Several bewildered people have felt inclined to point out how young I look. As young as 12. They are taken aback and never believe me when I say I'm already almost 24. Doubtful, they insist I'm younger and they give me a stink eye for being married and a mother. Apparently, I'm lying about my age.
Some days I feel like I am only 12. Am I old enough to be a wife? Am I old enough to raise a human being? Am I even mature enough? I find myself asking these questions as my husband Ryan and I battle in Street Fighter X Tekken on Xbox 360 while our 5-month-old baby stares at us in awe, perhaps having thoughts similar to mine. Are these people really my parents? Are they really supposed to be raising me? Are they mature enough?
I wake up in the middle of the night to a hungry, crying baby. After feeding him, he fills his diaper with yellow, mustardy, digested breastmilk, and I wake my tired husband to burp and change him. He groans. Half-asleep and with only a few hours away before he needs to get up for work, he complies as I stumble back to bed. Two or three more bouts of this scenario, and voilà, baby Ryder's wide awake - cooing and smiling and letting us know it's time to pick him up - but wait! I look at the clock and it's only 05:30. Oh Ryderrr... I pretend I don't hear him, waiting for Ryan to get up, who thinks I'm clueless that he's also pretending (c'mon Babe, you suddenly stopped snoring). We both wait a little longer, but neither are really sleeping because for some reason, when you become a parent, you can never fully fall into deep sleep when you hear your baby making noises. Though groggy and annoyed, I realize there's no point in staying in bed if I can't fulfill its purpose. Good morning BabyRyder, good morning handsome! My annoyance disappears when I see his smile, how happy he is to see me. I put him between me and Ryan and he continues to coo; he rolls over and touches Daddy's face. G'mornin' Ryderman.
After driving Ryan to the metro, I come back home and decide what to do with my day. I plan dinner, making sure that everything's ready by the time Ryan comes home. I either clean the house (with the exception of the bathroom - that's Ryan's task) or do a few loads of laundry. I play with Ryder, watch TV, go for a swim, take a stroll in the park or go shopping. During Ryder's nap times, I hurry and take a shower, eat, read a book, go online, catch up with friends, do our finances and worry. When Ryan comes home, he takes out the trash and the laundry out of the dryer, plays with Ryder, and we take turns eating our dinner (we've both said goodbye to eating our meals hot and at the same time when we officially became parents) and keeping Ryder entertained because by this time, around 19:30, Ryder's winding down (a.k.a fussing) for his bedtime. Ryan washes the dishes and cleans up in the kitchen, while I feed Baby and he falls asleep. Good night sweetums...
We watch TV or a movie or play Kinect, give each other massages, and talk about our days. We say our prayers, retire to our bed, I look at the clock one last time - it's 22:30 - I close my eyes for about 5 minutes and Ryder wakes up again, hungry and upset with tears rolling down his cheeks.
When I was 12, I never imagined my life like this. I didn't even think I would learn how to cook. I just assumed I'd be in the Philippines my whole life and I would, like everyone else, hire a househelp or two to do all the things I never learned to do. I never imagined myself to travel and live in different parts of the world, experience different cultures, learn new languages, eat exotic food, make new friends of various hair and skin color, graduate as a cum laude, meet the love of my life, create a precious human being, have my own little family. It all seems surreal. And yet, I am living in the dream I never thought I had, the life I never knew I wanted.
I was almost 22 when I announced my engagement to family and friends. Both our families were thrilled. All our friends were happy. My relatives thought I got pregnant.
Clara, bata ka pa. Mag-aral ka muna. I-enjoy mo muna buhay mo.
Buntis ka ba, ineng?
Bakit ka nagmamadali? Marami ka pa namang time. Magtrabaho ka muna.
Yes, I am young. I look young. I feel young. I am not saying otherwise. I don't pretend to be a grown up. What does "grown up" even entail? I do know I have responsibilities because of my choice. I choose to be married to my best friend for time and all eternity, and together, we made a conscious decision to bring forth a sweet, little baby.
Raising a child is work. I admit some days, I feel like I'm just babysitting and I wait for his real mother to come get him. All days are remarkable, fulfilling days. I get to watch my baby sleep, hear his laughter, soothe him when he's crying, hold him as he falls asleep in my arms, play with him, be there for him. I get to see and be with my one true love day in and day out, share my thoughts to him, laugh, play, make love.
My husband's work provides income, which is sufficient for our needs; and therefore, I don't have to do paid labor that society deems as the only acceptable work. I do have a whole future ahead of me and in that future Ryan and Ryder are included and I wouldn't have it any other way.
And no, I didn't get married because I got pregnant.
(Regine Orme spent 14 years of her life in the Philippines, 8 years in Norway, and 2 years in the States. She graduated with a Psychology degree in 2011 in Hawaii. She is happily married to her husband since 2010, and a devoted mother to her 5-month-old baby.)