If you haven’t been following my Twitter feed, you might not have known that for the past nine months, I’ve been waiting to be a Tita Noelle to my niece, Brooke Gabrielle Manahan. (Well, I’m her godmother, so it’s Ninang Noelle.)
From the first day my sister voiced her thought that her period was late I told her that she was pregnant. When it was confirmed with a pregnancy test and ultrasound, our excitement knew no bounds.
Michael and Marielle decided to name their daughter Brooke after the New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser. Apart from her professional solo recording career as a folk/pop singer, Ms. Fraser is also a singer and songwriter for the worship group Hillsong.
Our journey with little Brooke had its ups and downs, especially when we were told on her fifth month that the ultrasound had detected some congenital anomalies. We have a wonderful spiritual family at Victory Ortigas who came together with us and prayed with us throughout the next four months, helping strengthen our faith in God. An ultrasound at six months showed that Brooke was normal and we would have a healthy baby girl with us in three months’ time.
Last Thursday my sister and brother-in-law went for her weekly checkup; it’s S.O.P. that women at nine months’ pregnancy have to see their OB that regularly. When her OB (who is also our aunt) saw that she was already in early labor, Marielle was immediately scheduled for emergency caesarian section due to her pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, also known as pre-eclampsia. On February 2, 2012, my niece Brooke was born.
Baby Brooke wasn’t breathing when she was delivered, so the doctors attempted to resuscitate her, finally hooking her up to a respirator at the Newborn ICU. Still, it was clear to us that she wouldn’t live long. I thought she wouldn’t last the night. Then the first miracle happened: in the early hours of Friday morning, Brooke was taken off the respirator and started breathing on her own!
Marielle, after her CS, got up and walked earlier than we thought she would because of her desire to see her child. So despite the pain and discomfort, we all were able to go see Brooke and even dedicate her to the LORD. It was here that another miracle happened: Brooke turned her head toward her parents as she heard them speak to her. A one-day-old infant is not able to determine the location of sounds, so that was wonderful that she was able to acknowledge their presence. And as Michael and Marielle reached out to hold her in their arms, Brooke cried for the first time.
Since Brooke remained stable the rest of Friday until the evening, I went home to rest and to take care of some errands. I finished them quickly on Saturday and headed back to the hospital. Unfortunately, I went via Aurora Boulevard, which is where the Bourne Legacy was filming that day. While I was stuck in that traffic jam, I received news that Brooke had died.
It was hard being just a few kilometers away and missing seeing Brooke one last time. I was mad at myself because I had an opportunity to take another route, but didn’t. I was mad at the Bourne Legacy crew for screwing up traffic. I was mad at the MMDA for allowing use of Aurora Boulevard when they knew there were few alternate roads.
And then I got to the hospital where I found Brooke breathing and alive in her mother’s arms. Another miracle: she had been pronounced dead, but her heart and her breathing spontaneously began again.
She was touch-and-go, but every time Michael and Marielle held her, she rallied. God gave us 12 more hours with Brooke, allowing my grandparents time to fly in, to see her and hold her. And when we had all accepted that Brooke’s time was near, that’s when she went.
For three glorious days, I was Tita and Ninang Noelle to the bravest, strongest little girl I know. Although we’re sad now, I’ll see her again in Heaven.
Yesterday we held a memorial service in her memory, and during the worship time we had, we sang “Desert Song” by Hillsong (lead vocals by Brooke Fraser and Jill McLoghry). I wanted to put the song up here because it spoke to me so clearly:
This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides
This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flame
I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
When I did my research on “Desert Song”, I found that the singer, Jill, had lost her son Max a few weeks before she had to record the song. She went into premature labor and gave birth to him at 23 weeks old. They had only a full day with him before he went home to the LORD. Her response was to choose to worship God despite her sorrow and grief.
Thank you, Brooke Gabrielle Manahan. God used you mightily in touching so many people’s lives. And now I know that despite any circumstance, I can still worship God and praise Him.
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favour and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow