It was too hot. I sat on one of the chairs outside the pediatrician’s clinic in a hospital while my baby was bawling his eyes out after receiving his scheduled dose of vaccine. I could feel my sweat trickling down my back. With a surgical mask and face shield on, I tried to breathe in through my nose and breathe out through my mouth—a breathing exercise I found effective to ease stress. My baby was inconsolable. Pain and heat combined is just too much for a four-month-old.
I remember giving birth in the same hospital last April. The city was under enhanced community quarantine then. It was a lockdown Sunday. Restaurants and fast-food chains were closed. The first question I asked while they were “cleaning me up” after I delivered the baby was, “Can I eat?” The doctor said I could. But my only guardian (my sister) was nowhere near the area. She was busy with my hospital transactions—going to the pharmacy, the billing section, and the NICU. They later transferred me to the recovery room where I slept my hunger and thirst away.
I was discharged the day after. My baby, who had an infection, stayed in the NICU for 11 days. I went back to the hospital every day to give him my expressed breast milk. My body was still in pain and I was generally anxious. But all aches and anxiety tapered off whenever I saw the baby through the NICU window.
Childbirth was not the hardest thing for me. It was the reality of motherhood in the middle of a pandemic. As a first-time mom, everything was just too tough. There were episodes of depression. There was constant anxiety. There was complete exhaustion. And with the virus around, everything was limited. No relatives to help you. No friends to visit you. My husband could not also come home because there were no flights. It was only me, my mom, and my sister. It was a whole new world.
Fortunately, I am quite adjusted now. But this new normal adds burden to mothers. What used to be simple trips to the clinic became a grueling task. I had to create my own protocol. I am tasked to carry the baby to the clinic. My sister, who is the official driver, is in charge of holding the baby bag and filling out health declaration forms. My mother stays in the car. She is responsible for holding the baby and changing his clothes after the pedia visit, while my sister and I also change our clothes and put alcohol on exposed body parts. The baby bag and all things brought inside the hospital get into the trunk. It is exhausting, especially when the baby decides to be a crying machine.
It is hard for me even with the little privilege that I have. I cannot imagine the struggles of other mothers. The mothers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the mothers in far-flung barangays who have to hire a tricycle to go to the town proper for vaccinations, the mothers due to give birth but were denied by hospitals because they had already reached full capacity, the mothers who serve as frontliners, the mothers who lost friends and loved ones to the virus, the mothers who were stranded in other regions and are far from their kids, the mothers who’d risk their lives just so they could feed their family.
Being a mom in this pandemic is being every person you need to be. You need to be a friend for your children who are forced to play in the comforts of your home. You need to be a teacher, especially with classes just around the corner. You need to be a counselor for family members just so they’d feel better. You need to be everybody’s shock absorber. You hold all the strings inside the household so that they would not fall apart. You need to be a protector. You need to be a provider. Just when you thought that being a mother even without the virus was already hard, this pandemic has put so much baggage on a mother’s already full shoulders.
We ask ourselves: When will life return to normal? With our government’s horrible response to this situation, it will probably take years. As mothers, we will have to suck it up. Our Herculean responsibilities will remain Herculean. When we chose the path of motherhood, we expected an arduous road. Now, with the virus around, it will even be tougher.
So this is to applaud all the mothers. The mothers who relentlessly take care of the household, the mothers who serve as our light in this tragedy, the mothers who conceal their own feelings to protect their loved ones, the mothers who are working doubly hard for their children, the mothers whose warmth and selflessness we all consider unparalleled. Too many things in this country are falling apart. But mothers—despite being exhausted—choose to remain intact for us.