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Birth Story

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Photos by Isabell Steinert
(see her original photo set here)

Inside all of us is a Wild Thing.
– Maurice Sendak

I don’t know where to begin. My daughter’s birth story spans several dimensions and I would like to lay them all out one by one.

We can start on the Thursday before D-Day. I was getting annoyed at the lightning pain cramps I was experiencing on my right thigh during those last couple of days. It would sometimes shoot all the way down to my leg and it would strike at the most random times of the day. It even happened while I was waddling down the mall carrying two big shopping bags and I had to stop in the middle of the walkway because the pain was unbearable.

I finally got in touch with a hilot (traditional birth attendant/masseuse) my doula recommended me. Ate Aida came over after dinner and examined my 39 week pregnant tummy. What I thought was mere cramping was a result of my baby’s head pushing down on the right side of my pelvis, hitting some of the nerves there. I’ve known for a couple of weeks already that my baby was in a cephalic position (meaning the head is already facing downwards) and I was just hoping it was in a good enough place for an easier delivery.

Ate Aida swaddled my belly by slipping a towel underneath my back and rocked my tummy from side to side. Then after she massaged my limbs, she already warned me to look out for three dates: September 5 (the coming weekend!), September 10 (my due date according to my first ultrasound), and September 15 (according to her, the last possible date my baby could come out). After she left, Joel and I were in awe at how quick the baby descended. The area below my bosom softened significantly and I was feeling more pressure down below.

The next day, a Friday (September 4!), we went about our day like nothing happened. We even had a late night dessert run to Wild Flour (I badly wanted their strawberry shortcake, it deserves a mention in this story) with my cousin and my sister and her boyfriend. The only noteworthy thing about Friday was that I was starting to shed my mucus plug. Since I wasn’t feeling any contractions, we figured we still had some time.

Come Saturday (September 5!), we only made plans to hang out in my grandmother’s house for a despidida lunch for the aforementioned cousin who was visiting from Australia. We spent the whole afternoon there hanging out and then we made our way back to Makati for dinner with some friends. During this time, I was my usual waddling self, peeing every thirty minutes and struggling walking from one place to another. We didn’t notice anything unusual and we were relaxed knowing that the car had a tank full of gas and the trunk was stuffed with all our birthing gear already should anything happen. We had been on standby since week 38.

Joel and I got ready for bed at around 11 pm and were ready to pass out after the whole day of schmoozing.

Then at midnight, I finally felt the first real contraction. I’ve been having false labor pains for weeks already but those were pains were brief and uneventful. This midnight one was PAINFUL. It felt like a really awful menstrual cramp and it was the kind of pain that I needed to work myself through. I shook Joel awake and told him to start timing the contractions already, and to text Betty, our doula, to let her know that we were starting early labor. As that was happening, I started crying. I haven’t had any real fear up to that moment when it was finally there. I was clutching my pillow and whimpering to Joel, “I can’t do this.”

Joel let me cry it out for a bit, then after a while, I took a deep breath and told him that I was ready.

Betty told us to try to relax and go back to sleep. She told us to start texting Ate Lornie, our midwife, so that we know when to start heading up to Shiphrah Birthing Center in Taytay. Ate Lornie was in the middle of a birth when we texted so she was wide awake. She told us to text her when my contractions were consistently five minutes apart and one minute long.

My contractions were still irregular but they kept on coming. We tried to go back to sleep but I’d get up on all fours to move my hips each time a contraction hit and Joel kept timing everything. Then sometime when the contractions were 7-10 minutes apart, Joel and I showered and got dressed already. At 3:30 am, while I was working on another contraction in bed, I felt a “POP!” and Joel heard it!

I stood up and the minute I steadied my legs, a strong gush of water cascaded down my legs! That, folks, was my bag of waters breaking. I read enough literature explaining that the breaking of waters didn’t really happen the way they did in the movies (like a balloon bursting) and to expect it to be more like trickles down your leg. But boy, look who got her movie moment.

We checked the contraction app and saw that we were clocking steady 5 minute intervals so Joel called up Ate Lornie. Joel hung up and then told me that it was time. We got in touch with Betty again and alerted our photographer Isabell.

So in the morning of September 6, a Sunday, our little baby was kind and considerate enough to make its debut on a day with no traffic. This was Joel’s biggest fear, that we wouldn’t be able to make the trip from Makati to Taytay. I already felt God’s hand protecting us as we made that realization. That was a big, big answered prayer.

Makati at 4:30 am was gloriously peaceful and cool. We made a pitstop at the Family Mart near our apartment to load up on snacks and drinks for our cooler. At this point, my contractions were getting stronger and I remember having one while Joel was in the convenience store. It kept on going while we got on EDSA then on C5. I even had to tell him to ease up when the road got bumpy but everything was pretty manageable. I just needed to curl my toes and grip my right hand on something. It didn’t occur to us until much later that we did most of our early labor on our own.

Joel and I big believers in signs and as we trekked to Taytay, we were graced with a beautiful view of the sky. We never wake up at that time anymore and we were awestruck at the pretty lavenders and cotton candy pinks the sky was casting over us. It was going to be a wonderful day, we just knew it.

As we pulled into Shiphrah’s subdivision, we saw Betty’s husband Manny on the way down from bringing her. He waved at us and wished us luck. We got to Shiprah in 30 minutes. It would usually take us an hour or an hour and a half whenever we went over there for my checkups on the weekends.

We parked the car outside the center and stayed inside for a little bit more. We got in touch with our families then took a deep breath once more and prayed.

We entered the center at around 6 am. We were greeted by Betty and Ate Lornie’s smiling faces. The other women in the house were also excited. The energy in the place was electric because there were FOUR other mommies delivering babies that day!

