wasn’t really looking but I am now once again in a healthy relationship with someone who makes me laugh and is not afraid to do very silly things with me, my son and my red mini-pinscher.

Let me not forget ONE very crucial factor in dealing with post partum depression: a yaya. Having a good manang / yaya / yayas or any combination thereof can spell the difference. Never ever take them for granted. With my own mother dead 15 years, and my status as a single parent and the “head of my household”—I need all the help I can get.

The post partum period can be overwhelming. A good way to deal with it would be tackling a piece of it at a time, realizing it is perfectly OK to be a mere mortal (not Wonder Woman). And don’t be above accepting help and home made brownies when it is offered.

For those going at it alone, I have no better words than the ones texted to me by author Tony Perez, “Single parenthood is a status that’s meant to be enjoyed. All situations have corresponding problems. It’s a question of how you look at things.”


Wednesday, September 18, 2002


HI
I'll be the announcing the existence of this blog to a few friends this afternoon. The first three entries are actually going to be loaded on my site using my site interface. All the updates can be found on this blog. I'll let you know more about the website when it's really up and running. I hope I won't have to wait too long. (If you want to hear more about it, go to the Sept. 13 entry at www.laughterinthedark.blogspot.com.)

Welcome to Milk and Blood, the Single Mom Chronicles. Cheers!

Karen


FATHER FIGURE

I watched the last episode of the fourth season of "Sex and the City" with my friends Tricia, P-Wee, Eddie Boy, Isabelle and AJ. It was a great ending to a great season. But there is one scene I won't forget. A very pregnant Atty. Miranda Hobbs sits on the stoop of her Manhattan apartment with Carrie Bradshaw. She talks about her anxiety being a single mom: "Carrie, my son is going to grow up without a father figure" To which Carrie quickly replies, "What are you talking about? The baby has you!"

Ha ha ha. I laughed the loudest and the longest at that.

Though it probably wasn't the funniest line in the show.


POWER MOM

A few weeks ago, I was having one of those days--when I felt angry, sad and exhausted. I though of my friend Stephanie. I only got in touch with again after seven years with the help of Asha and Katrina. She got pregnant a few weeks after I did and her daughter is just slightly younger than my son. She has a career in graphic design and advertising and all the parenting responsibilities fall on her pretty but strong and determined shoulders.

I decided to call her up and talk to her. She told me being down the way I was, was no way for a POWER MOM to feel. She said, "Be strong, we're Power Moms remember?" And I thought, hey, it's all just a matter of semantics. Power Mom DOES sound better than "single mom." Power Moms are allowed to have a bad day once in blue moon because they know their jobs--as a mother, father and career person demand a whole lot of strength, sacrifice, smarts and a sense of humor. You have to be the perfect everything. On those rare occassions that Power Moms aren't perfect, it's forgivable. So I guess I'm not allowed to linger on negative emotions, and I'm TOTALLY NOT ALLOWED to feel even a little bit sorry for myself. Power moms always have much more important things to do, there are rewarding little breaks we have to take and there's our pretty little heads we've got to hold up high.

:P Belat.


ILAW NG TAHANAN

I don’t know if it’s true in other countries but people in the Philippines have this habit of preceeding the word “housewife” with the word “plain.”

Maybe all these macho men look at housework as menial, no-brainers.

After I had my son, I chucked about 75% of my old lifestyle out the window.

I now keep track of every single centavo that leaves my hand in the running of my household. Above the telephone is a little shelf. The first compartment contains unpaid bills, important letters, scotch tape and a stapler. The second compartment contains several envelopes devoted to each utility or service we have to pay monthly. I attach the receipts to the bill and file them accordingly. On top of that, I keep a ledger of household and personal expenses.

I can now tell when there’s something fishy about the water meter reading, if we’re wasting electricity and how long a tank of LPG will last.

When I was a single girl my day-to-day financial philosophy was this, “never spend more than what’s in the ATM.”

It’s not easy to run a home. You have to look out for the welfare of every single member of the household. You have to make sure the baby has his milk, medicine, bananas and toys and that someone keeps an eye on him. With older children you have to worry about baon, allowance, rides to school, their homework, their tuition fees, computer games, music discs and whatever newfangled thing will amuse them. The house help also has to be kept happy, healthy and alert. If there’s a husband in the picture, then you have to make sure his clothes are ironed, his socks match and breakfast is ready when he leaves and dinner is ready when he returns.

If you are under the care of one, half the worries you have are taken care of.

Where would we all be if the so-called “plain housewives” just absconded with the family funds and made for a vacation in the Bahamas?

It’s not an easy job. It demands a whole lot of sacrifice. Motherhood is the toughest job in the world to boot.

A few days ago, while waiting for a cab at a mall entrance, I overhead a bunch of men in ties talking about closing deals, making plans, setting up meetings, calling clients and writing down proposals. They dispersed and kept their cell phones close to their ears while waiting for their new chauffer driven cars to pick them up.

I glanced at them, me in my tracksuit and trainers carrying four bags of groceries. I thought to myself, I can do their jobs anytime with my hands behind my back,my eyes closed and my red mini-pinscher running circles around me. While those guys would probably beg for mercy within a day of doing a housewife’s work!

Furthermore, there are some women actually can raise children and have careers at the same time. If you stop taking the whole phenomenon for granted, it can really knock your socks off. Maybe these women are really from Krypton. Which would in effect affirm the fact they’re “super.”

