At the cusp of motherhood, Max Collins opens up about how she’s embracing pregnancy and childbirth amidst the uncertainties of a global pandemic.
"For months, I’ve been preparing for a home birth. And to imagine a scenario that would require me to do it differently, honestly, gives me anxiety. But no matter what happens, I'm confident I’ll get through it." - Max Collins
Max Collins is set to give birth any time soon. She found out she was pregnant a few months before her second wedding anniversary, and her son is due in time to make her hubby, Pancho Magno, officially a dad so close to Father’s Day.
While pregnancy and giving birth already put a mother in a delicate state, having a global pandemic thrown in the mix is enough to throw anyone through a loop. But if anything, welcoming a new life into the world is cause for celebration, and something the actress has come to embrace.
“I had a lot planned for 2020 but having a baby wasn’t one of them,” Max candidly shares about her pregnancy. While she did have plans for her career and for travel, being a mom wasn’t on the list just yet. “However, I see my baby as such a blessing in my life now and there's nothing I’d prioritize more than him,” she says.
But with her shift in priorities came another adversary to plan around: the threat of. And while she may not be the first to give birth during these unprecedented times, she has certainly drummed up an unexpected birth plan. It only goes to show that courage and creativity persist when met with a challenge.
Pregnancy and the Pandemic
“I was about 6 months pregnant and had just arrived from a vacation in Australia when [COVID-19] was officially declared a pandemic,” Max says. Shortly thereafter, Metro Manila was put under ECQ, and coverage of the frenzy in hospitals filled the news. As an expectant mother, it was only natural for her to be filled with dread:
“First and foremost, I was really worried about giving birth in a hospital for obvious reasons, and even visiting a hospital for checkups was very concerning. I also experienced so much anxiety because I didn’t know how to cope with my fear of not knowing if things would ever go back to normal and how the ‘new normal’ would affect my child’s future. But things happen for a reason and I know that amidst uncertainty and fear, answers come when you least expect it.”
Holed up at home, she took a proactive stance about managing the things that could trigger anxiety for her. She avoided focusing on the negative news that filled the media and worked on harnessing an appreciative point of view for what each day brought with it.
“Thankful for the sun and the sky, the air that we breathe, nature, and all of its beauty. Let’s not forget to appreciate what we have around us and this life that we’ve been given, don’t take it for granted. Sending you love and light,“ reads a caption accompanying a photo on Instagram of a smiling Max, sitting cross-legged with a turmeric latte she made herself. “Finding reasons to be happy,” reads another post of a photo of her happy in an inflatable pool with a tall milk tea in tow.
Talking to other friends who are pregnant also gave her reassurance, discovering that they too felt as anxious as she did. “The comfort of knowing that I’m not alone made me feel better about my situation and it gave me an added boost of confidence, which I feel is so important during pregnancy,” Max shares. Apart from turning to close family and friends to help with her “mental battles,” she also turned to her faith. “I believe that everything is part of God’s ultimate plan and that I should be someone who can tackle anything with his help.”
Birth at Home, Not the Hospital
Admitting that the danger of contracting COVID-19 and potentially transmitting it to her baby is her primary concern, Max has chosen to give birth at home. “When COVID-19 spread, I just felt like I personally wouldn’t be comfortable giving birth in a hospital, especially now that you can’t have a companion in the delivery room,” she says. “That’s when I did my research, watched documentaries, and asked questions so I could figure out what my other options were.”
What she found was that while a home birth was an unusual choice to make—medical professionals in fact caution against it because of the risks involved—she did not find herself afraid of the idea. “I feel like it will be an intimate, amazing experience, and I’m happy knowing that I’ll be relaxed at home and in control of my body and how I choose to give birth,” she shares.
Having attended a parenting workshop conducted by fellow actress and natural parenting advocate Jennica Garcia last year, Max discovered that the former had successfully delivered her second child at home in water birth. When the thought of doing the same entered her mind, she contacted Jennica, who in turn put her in touch with her midwife and doula. “We got along right away and I decided that they’d be my team,” Max reveals.
Having made an informed decision about her birth plan, and finding the health professionals who will be helping her through it, Max has since been preparing the equipment (like an inflatable pool) and medicines necessary for an at-home water birth. She has been practicing (a mix of visualization, relaxation, and deep breathing techniques that will help her manage the pain during labor) and she has been doing exercises to help the baby get into the head-down position. Together with Pancho, she took the online classes—“"with Thammie Sy and” with Irina Otmakhova—to further educate themselves about the process.
She talks about her ideal scenario on the big day:
“Once I go into labor, my midwife and doula will come over and help me handle the pain. A few family members and close friends might come over for support. My room will smell great with essential oils and candles, the lighting will be dim and I’ll have praise songs or meditation music on to relax me, and when my body is ready to push, I’ll get into the pool filled with warm water and give birth to a healthy baby boy.”
Note: According to Smart Parenting, certified midwives are qualified to administer a standard of care for obstetric emergencies. They also have instruments and the training to use them to suture and administer medications to the newborn, such as eye ointment and vitamin K.
“I don’t think I would’ve considered having a home birth in the first place, but now I feel like this is the best decision for my son and I,” Max admits. “Since I’m nearing my due date, I’ve decided not to leave the house at all just to be safe.”
An Optimistic View
In a way, the young mother-to-be is fortunate to be required to stay home during her third trimester of pregnancy, a time when the body feels heavy and a good amount of rest and attention to one’s health is important. Max herself acknowledges that if it were not for COVID-19, she would have been out and about until her due date.
“So far I’ve realized that I used to be so unhealthy, and that really affected me emotionally: I used to drink 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day, I never got enough sleep, I drank too much, and I didn’t eat well or take vitamins,” she shares, adding that she feels she is in a much better place right now that she is rested, less stressed, and perhaps just a little bit lazier. “I’ve also learned to appreciate the little things, like the sound of birds chirping in the morning, watching the sunset, a call from a friend, a good meal—things I never appreciated before. I feel so much more in the moment now.”
While oversized T-shirts are her go-to home wear right now (comfort wins on this count), her photos on Instagram show that she doesn’t also shy away from occasionally wearing tiny tops or sports bras that reveal her baby bump. “There were times when I got insecure about gaining weight, but then I would remind myself that I’m carrying a life inside of me and that’s magical,” Max says. “I don’t mind showing off my baby bump, something I wasn’t comfortable doing before, but I feel more like a woman now more than ever!”
She also doesn’t hesitate to swipe on some lipstick and pretty up. “Getting dolled up gives me a reason to not be lazy or to feel like a blob. It really helps motivate me to get things done for the day and stop procrastinating too. And it makes me feel cute, too, and that’s always a good feeling!”
Being pregnant and giving birth during such an unprecedented time is no doubt challenging, and Max says that she is most thankful that her pregnancy has not been difficult and that the baby is healthy. When her son is older, and he asks about the year 2020, this is what she plans to tell him:
“I’d tell him that the year he was born, life was like a movie. People were afraid to go out and be near one another, everyone wore masks, life was so different from how it was when I was growing up. But the sky was bluer, the air was fresher, the stars shone brighter, and there was no traffic in the streets. There’s always something to be grateful for and him being born was one of them.”
Produced by Maura Rodriguez
Photographed by Andrea Beldua
Styled by Adrianne Concepcion and Maura Rodriguez
Hair and Makeup by Marben Talanay