This is a touching story of mother and child that strikes us to the core.
(The story was lifted from inquirer newspaper – http://globalnation.inquirer.net/mindfeeds/mindfeeds/view/20080117-113028/Rebecca)
Read on and share your thoughts.
Sa aking pagtulog na labis ang himbing
Ang bantay ko’y tala
Ang tanod ko’y bituin
Sa piling ni Nanay
Langit ang buhay
Puso kong may dusa
Sabik sa ugoy ng duyan mo Inay
Sana narito ka Inay
“Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” – Lyrics by Levi Celerio, Music by Lucio San Pedro,
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother,
What would I be?
“Que Sera, Sera”- Lyrics by Jay Livingston, Music by Ray Evans
Once upon a time a little girl was born with a birth defect so severe, no less than four major operations were necessary for her to have a chance to grow normally. After those four operations, she was to undergo another three, after four years. The birth defect is known as VACTERL association, which is a group of birth defects that appear together in children of diabetic mothers or children born with chromosomal defects. She had the latter.
She had an imperforate anus (no hole); some portions of her spinal cord were stuck onto some vertebrae and she had a discontinuous esophagus (the esophagus or food tube did not reach the stomach). Her heart however was fine, as were her kidneys and her brain.
Despite all these defects, she was so pretty and otherwise alert and attentive that the nurses of the different divisions of the two hospitals she was treated in would come from different wings just to see the poor beautiful baby. Her mother would visit her for hours everyday, defying neo-natal ICU rules. Nanay would sing Sa Ugoy ng Duyan or bring a tape of the Canon in D by Pachebel. Songs the little girl must have heard in utero.
Her first operation was performed only hours after she was born. Her Nanay saw her for the first time when the little girl was wheeled into the O.R. By that time, she had a name –
She survived that colostomy operation where doctors created a hole in her side so she could get rid of wastes despite lacking a perforation in her anus. A few weeks later, she had her second operation to connect her esophagus to her stomach.
Before this second operation, she was fed through a tube in her side that led directly to her stomach. Nanay’s breast milk was poured into that tube until after the second operation. After which Rebecca had to learn to suckle. Not long after that, she went home to her brothers and sister.
Nanay’s insistence on using the breast pump very often to store milk for her, was a practice honed on three older children, and she had milk to spare. Some of that milk was donated to the Philippine General Hospital’s Neonatal ICU for infants whose parents often had to work very hard just to buy synthetic milk.
Rebecca was back in the hospital before she was two months old. While waiting for her next major operation, she somehow contracted pneumonia less than two weeks after her last operation. She could not breathe. Despite all positive signs, Becca died shortly before Christmas, leaving behind a family devastated by her loss.
At less than two months of age, Becca did not make much of an impression on world affairs. Her birth and death were marked only by her family. But so great was the void she left that her mother could not cope with her own grief.
Nanay refused to take medication to stop her breast milk. She continued to pump her milk, donating them to the PGH Neonatal ICU. One time, she stopped by the unit and after asking permission, selected a very sick infant and breastfed him. This happened a few times more.
Several babies were sustained by Becca’s breast milk, which lasted several months. Some of those babies were so sick, they, like Becca, died anyway. But the others survived. Those babies would be about eight or nine years old this year. Hopefully they are good, intelligent, boisterous, healthy and active kids. Someday I hope that they will know that they survived in part because a dead baby’s mother’s milk sustained them.
The recent Supreme Court decision that voids the total ban on milk formula advertising instituted by the Department of Health in effect allows the advertising of breast milk substitutes. The advertisements add the weight of big business against the myriad existing discouragements for breast feeding.
Pharmaceutical companies that produce such “milk” stand to gain millions if allowed to advertise. The advertising misleads many mothers, especially the poor and uneducated, into believing that such substitutes are better for their babies. Yet by now, all the studies lead us to the conclusion that breast milk substitutes are an expensive but very poor substitute for mother’s milk. Impoverished mothers, who work for a mere pittance, are enslaved by the vicious cycle of being separated from their newborns and working for only enough wages to buy breast milk substitutes. Yet, by such advertising, these same mothers believe that staying home to breastfeed their babies is a waste of time or inadequate mothering
In Third World countries where such products are usually imported, they represent an unnecessary drain on dollar reserves while compromising on the health of the most helpless next generation.
Support the movement to enact pro-breastfeeding legislation. Amend the Milk Code to prevent pharmaceutical companies from advertising their insidious products.
Rebecca Katrina Cruz Angeles (26 October-22 December 1999) was the columnist’s fourth child.