Isabel Roces: Motherhood Becomes Her
Having a child wasn't intially part of Isabel Roces' plans. The quintessential working woman, Isabel was not only one of the country's top models, she also explored her talent in writing and hosting. “I enjoyed working. I was okay if I didn't settle down and have a family. If it's not my path, then it's fine,” she says.
So when Isabel tied the knot with businessman Felix Manuel “Fean” Trebol in 2014, it was to her a pleasant surprise. What was more surprising was how she embraced motherhood so completely and how absolutely devoted she has become to her daughter Alaia. She says, “I didn't know that I would get this obsessed!”
The stork came a-knocking a year after Isabel got married. She was in her mid-30s at the time, and wanted to have a child. She felt that she was mature enough to take care of another human being.
“I felt like I can mold someone already, and I won't screw up that bad,” she says.
One of the country’s first-ever ambassadors for PETA, Isabel took to pregnancy swimmingly. She neither experienced morning sickness nor had any food cravings. She even took a trip to Europe on her first trimester.
Friends rushed over to celebrate her expectant glory. Not only did she have a couple of baby showers from various groups of friends, Isabel also had her fair share of maternity shoots to showcase her blossoming belly in all its gorgeousness.
Wanting to know everything and anything about pregnancy and child care, Isabel becae a voracious reader. She picked up a bunch of titles to educate herself. Two books she found particularly useful are "You Are Your Child's First Teacher" by Rahima Baldwin Dancy K Baldwin Darcy and "Bright from the Start" by Jill Stamm.
“Because I was reading and researching so much, I realized that I wanted to do a water birth,” she says.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), “Water birth is the process of giving birth in a tub of warm water. Some women choose to labor in the water and get out for delivery. Other women decide to stay in the water for the delivery as well. The theory behind water birth is that since the baby has already been in the amniotic fluid sac for nine months, birthing in a similar environment is gentler for the baby and less stressful for the mother. Midwives, birthing centers, and a growing number of obstetricians believe that reducing the stress of labor and delivery will reduce fetal complications. Water birth should always occur under the supervision of a qualified health care provider.”
The APA is a national health organization in the United States committed to promoting reproductive and pregnancy wellness through education, support, advocacy, and community awareness.
Isabel believes that a water birth would not only be less stressful to the baby, it would also be less invasive on her. She also wanted to do away with any kind of medication.
In order to prepare for a water birth, Isabel asked the help of experts, Dr. Martin Manahan, an obstetrician-gynecologist who specialized in water births, and Irina Otmakhova, a doula who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth.
But the minute Isabel shared her decision to her family, there were frowns all around. She recalls, “Everyone was against it. My husband was for everything I wanted because I was the one giving birth. But everyone else, my parents and my in-laws, were saying, 'Why are we doing something so ancient when there's modern medicine? You're going to drown our grandchild.'”
But Isabel was undettered.
“It didn't stress me out because I was decided and I was expecting it. I knew it wouldn't be welcome. I had talked to other mothers who had water birth, and it was a common problem,” she says.
Isabel met with her doula once a week. Apart from teaching her exercises to prepare her birth, her doula was also very open in sharing her knowledge when it came to medical processes and the ingredients and effects of medications.
By the time Isabel began having contractions at six in the morning of January 8, 2016, she says, “I was very well informed. I knew what to expect. I wasn't afraid.”
At the time, her husband was still in Bacolod for work. At 8AM, she calmly called her doula to tell her about the contractions.
“It was still weak. I have high tolerance for pain,” she recalls.
They left for the hospital at 11AM, and her husband, who was scheduled to arrive in Manila, came at around 12NN.
“When he arrived, I wasn't completely dilated yet. They put you in the water when you're 8 to 10 cm dilated. They put me in at 1PM,” she recalls.
Isabel stayed in the water, pushing for three hours. She says, “I couldn't bring her out. I felt she wasn't ready to come out... But throughout this whole thing, my baby's heartbeat was strong. The baby was never in distress. That's why I was saying, 'No way. We're pushing it in the water.' I was so secure. I was relaxed about it.”
But her doctor, seeing how exhausted she was, stepped in and told her that she would have to give birth the natural way. Her doctor had actually tried to pull Isabel out of the water three times before but she was insistent.
She recalls, “He told me: 'You have no strength. If you don't come out now, you might have to give birth by Caesarian.'”
Isabel finally agreed.
Alaia is now a year old, and she has brought her family so much joy. Isabel dotes on her, revealing that she has never slept in a crib. She either sleeps beside Isabel or on top of her. Isabel says, “That's how attached I got to her.”
She also breastfed Alaia until she started weaning off at six months. "She was the one who was driving me away. I'm so attached to her, I think me more than her.”
Wanting to give her daughter the best start in life, Isabel has also signed up for a specialized teacher training course. She explains, “It's not that I plan to teach her, but I want to be able to guide her correctly. When I was pregnant I was reading so many books and my mom was like, “You're so bookish. That's instinctive.” But the information you get when you're more well equipped, it's different. The psychology of the child, you'll understand. The developmental stages, you'll understand. You won't force the baby to do things that's not in her developmental stage yet.”
Because she is so happy with Alaia, Isabel hopes to have more kids. Her husband actually wants three more.
And yes, given the opportunity, she would like to try another water birth.
“I would do it again, definitely.”
That's one persistent mama for you!