I’m writing from the future. Specifically June 18, 2021. I’m not sure if this will make circumstances easier for you but it’s an effort to help you get through what is about to happen. I would like to tell you of how you survived the past year despite facing a financial crisis; giving birth during a totally different world; and treading a pandemic without your husband by your side. Read on.
If I could choose when you will read this, it will be February 4, 2020. So you are the future’s past and I am the past’s future. But there’s no mutant here, only mutations of some sort.
February 4,2020. The day after your son’s first birthday. Because if you will have had read this before then, you would probably cancel the birthday celebration in an attempt to save up on finances, and that would be a terrible thing to do. Because if there’s anything that you’d have resolved to do after experiencing the pandemic, it is to create lasting memories with loved ones.
Today is June 18, 2021, your husband’s birthday. I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you will be together today, after nine months of being in an LDR. You have always known it will be challenging to be married to an overseas worker (or on the seas worker? Sorry for the pun). But knowing does not really numb the pinch of longing for someone, particularly someone you call home.
Here’s the bad news, your son’s birthday will be the last occasion you will be celebrating without a tinged of fear. Because, NCov 19, the virus you have been hearing about since last year will reach the Philippines. And in March 2020, you will be living in a totally different era; for there will be lockdowns, and quarantines, and lots of deaths. Yes, like in an apocalyptic movie, except that there is no good looking scientist who will have the ready antidote to save the world.
And I hope this letter will prepare you for what is to come. So, here is some advice for you.
Sometimes Two Fish and Five Loaves Can Feed The Five Thousand
First, please learn Math. When you were in elementary, you thought, “There is no way I’m ever gonna buy 95 watermelons!” Nope, you will not count watermelons, but you will count days. Thirty days more before your due. Fourteen days quarantine before you get to see your husband. Two days before payday.
Here’s a tough dilemma – if you were to choose –210 days being together but with unstable income or 270 days of being apart but with a secure daily bread errr rice? Sorry, you don’t get to choose. You will experience both.
Financial advisers would usually tell you to have an emergency fund that will cover three to six months of expense. You have heeded that advice, right? Good job. But the thing is, they were wrong. For it will take seven months before you and your husband will have had an income again.
Apparently, in a pandemic, schedules are messed up. The once predictable schedules of flights and sails do not apply anymore. You and your husband will read every article pertaining to opening of air and seaports as this will be the deciding factor if you’re going to survive another month.
You will actually doubt if you made the right decision to stay at home when you had Thirdy, your firstborn. You will also learn that electricity costs at Php. 6.37 per kilo watt hour and that almost half of household electricity bills go to maintenance fees and repairs done by electric companies. You will be enraged by the fact. Ignorance is bliss indeed. You will be grateful for your past self for investing in insurances. Thank you past self! Also, you will kiss your imported perfumes and bags goodbye because you will barter them for sacks of rice and packs of diaper(Just a little context here, in Bacolod, a facebook group will be created that will revive the barter system, and it will be a community that helps lots of Bacolodnons to let go of the unnecessaries for what is essential).
But you will also learn that one of God’s name is Jehovah Jireh. God the Provider. And that sometimes, grace is in the form of friends. And that two fish and five loaves is in the form of random food or grocery deliveries from them. And that God has a different Math; How else were you able to survive seven months without a fixed income?
A Miracle Named Joshua
My second advice is this: learn basic biology. A few days from now, you will learn that you are pregnant. During your first pregnancy, you have watched youtube videos to prepare yourself for what is to come. What things to bring. Heck, there are even videos of women giving birth in bath tubs! So you have learned how to properly “push” the baby out. And tapped your shoulder in congratulations for being “good” at it. But this time, there is no youtube video about giving birth in a pandemic. Brace yourself, Kat. It will be different. It will be hard. It will be more painful.
Not one will tell you that prenatal checks won’t be the same anymore. On your first pregnancy, your OB reminds you to visit her regularly. But this time, she will advise you that it is probably not a good idea to visit the hospital this week. I know it sound odd, Kat, but yes, there will come a time that doctors will tell you to keep away from hospitals. And since you don’t know how to name basic human parts, you will have to search for pictures online to tell your gynecologist what on earth it is that’s bothering you.
