There’s nothing quite like the glow of a first-time mother.

It wasn’t hard to see it in Rachelle Ann Go — now a mom to a six-month-old baby boy named Lukas Judah — even from a laptop screen.

“It’s been so much fun. I cannot explain the joy that you get. Minsan nga sinasabi ko, ang sakit na ng pisngi ko kakatawa at kaka-smile. Ganun ka-saya dito sa bahay,” the international theater actress-singer told The STAR in a recent Zoom interview about this new phase in her life, building a family with husband Martin Spies in their country-style home in London. (Though UK-based, Rachelle’s career is still being managed by Cornerstone Entertainment.)

Baby Lukas is turning seven months old this week. What Rachelle has noticed so far in her son is that “he’s so chill, I think nakuha niya sa Papa niya. He’s very behaved. When you bring him to… like recently, we had a party, we invited a few people, hindi siya umiiyak.

“He’s very friendly, I think nagmana sa amin. He’s very chatty, siguro namana sa akin kasi madaldal ako. Halimbawa, magkausap tayo ngayon, he wants to be part of the conversation. And laging nakangiti. I think my phone is going to crash anytime soon because I always take videos of him. Every day, I see his growth. I’m so excited to see what he can do more.”

Embracing motherhood

Pre-pandemic, if you’d ask the gushing mom if she was ready for parenthood, the 35-year-old admitted she’d give you another answer.

“My husband has been ready to have a baby, and last year, I was like, ready na ba ako? I kept asking myself na teka lang baka di pa ako ready? Yung puso ko baka hindi pa, ang hirap maging nanay. Then again, lahat tayo, di tayo ready. I guess, you just have to take that leap, be bold, take that next step, take the next chapter. So when we decided, OK, let’s have a baby, I think God really prepared us for this next season.”

Despite the negative things that came with the pandemic, like shuttered theaters and cancelled shows, it allowed Rachelle to embrace the idea and reality of family life.

“During the pandemic, looking at the brighter side, parang it (was) a preparation for me. From my teenager days, nagtatrabaho na ako sa Pilipinas. And when I came here, every day yung show, I only had one day-off, I would do eight shows a week. Then, during the pandemic, all of a sudden, rest. You didn’t have any choice but to stay at home.”

“And wala kayong ibang choice but to spend time with each other — even my husband was at home last year… It’s either mag-away kayo ng mag-away, di ba? Or maging strong yung relationship niyo. Yes, may away-bati but it really made our relationship stronger, and I think it really prepared us for this (parenthood).”

She, herself, was surprised by the changes brought about by motherhood. Things she couldn’t imagine doing before, she can do now like “kaya ko pala mag-breastfeed kahit walang tulog. And I’m not thinking of giving it up anytime soon. Kaya ko pala magluto habang kalong (siya). You know, the little things. At first, there’s fear na… how am I going to schedule my time today? But then again, as you go through the day, pagdating ng gabi, ‘Ay, nakayanan ko!’ Every day, it’s very rewarding.”

The most dramatic change Rachelle saw in herself is her priorities. “Before, if you ask me, if I were ready to have a baby, I would always say, ‘I have a contract, kelangan ko tapusin yung contract with Les Miserables ‘cause that’s for a year,’” she said.

“Ngayon, I’m willing to kind of let go of it and say, ‘I have a baby, let’s pause for now.’ When they ask me, ‘When do you plan to go back?’ ‘I don’t know.’ That’s my answer because I really can’t say. Sa ngayon talaga, sobra akong nag-e-enjoy. When God gives you something so special, you really don’t want to let it go. It’s so precious to be entrusted with this new life.”

‘Super easy pregnancy’

Rachelle described her pregnancy journey as “super easy.”

“Na-surprise din ako. One of the reasons why I didn’t want to get pregnant at first was because ang dami mong naririnig na horror stories. ‘Nakakatakot, ang hirap ng nine months, ang bigat-bigat…’ So, I told myself, ayokong pagdaanan niyan,” she said.

As expected, there was fear during her first few months, but she got to read the book Supernatural Childbirth, which helped her a lot with her faith and in overcoming her worries. She added, “Of course, I had to take care of myself, nag-exercise kami, we walked, we did pilates every day. You gotta look after yourself as well and what you’re eating.”

In a past Instagram post where she recalled her birthing story, Rachelle had a long labor but a normal delivery that lasted 18 minutes only.

“Nung nanganak ako, easy. I’m telling you, walang pain, even after the postpartum, no pain. And I’m like, I cannot wait to share my story to all the women out there and to encourage them, there’s no pain. Ang mahirap yung after, yung wala kang tulog (laughs)!

“But yeah, my pregnancy, I’m so grateful. During the labor nga, nagpa-party kami sa room, even the midwives, lahat ng pumapasok na doctors, they were like, it’s so cool to be in here, there was music, it was fun. I really enjoyed it.”

Citing her mindset then that she was going to fully enjoy her childbirth experience, she said: “I prepared myself na it’s not gonna be painful. I really believed in it that it’s not gonna be painful, that I would have fun. And I think malaki ang magiging epekto niyan physically.”

When asked about mental health struggles, if any, given that she’s a newbie mom (amid a pandemic at that!), Rachelle stressed the importance of a support group. She said connecting with family and friends helped her and Martin deal with the isolation due to the lockdown and with postpartum depression as well.

“Kahit di kami nakakalabas, the Zoom and video calls, and getting that support group from other moms, it’s so important. I think suportado ako, hindi ko naramdaman na, ‘Ay, dumaan ba ako sa depression?’ Because I had it before, years ago, when I moved here in London. And now having a baby, I was thinking, mapagdadaanan ko ba yun? And I’m grateful na hindi because my mom was here (for four months). Martin’s parents, they were here for a month.

“So, I just want to encourage all the moms, sa lahat ng buntis or planning to have a baby soon, surround yourself with people who will support you. Do not isolate yourself kasi ito na nga, isolated na tayong lahat. Do not let that happen. Do the best that you can to reach out to friends, old friends, yeah, do it.”

Stronger marriage

According to Rachelle, the pandemic also became a test of how strong her marriage is. This was the first time she and her husband, a South African-born American business executive, got to spend so much time together.

“It really is a test because last year, yun lang ata yung time… like we never really had spent time that much with each other before the pandemic. We really appreciate that time because when we got married, and when Martin moved here after the wedding, I was working na every night and he works during the day. So, our quality time is yung 10-minute window lang bago ako matutulog. Susunduin niya ako sa work, tapos lalakad kami pauwi. That was our quality time,” she shared.

During the lockdown, they had the chance to personally renovate their home.

“I think we really enjoyed the marriage. Of course, may away, ako yung drama queen eh (laughs)! Si Martin, he’s very patient,” Rachelle said.

“We really got to know each other. The bond became stronger. That prepared us for the parenthood. Mas nakilala namin ang isa’t isa bilang three years palang kaming kasal. We married in 2018 and we met in 2017 (in New York). So alam mo yun? Kumbaga, we’re really getting to know each other.”

The arrival of their son Lukas further anchored their relationship as a couple.

Rachelle said, “Every day is an adjustment. Like now, we’re adjusting to how to take care of Lukas and how do we find the time to spend time with each other, na kaming dalawa lang, di ba? We also have to prioritize the marriage. Yes, there’s a baby but marriage is so important. It has to be solid for you to be the best parent.”

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