‘I am worried for me and my baby’

Written by Jo Ann Paalan-Ascura/World Vision Program Officer in Camarines Sur

I am giving birth anytime in May to my third child and, like most pregnant mothers, I have been anxious for me and my baby’s safety on that special day.

Since the announcement of quarantine period for the whole Luzon was implemented mid-March, I’ve been staying inside the house and looking after for my two young children, Lanze, 5, and Luke, 3, and ensuring that our house is clean and that each of us practice proper hygiene. I don’t go out to mingle with neighbors but I do go out usually in the morning to have some sunshine and do stretching. I also sleep for eight hours.

The people, mostly fisherfolks, in my community here in Camarines Sur have mostly been following quarantine protocols. Previously, pedicabs (bicycle rickshaw) and habal-habal (motorcycle) roam the streets. Now I see almost empty streets except for a few vehicles plying along narrow streets and people walking to and fro the wet market and LCC, our only supermarket.

Market vendors still sell vegetables, fruits and fish but at an expensive price. Before, a galunggong (mackerel scad) was priced at Php140 ($3) per kilo. Now, it’s Php180 ($4) per kilo. A kilo of mango used to cost Php120 but now it’s cost between Php150 ($3) to Php180 ($4). But what really surprise me most is the price of Yakult (a famous but cheap milk beverage brand) which has double its price from Php40 ($1) to nearly Php80 ($2)!

There is no canned goods and noodles anymore in the supermarket. I think most people in the early days of quarantine period bought these items in bulk as stocks. Far from the city, the supermarket will find it difficult to re-stock immediately. I am, however, thankful though to the relief goods from our local government. I used to give relief goods to people affected by disaster during World Vision emergency responses in my village. But now, I’m the one receiving it.

Every house was given one quarantine ID pass that one must bring always when going out. Only one house member is allowed to go out to buy basic necessities. In our case, it is my husband.


Coping with drastic changes  

All these drastic but necessary changes to control the spread of COVID-19 has effect on me as a expectant mother. First, I cannot go out to have my regular check up with my OB gynecology because there is no public transportation. We don’t have our own habal-habal nor pedicab. Besides, I was also advice by the community nurse here to just stay home to be safe.

Second, by now I should be preparing for childbirth such as clothes for the baby which I do not know where to buy because only stores selling essential items (i.e. food, medicines) are open. I also need alcohol and face mask which the local supermarket nor drugstores don’t have or few stocks for weeks now. Though I have a few face masks left that I hope would last for several weeks.

Third, during birth I need a companion. The initial plan was that my husband, Jennel, will accompany me to the hospital and my mother will fly from Palawan to Camarines Sur to look after our two children while I give birth. But since there is no airline flight and people are not allowed to travel, my mother cannot be with us. Me and my husband are currently thinking how to go about our situation.

Last, the hospital, which is in another municipality, roughly 30 minutes away by jeepney, would surely require cash payment. In rural towns, working ATM machines are limited, more so now. If there are ATM machines, the money would probably have insufficient funds. There are operating banks but limited, and they only have restricted schedules. Childbirth here would costs close to Php30,000 ($600). I must have that much amount on the day of my childbirth.

With all these, as a mother, I cannot stop thinking what will and might happen on that special day. Where are we going to get transportation to the hospital? Is it safe to stay inside the hospital after numerous people — with or without COVID-19 — had been there? These are some of my thoughts. But knowing God, I know He will provide for and protect me.  I wish and pray that everything would be ok soon.

On a lighter side, I’m hoping that everything would go back the way it used to be because I miss doing fieldwork and having light chats and laugh with World Vision partners, families and children. I miss the community volunteers (we call them child monitors) and child leaders. Before the quarantine period, I have scheduled series of activities for the children. All were postponed. I also miss going to houses and check on World Vision’s sponsored children, ensuring that they are ok.

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