Since Ate Lornie is the only midwife who knew how to do water births, I was the lucky momma who had the one water birthing “suite” all to herself. We checked out the room and put down all our things. We had so many bags on us — my bags, Joel’s bags, baby bag, and a bag filled with towels, giant gauze pads, etc. Betty told me that I should seize this time to snack on something. I didn’t really feel like eating but I managed to walk outside chomping a banana and loading up on coconut water.

By that time contractions were getting intense and we decided to take our mind of it by walking outside. It was still early in the morning and we ran into some people doing their routine jogs. Betty is big on letting couples have their private moments so Joel and I paced up and down the road chatting with my occasional collapsing into his arms as each contraction swept over me.

We passed by The Little Children’s home nearby and we heard the kids milling about inside. Joel broke out into a smile when he saw baby clothes hanging on a clothesline outside.

We turned to walk back to the direction of the center and Betty joined us. We lingered at the small chapel down the road and used its front steps as my next laboring location. I made some Rocky jokes while going up and down the steps, but soon I couldn’t crack any more laughs after that because the pain was really getting uncomfortable.

I began my active labor in my birthing room and Betty was trying to figure out what positions would work for me. Earlier on in the game, we already established that labouring on my back was too excruciating. I couldn’t handle the pressure on my tailbone and if I had to stay in that position, I would have asked for an epidural (and the center doesn’t have any, haha). The sweet spot was me on all fours resting on a peanut shaped exercise ball. The next 2-3 hours were all about me switching positions from all fours, to sitting on a round exercise ball, to sitting on a chair reverse (so I could rest on the backseat), to squatting on a birthing stool (which was surprisingly so comfy!). The trick was to keep myself moving and distracted. This phase was all blurry to me already because my energy was running low and my head was already somewhere else trying to maneuver through all the waves of contractions.

Just as everything was intensifying, Ate Lornie popped in to give me an internal exam (they only do it once in Shiphrah, thank God — if I was subjected to several of them, I would have been so pissed). With that one and only examination, she saw that I was already 7 cm dilated! The baby still needed to descend some more but upon hearing my laboring got me that far gave me extra motivation to keep trying.

The use of the birth pool is the last stage in birthing. We were to use up as much contractions as we can outside of it so that I only use the water when I was already transitioning. I wasn’t there yet but I was in a lot of pain already so I got into the pool. The water was kept warm by a heater the whole time so I felt instant relief getting in there. But there was still a lot to go and I even had to step out to switch positions because I already wanted to pass out. The strongest memory I have during this time was me resting my head on the side of the pool and crying all over again to Joel. I told him again that I couldn’t do it. I looked at Betty and told her that all I wanted to do was sleep.

By the second time I got into the pool, I finally understood what transitioning felt like. All the pain that led up to transition was NOTHING compared to the pressure I was feeling down in my nether regions. I finally understood all those silly metaphors — the ring of fire, shitting out a bowling ball covered in hot sauce, etc. Thankfully there were respites in between those brutal contractions. I didn’t even need everyone to tell me that I was only to push if I felt the pressure. I was too tired and whether I wanted to or not, my body was intent on pushing as each contraction hit anyway.

I was too tired and in too much pain to talk so Joel and Betty had no idea what was going on with me. I didn’t even tell them that I already felt the baby crowning and none of them were able to notice because I was doing the final stretch in a kneeling position. Even if I badly wanted to push the baby all the way out, Betty was warning me to slow down so that I wouldn’t tear. I remembered that with every push outward, the baby retracts — for every three steps forward, anticipate a step back. So I struggled with all my might to pause whenever I can and to breathe as hard as I could. I felt like I didn’t know how to breathe anymore and each exhalation was a long, drawn out gasp. Ate Lornie would check the baby’s heart beat with the doppler every now and then and would tell me that I was almost there. I kept gripping Joel’s arms and he begged me to just keep looking at him. Both he and Betty were trying so hard to contain my breathing.

That whole time felt like forever. Then when the pressure was getting too much for me to bear, I pushed as hard as I could finally (after pausing and restraining every breath), and my baby shot out of my body. I knew she was already going to come out, it was just a matter of when. Thankfully my body knew which push would get all of her out and it’s a feeling I will always remember. Once her head was out, the rest of her body followed. I still remember the feeling of her shoulders and limbs. Ate Lornie caught her behind me then I quickly flipped over and she was placed on my chest. Selah Rose Darwin came into the world at 11:02 am. What felt like an eternity pushing only took one hour, according to the clock.

I looked up and I saw Joel across me crying. Originally we wanted him to be in the pool with me, but as I remember the meditations I had while I was pregnant, I knew the task of fetching my baby was all on me. I saw an island with limestone cliffs and at the shore was a line of white sand underneath a canopy of trees. In my dreams, I waded out into the water to pick her up and bring her back with me. Before that day, I remember gently placing her back into the water and telling her that I’ll be back when it was time.

Lazy Girl Pregnancy Heroes


I could give birth anytime now. I’m about to hit 39 weeks and I’m hoping this baby makes its way out around week 40 or week 41. The third trimester didn’t really have me feeling too nauseated but all the aches and pains of pregnancy showed up during this time! Foot pain, back pain, pelvic pain, leg pain! Now that I’m experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor pains), the desire to get comfy as much as I can amplified tenfold.

It’s the nerves around my legs that feel most of the lightning-like pain and I couldn’t be bothered with leggings or pants during the last trimester. I’m proud to report that I bought zero maternity wear throughout this pregnancy. I’m pretty fortunate that the weight I gained (all 35 pounds!) just concentrated itself on my tummy. Most of my wardrobe struggles involved hiding my stomach (Joel started calling me Violet Beauregard for a while and kept joking about rolling me). The two clothing pieces in this lazy girl uniform were stuff I wore before I got pregnant and adjusted quite nicely to my increasing size.

