There are many reasons for every baby’s cry. In that moment I witnessed however, I was quite sure it was because of pain.
The child lay on the crib face down, with a white cloth wrapped like a chain binding his two tiny hands. It kept him from scratching and bleeding his skin, which was suffering from some kind of disease. Out of frustration, he could not do anything but to bang his head repeatedly on his pillow.
A lady came, applying oil to his blistered skin until he calmed down. Then she rubbed his back for a few more minutes until he finally fell asleep.
There are fifteen other infants and toddlers inside that nursery-orphanage. They do not have the same skin condition as that other child, but they do have something else in common—they are children of women in crisis, born out of wedlock or sexual abuse.
The nursery is just one of the facilities in Grace to be Born, a halfway house established in 2008 to serve as maternity home and orphanage for women in crisis and their children. For the unwed mothers, the place is a temporary shelter that gives them emotional and spiritual rebirth. But for the children born there, it is their haven.
About 1,000 Filipino women die each year from abortion complications, contributing to high maternal mortality rates. Tens of thousands of women are hospitalized for complications from unsafe abortion. And this is where the crisis pregnancy centers like Grace to be Born come in—to offer these women an alternative.
Joy, one of their social workers, says they also noticed an increase in teenage pregnancies among their beneficiaries. As of this writing, they have nine women under their care. The youngest is 14 years old; the oldest is 19. Five are pregnant, while four have already given birth.
As these teenage girls take the journey to recovery, their children also look for care and affection. The mothers are given the choice to leave their babies in the nursery while they struggle to regain normalcy in their lives. Should they decide, the shelter arranges the kids for adoption.
The process takes at least nine months, and that is also how long these little angels stay in the nursery-orphanage. Mothers are given as much time as they need, as they still are encouraged to take their babies with them. Joy says there have already been cases where mothers change their minds in offering their kids for adoption.
I cannot imagine how just six social workers can care for sixteen infants and toddlers. Joy says they are able to manage, especially since there are also volunteers who come in to help.
During my visit, I met two of them. Sheila has been helping out for two weeks now. She says she learned about this place from The Feast, where she was encouraged to volunteer while waiting to be hired for a regular job.
“I asked for help because I had nothing to do at home… They asked me if I liked babies and I said yes. And so I tried. The kids are fun to be with. They have different talents. What’s adorable is when they take a bath, they know where to go and who goes first.”
Flight attendant Yvonne was referred to this shelter by a friend who serves as foster parent to one of the kids. She first volunteered last September, and she has been visiting every time she’s on vacation.
“This is a happy place. They’re very well taken care of. They take a bath twice a day. And the outpour of blessings is nonstop. I’m not sure, maybe because it’s December. But there are regular outreach programs and donations coming here, as far as I can see. I guess continuous supply for their needs is important.”
Yvonne also sees cuddling as important for the babies’ welfare, which volunteers like her are able to provide.
“I guess the challenge for the staff is when the volunteers leave, the kids would have tantrums because they become used to getting one-on-one care,” Yvonne says.
It is not easy to judge women in crisis who leave their babies in the orphanage. Sure, it is ideal for every child to be able to have the nurture and love of a mother during their formative years. But we also cannot expect unwed mothers and victims of sexual abuse to take on that role as effectively as they should. And that is the void hopefully being filled by places like Grace to be Born.
Editor’s Note: If you wish to volunteer to this shelter, you may visit them at 53 Dr. Sixto Antonio Ave., Bgy. Kapasigan, Pasig City. They have also recently opened another branch in Pampanga. For inquiries, you may call 6541377 / 09328880780 / 09178164700 and look for Ester Palacio.
[Entry 193, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
JM Nualla is the Social Media Head of SubSelfie.com. He is the Program Producer of The Source on CNN Philippines. Previously, he was an Assistant Professor in iACADEMY, teaching scripwriting and mentoring thesis projects; a Segment Producer for the GMA News Special Assignments Team; and Senior Producer/Online Content Manager for Claire Delfin Media. Beyond his career, JM is a follower of Jesus, a frustrated mountaineer/traveler/adventurer, and a hopeful romantic. Broadcast Communication 2009, PUP Manila. MA Journalism 2014, Ateneo de Manila. Read more of his articles here.