“Doc, di na ma pugngan. Mu gawas na jud (Doc, I can’t keep it in. It’s gonna come out),” the patient groaned, her face distorting as another contraction ripped through her.
There were a few things wrong with this picture. First, I wasn’t a medical doctor (or any sort of doctor). The closest I’d gotten to a medical degree was a biology minor in college. Second, we were in an ambulance—not exactly the most sterile of places to give birth.
“Ayaw lang sa jud ug utong, miss. Padung na ta sa ospital (Just don’t bear down, miss. We’re on our way to a hospital),” I told her.
We’d placed the expectant mother on her left side, telling her not to push as we tried to determine the details of her pregnancy. She was a first-time mother, her last menstruation had been in February 2020 (eight months prior), and she hadn’t gotten any prenatal checkups because she’d been too scared of COVID-19 to go outside. I put my head down and focused on getting the patient safely to the hospital.
The first hospital we went to wouldn’t accept us since it was a pre-term pregnancy and the mother hadn’t gotten any prenatal checkups done. It was the only tertiary-level public hospital we had in the province. The patient was still complaining of abdominal pain as contractions came and went, but her vital signs were stable. It was starting to seem like this emergency run would simply be for transport.
But then the patient started complaining that something was coming out while we were still about six kilometers from reaching the hospital. A quick check between the patient’s legs revealed that yup, something was coming out.
“Marlou! There’s crowning!” I shouted out to my driver. The ambulance lurched forward, going a little faster, as I hastily helped the patient out of her underwear while her friend scrambled to the very back of the ambulance with exclamations of “Oh my god!” The baby’s head was peeking out between the mother’s legs like a small half-moon, and I knew that whether I wanted it or not, someone was gonna give birth right then and there.
With one last push, in a baptism of blood and water, out came a healthy baby boy. And where there had been three people at the back of the ambulance, there were now four. And one of them was making his presence extremely felt as he opened his little mouth and screamed out to the world that he was there.
It has been said time and again, but childbirth really is a small miracle. I don’t think it really sinks in until you see with your own eyes the way new life is pushed out amidst the pain and gargantuan effort; until you feel the slickness of a newborn baby’s umbilical cord and the weight and warmth of a new human being and coax forth the placenta in yet another gush of blood. In the aftermath, when the baby has been handed over to its mother and encouraged to suckle and feed on her breast, there’s a glow that comes with knowing you were witness to something extraordinary despite it happening every minute of every day all around the world.
Childbirth is nothing new. An event as old as the world. And yet there is something that changes in us when we hold a newborn baby in our arms. Could it be their delicateness, how vulnerable and small they are in our hands? Or the way they wrap their tiny fingers around just one of ours and look at us with such innocence and trust? Is it in the way their small red mouths yawn when they’re sleepy or open in cries and giggles depending on their mood?
Holding these new lives in our hands, there is a weight of responsibility that we shoulder. It doesn’t matter if the child we hold is our own or a niece or nephew, a sibling, a godchild, or even that of the neighbor’s given to us to watch for a while. The burden of creating a world in which these children can grow to be the best version of themselves falls on us—the ones who have the power to enact change while the young ones are still growing and figuring out how the world works.
We may have been born into a broken world, a dysfunctional family situation, a seemingly hopeless society where every day we look around and see injustice happening. Indeed, many of us may still be dealing with the aftereffects of a childhood where we were not loved properly, where trauma and misfortune have stunted our growth. But how long will we let this cycle continue?
For the generations we will leave this world to, may we make conscious decisions and take deliberate actions that make the world a better place. May we vote for better leaders to govern our country, may we become better people at work and at home, and may the love we have for the children in our lives be fierce and strong enough to push us to make sure that they never have to go through the same hardships we have experienced.
Because it takes a village to raise a child, and that involves you and me working together to break the traumatic cycles in our private lives and the toxic cycle our country is in to leave our children a future we used to only dream about.