November 22, 2006 @ Dili, Timor Leste
Yesterday, our son, Timothy Alan Santiago Rodriguez, turned 6 weeks old. For us, his proud parents, yesterday marked a milestone in our journey of love with God and with Tim. We have learned a lot of things since we came here as a missionary couple, but over the past 6 weeks, it seems that God has given us a lot more lessons to learn, especially as new parents.
Tina: Lesson # 1 – In all things we must keep our eyes, minds and hearts fixed on Jesus, pray always and ask for Mama Mary’s intercession.
Tim was born on October 10, the day the doctors said he was expected to be born. My waterbag broke at 5.30 am but since I had no labor pains yet, oxytocin was administered to augment my labor at 9.00 am. Before this, Anthony and I prayed the Holy Rosary in the waiting room at the hospital, offering all the Sorrowful Mysteries for a safe delivery and offering my soon-to-come labor pains for the conversion of souls, especially for the troubled people of Timor Leste. During labor, and my episiotomy repair afterwards, my focal points were a small figurine of the Holy Family, and a picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When the pains were sometimes too much to bear, I would imagine the statue of Mama Mary and the figure of Jesus on the cross, at Aimutin Church, where we attended daily mass.
All these things helped me to stay focused and bear the pain of labor and of getting my episiotomy stitches, not once, but TWICE (the midwife didn’t do it right the first time, so the Pinay OB-Gyne ended up redoing some of the stitches! OUCH!). Focusing on Mama Mary and her “Be it done unto me according to Your word” attitude also helped me to undergo the initial discomfort and pain of breastfeeding. Now I understand a little bit more the sacrifices that Mama Mary and our own mothers had to go through to nurture and nourish us (Thank you Ma, I love you! J).
Indeed, when we fix our eyes, minds and hearts on Jesus, we can do all things and bear all pains. If we offer everything up to Him through Mama Mary, we’ll be able to withstand all hardships.
Anthony: Lesson # 2 – In all things we must put our trust in God and draw strength from Him, especially when we don’t understand the trials we must undergo.
2 days after Tim’s birth, and just 1 day after coming home from the hospital, we had to return because Tim had unusually widespread jaundice, which didn’t disappear even after being exposed to sunlight. After taking a blood test to check his bilirubin levels, the doctor said that Tim had to be admitted for phototherapy as his bilirubin levels were unusually high. And so we ended up staying 4 days and 4 nights (most of which were sleepless) at the National Hospital here. Our (mine and Mama’s) usual routine was taking care of Tim AND Tina, who was recovering from labor and her episiotomy repair. Every time after being breastfed, Tim would be exposed to ultraviolet rays to help decrease his bilirubin level. Seeing our son having to bear the heat of phototherapy and numerous blood tests sometimes made us want to question “WHY LORD?”
But the readings before and after Tina gave birth, mostly from the book of Job, reminded us that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but His name will still be praised forever! And indeed, we continued to praise Him. To trust completely in Him and draw strength from Him, especially during those sleepless nights. In fact, God proved to us that He is good all the time – at the hospital, we were given a vacant room to use all to ourselves, instead of being in the newborn ward with the other sick babies. This helped make taking care of Tim and Tina easier for us, as we had our privacy and own space. Indeed, GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!
Anthony & Tina: Lesson # 3 – Be joyful at all times. Always have a sense of humor, it will help get you through sleepless nights and avoid unnecessary fights! J
After coming home from the hospital, we had to adjust to life with Tim. There were times when Anthony wouldn’t wake up when I (Tina) would need him to help me with Tim (don’t worry though, he’s better now, he stays up and wakes up when needed! J). Or he would wake up but only for a minute or so and then fall asleep again. Instead of making it an issue, I (Tina) would laugh it off with him the next morning, and tell him about the funny things he did or said when I tried to wake him up. J
Having a sense of humor (truly a gift from God! J) can help us get through sleepless nights, troublesome days and avoid unnecessary conflicts. J This applies not only to husband & wife or new parents, but to everyone, especially us missionaries, who many times face problems and difficulties as we go about God’s work. After all, God Himself also has a sense of humor (He made giraffes and zebras, men and women J for exampleJ)!