During this pregnancy, you will learn about premature birth. About cord coils. And the importance of bed rest. Because at 33 weeks, you will be informed that there is a possibility that you will deliver your baby prematurely.
Haven’t I told you yet that you will have to learn math? Because you will count days – Thirty Days. You will have to stay put for 30 days. Baby will have to stay put for 30 days.
Here’s a glimpse of your thoughts during this period.
It’s been the longest days of my life. Every morning that I do not feel any contraction, I thank God. I thank God for the new day. I thank God it’s not yet THE day. Each day is a pull between anxiety and gratitude.
On my bed, I have dreamt of having vacations around the world as the only view I see is the white ceiling and wall. Others have been all around the world, I on the other hand, all around the “wall”. Hahah. And I have known the cracks and stains of the wall like the back of my hand. Some lines remind me of the horizon, ballpen marks by Thirdy reminded me of the ocean waves and the clouds. No wonder, some people see Christ’s image on some surfaces. I think it’s because sometimes, we are in want, in want of a miracle.
And a miracle, you will surely get.
For at the 30th day of your bedrest, the 37th week of your pregnancy, your baby will kick…hard(!) signalling that he is ready to come out into the world. But not yet, not without a negative result of a swabtest; a clear chest X ray; and a face mask. So you will be waddling about the hospital floor for those lab results and you will be gasping for air for 16 hours. Yes, you will count the hours. Will mutter prayers and questions. And shout some curses(aimed at the husband of course!)
Finally, when baby successfully comes out and cries which is just baby talk for “Hello world!” you will have been reminded of one of God’s names in the bible. Jehovah Rapha. God the healer. Kat, I tell you, when you embrace him, for a moment, you will forget all about the pain. Sixteen hours of pain will be washed up by a single moment. All you can think of is you’re embracing a miracle. You will name this miracle, Joshua.
Please Make the Sun Stand Still
Another thing to learn is Geography. It will let you know that Brazil is 19,305 kilometers away from the Philippines. And when you give birth to your baby at 4:13 AM, it would be 5 PM in that side of the world. That side where your husband would be. Yes, as I have mentioned in the earlier paragraph of this letter, you will give birth to your second son, in the midst of a pandemic, without your husband by your side. This is the part where I can tell you that you are indeed a survivor.
You are already familiar with the dreadful first weeks with Thirdy. It’s that time when moms are tempted to murder their husbands who sleep soundly despite baby’s terrible fit of crying in the middle of the night. Grrr! Wiith Joshua, you will have no one to displace your frustrations to. No one to argue with if it’s already their turn in changing baby’s nappies. And no one to celebrate with during baby’s many firsts. I would like to enumerate more as our brain is so good with that, but I remembered that this is not a “Maalala Mo Kaya” letter and you already get the idea.
Those will be long nights. Nights that will affirm your decision of letting your career go is right. Because at 2 am in the morning, when Joshua or Thirdy cries for the comfort of your embrace, you will no longer dream of conquering the world, you just long for a day that you, your husband and your children can enjoy a holiday by the sea.
You already know, that these first weeks are very critical so the pedia usually gives instructions to the parent regarding proper baby care. One of these is to expose your baby to the morning sun. So everyday, you would pray for the sun to shine. You will also ask God to shun the rain away. Make it come back when the tiny tot doesn’t need it anymore. Hahah. This is by the way in contrast to your elementary self who would pray for the typhoon to come. Para walang pasok(So the classes will be suspended).
Seeing the sunlight by the window will make you smile. For this is an answered prayer. The presence of the sun would remind you of the night the angel of the Lord instructed Mary to call Christ, Immanuel. God is with us. God is with you. He is here, answering your childish prayers. Despite the distances with all the loved ones, 6 feet or 19,305 kilometers away, God is near. And that’s enough.
