During the roughest years I had growing up with (and away from) Pop, I always made a vow that I would be a better dad to my future son than he was to me. After that, I’d always follow it up either with a “Or I just might screw it all up,” or “Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen to a sap like me!” before continuing whatever I was doing.

So when Bianx spoke of her plan to start a family early once we were married, it was a mix of heavy-duty anxiety and supernova elation. I understood that babies were always a handful to take care of but seeing her excitement with finally being able to start a family of her own brought me on board despite my initial hesitations.

We started by renting a condo unit in Makati, located just outside the famous Central Business District (CBD) and significantly closer to our offices. A friend of ours helped us get a good deal at one of the older buildings in the area, as we moved in shortly after New Year’s Day 2015. Aside from the convenience of being a short walk (or even jeepney ride) away from many commercial establishments and work, it was finally a place we had to ourselves that allowed us to focus on our lives together. We made quick use of many of the gifts we received at the wedding to get ourselves settled in our new place. And realizing the environment was not the best for raising our future son in, we made up our mind to stay there only for the year before moving back in with her folks in Las Piñas to help care for our son after his birth.

But from the start, it was a challenge. She stopped taking her hormone pills soon after the wedding (which she had been taking since her high school years for managing her polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS), and we knew that the contraceptive effects could still last for several weeks after that. Then there was that mean ob-gyne in Makati Medical Center who bared that as my wife was suffering from PCOS, she couldn’t get pregnant unless she lost weight and made dramatic lifestyle changes, which left her feeling miserable and angry. We managed to find a far more sympathetic and caring ob-gyne, holding clinic at University of Perpetual Help DALTA Medical Center back in Las Piñas, and her straightforward yet careful advice would be crucial to the success of the wife’s pregnancy.

For the next few months, we tried to become pregnant. Regularly throughout the months, she would buy testing kits and check the results each time. And disappointingly, each test came back with just one line instead of the hoped-for two. At times, she would get so depressed she would start crying and asking if she was the reason she couldn’t get pregnant. And while I did my best to reassure her, I started having a nagging feeling that maybe the problem was with me. I felt inept, incapable, useless and impotent. But I did my best to cheer her up and we kept on trying, while reading up on as much information as we could on how improve our chances of successfully conceiving our firstborn.

June 12. Independence Day. We were planning to head home to her folk’s place for the weekend and were in the midst of preparing our clothes when she suddenly felt nauseated. On a hunch, she took out her pregnancy testing kit and tried again. Disappointment hit us as we saw the same lonely line across the marker. However, she had left the kit in the bathroom sink as we continued packing and when she returned to the bathroom a few minutes later, she then called me in an urgent tone:

“Babe! Come here!”

In a rather defensive tone, I then replied as I approached her:

“What did I do?!”

She hurriedly showed me the test kit, which showed a faint second line below the dark upper line. At that point, our eyes met and without saying a word, we suspected we had finally done it. We decided to tell only our parents of this and inform more people once we had scheduled a laboratory test and proper examination at a hospital or medical center.

But the following day, while we were going around SM Southmall with her parents, siblings and cousins, Bianx developed severe pain around her side going around her back. We decided to head to the ER as a precaution and after much nagging, managed to request for an ultrasound that confirmed our suspicions. She was indeed pregnant, nearly two months along and were both very delighted by the news.

Further challenges would come further down the road, as pre-natal testing found Bianx had developed gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM (despite the lack of a history of diabetes in her family tree), which meant that aside from lifestyle changes (less sugary foods particularly, and no coffee or smoking) she had to regularly monitor her blood sugar levels and inject herself with insulin daily (leading to a couple of close calls with hypoglycemia). She had also been put under the care of an endocrinologist, who would help monitor her GDM until delivery. Again, the good friend of hers who helped us get our condo offered his spare blood sugar monitoring and insulin injections (as he happened to be a diabetic as well, and which saved us in expenses significantly).

As I was also on the road to recovery from my bouts with hypertension, we had decided to eat healthier and so she started experimenting with cooking her own low-sodium dishes (which we were even able to sell for a limited time, leading to the launching of our online store Love at First Bite). In addition, I began increasing my water intake while cutting back on my beloved soda. This led to noticeable improvements in our health, which spurred us to keep this going for the duration of our stay in Makati.