Anthony & Tina: Lesson # 4 – (A tip for other parents-to-be J) Raising up a kid for Christ starts from conception J
Tim is a true kid for Christ – even before he was born, he would attend daily mass with us. He especially seemed to like the “Our Father” part, when Daddy and Mommy would lay their hands on him (while still in Mommy’s belly J). He would join our mission team household meetings and daily team rosary.. so even now that he’s no longer in Mommy’s womb, he behaves well during mass, household meetings and rosary time. Praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and especially the “Angel of God” prayer often helps Tim to go to sleep, especially when he has stomach pains. Singing praise songs to Tim also seems to help put him at ease – in fact, right after Tim was born, when he was placed in Tina’s arms to breastfeed, she and Lola Tita sang praise songs to him (while Tina’s episiotomy site was being repaired J).
And so we continue to pray that God will help us to raise Tim to be a true-blue kid for Christ; already he’s helping Daddy and Mommy to be a better couple for Christ!
Anthony & Tina: Lesson # 5 – Even babies can be instruments for intercession for other people.
Right now, Tim seems to be growing to be a healthy boy, except that he has difficulty and seems to be in pain just before he passes urine. We’ve consulted the doctors here, and their advice is for him to be circumcised. However, we were advised to have him checked in the Philippines first. So now, we cope with Tim crying (sometimes so hard, his face turns super red in color!) every time he wants to pee. It’s hard sometimes to see him in pain, but there’s nothing much we can do for now… so we tell him and pray with him to offer up his pain and discomfort for other babies, especially for those who are sick, and are in the refugee sites here in Dili.
And so God can use even little babies as instruments of healing and salvation for other people. Especially as instruments for their parents to grow in faith, hope and love. J
Anthony & Tina: Lesson # 6 – The people you live with, serve with and encounter every day, especially your own family members, are God’s gifts to you – learn to appreciate, honor and love them, despite their differences, faults and failures.
The 8 other people in our mission team – the people we live with and serve with – have been an enormous blessing to us. Without them, taking care of Tim – including washing and ironing diapers daily, making sure he’s fed, clean etc etc – would be more difficult, because we’d also have to deal with cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the mission house, etc etc. At least with the daily chores distributed among our mission team, we have more time to deal with Tim. J
Our families have also been a source of unconditional love… their prayers and support continue to give us courage, especially during difficult times. The physical presence of Papa and Mama (aka Lolo Mon and Lola Tita to Tim J) has also been a great blessing – they are able to guide us in being new parents.
The local CFC community has also been a source of inspiration and strength. Even with the difficulties that our CFC brethren face every day (some are still afraid to travel to certain places due to sporadic gang violence), they visited us in the hospital and at home, and even gave gifts for Tim.
Indeed, we should learn to appreciate, honor and love the people that God has given us. They are God’s instruments of blessing to us.
Anthony & Tina: Lesson # 7 – Every moment in your life is an opportunity to pray and thank God. God is involved even in the small, ordinary things of our lives.
Every moment, every second is an opportunity to praise and thank God, to lift your heart up in prayer. Whether it be feeding your baby, changing his diaper, washing and ironing dozens of diapers, staring at your child’s adorable face, cutting his tiny fingernails, calming him when he cries… every moment is an opportunity to be one with God. J God wants us to involve Him in the small, ordinary, “boring” things of our lives. Remember, it’s not about success, but faithfulness.
There are so many more lessons that we’ve learned (perhaps we should write a book! Hahaha) during the past 6 weeks.. and we’re excited for the many, many more lessons coming our way… “Oh Lord, teach us to accept whatever comes our way…” We praise and thank God for all of these, and also… for all the people who have been part of this journey of love with us… thank you all… May God always be with us!
Timothy Alan Santiago Rodriguez was welcomed into the Catholic world on October 30, 2006 with Fr. Alan Bondoc, SVD and Sr. Socorro Aunzo, SSPS, as his godparents – missionary godparents for a missionary baby. J Fr. Jojo San Juan, SDB officiated the mass and baptism ceremony. All religious mentioned are Filipino missionaries and are great supporters of CFC in Timor Leste. J