Sunday, September 06, 2009

Ice-Breaker Speech (Faye Melegrito): The Child Giving Birth to the Mother

Six years ago today, I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time. We did not expect her until September 29. My husband even hoped she’d have the same birthday as John Lennon, October 9.

However, God had other plans for us. On my sixth month of pregnancy, my amniotic fluid level was not as high as it should be. It was still stubbornly low on my eighth month. Thus, on a Friday afternoon, 21 days after I turned 31, I was hospitalized for rehydration.And Despite the low fluid level in her uterine environment, my little girl was in a fighting form. My earlier ultrasound sessions showed her to be within the normal weight and length for her age. How proud and relieved I felt when her biophysical profile scores always turned out perfect. Not even having come out of my womb yet, my baby was already being graded.

By Sunday night, I had to be injected with drug X to strengthen my baby’s lungs, in preparation for premature birth. The next day, Monday morning of August 25, I still had a low fluid level. A little after noon, I transferred to a nearby hospital. Like a salmon going back to its breeding ground, I wanted to give birth in the hospital where my own mother gave birth to me.

When I was opened up, the doctors told me that my uterus was small. So small that my baby had to get out, to be free, as eight months in my womb are enough time for her to gestate. At 3PM, my baby girl, Luce Domini, was scooped out of my womb. She weighed just 2 kilos and measured 1-foot-5 inches; but her APGAR score was a high 9, remarkable for a prematurely-born infant. “Hello, baby,” I told her when the nurse showed her to me, swathed in hospital-green clothe, so small. Then I drifted to sleep, to be awakened by the Angelus as I was wheeled to my room.

It was not until 2 days later when I would see my baby again. To avoid possible complications, she didn’t room-in with me. Later that day, I held my baby in my arms for the first time.

Fast forward to summer 2009. My husband and I now have a young girl bursting with confidence and showing such negotiating skills, she usually ends up getting the better deal after most collective bargaining agreements.

At that time, she has been attending Kumon Reading sessions for three months. My little girl’s progress is summarized by a graph. Three more lines show advanced levels at one year, two years, or three years, where the child can receive bronze, silver, or gold medals for being ahead of her actual school level.

Luce and I would often look at her graph. That summer, we set goals for her. “Finish Level 2A before your birthday and you’d be getting a bronze,” I showed her.

I wanted her to learn to read, to enjoy the printed word as much as I do, or even more. Thus, I’ve surrounded Luce with books since she was a baby. In fact, I started reading to her in utero. Oh, I’d read to her the places she’d go; I’d tell her of Yertle the Turtle and Daisy McFuzz. Now, oh, the joy I feel, the pride that makes my heart swell when she reads to me the exploits of Cat in the hat, or the little red hen, or the house that Jack built.

I guess, like any mother, I want a mini version of me in my daughter. Since she’s undoubtedly her father’s daughter in looks, in humming to tunes, and in tapping to the rhythm, I explored other avenues to create a little Faye in my Luce.

As I guided my child towards enhancing her reading skills, I began contemplating on my own enhancement. There was my daughter, progressing towards a bronze medal before August ends. What about me? Towards what goal am I moving forward to? Am I moving in the first place? I didn’t think so.

Last summer, I felt stuck in the quagmire of self doubts. I felt immobile as my spirit was like a flat tire, devoid of air, no wind to life me up. I felt sad, tired, lost.

Yet my daughter, true to her name, Luce, light, she enlightened me. I once wrote a poem for my husband, referring to him as my north star, my lighthouse. Last summer, as I felt lost, adrift at sea, my daughter beamed her own light. Smaller than her father’s, yes. But as bright, as lively, as inspiring.

My little Luce, my little lighthouse, lighted my path. My little Luce, my young daughter, showed me the way. My little Luce, my very own child, gave birth to a new me.

I embarked on a new mission. Codename: Finding Faye.

I aimed to shed my old self and looked forward to seeing the new me. I bade goodbye to some scars, literally and figuratively, as I uncovered the real me. I started with a leg peeling treatment, followed by a writing workshop, and then a speech course. By the time my legs had been scrubbed clean of dermal debris, I have finally transformed a few ideas into several written pieces, and with enough confidence to pitch my written work to others.

Last month, I finally attended Butter N Toast sessions, a plan I have wanted to do since 2007. Like my daughter with her Kumon, I am now working towards a goal, towards becoming a CC after a year, towards becoming a CL a year after that. I turned 37 last August 1 and have just been born again. I see myself growing in Butter N Toast.

I have swept away the cobwebs in my mind, I have flexed my muscles into action. Here I am. I have found Faye.

And tonight, six years after I first held my baby girl in my arms, I stand before you and present my first speech. It is my hope that as tightly as I embraced my daughter that August night in the hospital nursery, you would equally accept me in your fold.

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