For the mommies trying to get their money’s worth in pregnancy clothing that can be used postpartum, go for stretchy jersey material. They’re not as polished as other fabrics, but they’re hard workers and are very versatile. I got a lot of compliments from family and friends about how I still remained chic and cute (yay, thank you!), but truth be told, it was only a matter of studying what works for my body and accessorizing well. Hope this little list helps!

I wear mine almost everyday. I’ve been a fan of Birkenstock since high school and I find that it’s the only sandal that gives amazing arch support. My main exercise is walking and when you have swelling feet, sneakers can be a bit too much. These sandals have been having a fashion resurgence lately (with no signs of dying, ha) and they’re a nice update for us folks who are always decked out in basics.

I love this dress so much! People won’t be able to tell you’re pregnant in the first few months because of how the skirt flares from your upper waist. Then when the belly gets too big to hide, the flared skirt shows it off in a cute way.  I’m pretty proud of my arms so the sleeveless styles are the ones I get.

To prevent myself from looking frumpy, I used a denim jacket as my primary coverup this year. It gives a structured form to balance all the flowy fabric underneath. And denim goes with everything!

One of the unexpected beauty perks you get from the pregnancy hormones is shiny, thick hair! Unfortunately for me, the new texture confounded me and I gave up all efforts trying to style it (my favorite go-to is dyeing my hair brown but hair dye = bad.) If my hair isn’t in a ponytail or in a long bob, I tuck it under a bucket hat. It makes my hair look neat with a few behaved strands peeking out. Bucket hats are also very light weight and I just keep it stuffed in my bag for my bad hair days.

Like a true lazy girl, I’m very lazy with my makeup. On days that I feel like trying, I just use BB creme, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and lipstick. If I don’t feel like trying, it’s already enough for me to just do my lips. It’s the easiest pick-me-up when I’m feeling yucky. I’m a red lipstick girl and my go-to is Mac Ruby Woo. Mac matte lipsticks can feel overwhelming and cakey for everyday use though, so my lazy alternative is NARS Cruella. It still gives me that cheerful, cheeky red without the heavy feeling. It applies effortlessly and the pencil style allows me to line my lips properly. If I’m not in red, I love a light plum and my choice is ’90s favorite Clinique Black Honey.

I bought this skirt three years ago on a whim and barely wore it. I like my bottoms looking tailored so this skirt sat in the back of my cabinet for the longest time. Now I wear it all the freaking time. It’s stretchy so it grew with me as my waist line broke the 40 inch marker. I pair slouchy sweaters, oversized t-shirts, and chambray button downs over this thing.

This Converse girl had to mature somewhat and I bought my first pair of Supergas a few years back. It’s one the chicer sneaker brands out there. It also happens to have good arch support and believe me, it’s all a pregnant lady could ever want when her feet feel like they weigh a hundred pounds each.

You can believe me or not, but before getting pregnant, I was wearing an E Cup bra. I’m a girl that needs support and my attempts to stay at one consistent size during this pregnancy was futile (read: goodbye, my wired lacy bras!). I loaded up on wireless bras and they have been such a blessing. The ones I got from Debenhams have wired bands so I was still able to get some support somewhat. These bras also yank down easily and can be used as nursing bras eventually. Another bra hack: buy extenders if it’s only the bands of your old bras that got too small. They’re insanely cheap in department stores.

Happy Anniversary


May 2010, Photo by Stephen Reed

We’ve been together for five years and married for four, as of today. We’ve been best friends for eight years.

If I can reduce what I feel into one essential thought, it would be this: he makes me a braver person. I can stand in a room with hundreds of people to deliver a speech and if I know he’s in the crowd, that’s all I need to know to get through with it. I can travel anywhere in the world if he’s by my side. I present my work better when he’s there. I take for granted how much he’s been a fixed point in my life with everything. With every example I can think off, a bunch of others mushroom too easily in its wake.

As he gets older, I feel so proud of the guy he’s turning out to be. I start my day seeing him bent over his bible and jotting down entries in his journal. I end it with him holding my hand in bed and saying a quick prayer. Over time I’m realizing that he anchors me so well because he tries very hard to be anchored as well.

I never thought I’d see the day where I would have marriage and babies lined up in my future. When he came along, it just became the most natural thing. We’ve had a good run as a twosome. And I know the courage he gives me will be enough for us to be a family very, very soon.

8 Things to Do Before You Hit 30

Note: This was an article I wrote for a website that never made it to publication.
Rather than see my hard work disappear in my files, I’m posting it here.


Photo from Global Pillage

I don’t know why I got fielded this topic. I just turned 29 in February and while I have assumed some of the external trappings of adult life, my husband and I still sleep on a mattress on a floor, do Kraft Mac & Cheese lunches, and struggle with the concept of an “emergency fund.”

At the same time, I will acknowledge that we’ve also hit some milestones that required big boy and big girl pants-wearing: clocking in almost 4 years of marriage, getting married with a budget under P150,000 (it’s still one of my prouder moments), being financially independent, living on our own, ditching stable corporate jobs to pursue our own business, and finally, planning for a terrifying bundle of joy due this September.

My husband and I also had a pretty extended adolescence during our 20s (read: life looked too much like a Judd Apatow production), so when we made the decision to “grow up,” we had a lot of catching up to do and the lessons to be had were often painful and difficult.

If you’re anything like us, we’re the type that lamented the first five years of our 20s then reached a breaking point where we wanted to go after the ideals and values that really meant something to us. This can look different to any person but the crazy thing is that there will be common threads among all of us trying to achieve this, and this is my attempt to break it all down.

Let’s begin.