A Word For The Moment You Win Tug-Of-War
Kat, this day in what is to you the future, you will be reunited with your husband. And the moment you see him, you will be reminded of one of Sarah Kay’s poem…
“Is there a word for the moment you win tug-of-war? When the weight gives in and all that extra rope comes hurdling towards you; how even though you’ve won, you still wind up with muddy knees and burns on your hands. Is there a word for that? I wish there was. I would have said it when we were finally together on (y)our couch, neither one of us with anything left to say.”Postcards by Sarah Kay
There is nothing left to say. For having him here, by your side, is enough. And if there’s anything that the pandemic has taught you, it’s to savor every fleeting moment that you are privileged to have. To live as if it’s your very last day. Because quite frankly, with the looming number of cases, and how close to home it is, it’s not really an exaggeration to say that today might be your last. So go on, live as if it’s your last; laugh as if you’ve never known sadness; love as if you’ve never been hurt; as the cliché goes.
On Why It Is Important to Remember Names
Kat, learn Math. Not so that you can save up from the electricity bill. Not so that you can compute how much you can withdraw from your insurance. Not even in order to know the depreciation value of stuff you can barter for groceries. Learn Math so that you can number your days. Stop wasting time doing anything unnecessary, and start investing on what is essential. Math will also teach you how to count your blessings. Lastly, learn Math so that you will have the childlike wonder in knowing that sometimes, two fish and five loaves can feed the five thousand.
Learn Biology. Not so that you can argue online why vaccines are important. Not so that you may know all the dos and dont’s in a pandemic world. Not even so that you can sound smart talking to some mom friends. Learn Biology so that you may be reminded how life is fleeting. Death is inevitable. Learn Biology, so that you will be amazed by the intricacies involved when God breathed air into Adam. Maybe then you will not take for granted the very air that you breathe — the life you have been given.
Learn Geography, not so that you can have better chance at winning the game P.A.N.T.S. Not so that you can estimate what time you should be online. Not so that you will know how far your loved one is. Learn Geography so that you will feel the weight of God’s promises. For the One who spoke of the earth’s existence is the very one that tells you “I’m with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you”.
If there are times you fail to learn these things, strive to learn names instead — the names of God. For you will not only know what to call Him in your prayers, you will also be reminded that He can answer them. Jehovah Jireh. God provides. Jehovah Rapha. The Lord Heals. Immanuel. He is with you.
In Heaven, There Will Be Dancing and Singing
Kat, I’m telling you all these because there will be nights when sorrows will tarry, and joy will not be readily available in the morning. And what will save you during those times is your faith. Your faith in the living God. El Elohim. Keep this faith. Better yet, spread it.
Faith, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Having faith is hoping. For they say that one can live 40 days without food, and 4 days without water, but not a single second without hope. Even if cynicism is poured out freely and abundantly (just scroll in the comments section of facebook news articles to prove this), you’ll have to catch and cling unto hope, even if it is offered in trickles. Because trickles of hope are enough to create ripples. Ripples can be waves. And waves of hope can wash up some remnants of disappointments, regrets, and pain.
Faith is the conviction of things not seen. What you will see for the next year, Kat, is a ubiquitous profile picture of a lighted candle or plain black background on your facebook feed—signifying loss of a loved one. What you will see is the reality of death and the realness of the pain it brings. In fact, you yourself will write a eulogy for a loved one.
Kat, they say that when you suffer an injury, there is a gap between the actual accident and the realization of pain. That pain will come later and will hit like a truck. To be honest, while I’m writing this, I am wondering, when that pain will come.
So hold on to that conviction. That what you see now is not what’s all there is. That there is heaven, heaven for loved ones you have lost for the past year. And that in heaven, there will be a wedding. There will be singing and dancing. You will no longer pray for daily bread, for there shall be a feast; no need to pray for healing, for in heaven, pain is no more; and that loneliness and aloneness is just a memory of a distant past.
Kat, you have survived. But not without a Savior. While embracing your baby, remember—Joshua. God is my Savior.
Katrina Jay. Victorious.
About this Post
This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.