It was early on in my marriage when I was first asked by a friend (whose 2nd child came just 9 months after her 1st) why hindi pa sinusundan ang panganay ko.
Well, for one, I said, I was spacing because of my spinal problem. For another, I didn’t really want more than 2 or 3 children.
So how did i manage not getting pregnant?
I nonchalantly said i was on birth control pills.
Oy! Bawal yon, a! Di ba kasalanan yon? (This coming from a doctor’s wife, U.S. college-educated at that!)
Excuse me, I said, sinong nagbabawal?
The quick retort was, ang simbahan.
Excuse me again, I said. Bakit? Pakakainin ba ng simbahan ang mga anak ko? Papag-aralin ba at bibihisan? Pag nagkasakit, ipapagamot ba ng simbahan? Huwag na ’yong patingnan sa doktor, ’yong gamot na lang, bibigyan ba nila?
There I was, this convent-bred mother, admittedly opposing the church’s dictum. My friend was flabbergasted, head-a-shaking in disbelief!
I said I was not out to have her commit a sin, if that’s what she thought it was. But just that she should give it some thought.
A week before her next menstrual cycle, she asked for the brand of pill I was taking. She eventually had another child, I believe some 5 or 6 years later.
Over the years I have used this tack as an intro to my spiel on family planning.
I don’t know if this is still the modus today as I’ve not sponsored a tubal ligation in a looong while.
Anyway, was sponsoring that of a neighbor’s who already had 7 children, 5 of them by her live-in partner. She was accompanied by her mother to the health center where they were told, hindi puede without the consent of the husband.
Hiwalay na sila, the mother said, kinakasama lang ‘yung ngayon.
Kahit na, signature required pa rin!
At a loss, the mother came back to me.
Simple lang yan, Ka Tinay, I said. Sino ba nagbubuntis? Sino ba nagdadala ng siyam na buwan? Sino umi-ire at nanganganak? Kanino bang buhay ang nalalagay sa alanganin?
Oo nga, Ka Tinay said, finally understanding what I was trying to say.
May kasabihan nga tayo: ang manganak ay di gawang biro dahil nasa hukay ang isang paa mo, she added.
Mother with daughter went back to the center para manindigan at ipaglaban ang karapatang magpasiya para sa sariling kapakanan.
The live-in partner, drunk as usual, heard about it and almost went amok. Manlalalaki daw si kurdapya kaya gustong magpatali! At kunsintidor daw ako.
Because Ka Tinay’s daughter eventually did get ligated, the drunkard abandoned this family of his and peremptorily got another woman pregnant.
Talk about ka-macho-han!