1. Know Your Currency

This is another way of saying, “know your values, know what you want.” Usually they’re going to match things about yourself that already come naturally to you. In my case, I love my chosen career (design), I am devoted to anything that has to do with an inner life (empathy, spirituality, connectedness, what makes people tick), and I value relationships and experiences (over material gains and successes). This is my currency. It’s what I value and what I dispense the best. When I had that awareness, my life choices started centering themselves around these things.

It’s why I got married early, it’s why I work from home, and it’s why my yearly vacations are infrequent but ridiculously long (I like taking off for weeks, at least). Your currency may look a lot different from mine, but once you know what it is, you’d be surprised at how making decisions become a lot easier to you.


2. Figure Out Your Relationship Rhythm

Once you know what your currency is, then it also becomes easier figuring out who you are in relation to people and what your boundaries are. My husband is a great match for me because he’s emotional, sensitive, and a deep thinker. He also loves people, has an appalling sense of humor, and is a good traveller. He syncs well with my currencies and is enough of my opposite to keep things interesting (I fall on a different part of the spectrum: I have no filter, I’m confrontational, I don’t do hugs well, and I have a tendency to intellectualize my emotions).

The people who are incompatible with my currency have naturally slipped away over the years. You also become more secure in standing up for yourself when people are being pricks because you’re learning what you can and cannot put up with. On the plus side, you also have an awareness of the kinds of people you work with best and you learn to be more sensitive to the ones who don’t.

Which leads to my number 3:


3. Nail Conflict Resolution

Before you turn 30, it would be great if you have already mastered the proper way to process and vent your feelings (no more passive aggressive statuses on social media, please!) and the way to gracefully end things with people (whether it’s a break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend or a best friend, it’s no different).

It means being able to own up your responsibilities, to be clear about your feelings, and to avoid unnecessary drama. It means being able to see the humanity in people we tend to render in 2D – bosses, our parents, clients, coworkers, subordinates, helpers, etc. It’s learning how to disagree without being a jerk. It’s learning how to be honest and how to coexist with other people better. In short: This is the best time to stop being that asshole.


4. Up the Responsibility Game

I would suggest moving out the minute you graduate college (I myself wasn’t able to do it but my friends who did learned how to adult a lot quicker), because it would teach you so much about meeting obligations every month, relying on yourself, learning to ask for help, and budgeting your resources. But every circumstance is different and it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to exercise the same muscles in other ways. Try starting your own business, traveling by yourself, volunteering your time to advocacies, or managing people in the work place. Nothing is more empowering than learning to stand on your own feet.


5. Manage Your Money

I don’t know about you, but this is where I’m still a hot mess and I imagine I would have a better grasp of my finances if I started way earlier. There’s a whole universe about financial wellness on the internet but if you want to hear it from my mouth, do it because there is so much freedom in monetary stability, no matter what anyone says. It’s learning to anticipate Future You’s needs and making sure Future You won’t make a scene and end up a weepy pile of tears whenever she’s unprepared for emergencies and mishaps.

It’s so that you stop being a leech. It’s so that you learn to amass good credit and be able to take out loans and secure funding for your future endeavors. It’s so that you can actually devote your energy to things you really care about. Start with tracking your daily expenses, paying yourself first (make “savings” a bill you pay every month), and figuring out what financial milestones you want to be hitting (property, insurance, stock portfolio, vacations, tuition payments, etc.). For freelancers, I suggest outsourcing as much of the clerical tasks as you can (especially the accounting), it’s the best thing we did for our peace of mind.


6. Break Your Cycles

The post-college years are perfect for messing up and finding out what you’re all about. When you find yourself running out of steam, this is where your life usually plateaus into a routine. If it’s a routine you like, then great! More often than not though, the routines for a lot of us always end up being that place where you find yourself feeling unsatisfied with the choices you’ve made.

It could be that you want to shift into a different field with your career. Maybe you’re noticing that you always find yourself in abusive relationships. Maybe you’re noticing that your group of friends is composed of aging party girls and that you don’t care much for the lifestyle anymore.

Whatever it is, the space before you turn 30 is still a lot more flexible than the years that are going to come. You still have enough optimism and you still have a lot of energy to run away from your comfort zones. Life will keep hurling many of these plateau seasons and if you can get yourself used to change early on, it will become an instinct that will guide you through surviving midlife crisis, parenting (your own spawn or your parents), moving to different places, or enduring moments of loss and grief.


7. Work with What You’ve Got

At the same time, don’t get suckered into the idea that a person, place, job, or thing will be the answer to your problems. Dysfunction is combination of many aspects of your life and it’s an exercise in futility if you try to fix it by addressing all the externals without dealing with the internal stuff. It’s the idea of a person who sucks at photography and addresses it by getting a more expensive camera. It’s the idea that we think we can get away with “upgrading” without dealing with our demons.

And here’s something Tina Fey mentioned in Bossypants that would’ve saved so many of us from heartache: “talent isn’t sexually transmitted.”


8. Learn to Make Your Comfort Food

I’m just tossing this one in here because I don’t think we can safely make it to adulthood if we’re incapable of whipping up the little things that bring joy to our lives when we’re sad. We can take this literally and mean learning to make a good grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup or figuratively and mean the times you learn to open a bottle of beer and drink it in your balcony after a long day. I recently did an exercise with one of my clients that involved taking apart the definition of luxury.

We all came to the conclusion that rather than the bells and whistles, luxury really refers to the experience of being pampered and attended to. If we run with that idea, that experience can be replicated in any scenario, no matter what kind of budget you have. It could be a jar of cookie butter in your office drawer or a once a month spa day. Growing up doesn’t always have to be so painful.

