As Expo Mom celebrates its tenth year, the longest running event of its kind pays tribute to #TeamMoms that have served as a lifeline for mothers all over the Philippines. Here, three mothers bounded by something extra special draw strength and inspiration from each other, allowing them to lead fruitful lives filled with hope.
Michelle Ressa Aventajado, Neva Arboleda Santos, and Betty Ching Sy crossed paths because of something extra special. Each of these three different women leading three entirely different lives have been blessed with a child with an extra chromosome. In particular, Betty says, “The extra chromosome refers to the extra chromosome in the 21st set that causes Down syndrome. It’s extra special, extra everything.”
Rather than sulking about this extra something, these moms have taken what many perceive as a challenge into something truly inspiring. The three women are not only hands-on mommas, they are also actively involved in organizations working to improve the lives of children with Down Syndrome like Best Buddies and Night to Shine. As they worked to make things better for their children, they were happily surprised to find friends in each other as well.
Neva, mom of Noah, says, “We’re bonded because of our kids and we’re also in and out of each other’s lives. I look to Betty because her daughter Kayla is such an achiever. She read to little kids in a video she did for World Down Syndrome day. I look to Gelli, Michelle’s daughter, because she is a year older than Noah. Gelli’s doing so much already. She’s doing a lot of things that I want Noah to do so I look to them.”
Michelle says, “Because Kayla is older than our kids, I look to Betty not just to ground me but also inspire me in my parenting. Kayla rides horses. Betty homeschools all of her girls. She’s the mom that can do it all and Neva, when there are things that I see are controversial out there, in terms of testing or new advances for kids with Down syndrome, I usually talk to Neva because I know she does the same kind of research, too.”
“Neva and Michelle are both bloggers. They really help a lot in creating awareness of people with special needs. There’s a voice that goes out there for families with special needs. At the same time, I enjoy being with both of them. They’re both really kind. They’re both down to earth, heartwarming,” says Betty.
Though the three may not see each other all the time, they are instantly connected through their private group in social media. They would exchange information on schools and therapists. They also talk about hair treatments and recipes. Oftentimes, they just say hello to each other and support each other.
One particularly memorable incident had Betty bringing home a man with Down syndrome. She recalls, “I was on the street and I saw a young man with Down syndrome. I couldn’t leave him. I took him home. I brought him to Joliibee first to eat, and then I didn’t know what to do.”
Betty was messaging the group, and that’s when Neva called her and told her to bring the man to the police station. It would then be police’s task to bring the young man to te Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Betty recalls, “Neva called me. You know, you need to bring him to the police station. I wouldn’t have done that. You can be charged with kidnapping pala!”
The good news is that the young man was eventually reunited with his family, and is now safely in his home.
Michelle says of Betty, “She’s really a blessing.”
It is at times like those when it’s great to have a Team Mom to behind you.
Betty says, “You have to have a support group. No man is an island. You can never do it alone. You really need other moms to come alongside you and encourage you and at the same time, to correct you when needed.”
“It really helps to have people who understand what you’re going through,” Neva adds. “They know what to say. Even though there are no answers, it’s a comfort to me that I know I can go to them as a sounding board or to brainstorm ideas.”
Michelle explains, “Through the good and the bad in our lives, as mothers, as sisters, as daughters, we need people around us to support us, to cheer us on, to catch us when we fall, to bolster us… This is what’s important, you have moms who get it because our concerns are quite similar even if our children are different in age. There’s a lot of freedom in having someone who can see you like that because you can say whatever you want. You won’t be judged. You don’t want to feel that if you put yourself out there, they might not understand you. It’s comforting, empowering. It’s good stuff all around.”
More than anything, Team Mom is about being there for each other, says Betty. She says, “Sometimes there aren’t big moments but you just want to be there in the little moments that come your way. It can be a lunch together, it can be a short taxi ride. Knowing that there is mutual love, mutual understanding, and a fondness for each other is what makes our friendship special.”
Every mom has a #TeamMom cheering her on. Share your #TeamMom story on social media. Join Expo Mom #TeamMom at the Glorietta Activity Center from May 5 to 7, 2017. Bring your #TeamMom along and connect with other Team Moms.
Join the Mommy Mundo #TeamMom Grand Giveaway!
PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE PICTURE COMPANY