This is a guest post by Aileen Santiago. We asked her to share how her outlook on life changed after she became a mom. This is her insightful response.
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They say that having a baby will change your life. They say that you will never have a good night’s sleep ever again, nor will you ever see the world in the same way.
For me, this shift in perspective began even before my baby was even born or conceived - at the very moment that I decided that I wanted to have children.
I was sitting in a church celebrating Neil’s grandmother’s life as she had passed away after undergoing an operation to fight against longtime weaknesses of her body. The service was nice in a small and intimate United church. One of her children began saying a few words in honour of his mother. As his eulogy continued, he began to cry in earnest, sobbing in front of all the visitors, a thick hand holding his heavyset 6-foot-three frame steady against the podium.
I remember two things from that day: first, the memory of Neil’s 50-something year old uncle crying uncontrollably and second, the inner transformation that moved my heart from sitting on the fence about whether or not to have children to the solid conviction that I wanted to have them.
There are many arguments why people intentionally have children. For me, however, it was almost a logical problem. There is so much suffering and pain in the world as evidenced by daily reports delivered almost immediately now to our digital doorsteps. As a child of immigrants, we were always told to be grateful for what we had as other children in the world had less or none. I couldn’t reconcile in my head any reason to add to this problem by bringing another person into the world just to further burden it.
Aileen's son with his eggplant toy from Filipino social enterprise, Plush and Play. Every toy is non-toxic and provides sustainable incomes to mothers from impoverished communities.
But something shifted in my head and heart that day. I saw, from Neil’s grandmother’s life, that she had experienced a life full of meaning. She had endured poverty and hardship as many of her generation did, had three children, survived her husband of 50+ years, fought against cancer (and won!) and at the end, was determined to fight for life by agreeing to a procedure to correct a heart problem so that she would be eligible for a surgery enabling her to walk without pain.
In a nutshell, Neil’s grandmother went down fighting.
And it was this thought that struck me: life is truly worth living. Grandma’s life attests to that fact with its myriad experiences.
The decision to have children is the purest endorsement of life’s inherent value. It is an answer to this question: “Is life worth fighting for?” Put this way, isn’t it wonderful to think about each of your children as a resounding “yes”?
At the time of writing, I have a three-month old who has just gone to sleep after a clumsy hour-long first attempt at establishing a bedtime routine. And this is only one challenge in a line of many when it comes to being a parent. There are many more tasks required of me to fulfill my promise to my child that life has value, to ensure that he can have as full a life as possible, the way Neil’s grandmother had. This does not mean shielding him from life’s hardships but to teach him to prevail over them.
No matter how small an effort, all conscientious action can make an impact: eating green and reducing meat, shopping for used clothes and items (especially for babies), donating old furniture to Habitat for Humanity, freecycling unwanted kitchen tools, buying with an eye to long-term use rather than participating in an ‘easy disposal’ culture, and overall, recognizing the resources required to support our existence from seed to table - often through processes begun halfway across the world!
By my example, I hope my son will see that a belief in one’s power to make change is the best shield against cynicism. And that despite the ugliness of the world, the value of life lies in our readiness to shape it and “be the change we want to see.”
When I imagine my funeral, I do not, in fact, see my son crying at the loss of my life. Rather, I see him affirming my decision to bring him into this world by choosing to have a child of his own. And my life can determine that he will.
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