EXCLUSIVE: Cristalle Belo-Pitt Opens Up About Being A Mom Of Two
"It’s such a scary experience being alone," Cristalle says of the time she gave birth to daughter Siena during the COVID-19 outbreak. These days, however, that feeling has been replaced by sheer happiness upon spending every waking hour with her children
Cristalle Belo-Pitt had big plans for her second baby.
Already a mother to two-year-old son Hunter, Cristalle daydreamed about what life would be a like as a mom to a daughter, a little living doll created with love and beauty and all things wonderful in this world. The image of her family going from two, to three, and then to four was exciting not only to her, but to her husband Justin Pitt, too, who she jokes has impressed hospital nurses time and time again with his baby swaddling prowess.
"It will be magical seeing a little Justin and a little Cristalle grow right in front of our eyes," she says.
She named her daughter Siena Victoria—the same name given to the Italian city adored by many for its rustic charm, and to a color that can only be described as the sunset of dreams dreamers wish would never end.
Cristalle looked forward to a hundred and one things upon the arrival of Siena—bringing her into this world at the height of a global health crisis was not one of them.
"It was difficult," Cristalle begins.
"I had a birth plan that I made and I just had to throw that out the window. The rules were so strict that Justin could not even be with me in the delivery room. It’s such a scary experience being alone," she confides.
But Cristalle was mistaken. She wasn't alone in the delivery room, not even in the least bit. Justin might not have been there, but Siena was. Cristalle hadn't gathered her strength and courage from herself and herself alone, but did so also from the little heart beating in unison with hers.
Even before Cristalle had held Siena in her arms for the first time, their bond had already brought them together in ways that escape words.
Take a moment to imagine the stress Cristalle needed to endure: Metro Manila had declared a lockdown on March 15, and she was due to give birth on March 31. The overlap was truly unfortunate, making concerns about the risk of infection, proper post-natal care, and extra safety precautions this mom's main preoccupations.
"Thank God I [had] become close friends with my [obstetrician-gynecologist] Dr. Martin Manahan and my pediatrician, Dr. Arnel Nuguid. They were the ones that really gave me strength and assured me that everything would be ok," she says. It definitely helped that Justin had put together an upbeat playlist for her, too—a little something to remind his wife and his daughter that when this is all done, their family will have lots and lots of reasons to dance together.
And so, with a special rosary in hand that came straight from the Vatican, Cristalle delivered her youngest child safely, with zero complications, zero worries, zero setbacks.
"She was beautiful, healthy, and strong at 6 pounds and 11 ounces. We were in and out of the hospital in three days," Cristalle recalls, this time, with a smile.
Now if Cristalle's first "hellos" to her children are any indication of the excitement that lays ahead for them in life, she better strap in; Siena was born while the rest of world grappled with a life-threatening virus, and Hunter was delivered weeks early and very much in a hurry to meet mom and dad (his premature birth caused Cristalle a 20-day stay in the hospital!). It's doubtful that Cristalle had anticipated both of her children's births to be so legendary.
But on the other side of this coin is knowing that her children are hardy and have been blessed with a strength of spirit and will carry them to places as they grow up and forward; both Siena and Hunter surpassed much to live and fill the spaces in this world made especially for them. And again, if who they are as infants foreshadows who and what they'll be as adults, Cristalle is bound to become one proud momma of two tough cookies undefeatable by even the worst of dangers.
But Cristalle isn't getting too far ahead of herself; like most moms, she's milking every second, minute, and hour of the day when her kids are still kids and as sweet as can be. Though motherhood never truly ends, she's well-aware that that this time in her life as a mom is a very special one indeed. They don't stay young for too long, after all, and before moms know it, kids are no longer kids.
Rethinking the timing of Siena's birth, in the end, it could have been a blessing in disguise. Pre-COVID life, Cristalle would have been busy at work, physically attending meetings, fulfilling social obligations, and spending hours and hours on the road away from her family.
These days—despite the protesting of Cristalle's extroverted self in being unable to spend time with people and socialize—she's holed up at home, spending every waking hour with Hunter and Siena. It's a rare opportunity she would have never been given had the world not been forced to stop in its tracks.
"It’s the great pause. Everyone was becoming too busy with their lives and losing connection with each other. We were all consumed with how to increase velocity so we can move forward in life faster. This is the great pause where the world stopped. Everyone was forced to stay home but with that, relationships were rebuilt and people started re-thinking life," she reflects.