Going back to the story, I ended up moving into a new account after my old account had started reducing headcount, which put me on edge since I was concerned about being without income for any extended period. And to top it off, the wife and I had gotten round-trip tickets to Bohol province earlier in the year, where we had planned to celebrate our long-overdue honeymoon in late June. While going through every terminal informing the attendants of her pregnancy was a bother, the real scare came during our long tricycle ride to the resort where we ended up traveling on very rough roads that made me fear for the safety of my wife and our unborn child. Aside from that, the honeymoon itself went very well and we enjoyed our time away from the city immensely.

It was also during these early months that I faced what many dreaded and found comical about pregnant women. The cravings.

One morning in Makati, she decided she wanted some pandesal so she sent me out to get some. And not just any pandesal, but the freshly baked piping hot variety from the small bakeries some distance away. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find it and upon returning to the condo I told her:

“Seriously, do you still expect fresh pandesal at 10 in the morning?!”

Some weeks later, we were at the in-laws in Las Piñas when she started craving for some custard-topped bread. And she made a lot of fuss about not wanting to eat anything else, so I set off. Four bakeries later, I still hadn’t found what she wanted. And when I told her what happened, she did her usual trembling lip before bursting into tears.

Despite this, her cravings tapered off by her second trimester and things returned a lot closer to normal. Now with her pregnancy being more complicated than the usual, she required more frequent checkups including ultrasound scans, all of which cost quite a bit of money. We kept it up with her maintenance insulin and monitored diet (albeit with the occasional cheat day to keep her happy) and so far our son had held on nicely.

In the final trimester of her pregnancy, her ob-gyne had expressed some concern that she wouldn’t be able to give birth normally as her pelvis appeared too small to successfully accommodate our baby’s passage. Fortunately, we had started preparing for such eventualities by saving up enough for the delivery, although we were still worried costs could quickly spiral out of range if further medical procedures were needed.

Early in December, we decided to move out shortly before Christmas and end our lease early at the condo we had rented. With the due date falling on January 5th, she had already started her maternity leave and we decided it was best to be back with her family to prepare for the arrival of our son. Being located much closer to her doctors was a relief, although I still miss the convenience and independence our year in Makati provided.

On her due date, she had her final ultrasound session and the attendant pointed out that her level of amniotic fluid was running low and the baby would have to be delivered soon or serious complications could set in. After consulting with the ob-gyne, we made the difficult yet necessary decision to schedule our son’s delivery by Cesarean section early the following morning, as there were no other available hours for that day. She was confined to a ward that evening, where she complained of both discomfort from the baby’s size and anxiety due to the pending operation. Throughout the night up until she was brought to the operating room at around 4:00 am, her blood pressure had been rising uncharacteristically, lending even more urgency to the situation. Before she was wheeled in, I was made to sign a waiver indicating that I agreed to the operation and any risks involved, including the potential loss of my wife, my son or both of them. As I started to fall asleep in the adjacent bed after having made the long walk back to the ward, the possibility of something going horribly wrong did scare me and I could only hope it would all be okay when I woke up.

A few hours later, a nurse woke me up to inform me that our son was in the nursery while Bianx was in the post-anesthesia recovery room. I hurried down to the nursery, where the curtains had been drawn and I waited for them to be opened. When several minutes passed without anything happening, I knocked on the door of the nursery and asked if I could see my son. After giving them my wife’s details, within a minute or two they pulled back the curtains and I saw the first ever glimpse of my firstborn in the incubator (which was probably a precaution recommended by the doctors given the circumstances he had been delivered into).

me_and_ozzy

Yes, this was the official post I made to announce Baby Ozzy’s arrival that fateful morning.

Although I had seen newborn babies before, it certainly felt different as I stared at him at the incubator for several long minutes before the moment finally sunk in.

“You’re a father now.”

I never thought I would ever be at this point in my life, or ever get to this moment in time as recently as just two years ago. But I was. It happened. And it was the realization that my life could and would never, ever be the same as it was before.

My wife would rejoin me in the ward hours later after the anesthesia had worn off, and although sore from the operation we would soon have the chance to hold our little one.

And to think he celebrated his first birthday earlier this month, after plenty of sleepless nights, empty pockets and myriad moments that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Brandon Austin (or Oz or Ozzy, whichever you prefer) has proven himself to be a very intelligent, energetic and healthy toddler who brightens the lives of those he encounters, most especially his parents and grandparents.

Honestly, there’s so much I’d tell you about our little boy, but more than anything else I’m just happy that he’s here as a part of our young family. And for all the challenges he and the world may pose, seeing that handsome face glow with a smile is always worth it.

Belated Happy Birthday, my son. We love you very much.