Teppei Teranishi

Joel and I have the deepest conversations whenever we drive out for long stretches. We were coming back from Tagaytay yesterday and somehow got to talking about how we were doing with decluttering our social media feeds.

As folks who spend a lot of time working from home (with me clocking it in at 90% of my days), the internet is both a refuge and huge stress factor in our lives. It’s too easy for us to launch into a round of “Who/what pissed us off in the internet lately?” and frankly, we’re trying to wean ourselves off the habit. It’s not productive and it only serves to put us up in high horses.

We delved into internet envy instead and our discussion shifted to “Who makes us feel bad in the internet?” It allowed us to discuss things that tend to weather our self-esteeem and as a result it also revealed what our insecurities and hangups were.

Enter Teppei Teranishi! Teppei used to be the guitarist of the band Thrice, a band I loved in college. The band parted ways some years back (I don’t know the details and I don’t know if there have been reunion efforts), and Teppei packed up his wife and three boys and moved to an island off the coast of Seattle.

He picked leather work while the band went on their tours. He’d be in the back of the back of their bus making wallets during down time. Leather working is one of those crafts that are very portable. It was one of the reasons he brought it with him on the road.

Photos Courtesy of Freunde Von Freunden










Joel and I follow his studio on Instagram and we always groan whenever he posts pictures of the nature their family is surrounded by, the fresh seafood they catch, and their ferry trips to the city. Both of us romanticize people who work with their hands. It such a foreign concept for us because we make our living using technology and interacting with people. Even our hobbies aren’t very tactile these days; we just read books and watch our TV shows. Sometimes Joel will tinker with his model planes and I will get my fix from cooking pasta sauces.

We also have these intense discussions of wanting to move out of the city — Joel once lived in Palawan for six months and he gets a starry-eyed look to him whenever he reminisces about waking up to huge, blue mountains in the distance and getting his produce fresh from the wet market. Joel also spent a lot of his childhood being surrounded by nature (slopping hills and ancient trees in Pennsylvannia) and wilderness (Nigeria).

I, on the other hand, am a city girl through and through, but after being cooped up in an apartment for the last three years, I’ve been craving for sunshine and fresh air. What makes Teppei’s lifestyle even more enthralling is the fact that he’s thrown family life into the balance. Even with my urban leanings, Joel and I love the idea of raising children in a “frontier” environment. We’re big on instilling a sense of wonder for kids and in our current setup, we really have to get creative with family fun in malls and sidewalks if we’re in the city. Both of us have fantasies of raising our own vegetable garden (his) and spending our days preparing fresh, healthy meals (mine).

I guess this will just remain as our pipe dream in the meantine. Sometimes we’ll talk about spending two months in Palawan every year and making our businesses mobile while we’re there (our design studio and his teaching). But I don’t know. It’s all just talk. It’s really fun to dream.

Losses & Gains

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Photo by Joel Darwin

I really had huge dreams for this blog. I even jotted down in one of my notebooks all the interviews I wanted to do, apartments/couples/places I wanted to feature, and the recipes I wanted to shoot. I didn’t realize that pregnancy would put me in this sort of stasis. It’s like incubating a little human being also placed me in my own incubation. It’s all I think about and with my energy being so depleted these last couple of months, my outlets have ended up being naps, dinners with my friends, and walks in my neighborhood.

I initially wanted this blog to produce content my late-20’s, childless self would enjoy perusing. At the time that I started, I wanted to talk about things that mirrored my lifestyle. Now all that’s swimming in my head are things like looking at baby furniture for small spaces, parenting a feminist child, and feeling like shit when I cave in to my fast-food cravings. Does this mean that my blog will be a parenting/mommy blog now? I don’t know! I haven’t even adjusted to this role yet! My creativity has stalled and it’s due to the fact that I’m still in denial of this new identity I’m shaping into.

A big reason for this stall is also because of how I was clamoring for role models and guidebooks. I have none in my life and I’m in the process of accepting that and building the confidence I’ll be needing to become the mother I want to be. I’m thinking if I finally just come out and acknowledge this new shift instead of fighting it, then maybe I’ll have my voice back.

This is what my old identity is perceiving to be losing:

  1. My “Career”
    I was in the process of figuring out how to grow my business, not scale it down! I wanted to spend 2015 dolling up my graphic design practice. I wanted to unroll a huge Natural Selection Design Co. parade filled with confetti with me as the band leader! Then I had to hit the breaks on my career fantasies when I started spending my evenings peeing endlessly and spending the day recovering lost sleep. I can barely juggle my current job description right now and the thought of adding more to it stresses me out. I’m going to have to stay small for a while more. Maybe I’ll still be able to do all of this in the future, but my ambition is weeping.
  2. My family of 2
    This is my biggest heartache. Joel and I are a gross, clingy couple. We love the Joel and Marla universe so much that I feel like a total asshole for fearing that my little bundle of joy will be our new little bundle of unwanted intrusion. Say it with me again, “ASSHOLE!” Hey, but that’s what I’m feeling! I’m a bratty kid stubbornly clinging to the skirts of our movie dates, trips, and veg out weekends.
  3. My social life
    I already struggle so much seeing my friends. For all the alone time and holing up I do, I also happen to love spending time with people. I’m currently six months into this pregnancy with a sizeable bump, but the highlight of my weekend was watching wrestling (Shout out to PWR!) and chanting “YOU SUCK DICK! YOU SUCK DICK!” with my gang. My friends have been wonderful with their support and encouragement that’s why the idea of sitting out on the things we like to do together hurts me even more.
  4. Bible Study
    Most of our friends belong to a Saturday night bible study we facilitate. The evenings we spend together integrating politics, memes, philosophy, jokes, and our stories into the verses we discuss have been some of the most fascinating and enriching times of my life thus far. I don’t know what will happen to the dynamics of the group once baby Darwin is thrown into the mix and it scares me.
  5. Our little luxuries
    The money that we usually use for our vacations, dinners out, and clothes shopping are going to be relegated to baby things now. I’m trying to cut down on our future monthly costs by committing to exclusively breastfeeding and using cloth diapers, but an impulse Cebu Pacific promo fare purchase will still have to give way to a stroller or the baby’s education fund. I know these are beautiful, selfless things that we’ll be doing in the name of parental love, but I still need a moment to kick, scream, and cry.