And think about life, she did. Love life for its many silver linings, she did. Celebrate life, she continues to do.
She will, however, be ready with a mat to lay down on in the park the moment it becomes safe to do so, and even better, plan a trip to the beach when travel becomes possible again. While Cristalle is a supermom, she is also human, too, and feels pangs of loneliness from time to time about the things she misses the most: connections with people, physically showing affection to those dearest and nearest to her, or simply just living life in ways she loved.
It's a tough time for everyone, but it's especially taxing to a mother like Cristalle. Enter, Justin, who she describes has been the perfect partner in facing these challenges.
"I feel like I’m being stretched in all sorts of directions. There are periods where I experience baby blues but I have to be strong for the kids and focused. At night, when they are asleep, I show Justin how vulnerable I am because I just need to let it out. He comforts me and gives me tight hugs and lots of kisses to make me feel better," Cristalle reveals.
Together, they brace for their day with the kids:
"I wake up at 7 and breastfeed Siena. At 8 a.m., Hunter wakes up and the day really begins!... After lunch, at 1 p.m., Hunter takes a nap and I feed Siena again... Hunter is awake at 3 p.m. and the house is a riot all the way till he goes to bed at 7:30 p.m. Really, our schedule revolves around Hunter," she laughs. (Justin is mostly in charge of meals, she adds).
But it's not even the tricky timetable involving an infant and a toddler that tests Cristalle's supermom powers—it's making sure that both her children receive ample care and attention, considering that they're in very different developmental stages of their lives.
"It breaks my heart when I am feeding Siena and Hunter is pulling my hand, wanting to play," she describes.
Protecting Hunter from feeling jealous towards his little sister, Cristalle came up with a nifty little solution other moms can learn from: letting your firstborn know that he was important to his sister and making sure he understood that he was still very much part of the family even with an addition.
"We gave Hunter a gift from Siena before leaving for the hospital and as soon as we arrived back home from the hospital. We got him a huge inflatable bouncer and a nice train set. We made sure to keep repeating to him that it was a gift from Siena," Cristalle shares. (She also got him a ton of "expecting" baby books to prepare him for life as kuya. He loves books, and it was the best way to help him understand what was about to happen).
And then there's a matter of staying fit and yes—sane.
Even with the kids, and the health crisis, and the looming claustrophobia from condo living under quarantine, Cristalle manages to find time to exercise (it's a bit of treadmill and mild YouTube core strengthening exercises for now, considering her C-section) and have a bit of me time (read: Netflix). To stimulate her mind, she also turns to online resources for business, leadership, and inspirational lessons.
But most impressive of all, is how Cristalle has managed to go above and beyond her and her family's concerns and be of help to those in need as the country continues to struggle in the midst of COVID-19's effects.
She's glad to say that The Belo Medical Group has so far provided 25,000 meals to hospital workers and other frontline personnel at local government units, and of course, making sure that their employees have been taken care of, too.
More personally, Cristalle has ventured out into deeper waters, working alongside her friend Amanda Griffin to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. Reflecting on the thousands and thousands of Filipino families left with no means to earn a living during this time, Cristalle shudders at the possibility that a number of them may have resorted to the sexual exploitation of their children on the Internet and promises to help curb these activities.
"Right now, I am focusing on building awareness to Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC)... This is so close to my heart because I have children of my own. I know that ECQ is difficult on everyone but that doesn’t mean that some parents can resort to this. They feel that it’s okay to do this because 'it’s online anyway and no physical harm is done to the child.' It’s our responsibility to protect the innocence of the children and to protect them from online predators. The Philippines is the epicenter of this trade. It’s heartbreaking knowing how many Filipino children are exposed to this kind of slavery," Cristalle states matter-of-factly.
(Now, what did we say about Cristalle being a supermom?)
Cristalle has been a mom of two for 40 days.
One might argue that 40 days are but a blink in the lifelong journey of a mother, but even in this short time, Cristalle has learned much about herself, her family, and life as we know it.
"Forget all the material things, it’s health and relationships that really matter in my life. Without my health and constantly touching base with the people I love, I would not feel alive," she says.
Though the outside world may be far from reach at this time, that matters little when her ultimate happiness is right where she is at home, surrounded by Justin, Hunter, and now, little Siena, too.
Photos courtesy of Cristalle Belo-Pitt