- Posted August 20, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
First pair of eyes that saw me
My mother used to tell me about how she gave birth to me at our home with the help of a midwife. Of all her children, I was the only one delivered at home. My other siblings were born in the hospital. But why a home delivery? Just like many women in the Eighties, she had full freedom of choice to have the birth she wants and needs. Of course, she felt assured that everything was fine because of the help of an independent and knowledgeable midwife.
There were times that I was interested to meet the midwife. And after years of searching, I met her for the first time on May 22, 2008, three days before my 27th birthday. It was a privilege seeing her, especially since she was there when I was born and I heard good things about her.
She is Mrs.Catalina Reyes- Calipayan, a retired midwife. Since time immemorial her name rings a bell to many moms in Tagbilaran City and even in many towns of Bohol, Philippines.
When she told me that she’s 71 years old, I’d to blink, for it doesn’t show, as she can still be mistaken to be in her 60s- -still healthy and contended, less wrinkles. In fact, she’s attending to the needs of her grandchildren in her home.
Her sights are still clear and she talks well. She could still remember names and places. But her memories of how many children she helped see the world, she could not remember.
They’re thousands of children of those many years of selfless love and dedication to the calling of profession.
Our conversation led to sharing her experiences. I learned that she was born in Leyte and finished here degree at Cebu School of Midwifery.
But Mrs. Calipayan’s first choice was nursing. She remembered that the midwifery was the most difficult course then. There were rigid examinations before you’re admitted to college.
“There was a physical examination. If the enrolee had a child even if she was single she’s disqualified. There was a height requirement, you must be 5 feet tall and must have a pleasing personality,” she narrated.
The young Catalina had begun her career as a midwife after she finished schooling at the age of 18.
A midwife does more than just deliver babies because she is present at every birth, whether at home or in hospital. She touches everyone’s life.
“I always make sure that the mother and child are healthy and safe,” she said.
Mrs. Calipayan narrated that in one day, she would helped three mothers to give birth.
“The role of the midwife is very diverse,” she said. A midwife is usually the first and main contact for the expectant mother during her pregnancy and throughout labor and postnatal period.
Since public transportation was scarce in 1970s and 1980s, Mrs. Calipayan had to walk kilometers away helping mothers in labor, especially those who gave birth at dawn.
“I’d slept in many houses most especially when the labor of the mother had to take long hours. I’m there to give comfort because it’s painful,” said Mrs. Calipayan.
Safety is also a priority in midwifery and studies show that outcomes are the same as physician-attended births.
“Praise God, in my long years as a midwife all the children are alive. And when I hold the baby and heard her crying I’m so happy and blessed because there’s another miracle from heaven,” she enthusiastically said.
“It’s a calling,” she happily said.
I could sense that she had no regrets of being a midwife in her entire life.
“I pray to the Lord that everything would be fine,” said Mrs. Calipayan. “And when the baby would come out it was a relief, ‘Thank God, the child has life!’”
Mrs. Calipayan also narrated a risky situation in 1970s when she was asked by a man who was a member of a rebel group whose wife was about to give birth. She had to walk kilometres in a rough road in order to reach the camp. After the baby was born, there was a firefight between the rebel group and the army. She hid the mother and the child until everything was cleared.
In 2003, at age 65, she retired as a midwife. But there are those who come to her house to seek for her assistance. However, she politely told them she’s already retired from service and gave referrals where to go. She’s also busy attending to her five grandchildren from her children Chris Len, Mary Jean and Glinda. Her hubby Graciano had passed away.
Mrs. Calipayan became president of the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines-Bohol chapter. She’s also an officer and adviser of the Philippine League of Government and Private Midwives in the region and laid the foundation of lying-in centers in Bohol.
When I was about to go home, I asked her if she could remember a certain Paulina Persigas Udtohan of Booy district, Tagbilaran City.
‘She’s very familiar,” enthused she said.
I told her that she’s my mother. And I told her that on May 25, 1981, my Mama Inday gave birth to a baby boy and she was the midwife who assisted during the labor.
But when I told her that I was that baby boy, she was surprised and hugged me. I saw in her eyes the joy upon seeing me.
“I am so thankful you’ve grown up,” she smiled.
I asked a friend to take a souvenir photo of us together. The woman whose first pair of eyes that lands sight on me.
Five years later, I visited Mrs. Calipayan for the second time at her home last Tuesday, August 20, 2013. She is now 76 years old but she shows no sign of slowing down. She remains in good health-no weakening knees, no deteriorating vision and no signs of senility.
We talked for hours and again I learned a great deal about her life as a midwife, mother and wife. Her role in the society has enriched and deepened our understanding of everyday life.
I couldn’t say a word how fortunate I am to meet and thank the woman who helped my Mama Inday on May 25, 1981 to see the light of this beautiful world.
Super thanks Mrs. Calipayan, see you again!
The first photo- I met Mrs.Catalina Reyes-Calipayan for the first time on May 22, 2008.
Second photo- Mrs. Catalina Reyes-Calipayan, who is now 76 years old, shows no sign of slowing down when I met her for the second time on August 20, 2013.
Third photo- The happy and smiling Mrs. Catalina Reyes-Calipayan.