Baguio in the early ’80s: there were no birth preparation classes when I was about
to become a young mother so I bought books— Dr. Spock, Lamaze— feeling out of my water.
This Lamaze “natural” method was the latest thing from abroad, and I read avidly,
but stopped to panic at the parts on episiotomies and the breaking of the water.
At pre-natal checkups, my doctor was maternal, reassuring: The body is more
resilient than you think, she said. They often slide out of you just like water;
some pop out without effort: think of the way you push your head
through a turtleneck sweater. Slide out of me just like water?
What about C-sections, breech births, babies born with cauls wrapped around
their heads? My mothers watched carefully what I ate and drank: water,
lots of water, they encouraged. And soups: clear gingered broth of steamed clams,
mussels. But no eggplant (limp, dull purply-brown), no taro (hairy). Freshwater
fish and rice, dips of vinegar and soy. I craved salty and sweet by turns,
smacked sour mangos dipped in paste of shrimps. When finally the fabled water
broke, I woke from sleep seized with shame I’d lost control of my bladder
(or so I thought). My first and other births through the years were fluid
as water though not without pain. Each dark-haired daughter came in her own way
down that corridor and up into the world, each mouth full of syllables and water.
I try to keep them grounded while pushing them further onto the lip of the world,
with all its cares. I give them stories, gifts of song, of fire and earth and water.
* For Josephine Anne (Ina), on her birthday, 10 August 2013;
but also for Jennifer Patricia, Julia Katrina, and Gabriela Aurora