Your tatay (father) and I were holding hands when we saw your heart for the first time. We were perplexed at how tiny you were on the screen, yet how compact of a microcosm. You contained the cosmos.
The ultrasound machine showed the cadence of 119 beats per minute, like a chorus of Japanese taiko drums. For undetermined reasons, weeks later they came to an abrupt stop.
Sounds then silence. There is always a need to wade in both. Whether in the midst of glory, of failure, of expectation or of pain, retreating into our shells allows us to listen acutely.
Your parents will never hear the perfect pitch of your laughter. Nevertheless, we are in deep gratitude that we were allowed a brief glimpse of you.
The English language refers to the incident as a "miscarriage." The Filipino and Bicol languages, on the other hand, labeled me as a woman with an unborn child, as "nakunan/nakuanan." These roughly translate into "someone from whom something was taken away."
There are strangers, friends and family who repeatedly ask why your tatay and I have not yet tried to have a child. Their insensitivity revolts me. How can they expect me to enumerate the procedures for waiting? Why should we be compelled to tell your story?
You and I, we tried to hang on to each other beyond that fateful night. Your father and mother were fathoming your death as an irreversible fact, while the other couples in the delivery room were anticipating their children's birth.
Tatay was downcast but remained strong for the three of us. Nanay (mama) couldn't. My body was your cemetery. It took our tandem two more weeks to finally let go. Two weeks of me barely out of bed, rarely taking a shower and frequently refusing food.
I leaned on your grandmothers, both named "Erlinda" by coincidence or destiny, to draw on their badges of resilience. This despite The Erlindas being in anguish, too. They had been calling the Energies of the Universe for many years to make you happen, and then you arrived but only for a short stay.
Individually and together, your tatay and I had to bounce back from our despondency. We continued on with our work, our hobbies, and our dates with people who care. Each time with a smile—like Nat King Cole's song that goes, "Smile, though your heart is aching...Smile, even though it's breaking..."
The grief counselor advised us to write letters to you, and to ourselves, to hasten our emotional recovery. We took those to the Pamulaklakin Forest Trail belonging to the Aeta indigenous tribe. We absorbed the solitude there before placing the messages underneath a rock on the river.
Then I waited for your response.
It arrived exactly one month short of your would-have-been-birthdate. I was listening to the sounds of the forest and the silence of my heart. Suddenly I was enveloped in cosmic peace. Alone on that bench in front of the Tam Coc River, everyone dear to me was thousands of miles away, except for you.
Salamat. Thank you.
I love you,Nanay (Mama)