I haven't even bothered to count how many editorial notes I wrote in my four years at Baby, but even if just a handful of readers found any of them helpful in any way, I'm happy. Here are two of my favorites. The second one I remember well since a mother wrote us and said that she didn't even wait to get out of the bookstore to tear open the plastic wrap carrying the magazine, as the issue theme -- Babies with special needs -- was relevant to her family's circumstances. Was I touched to know that the note I wrote drove her to tears -- in a good way, I believe.
Reading both notes below -- written in 2011 and 2008, respectively -- made me realize they both dwell on that most important element in life: love. Well, what can I say? It does make the world go round as it is the essence of life for anyone who aims to live and not merely exist.
If you'd like a glimpse of the Beatles-inspired cover, here it is.
Finding love here, there & everywhere
When two of my US-based nieces were toddlers, their parents flew them over to spend six months with us Manila-based folks. During that time, one of the things that we occasionally did was sing together while someone accompanied the singing on the piano. Tammy and Michelle had a jolly good time every time, no matter what the songs or how off-key we got. But there were two songs that had the sisters rapt in attention whenever these were belted out. Michelle gazed in wonder as soon as she heard "Michelle, ma belle, these are words that go together well, my Michelle..." and sat, fascinated, sometimes bobbing her head, till the end. Tammy gave more or less the same reaction whenever we'd launch into an old Debbie Reynolds song (actually, it was my mom who knew it and the rest of us just sort of hummed along) called "Tammy," probably fascinated how her name figured into a "real" song.
Perhaps having their "very own song" sung to them felt like another manifestation of how the world revolved around them, which is somewhat how young children see life -- which is how each of us starts out till we gradually mature with the help of our parents into learning to adjust to the big world of which we are part. Dwelling on this memory now makes me think about love and how a person who believes the world revolves around him would find it difficult to love. Why? Because the essence of love is being other-centered, and what has a self-centered grownup to offer others if he is always absorbed in satisfying his own wants and needs? Sure, affection, understanding, laughter, gifts, sympathy, forgiveness -- these are elements that are part of the good relationships anyone (self-absorbed or not) maintains with loved ones. But genuine love is much more than that, and it's one thing to love when everything is smooth-sailing, and another to love during the times when it becomes difficult to do so.
I'm pretty sure we're addressing some real concerns in this issue that you parents have in mind. Responsible parenting has been an "explosive" issue lately and we hope our take on natural family planning in "Recipe for success: The Billings Ovulation Method -- What? Why? How?" (page 22) empowers you to know more about your fertility, understand yourself and your spouse, and see how God has wonderfully designed the human body and taken care of everything so that -- if we do our part -- even our health is protected when we let nature take its course. Also along the lines of good health are "The bedtime story: Is sex during pregnancy safe for mom and baby?" (page 24) and "A perfect (and healthy!) Valentine's date (page 28), both delving on crucial matters as well. Whether the situation with your spouse right now has you singing the Beatles' "All my loving," "Please please me," or "We can work it out," you're going to have to learn these matters sometime, so you can start right on our pages!
Now, if dealing with your in-laws has your musical radar reflecting the likes of "Help!" and "Give peace a chance," by all means sing your heart out! But do turn to page 57 while you're at it and be heartened by "Happy ever after... with your in-laws" and know that there is always a way to make things better.
Love starts out simple -- we are, after all, created to love -- but gets complicated along the way. However, since it's how much we've loved that matters in the end, shouldn't our days' soundtrack run along the lines of "...I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love"? Then, amid the challenges with the spouse, the kids, the in-laws and everything in between, will you be able to sing "In my life, I've loved them all..."?
"Kahit ano, basta normal"
One of the punishments that come with watching interviews with celebrities on local television is listening to mundane questions, to which are often given just as mundane answers. Besides the standard "What's your wish for (celeb's name) on her birthday?" "Sino ang gusto mong maging leading man/woman?" and standard lines such as "Sana po panoorin n'yo ang (movie title), napakagandang pelikula," there's one line I'd been hearing for years that I always found strange, even as a 10-, 11-year-old. It's the title up there, which was the reply often given by pregnant or newlywed guests to hosts who had just asked "Ano'ng gusto mo, boy o girl?"
After hearing the answer, I'd always wonder, "Pa'no kung hindi normal, hindi niya mamahalin ang anak niya?"
Well, I think nobody on the verge of parenthood asks to be given a child with mental, physical or developmental disabilities (save for a handful of couples in the United States I have read about who have purposely selected babies with Down Syndrome for adoption, prompted by compassion and a desire to give more of themselves to the demands of parenthood), but I couldn't help but think -- even as a child -- that something was very wrong about making a declaration like "Kahit ano, basta normal" (and for the entire viewing public to hear at that).
It's not that I was touchy about having a sister who has Down Syndrome (DS). If I were, I probably wouldn't have grown up gleefully pointing out to her the little girl with DS on those Sesame Street episodes every time she appeared, or delightedly told my older siblings repeatedly that the girl hobnobbing with the muppets or Maria and Bob looked so much like our sister.
People with DS, autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and several other conditions have come to be called "special needs" persons. "Special children" is how others refer to the little ones. Giftedness falls under the category of special needs as well because dealing with a gifted child does present with it unconventional situations that require special approaches and courses of action.
But then the human race isn't composed of automated robots; who, then, isn't special in one way or another? Some need lenses to read, others carry on with food allergies, a scoliotic condition or difficult pregnancies. There are those who deal with phobias, or have "photographic memories" or tower over the rest of the population at over 6 feet. Whether it's physical, mental or psychological, individual differences have always been there. It's only in our time that the term "special needs" came into vogue.
Also during our time, a lot of headway has been made in terms of research, evaluation and treatment. In this issue of Baby, you'll read accounts of families who have taken advantage of this wealth of information and other resources now at our disposal. We would've wanted to fill these pages with medical information and all there is to learn about special conditions. But I think what will have more of an impact are stories of real people who are experiencing the challenges of parenthood under special circumstances, how they're turning perceived obstacles into stepping stones, and what practical steps they've taken to address their particular situations.
Individual differences indeed we have. A person with special needs, however, such as those with conditions I've mentioned, carries in himself the same dignity as the next person. Being born with DS or autism or an extremely high IQ does not in any way diminish one's worth as a human being; being entrusted with a special-needs child can certainly increase a parent's capacity to love, sometimes even surpassing one's expectations. So, if you find yourself wondering (maybe lamenting?) why -- of all mothers -- a special child was given to you, it's possible it has something to do with love (lots of it) that you didn't know you had in you, a child who needs it in a way that only you can give.