BY ANNE QUINTOS
I've always wondered why it takes so long for women to carry their offsprings in their wombs. Sure, other animals like dolphins and sharks have longer gestation periods. For perplexed young adults like me, however, nine months seemed like an eternity to bear.
Now that I'm pregnant, what I thought was an eternity seemed to move like a speed train. And pregnancy, like a speed train, has been exciting, nauseating (literally!), expensive, disorienting, and amazing! This is why I would like to share my story, hoping to shed some guiding light for overseas Filipino moms-to-be. Even though it can be quite a struggle to get pregnant abroad, it's definitely all worth the ride. (Read first trimester post here.)
4th month: Dream book (financial goals) rewritten
In another post, I mentioned that my husband and I keep a dream journal where we scribble and write our plans for the years to come. Two months after our baby news, we were dumbfounded to realize that most of the dreams and plans written no longer fit in our new roles as parents.
So, we flipped a new page and started planning again with these objectives in mind: Scratch out the travel plans and delay it for a few years. Trim down our holiday wishlists. Strengthen our investment portfolio for our baby's future. Stick to what's essential.
It sounds painful. But it isn't, really. As expectant parents, it's automatic for us to think of only the best for our baby and family. Planning isn't the hardball task. What's more difficult is when we're preparing our monthly budget and resisting temptations to mis-spend or overspend. That's why I believe so much in putting our plans in writing. It helps us stay focused and, most of the times, on track.
To tell you the truth, because of overwhelming expenses lined up in the coming months, we've been revisiting our dream book more than we ever had.
- Reassess your financial goals and adjust it with the baby in mind. If you haven't written anything down, now would be the best time to create your own dream book.
- Consider these types of questions when planning: Where do you plan to give birth and how much will it cost you? Does your employment contract cover maternity benefits? Can you file your hospitalization bills for SSS reimbursement (for OFWs with voluntary coverage)?
- After giving birth, are there other financial instruments that you should explore to help you save for your child's future?
5th month: Family Emergency
They planned to keep this secret from me. My mom told Raymond that my dad had a minor accident yet high-risk repercussion. It remained a secret until my sister unintentionally Facebook checked-in from the hospital (yeah, Facebook check-ins are easy giveaways). This got me asking so they had no choice but to tell me that dad had a bad fall, and the pain caused very abnormal elevation of his blood pressure and sugar. We were all scared that he might undergo another angioplasty due to his heart condition.
Dealing with family emergencies like this makes the OFW life very much difficult to handle. Fortunately, Taiwan is just a few hours away by plane unlike other overseas Filipinos living thousands of miles from home. The news made me overly emotional that I had to discuss with Raymond the possibility of going home to be with my family for the leg surgery. However, I made it a point that we won't be spending the money we don't have for last-minute plane fares. We used our emergency fund and part of our anniversary celebration fund to cover our expenses. Raymond agreed and went on to book our tickets two nights before the surgery.
Dad's operation was successful plus we also get to celebrate our baby news with all of our families. Raymond's lola even cooked my favorite Pancit canton.
- Set aside a monthly budget for emergencies like hospitalization and last-minute trips to the Philippines.
- Plan and discuss all financial matters with your partner, especially if it will affect your pregnancy budget.
6th Month: Child-care planning
Our boss asked us about our plans on raising the baby in Taiwan. Without a blink of an eye, we told her that, after my two-month maternity leave, we're going to hire a overseas Filipino caregiver to help us.
We were so clueless.
Little did we know that getting house help in Taiwan wasn't as easy back in the Philippines -- it also wasn't cheap. For the locals, they have to undergo a point-system to hire a foreign domestic helper. For the foreigners, we would either need to be part of the managerial workforce of big companies, be expecting for triplets, or each earn an annual gross income of $NT 3 million. My husband and I were so floored that our only choice was to look for Plan B, C, and D (we're still looking these up until now).
On the other hand, this experience also taught us to appreciate what we have back home. Our household help may be one of the most neglected workers in our country even though they play important role in keeping our homes intact.
It also brought us at the crossroads that majority of OFW families have to decide on. Who will take care of our child? Should one of us give up the Opportunity to earn for her future or should we give up our Time together as a family, take her to the Philippines, and let the grandparents raise her until we have enough savings? I also belong to an OFW family for several years of my childhood where making voice tapes to talk to Daddy was one of our weekend activities. The thought of "online parenting" is just nerve-wrecking.
And so, my husband and I decided that we'll try our best to make it work as one complete family. We really hope everything turns out fine.
- Start thinking about baby care options, especially if both parents are working.
- Ask around for baby care services that the government provides, such as accreditation of day care centers, registration of babysitters, and the like.