By JOSALEE DEINLA
As I nurse my child to sleep, I think of first-time mother Reina “Ina” Nasino and her three day old baby girl. Ina told me that they are struggling with breastfeeding and that another mother at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, where she gave birth, took pity on them and wet-nursed the baby. She is a low birth weight infant and is not feeding well.
Have they figured it out? Has baby learned to latch properly? Have Ina’s painful cracked nipples healed? Who will hold her hand when the baby blues come? Did she remember to do skin-to-skin? I worry.
Ina and her baby are now confined in a cell at the Manila City Jail where Ina is a person deprived of liberty. She was arrested on November 5, 2019 after the police planted firearms and explosives in her apartment. She is a Kadamay organizer, one of the scores of activists and dissenters relentlessly persecuted by government.
Do they have sufficient ventilation? Is their low mattress clean? Ina said she prefers not to sleep on the bed for fear of dropping the baby when she gets exhausted and falls asleep.
Ina is one of the 22 political prisoners who petitioned the Supreme Court to allow their temporarily release on humanitarian grounds, citing the grave dangers that the COVID-19 poses inside prisons to the vulnerable and at-risk. As of May 25, 2020, various facilities of the BJMP have reported 703 suspected COVID-19 cases and 86 probable cases of the viral disease. BJMP city jails are notoriously overcrowded with an average of 500 percent congestion rate.
Ina’s own cell is packed way beyond capacity. She said that at least 80 women are sharing a room that can only hold about 40. Because of her lack of mobility in such a cramped space, she suffered from edema days before the onset of labor. She was also not given prenatal care, which may explain her baby girl’s low birth weight.
Will the courts show compassion and grant Ina provisional liberty so she could care for and nurse her baby girl somewhere safe? Will they recognize Ina’s right to breastfeed her child who equally has the right to her breastmilk? Ina’s breastmilk is her baby girl’s natural immunization and best source of nourishment, especially at this time when her organs have not fully matured and there is a raging pandemic.
On Monday, the presiding judge hearing her case is set to rule on her Motion to Quash and Suppress Evidence. Did she see that the address in the search warrants implemented the night of Ina’s arrest is different from her actual residence, in violation of the clear dictates of the Constitution?
Thoughts of Ina and her baby girl deluge me with tender emotions, like the baby blues that visited soon after childbirth. But these blues are different; they feel like ancient memories passed on between mothers throughout generations. I know they will sink deep in the recesses of my heart and resurface the next time I weep with mothers like Ina.
It will only be a matter of time for Ina, if her case will not be dismissed, to be separated from her child. Her infant will be forcibly torn off her chest, weaned from her embrace and protection.
My child, also a baby girl, is still tethered to my breast, dreamfeeding. Someday I’ll tell her about this sorrowful night.
*The author, a mother of two, is one of the lawyers of Reina Nasino. She is the spokesperson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).