YOU SACRIFICE the feeling in your hands as I squeeze, no, crush them to numbness in pain and joy.

About 12 hours ago, when I started to labor, you buzzed with anticipation and anxiety which the nurse suggested even anti-anxiety pills wouldn’t be even able to restrain.

You watch the lower part of my body contort to angles you (and I) never thought I was capable of, even though I was part of the university dance troupe. Your legs tremble at the sight of the body-shaking pain I am going through. They are hard with muscle from all the training you received from your coach’s rigorous exercises, but ironically, your legs suddenly fold in half.

You catch yourself, but a second too late. From the germ-filled, bacteria-infested, public hospital floor, you pick yourself up and dust off the visible dirt on your shorts.

As you shake the weariness away, flailing your body, you hit the tray on top of the small table behind you. A glass bottle labeled anesthesia falls to the floor. You feel your right pocket where you keep your flaked-off black leather wallet. The money left in your pocket is just enough for a tricycle ride back home. You sigh in relief as you realize that the bottle is empty. You sigh heavier as the breaking clank of the bottle sparks at the wick of your memory as you flashback to seven months ago.

You forced me to have an abortion. At that time, your father drove you out of your home. Your mother just stood behind him, crying, as if those tears were going to do you any good, let alone provide you with shelter, helpless at the sight of her own child being thrown away.

For a week during my first trimester, you secretly slipped cheap abortion medicine in my food. You had bought it outside Quiapo Church. But after seeing me vomit and lose consciousness a couple of times—which, at that time, I thought were only the effects of being pregnant—you realized you wouldn’t want to lose us both.

'Lead by example,' youth urged

Your mother wanted us to keep the child. The sentiments came from the loss your mother flushed down the toilet 32 years back—caused by medicine your father forced down her throat. The kind of medicine religious doctors and pro-life advocates would never approve of.

That is why you share the same emotional distress your mother carries. The possibility of maybe having an older brother or a sister. If only she had kept it three months more, you would have at least known the gender.

Snapping you out of your reverie, you get asked by a nurse from the other side of the large, but shared room, “What batch?” as she points at your college soccer jersey. You love wearing your jersey to sleep. You do not bother to change it in hurry to bring me to the hospital.

You do not answer her. The sarcasm in her tone makes you cringe in place while sweat drips down your stubble-filled chin.

She walks away; you swear under your breath as she does. But before you can even utter another word, I grunt in an octave that startles you.

Labor hits me another time, the occasional contractions turn out every five minutes or so. It is a sign of the nearing birth of our child. You again find my hand, and hold it tightly, but you start to lose grip from reality. Maybe the five beer bottles you had earlier with your friends wasn’t a good idea. The heady mix of alcohol, sweat, and anxiety now fills your stomach.

On rising from the dead

My pelvis begins to expand. Your energy now seems to have been sapped from your life force as you stand there, paler than the bleach-soaked blood stains on the nurse’s apron.

After nine months, the moment we both have been waiting for could be just minutes away. Though you keep a smile of anticipation, the sweat that keeps dripping from your face down to the hospital bed makes me feel that you are closer to fainting than I am.

You hear other women shriek in pain from the adjoining rooms. You hear another loud scream, only more piercing this time, until you realize it came from me.

I can feel the frequent contractions the nurse warned me about as you have contractions of your own. You no longer have the ability to talk. It’s as if your tongue made its way to the back of your throat. I keep on asking if you feel all right. A question, I believe, you should be the one asking.

You look at my face, moist with sweat, but you kiss my forehead, just like how your mother does it when you are scared. Before you can move to a safe distance, I, again, scream in pain. You gently pat your ear as you realize that this might be it. You call for the midwife and, suddenly, our hands are intertwined to a painful anticipative grip of bliss.

I breathe heavily while you forget how to. You see the toes on my feet clench in pain as you take your eyes away from them and look me dead in the eyes.

“You can do it,” you say.

A tear slowly makes its way to the left side of my face and you wipe it off.

The air we breathe

“Push,” says the midwife, whom you presume to be an intern, judging from her lack of confidence. But you know that interns aren’t allowed to deliver babies. You then assume that maybe it’s her first time delivering a child and it makes you want to call a real doctor. But even with both our allowances combined, we won’t even compensate half of what a real doctor’s professional fee would sum up to.

“Push,” she says again. As you hear me synchronize with her with a “hu-ha” sound of deep breaths.

Your first born son, ready to be delivered in a world where you once tried to deprive him of.

Afterward, you find me panting drastically after I let the 7.2-pound bundle of joy take its first gasp of air. Finally, he finds his way outside my womb. You feel a slight disgust as you see him drenched in blood and that umbilical cord you find nerve-wracking, and yet, you were first to hug the little man.

After all the drama, you still find him worth all the losses you incurred, but as you see him smile, you tell yourself, none of that matters. You look at him and find a reason to smile. You look at him another time, and you swear he looks just like you 19 years back, except for the noticeable cleft lip he has.

“What should we name him?” you hear me ask. My voice reminds you that I, too, am a parent of the child you hold so gently in your arms.

You ignore me and start to talk with our son in baby language, a language that no linguist can decode, yet we all love to hear. Jan Dominic G. Leones


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