Anytime someone uses the word “plain” to describe housewives should be, they must experience being deprived of the services of their mom or their manang for one week. If anyone uses the words “plain housewife” to describe themselves, then they must be reminded of how important they really are. I myself have much preferred the tagalog term “ilaw ng tahanan.”

August 2002









CHILDREN ARE INNOCENT, NEVER ILLEGITIMATE

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word illegitimate as unlawful, invalid. The Oxford American defines it as born of parents not married to each other; contrary to law or rules; (of a conclusion in an argument, etc.) not logical, wrongly inferred.

I call it a cruel way to call a child born out of wedlock. What has that innocent soul done to earn such a label? It adds insult to injury when it is not even in that soul’s power to change that label. No acts of kindness, no feats of athletic strength or scientific genius can change it. It is solely dependent on one’s biological parents.

It makes me wonder if old-fashioned conservative right wing Catholicism or Christianity has influenced our lawmakers to use that sad, highly judgmental term.

If they have, then how dare they. They bang their drums loudly against abortion yet by the same token they condone the unabashed use of that cruel word. “If you terminate the pregnancy even at an early stage, you have committed a horrible sin. Yet should you choose to keep the baby, he or she will be called ILLEGITIMATE.” How’s that for an act of kindness and charity? Which reminds me, did Mary and Joseph get married in a church in Bethlehem before Jesus was born? I don’t remember reading that in the bible.

If there’s anyone who should be called illegitimate maybe it’s the parents. But spare the baby. Though anyone who calls me or my son illegitimate truly deserves to be held still while I have a go at them with my Arnis sticks. I’ll make sure they won’t have a legitimate face after that.

Maybe someone can confirm this but I believe the State of California no longer uses that word in their laws. If that’s true, then hooray for them. We can only do what we can to make sure children of the future never have to enter this world being called illegitimate.

August 2002


WALK TALL AND RIDE WITH PRIDE

A few days ago, my trainer told me this Philippine folk tale. I believe since its message is quite universal, there are similar stories from the Chinese and in Aesop’s fables. It’s a simple tale but one I needed to be reminded of:

After a particularly long afternoon spent toiling in the fields, a father and his son decide to call it a day. The father lets his boy ride home on the carabao.

When they neared the barrio, they heard some folk murmur “What sort of son is that? He rides the carabao home while his poor father has to walk!” Upon hearing that, father and son decided to switch places.

Some meters down, they caught the eye of some people who muttered, “What a mean father, he gets to ride the carabao while that sorry boy has to walk. Tsk, tsk.” At that they figured, why don’t they BOTH ride the carabao?

Further on, they ran into some people who declared, “Poor animal! It has served these two in the fields all day and now it has the burden of carrying them home!” So father and son get off the carabao and decide to just walk home.

Just before they reach home, they hear their neighbors remark, “What idiots those two are, they have a perfectly good carabao and yet they don’t even think of riding it to get home!”

Any smart second grader would probably tell you the tale is about two very simple concepts: one, you can try all you want but you just won’t be able to please everybody; and two, people should really just mind their own business.

It is a very human thing to seek approval. When we are young, we look for it from our family, as we get older, we seek it from our peers, superiors and society.

At a certain point I had to learn those lessons, not from a fable or a folk tale but from life. Though I wish I lived by those words much earlier on.

A few months before I turned 33, I found out I was pregnant--and I was the distance of milky ways away from getting married. The doctor’s voice and thewhite blinking dot on the ultrasound was not a hallucination or a dream. Though I was trying to tell myself it was. I stared at it for what must have been the longest five seconds of my life.

Right then and there I knew my life had changed. I decided to keep the baby, I decided marriage would not be the way to go (though “he” didnt’ ask), I decided to toss my plans for further study in NYC and be amother to that blinking light.

I knew I would have to eventually temporarily give up the career I built for myself and take on the toughest job on the planet--taking on the responsibility for a young soul.

From the time I announced my pregnancy to the first few months after I gave birth I was bombarded with “you should do this and you should do thats.” I had it coming out of my ears. Strangely enough, they came from people I practically had no shared history with. While the people closest to me--my inner coterie of friends, my cousins, my father, my grandmother, watched, observed and told me to eat well, listen to my doctor and silently made it known that they were there for me to turn to on the days I needed a hand to hold on to.

Otherwise, I was told: “You should get married so your child can have the father’s last name.” (Is that a good enough reason? And what was wrong with my beautiful Polish last name?) “Move your bedroom to the first floor of your apartment because you must not climb stairs for one month after a C-section.” “Don’t have the baby circumcised.” “Have the baby circumcised.” “What? You stopped breastfeeding?” “Feed him on demand.” “Don’t feed him on demand.” “You need to lose weight.” “Tumaba ka.”

And you wonder why there is such a thing as post-partum depression.

I eventually did what I felt was right, what I felt I could handle and what I felt was best under the less than perfect circumstances. Under this kind of situation, a woman really does not have the luxury of time to sort things out, to go away and `soul search.’ I had to have faith in my own inner wisdom and maturity. I made up my mind, I stuck to my guns and I haven’t looked back.

Every now and then, people still tell me I should do this or do that. But they’ve dwindled in numbers. I’m a stubborn little bull, and there’s really only a handful of people I’m going to listen to.

If you believe you’ve got a pretty good and decent head on your shoulders, if you value the love and concern of your friends and family, then you can walk tall, walk proud and however the chips may fall you can sing “I Did It My Way” from the very top of your lungs.

23 July 2002



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