Saturday, 25 July 2015

Breastfeeding and homesickness

The Long Walk Windsor Castle Philippines bayong

Picnic by the Windsor Castle gates in early June, at one of our favourite places to go for walks, “The Long Walk.” Sprog no. 2 was only three weeks old at that time. Bayong love. Discreetly breastfed in front of the Queen’s house.
I haven’t had much sleep lately. But anyone with a grown-up offspring will say this is the easiest time so I just try to savour the moments with a baby who is hardly aware where his arms end and where mine begin. It gives me joy simply watching him stretch and yawn, those tiny arms! I can never bring this back. I can give all of myself right now and I know that it’s going to be enough for this pure being. However, when he grows up, when he tries to find his place in this world, when he experiences his first heartbreak, when he can’t find a job… I will still be there to hold him but that might not help much. Oh, anyone with a grown-up child will say that this lack of sleep when having a newborn is all just a breeze compared to what’s to come.
If I wanted to, I could apply the same tricks I’d used for my first-born who slept from 7pm to 7am at two and a half months (with an 11pm feed that gradually went away in the weeks that followed). One time, at close to midnight I tried making the new baby self-soothe in his moses basket, which he did after a couple of cuddles. He woke up again for a feed at 3am and this time, self-soothing did not work. He kept waking up till 5am and I just gave up and cuddled him and it occurred to me, I actually want to be awake. I actually want to use this time to read, listen to podcasts or watch films.

This year marks the 10th year since I've moved to Europe. I always say I never get homesick but probably I refer to it in other words. I engross myself in anything Filipino when I miss my family, friends and hometown. Since the baby’s birth last May, during those hours of breastfeeding, I’ve read/listened/watched so many things Filipino. Original Pilipino Music (OPM). Manny Pacquiao Documentary. Filipino author Eliza Victoria’s collection “Unseen Moon.” Have I said this before, or am I the only one who feels this? I’ve been reading Eliza for years, from her early works to the current ones, and I believe she’s developed this very distinctive, separate voice for her fiction and her poetry. Amazing.

Sometimes I’ll be in bed watching old Filipino films and at times my husband and daughter would join me for lego-building. My little girl can’t help but be curious about the film, with questions like, “is she angry? Why are they fighting?” I try to explain, tempted to say, no, they’re just talking, Filipino is just very loud. I watched Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga kuko ng liwanag” again. It’s 40 years old this year, imagine that. Whilst watching I couldn’t help but feel the reality of it, and there was that prayer that my children may never experience such life. It is a harrowing film and I had seen these things happen, not to me, but to people I know. I feel bad now that I used to romanticise poverty (like Sonny Boy, my teenage crush, he worked at the Daungan and had his face constantly burnt by cigarettes in his sleep), or make fun of it (Fred, our neighbour’s help, and how he found work as a help in Manila and was embarrassed to ask for his pay, for months). This film was art imitating life.

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