While They Were Gone
A DISORIENTED ME IN WORDS AND ON CAM.
Ten days. For the first time in our family life, our firstborn travels halfway around the world without me.
It was great timing as we just welcomed the newborn and it would be a good opportunity to also signal a new level of independence for our firstborn, Philip. He was also very excited. He always likes the idea of riding a plane and going to different nations. I do, too, but I just was not prepared enough for the day that he was going to do this without me.
For years, I thought of everything for all this boy’s trips. His passport, his birth cert, his visa; the air pressure affecting his ears during take-off and landing, his allergy meds, what he would eat, or play with, or wear; where we would go, especially when his Papa is meeting or teaching people, I always went with him and found something fun for a child to do.
How will he be on this trip?
But more importantly, how will I be on this trip?
Because the boy seemed fine all throughout. But his mother was breaking down little by little in the very fluid days of newbornhood, where days turn into nights and nights into mornings without the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner breaks in between because the baby is, anyway, ALWAYS EATING and NEVER SLEEPING long enough.
And the thing is, “everything happened” within those lonely ten days.
I had high fever — on and off. I developed night sweats. One night I was giving Manu a bath and he scratched my eye. Turns out I had corneal abrasion due to his long fingernails, a common occurrence for parents and children, apparently. It led me to the ER after midnight because a little while more and I couldn’t open the eye without hurting anymore. On the same night, I got locked out of my own house with helper and newborn in tow, and the adventure ends with me successfully killing a fat mosquito preying on my yummy baby.
Wait, there’s more.
Only a few hours into the same day I learned that my father who lives in Los Angeles, codeblued and was resuscitated back to life.
My night sweats worsened. I surmise it was because I was, as my teacher Rica Bolipata-Santos would call it, feeling everything “like an earthquake.” But how could I not? I was fearing for the life of my father while my constants were timezones away from me. It was bad enough that my pelvic floor was still numb and lazy and low at two months postpartum. Then suddenly, everything else inside of me felt like collapsing. From my mind to my heart to my uterus. My entire being hung low and I was trying so hard not to have a total meltdown.
So honestly, the vlog has no structure. When I saw the first draft I was thinking to myself, what will people get out of this when they watch it? But then I also feel like it is a good material to share because it shows a rather disoriented me, who can’t keep up with any narrative because I was constantly worried about my leaky my breasts and also, what could be my father’s last days.
So if you watch this, do have that in mind. The vlog is not meant to be ordered but an honest telling of my dis-order during those days. I was increasingly becoming very sad and lost as each one passes without my husband near me. He is the only anchor I had and he was oceans away from me.
Amidst all of this, I thought about three things.
One is that I was never ever like this before. I was never helpless. I so hate the damsel in distress trope for women. I don’t want to be a princess, I’d rather be a queen. And let me be Queen Elizabeth — strong and unmarried. But then there I was, lost without my knight in shining armor.
Marriage. Marriage happened.
This is what marriage does to you. It asks you to be vulnerable, to be less content about being only with your wonderful self. It asks you to be one with another so that when one of you has to go, the other will feel incomplete, lacking, almost useless. Tom Cruise got it wrong. Reneé was not to complete him. Rather, he chose to be incomplete without her.
In the words of a friend who lost her spouse, when your husband dies you feel like a headless chicken. She was alluding to Ephesians 2:23 where it says that in marriage, the husband is the head of the wife. I never forgot the imagery because that’s exactly how it feels when your husband is gone. You have no head. No brain, no eyes, no ears, no mouth, no breath. You are a mere body. A body walking, feeling everything, without understanding anything that comes in contact with it. (Feminists, this does not mean I become dumb without a man. It just means I am less together because of the choice to live as one with him. This makes a lot of sense in marriage. Keeping the self has no place in a covenant as such. Why marry if you wanted to be independent anyway?)
The second thing I realized was that I had been so tired of menu planning. Food is not exactly my strength. But I picked it up — cooking or meal preps, that is, lest we die of starvation. But when they were coming back I couldn’t be happier to do grocery shopping. I wanted to think and think of what they’d love to eat for the next few days when they arrive. I don’t mind menu planning for the rest of my life if it means to be with them.
Maybe that’s what relationships are for. Something to live for. To have breath or to simply be is to exist, but relationships cause you to come alive. People are there so one can not only exist but also truly live.
The third thing was how much a newborn develops in just ten days and I was sad that his father missed some of his very first turnovers. How do overseas workers do this? My heart breaks for every parent who has no other choice but to be away.
I always get philosophical about parting, endings, beginnings. I am in the middle of a weird mix of all. What a season. Add that my husband lost my camera. I was currently testing my Sony a6400 when they left for the U.S. and I asked them to take my Canon G7X to document their side of things. He didn’t lose it until three days before their return. I wonder who has that other side of life right now? I pray whoever has it will find a way to return its contents back to us. Especially when everything else around me is changing in a way that cannot be reversed anymore. My firstborn is no longer a toddler. My second son is no longer a newborn. My dad is no longer alive. And my postpartum ailments have left. (Perhaps the only change I do not lament.)
Oh but if I never get those snapshots back, it is alright. It is enough that both my husband and firstborn are back in my arms.