Throughout all of those anxieties though, I began to realize that I haven’t put enough thought on the new things my identity as a parent can potentially gain. I’ve been so caught up with the terror of financial expenses and projectile pooping, I lost sight of why people decide on having kids in the first place.

Here are the things that are cheering me up:

  1. Being Unfiltered Mommy
    Joel and I, for all the manners we try to imbibe, simply cannot do away with our penchant for being blunt. I do try to watch myself around kids but I cannot resist opportunities for teaching life lessons. I was watching Blades of Glory with my 4 year old niece yesterday and I figured that since the scenes were slapstick and a lot of the vulgar dialogue was coated in layers of metaphors and slang, they would just go over my niece’s head. Boy, was I wrong. “Tita Marla! That boy just slept with that girl!”

    Guh. I don’t know if she already had linked “sleeping” as a euphemism for sex but I decided to stick to the actual plot. “No, Mariana. He didn’t sleep with the girl. The girl is his best friend’s girlfriend and good friends don’t do that to each other. He did the right thing.” “But he’s in his underwear!” “That doesn’t mean sleeping happened! People walk around in their underwear all the time!” And that was that. Then cut to the scene where Amy Poehler’s character was handcuffing Jimmy to the toilet and confirmed that no, Chaz did not sleep with Katie. “See, Mariana.”

    I discovered that her questions didn’t really fluster me and I imagine that it would come in handy someday. “Why is that boy wearing pink pants?” “Some boys like pink.” “Oh, ok! But not all boys, just some boys.” “That’s right, Mariana.”

  2. Being Feminist Mommy
    I’m a feminist wife married to a feminist husband, this only means that our values are going to cascade to being feminist parents. Take for example my refusal to divulge my baby’s sex. Initially I wanted the sex to be a surprise when I actually give birth, but the technician at my last ultrasound slipped. I got a pretty stoic doctor and boy, did her facial features start flaring up when she realized she made a booboo. Joel and I took it with a grain of salt (but we did tear up and were ecstatic at the news) and decided to stick to our guns and keep the sex a mystery still.

    We didn’t want people to box our baby into these gender expectations (ruffles and pink galore for girls and blues and sports for boys) and aesthetics-wise, I wanted to keep my house neutral-colored still. I’m also open to having a second baby and I’m hoping that the possible baby #2 would inherit its older sibling’s stuff.

    On a deeper level, I’m excited to introduce my baby to a world where LGTB rights are finally gaining ground, sexual fluidity has more awareness, and women in most parts of the world now have a strong confidence and voice that no moment in history has matched before.

  3. Being Creative Mommy
    I have crazy opportunity to show my child that we can challenge ideas and boundaries. Both Joel and I have unconventional jobs that allow us to be in control of our time. Because we’re not bound to a 9 to 5 schedule, we have lots of chances to spend time with our baby and to show it our world.

    I can apply the freelancer’s mindset to parenting and it’s opening up new ways of mentoring and modelling that I didn’t experience in my childhood. If my kid wanted to learn about graphic design, I can bring it to my meetings and visit my suppliers. If my kid is curious about a certain country, my husband actually has a chance to bring my kid to meet people of various nationalities because of his profession and missionary kid network. If my kid suddenly had an obsession with dinosaurs, we can download documentaries and simulate activities like dino digs. Our kind of access to information now opens up all sorts of possibilities.

  4. A Bigger Heart
    The last reason is something I don’t dare even speculate about because I really have no clue until I get there. I’ve been hearing from people that my heart will just magically expand and more room for the newest member of my family. I’m a huge romantic and the idea that I’ll be able to love someone even more than the love I currently have is just so mind-boggling. I’ll just have to wait and see, don’t I? There are so many new unknowns currently enveloping me right now but I have faith in love.


I’ve been dying in this heat. I’m beyond thankful I’m on my second trimester. I can’t imagine dealing with this humidity while going through morning sickness or waddling around full term. It’s even more difficult remembering the times I used to commute to work in the summer. I’ll never get sick of rejoicing in working from home because it has spared me so many times from unbearable weather conditions.

This guide can’t even bother with beauty recommendations because my skin and hair can’t stand having anything on it. (I should get my hands on sunscreen though, eep) Apart from blasting the A/C  at night and taking frequent showers, these are some of the little treats that I’ve been indulging in to get through the day:

I never leave the house without mine these days. Pregnancy has made me extra dehydrated so I wasted no time in shelling out for the nicest water container out there. I picked Klean Kanteen because it came in really cute colors. I do my refills at restaurants and coffee shops and it’s been saving me a lot of money. Plus, I never use disposable cups anymore.

My scalp has been very picky with shampoos lately so I tried using something that didn’t have harsh chemicals. What surprised me was the lovely lavender scent I chose and it became the highlight of my bath time.

Hohoho! There was no way I would ever give up my striped shirts and when the weather made it tougher to go out in pants, I just bought the dress version of my beloved closet staple.

I bought my first pair of Jack Purcells! Pregnancy has made my feet swell from long periods of walking and I have to be extra picky with my shoes now. My sneakers are back in active rotation. All my other ones are dark colored and looking at them already made me feel sweaty, hence this fresh pair of white ones.

