A meditation on motherhood

FROM A DISTANCE - Veronica Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Sara Black is a meditation teacher and a new mother. She previously had successful careers in commercial photography and modelling. She grew up in Manila and her father is British. Her daughter Feliz is 5 months old. Laura Black, her mother, is a retired businesswoman, and (full disclosure) my aunt.

Laura: There are no hard and fast rules on how to raise your kids. Each child is unique, what applies to one child may not apply to the other, even in terms of gender. In our culture the boys are not as strong as the girls. Have you noticed that? Honestly, the women are stronger. I’m not making a judgement, it’s an observation. They’re raised differently. I only had two, so it wasn’t difficult. Also, I wasn’t raising them alone. Their father, Charles, was very strict, he laid down the rules and you couldn’t be soft on one and then be strict on the other, the rules had to apply to both. I think it would have been different if they’d had a Filipino dad. I’ve seen it in many families where the men are pampered. Maybe I’m generalizing but look around.

It must have been around 1983, business went kaput, nothing was happening: people couldn’t open letters of credit, there were no bank transactions. We had to leave for the USA to drum up more business. Sara was a toddler and I left her with a yaya who had been with us for a long time. I couldn’t have predicted she would get sick. She was traumatized because she had to be taken to hospital, and they kept sticking needles into her. She was really upset. A trusted friend checked in on her and said Sara was talking like an adult, scolding the nurses. About six months later, we were in the grocery, when she lay on the floor and started kicking and getting mad. Imagine! In a public place! I said, “What happened?” She said “Why did you leave me? Why did you leave?” I was so sorry, but what could I do? I mean it was over anyway, it was gone.

I think she was trying to tell me it affected her a lot. It can work two ways, it can be positive, and it can be negative, right? You can either be stronger or you can be bitter.

I’m very happy for her now because she’s just sort of evolved into having a family. When she was young, she could pursue her career and she worked hard. It didn’t come easy. I think if she had had a child when she was still pursuing her career, it would be difficult because she wouldn’t know where to devote her time.

I did not want to have a transplant. I felt so sure I was going to die if I had it. Then Sara said to me: “Mom, please don’t be afraid because I will be with you when you have your operation and I will take care of you, and she did. She took charge of everything and would even sleep in the hospital on the bench, and you know how long she is, her feet were hanging off it. She was there for me.

I love being a grandmother. I could die happy now. Maybe it sounds morbid because people don’t like to talk about death. Filipinos think it will happen if we talk about it. I mean that I am so happy that everyone is going to be OK.

Sara: Being a new parent is perfect for the time of COVID because I get to be home all day. As a photographer, I worked crazy hours, I loved the work setting and so this is a 180-degree shift. It took some getting used to, but to be here completely is panning out so well that I can’t imagine doing anything else. I want to be present for Feliz and I don’t want to be working on location somewhere. I want to be here to catch every giggle and to stare at her eyelashes for two hours.

The work I do now is like helping somebody discover their beauty from inside. There’s been a shift from the external to internal. When I was working as a photographer, sometimes I’d take someone’s portrait and it would be the first time they’d had the opportunity to see themselves in a different light and experience a moment of feeling beautiful. Some people would tear up or even cry.

Now when I’m guiding people to learn how to meditate, especially in a retreat setting, I get the same response. When they’re able to enter an inner realm with me as the guide, it’s as if they’re contacting something within themselves that they hadn’t experienced before. Something is ignited. It’s the same reaction with a different interface.

When I was around six years old, my parents were traveling somewhere, and I got hospitalized with pneumonia. I was really upset because I felt abandoned, I think it made me independent and goal-driven. It was about coming to terms with the idea that: “OK, I am here on my own and if I don’t do it, nobody will, so I must do it.”

It’s difficult to see your parent, who had always been in a position of authority, in a position of weakness. After my mother was ill, it was an incredible time for healing. Things that needed to be said and done were all accomplished in that process. I think it brought into the light fears and traumas that had been carried for generations. I found I wanted to sit and deal with them right there, and I found more freedom in the process.

Nothing was ever communicated in black and white or anything by her, but I feel Filipino, my orientation is towards being with family. At the same time my mom also has an international outlook having lived abroad. She’s open-minded and has an open spirituality. I think that’s rubbed off on me.

There’s no: “You must believe this, or you must follow this.” It’s more a case of “Let’s keep it fluid and see what resonates and what doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, that’s OK too.”

Being with Feliz is so enjoyable, everything is worth it, you may be tired and all that, but then when she just gazes at you like you’re the only thing in the world... it’s beautiful.


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