Campfire stories: A single mom on life before her son — and life with him

By DIMPLE LIM
Many moons ago, I met Arlene, one magical friend who was going to be the champion skimboarder of our country. I was straight out of fashion school. We were young. I remember how we would spend our weekends at a friend’s beachfront house in Tabinay, Puerto Galera. When the morning sun would creep in, it was a gentle reminder of the strong radiant light we had inside us. Standing strong were the coconut trees that blanketed the place. Waves sounded like home. Nature has brought us together as we held our dreams and mishaps in between the sand and Matt’s Zen tarot readings. The world was at our fingertips and we couldn’t care less about anything else. On weekends, we belonged to the ether. And when Monday came and we were kicked back to our realities, our cosmic connection would inspire us to go forth with our lust for life. We couldn’t wait to see where tomorrow would take us.
Reality: Somewhere along the way, I opened up my own fashion shop and continued on coming up collections for Philippine Fashion Week. Next thing I knew, I found myself listening to the heartbeat of a baby in my womb. My partner at that time was working for a documentary following a Lama in the far flung places of Nepal. Arlene worked in media co-founded ALON Pinas. Unlike the waves that we have become accustomed to on our weekend trips, we somehow lost our balance amid the insurmountable waves of the city. Arlene slowed down the moment she got pregnant with her first baby, a still born baby. My dad passed at the same time. And around the same time, I became a single mom.
Yesterday, me and my now eight-year-old son, Art, attended Arlene’s second born, three-week-old baby Tala’s baptism. The house party spelled island vibe with its pandan plates, homey decors and familiar faces. There, we found ourselves chatting about motherhood like how we used to talk about art, music, UFOs and pretty much anything under the sun. It was like we were back on the beach, under the stars. Except there were babies. Babies everywhere. Arlene, like me, who takes pride in making things happen, breastfeeds Tala, born under the star Pisces, a water sign.
Our conversation took me back to how I dealt with the drastic changes that have taken place over the years. Once a proud achiever, I was very certain that things will go my way — a steadily growing career as a fashion designer and a picture-perfect son. But I have to admit, that my next step appears as hazy as the smog the covers Manila. I was quick to realize that this balancing act that I got myself into is making me crazy.
Now, here I am, scattered-brained and a little too clumsy with life. I would set up play dates so that I can sneak out and finish my never ending workload. I feel so naked when I do nothing. I am, sleepless, overworked, perpetually tired, and far from what had I imagined. I’ve never been this anxious in my adult life. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been robbed of the sun-kissed fun-girl life I used to have.
A friend of mine told me that our children will forever hold our hearts. Whenever I become tired of juggling life, I just try to be in the moment. Playdates at La Mesa Eco Park feel like home — the same feeling that I get when I was drenched under the sun, sand between my toes with saltwater all dried up in my hair. One cannot deny the healing power of just being with nature. Now the equivalent: Art and I paint the walls and without a care in the world. Whenever I walk him to school, I make up stories about dinosaurs that walked between the cracks on the side street. Every time I am with Art, he would remind me things that I have completely forgotten —  the rhythm that governs all beings, pretty much like the ocean waves and the fun it brings when you just play along with life. No one comes out alive, anyway. Sudden relief takes over when I see things in perspective, through my child’s eyes.
At the baptismal, I eagerly listened to what Arlene had to say on being a new mom. We knew deep in our hearts that our lust for life — the yearning to learn, facing our fears as much as we open ourselves to love — made us to who we are today. We dive deep into strange places but somehow our stars always bring us back to where we find answers in cues and in silence, with only the sound of waves, albeit only in our heads, and only for a little while.