The Concengco kids: "Our three children who were born in a COVID-free world, enjoyed seeing their grandparents and relatives." Photograph by Jar Concengco
Culture Spotlight

An expectant father shares his fears, hopes in bringing a child into a strange new world

Driving your pregnant wife to her doctor’s checkup would have been an uneventful thing pre-pandemic. But what could have been a tense, frightening trip turned into a sobering one for this about-to-be dad of four. By JAR CONCENGCO 
ANCX | May 18 2020

They say every pregnancy is different. My wife is on her fourth pregnancy and this one is proving that statement to be truer than ever.

When the ECQ was announced, we realized that everything about this pregnancy would be new again. We had to prepare not only more but differently. One simple example? Since we couldn’t go to the mall to purchase baby supplies such as diapers, wet wipes, and a crib we had to purchase them online. 

Hospitals have also put in protocols in place that will change our dynamics as parents. For instance, I won’t be able to join my wife in the delivery room to welcome our new baby this time. Coming home from the hospital would also be a challenge — how do we make sure we don’t bring the disease home to our other children? This very question even made us consider home birth (but upon further research my wife wouldn’t be a good candidate for this, in that this would be her fourth birth and the likelihood of complications tends to be higher).

The author and his wife Kay at Mont St. Michel last January.

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It’s been roughly 60 days since we traveled more than a kilometer away from our home. During normal circumstances, my wife should be visiting her OB-Gyne once every week until she gives birth as she enters the final month of her last trimester. The growing number of COVID cases in Metro Manila made it inadvisable to visit the doctor at the hospital where they treat COVID-positive patients. Since ECQ was implemented, we had to rely on our instincts and simple home tools, such as a BP monitor and weighing scale, to monitor my wife’s health and our baby’s development.

Today’s trip to the doctor is my wife’s first prenatal check up in months. If you know my wife, she’s very cautious. She’s a stalwart supporter of good hygiene and safety. Like many other mothers out there, she’s the type who foresees accidents and would do everything in her power to prevent them. So it was no surprise to me that we were in the car with her wearing a neon green PPE, cap and face mask. She tells me that I should not accompany her into the Doctor’s clinic to avoid extra exposure.

Kay in her PPEs during her first doctor's visit during ECQ.

I also realize I haven’t opened up Waze ever since the ECQ — although the app wasn’t aware of the many road closures along the way. I accepted it as a dry run for when the day would come when my wife would be in labor. I would know the roads I can take and wouldn’t have to rely on Waze.

I expected heavy traffic upon arriving at the hospital: roads overflowing with people headed to the Emergency Room, detours, military check points, etc. We didn’t encounter any of that on our trip from Fairview to New Manila besides a slight detour as we approached the hospital. This was the least amount of cars I’ve ever seen on the hospital’s driveway and parking area. 

Three months ago, this doctor’s trip would be routine and uneventful. But the sight of my wife dressed up in a PPE walking away from the car to go to her appointment alone, then carefully discarding that same PPE before returning inside the car, made me ponder how much longer this will last. Our three children who were born in a COVID-free world, enjoyed seeing their grandparents and relatives. They were able to travel and experience other cultures. They have an enthusiasm for play areas, beaches and parks. For now, all of this is put on hold.

The Concengco kids: "Our three children who were born in a COVID-free world, enjoyed seeing their grandparents and relatives."

While this pregnancy seems to be the most challenging, we realized that each of the birth stories of our three other children lent to us valuable insights that are comforting us in these extraordinary times. For our firstborn, we had a birthing coach who taught us how to help each other with breathing exercises during labor, reminding us to keep calm and take deep breaths when anxiety hits. 

Our second child was in such a hurry to be born that when we arrived at the hospital, there wasn’t any time to even administer epidural — thus a natural birth — affirming that the human body has its own ability to withstand pain and to heal. 

We knew our third baby was ready when, for the first time, my wife’s water broke while we were sleeping, signaling that we had to get to the hospital. This taught us that we should acknowledge the science behind every medical condition and act accordingly on it.

As we navigate through this more complicated world, we can worry all day but we can also choose to breathe, trust, and move forward.

 

Photographs by Jar Concengco