An ex-boyfriend introduced me to them when he got me a pair as a present from a trip to Israel. My in-laws trek to the Holy Land every two years and I requested for a pair of these sandals during their last trip when my old one finally died after many years. They go with everything and the wide foot area accommodates my pregnant swelling feet so well.

I always had a casual relationship with milk tea. I didn’t understand how my friends could get addicted to it. Cue in pregnancy and ridiculous cravings and my addiction finally got activated. Schlurp is a local brand that uses tea leaves and doesn’t have any preservatives — it always tastes so fresh with the right amount of sweetness. I’m going to step out and buy one after I write this entry. If you’re out there, Schlurp people, I’m willing to write and gush about you in exchange for boxes of your wintermelon milk tea.

I learned how to make them and it’s been a staple for breakfast. The spinach-banana-mango combo I do tastes really good and it’s been helping me get the fiber and nutrient content that’s lacking in my diet.

Friends have been asking if I have any strange food cravings. I haven’t been craving for any food item in particular but I have a debilitating hankering for sweet dairy products. I took it out on root beer floats for a while then Joel wised up and started keeping root beer and thick vanilla ice cream in our refrigerator.



Jane Birkin with daughters Kate Barry and Charlotte Gainsbourg
(in which I can only dream that I make motherhood look as hot)
Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

This has been lying in my drafts folder for a week. I was stressing about our current lease running out and having to scurry and find a new place to move into. Our families have also been telling us to consider buying something more permanent just so that we can get out of funnelling our money into thin air every month.

To cut the story short, Joel and I ended up extending our lease to buy ourselves more time. I could not cope with the pressure of leaving our apartment. I tried to put myself into the motions of mourning the years spent here — to quit looking back and to start moving ahead. It was so hard. I know we shouldn’t be “throwing away money” and I know we should be looking for bigger space but my insides kept kicking and screaming. Real estate hunting in our neighbourhood is an intense process that requires all the smarts and resources you have, and frankly, scaling from a studio to a big one bedroom or a moderately sized two bedroom is expensive if we want to stay where we are.

And I don’t want to leave. This is the first time that I’m proud of the life I’ve (we’ve) built. Our apartment, no matter how tiny it is, is my home. I get that in an ideal world, we should be scaling up. At the same time, Joel and I are first time, small time business owners with no inheritances or angel investors to speak of. Translation: no savings, no nest egg. It’s a choice that we would do all over again but it’s been hard recognizing that along with that choice means foregoing a lot of traditional milestones. Extending the lease has been the breath of fresh air that I needed and I’m learning to just stop it with all these unnecessary expectations that are being foisted on us (a lot of it is unintentional and people/culture do mean well though — a lot of these voices that chime in just don’t have any clue about our reality).

Because we’re now a growing family, we have to explore alternative ways to make this happen. We still don’t know how we’re going to fund the birthing. We have some vague idea about where to place the crib and all the baby things in our bedroom. As a whole though, I cannot say I have enjoyed the trappings of what a traditional pregnancy seems to look like.

There haven’t been spa days, babymoon plans, or endless baby showers. I’ve been forcing myself to fit into my current clothes and I refuse to buy a maternity wardrobe. The other day I tried to make an Excel sheet listing all the things we’ll be needing but I gave up because it was all too much and I needed to reflect on what an infant’s bare essentials really are.

I still also work late at night because we have to keep making money. I hate that I do — no, I despise it. I haven’t been putting my foot down because of my anxieties, but I will now. I haven’t allowed myself to think about caring and devoting my full attention to the baby because of this.

I’m so scared — scared that we’ll be so unprepared and unfunded, scared that I’ll be an asshole parent because of that, and scared that I won’t be able to handle all of this and will be wailing much louder than my child will.

I understand completely why some people opt out of parenthood. I really do. I waited three years after I got married to even consider children and I could’ve easily done another three, even another three after that.

I’m 5 months pregnant this week and I’m starting to feel the curious bubble popping sensation that suggests that the baby is moving and flailing in my belly. I don’t expect anyone to believe me, but sometimes this little person moving around and letting me know he/she exists washes everything away. I know I can be an idiot for thinking this way, but the small chance of raising someone who can do life/humanity better than I ever can is enough to keep me going.

Help Me Help You


Photo from Global Pillage

 I’ve been fantasizing about writing a post like this for ages. No, that’s a lie. I used to imagine having a lecture series in tandem with some of my favorite clients (one already said yes!) about maximizing client-supplier relationships. I don’t market myself as an authority on good design practices (but if you trust me, that’s awesome), but I have a grand total of 7 years of both employment and self-employment to yank a lot of insights from.

I really think everyone will be able to work together better if we kept these following ideas in mind whenever we sign new projects:

