BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Friday, April 20, 2007

Julia in the Philippines

Stumbled upon the blog of Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell. Her entries are poignant, warm and heartfelt. Read her stories at Julia in the Philippines.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

taxes, taxes, taxes

There are a few things in life that are sure to come and the deadline for tax payment is one of them.

As always, I steeled myself to the BIR office last April 16 to pay for my bookshop's tax dues. I had to fall in line and wait along with so many others attempting to be good citizens. Admittedly, I don't really enjoy giving up part of my hard earned money to a government known more as corrupt than capable.

But I also hate bad roads and the high cost of healthcare in the country, among other inadequacies. As such, I always want to have the right to complain.

I hope the government does its part, too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Dateline: St. Luke's Hospital

(A personal account of childbirth)

Friday, March 30.

I was alone at the Napocor press office. The rest of my colleagues were in Bangkok for a coverage. I couldn't come because I was on my 38th week of pregnancy.

Then it happened.

My water bag broke at around 7:30 p.m. I had just finished sending my stories for the day and I was just waiting for breaking news. I was already looking forward to a good night's rest. Little did I know that the moment I had been waiting for had come.

Suddenly, me seat was wet, as if I had just urinated but I did not. My leggings were wet all over. It was a sign of things to come.

Thirty minutes later, I was at the delivery room of St. Luke's Hospital. I was led to a small room where resident doctors started to check if my water bag had broken. If it did not, I would be allowed to go home.

But indeed, it had.

My labor had just begun.

I was brought to the labor room and it was then when, despite months of psyching myself for a laborious journey of childbirth, I felt scared. I felt like a child again, unfamiliar with the things around me. I was treading unfamiliar territory and there was nobody there but myself. Everybody else -- the doctors, interns, clerks and orderlies -- were strangers. It was my first time to give birth. I had no idea -- despite reading every recommended book about pregnancy -- just how it would happen.

This is it, I told myself. I was brought to my "labor bed," hooked on to a fetus monitor, a dextrose bag and so many other pins and hooks I could not quite understand.

Around 10 p.m., my cervix was 3 centimeters dilated. Stranger after stranger would check the innermost part of me every hour to see how my labor progressed. Nothing can compare to the discomfort, awkwardness, pain and embarrassment.

Two hours later, I was getting bored. I was the only patient in the labor room. The resident doctors, interns and clerks started to take cat naps. They made sure though that I had someone by my side monitoring the baby's heart rate and my contractions, round the clock.

I started interviewing the interns but they seem to be in no mood for small talk. Some were kind enough to answer a prying journalist's questions but most concentrated on my baby's fetal heart rate and my contractions.

I learned that resident doctors and interns are on duty for 36 hours. They're there on standby and they're the ones who update the patient's OBs or practitioners when it is time to go to the hospital.

My OB for instance, was updated every two hours through her mobile phone on the progress of my labor. That way, she would know just when she would rush to the hospital.

Saturday, March 31.

Around 3 a.m., I was startled from my sleep when a hysterical patient was rushed into the labor room. She was crying all her might. Her screams of pain must have reverberated in the whole hospital.

I would later learn that her cervix was already 9 centimeters dilated. She would be giving birth anytime. And she was in so much pain. She was banging her bed, pleading with the doctor to give her more anesthesia and crying the whole time.

"Doc, please, please, please!!!!," she was screaming on the top of her lungs. I felt sorry and scared.

I felt cold all over. I felt more scared than I already was.

She was rushed into the delivery room, which was right next to the labor room. And ten minutes later, I heard a different cry. It was the familiar, beautiful sound of a baby crying. She had just given birth.

I fell asleep. When I woke up, I saw my practitioner right beside me. It was 9 a.m., Saturday.

It felt good to see her. She said everything was ok. I just needed to prepare for a long labor because that's how it is. She instructed the resident doctors to monitor me well and to give me oxygen for me to make it to the night.

Seven hours later and after more than ten strangers have examined my cervix, I was informed that my labor was not progressing. No wonder I didn't feel any pain.

My doctor visited me again. It was already 3 p.m. She then instructed the residents to give me a medicine that would speed up my contractions. Otherwise, I would have to deliver my baby via Cesearian section. I pleaded with her that I didn't want that.

One hour later, I felt my first brush with labor pain. Tears started falling. I was biting my hand to ease the discomfort. The pain wouldn't stop. It only became worst. At this point, I was calling on the dead to help me go through my journey. I called on my dead grandfather and some dead journalists. I whispered prayers to the different saints.

Two hours later, my cervix was 4 centimeters dilated. I was now officially in active labor. And the pain was nothing I had experienced before. I thought of my mother and wondered how painful it was when she gave birth to me.

I was crying on and on but silently, saving the screams for later. The pain progressed along with my labor.

At 5 centimeters, I cried louder. The resident doctor, Dr. Ivy looked at me with so much sympathy.

"Do you want me to sedate you?" she asked.

"No, doc, I can still take it," I said, feigning confidence. I simply didn't want to be asleep while I give birth.

At 6 centimeters, my screams probably reverberated along the whole stretch of E. Rodriguez Avenue. I don't know where I gathered the strength to shout. All I know is that I was screaming so loud.

The contractions were getting faster and the pain, worst. It's like when you have menstrual cramps except that the pain is so much worst.

A nurse came by my side and injected me with something. The world started spinning. Things turned black. The pain eased. Everything in front of me slowly disappeared. I seemed to have walked out of the labor room.

But then I was back. The doctors were instructing me to push the baby out.

"I-re! i-re! i-re! i-re pa!.....Good! I-re pa....yung walang sound na i-re! I-re pa," the people around me were saying.

"Seven centimeters....I-re ulit...Yung walang sound sabi eh!"

"Nine centimeters....I-re ulit....I-re pa. Yung ulo, yung ulo...malapit na...i-re pa," they said.

At this point, I was in such pain I never imagined was possible. But all I could think of was how to bring my baby out successfully. I was dead tired.

This was the last thing I remembered.

At 10:58 p.m., March 31, after 24 hours in labor, I gave birth via normal delivery to the 6 billionth plus plus world citizen. She is a 6.8-pound baby girl.

Her name is Isabel and she is the most beautiful thing I've seen my entire life.

(photos by Stella Arnaldo and Marie Gonzales)