  1. You are not our only client
    Clients, I get it, I really do. In fact, I wish with all my heart, that it was only your project that I’m handling. In extremely rare circumstances, that may be the case, but it’s always wiser to think of yourself as the norm and not the exception. Whenever we tell you things like it will take a week to submit revisions, it doesn’t mean it really takes a week. We need a week because we also have other submissions to take care of and like any person in a creative field will tell you, 80% of our work is research and thinking things through and the remaining 20% is actual pixel time in front of our programs. Please also realize that we’re human too and during the week, we still have to squeeze in grocery trips, doctor’s appointments (especially in my case), bank errands, other client meetings, and sleep.
  2. We’ll be able to address your concerns more if the criticism is constructive
    There are times I wish I was a mind reader. Joel and I have pretty good intuition and we’re skilled at reading body language, but we have our limitations. So whenever you tell us things like, “I’m not feeling it” or “I feel like it needs to pop,” we expect those to be an opening line to a series of concrete suggestions. I’m not sure how it is in other industries, but working in design is tricky enough as it is (since we work with visual elements, it’s too easy to go subjective with our appraisals), and if we don’t ground ourselves with certain parameters, we’re always going to go around in circles trying to figure out things based on personal preferences that don’t necessarily match what we’re trying to achieve. For example, I forbid designs where I select colors just because I felt like it. Every time I utilize a color palette, I always cite color psychology as my platform so that there’s a guiding principle behind my choices.
  3. Police your own deadlines
    We draft timelines for all our projects and Joel always puts them down on Google Calendar. We’ll do our best to remind you of milestones we need to hit in order to make our deadlines, but if you don’t do your part, then the whole project collapses and we’re wasting each others’ time. We’re not perfect and ever since I got pregnant, we’re struggling more to turn over things as quick as I used to, but we respect deadlines. I rarely ever kill projects but the last time we did was over a client who would take weeks, or even months to get back to us regarding revisions, but would demand quick turnovers on our end. Joel and I, we’re just two people, and at the end of the day, business is business and when a check that was supposed to come in at a certain time doesn’t arrive, it screws us up in ways that debilitate our lives. Please be considerate of people’s time and it took me a while to understand that in some ways, it’s more valuable than anything else.
  4. Consolidate your feedback
    In design-speak, the term FA means “Final Artwork.” When I hand over FA files, these are files that are print and web ready. FA work isn’t something I fart out magically — when clients approve a design, I often take one whole day (sometimes two) rendering these files for production. When I had these files over, it’s me saying, “Yay, we’re done!” Imagine then, how we feel when we turn over these files, and you go, “Oh wait, I forgot to add something.” Design work entails a lot of commitment and decisiveness and that’s why we give our clients period of deliberation to figure out what will go to press. In our contracts, we only give clients 3 rounds of revisions (everything after that gets charged an additional fee) so that they will be mindful of the changes they want and squeeze into those three given revisions so we can meet our deadlines.
  5. “Here, educate yourself!”
    That’s my favorite line from Lilo & Stitch. We do our best to hold our clients hands every step of the way, but there are some information that we wish people will retain for future use. E.g., please do not send me your “high-res .jpeg logo” embedded in a MS Word document (the images lose their high-res qualities when we extract it to our other programs) or that for billboard sized graphics, we do not generate artwork in 300 dpi (all our computers will crash, including your printer’s). Imagine how sexy and knowledgable you’ll sound the next time you work with a new designer!

Ok, now it’s time to get off my high horse. I’d like to think though that these principles are useful for any work situation. I’m finally entering my second trimester and I’m crossing my fingers that the nights of vomiting and migraines are behind me but now I’m concerned about how to navigate my work situation when we finally welcome the little binker. I would still definitely work, but there is now an urgent need to streamline how we do things better than we used to.

So Here We Are


We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.
— Kurt Vonnegut

We just announced on social media that I’m 12 weeks pregnant (13 weeks tomorrow, actually) but we’ve been telling family and friends since week 6. Maybe some of you were already suspecting something was up in my last entry when I was talking about my trips to the hospital and my one week horror of horrors bout with sickness.

We didn’t think I’d be pregnant that minute we landed back in Manila. I tell my friends that I would laugh off my doctor’s proclamation that I will be pregnant after Christmas because I developed polycystic ovary syndrome last year and I was skeptical that the regimen she put me through would get me fertile right away. Well, what do you know, I got knocked up the instant I first ovulated again.

In spite of the constant discomfort I’m going through (heart burn, hyperacidity, never-ending nausea, more frequent migraine attacks, never-ending bathroom trips, insomnia, etc.), I’m still so surprised how healthy this pregnancy has been registering at every doctor’s visit we have. Even during the week where I threw up every single day, I was so shocked to discover that I still managed to gain 2 pounds. Gah! I’m still keeping my fingers crossed though.

I’m still in a state of shock. I nearly forgot that we also hit another important milestone at the start of the year. It’s been two years since I quit my day job and went on my own and I’ve been reflecting at how we’ve able to make it this far. Two years is infinitesimal but two years (give or take) has always been the longest duration of the jobs I liked the most. I have always suspected I have ADD and I guess working from home has been the best decision I’ve ever made because I see no signs of getting sick of it yet.

I remember telling my last boss that I wanted to start working from home because I wanted to be a work-at-home mom. There was also the idea of being in control of my time and my choice of clients (plus the potential to earn more!) that really motivated me, but the special reason was a family-based reason. At that time, Joel and I were in no position to be parents (and we’re still wrestling with that until now) but it was always a vision we had even before we got married.

It was part of our impetus for getting married. We love to work, to travel, and to hang out with friends — same as a lot of people that we know, but we are also idealistic mush balls that dreamed about having a family even while we were total drunken, irresponsible shits.

And now that parenthood is a mere 6 months away, we can’t believe that the choices we’ve been making has paved the way for all this to happen.

I’m still so, so scared though. I have cringed when people call me “mommy” and on many occasions, have wanted to lash out during the early years of my marriage when people kept touching my stomach and asking if there was anything in there yet. I’m also waging a private rebellion within myself to resist dasters and matrona-dom. I don’t romanticize motherhood at all and I worry that might become my undoing. Joel was the one tearing up at our ultrasounds while I was gaping and trying to study how the machine freaking worked.

Children frighten me and a lot of them are afraid of me too. But at the same time I remember moments like when I rocked my wailing infant niece to dreamland and when I used to assist teaching toddlers and they once crowded around me and a little girl rested her chin on my knee when I was reading them a storybook.

I just have to smile sometimes and know that this is how we’ve chosen to live out our lives. It’s been a constant dance number with risk but we really can’t have it any other way. It’s how we feel alive and feel bigger than ourselves. We always manage to figure it out, that I know.