We welcomed Marco David early August, and we are just so in love!
God's plans are always beyond our imagination. With Marco coming to the family, we are reassured that God's plans are good.
Thanks to our family and friends for supporting us through this new season once again! Love you!
Sharing with you some photos from our first family photoshoot with Marco.
Today is a big day for our family.
Today we draw nearer to the arrival of our third baby Blanding (watch this space!).
Today we also celebrate our second child, Mateo David Blanding, who would have turned two years old.
For those who may not know our story, our little Mateo passed away in March 2020 from a bacterial brain infection which caught us all by surprise. So while the world was grieving the loss of normalcy at the onset of a global pandemic, we were grieving a loss of our own.
Shortly after Mateo's death, our friends at International Justice Mission (IJM) set up a charitable fund in his memory called The Mighty Mateo Legacy Fund, which raises money to rescue and protect Filipino children from sexual exploitation. So while his earthly life may have come to an end, his legacy lives on.
WHY THIS CAUSE?
This Mighty Mateo Legacy Fund is particularly meaningful for our family for a few reasons:
WHAT'S THE GOAL?
To date, the Mighty Mateo Legacy Fund has raised over USD $100,000, funding dozens of rescue operations and saving hundreds of Filipino children from sexual exploitation.
As a gift for Mateo’s 2nd birthday, we aim to raise an additional USD $12,000 to fund further rescue operations in 2021.
HOW TO GIVE?
If you’d like to join us next week as we celebrate Mateo’s life, we invite you to contribute at www.mateoblanding.com/mightymateo.
I miss you sooooo much. Your laughs, your cries, your silly noises. I will try my best to uphold your legacy of compassion for children who don't have anyone to fight for them.
It may still be a long wait for us to see each other again, but I'll wait, my baby. I love you. ❤️
When Mateo was hospitalized in Singapore, we had SO MUCH to worry about. Will we see him awake ever again? Did his brother get the same bacteria? How do we break the news to our family? Who will take care of work while we're attending to him? Will we have enough strength to face tomorrow?
It's been over a year, and we are in a much better place. Grief is never gone, but waves have been far apart these days.
As Mike and I reflect on the past year and strategize for the coming ones (however much we can plan with life's uncertainties), we both agree that God has been gracious.
What could have put so much pressure on our family during and after Mateo's passing? We think it would have been the lack of FORESIGHT. In practical terms, not having HOSPITALIZATION INSURANCE for Mateo could have broken us.
Yes. Sounds trivial, right? But it isn't.
Having a HOSPITALIZATION INSURANCE allowed us to FOCUS on making the best decisions to try to save his life (so we won't ever have regrets), and on the LIFE we still have around us after he left.
I can't imagine what an ordeal it would have been if we were worried about paying the specialists, treatments, and all the care Mateo received if we didn't have an assurance that all those will be paid for by our insurance. We probably would be so preoccupied with figuring out how to liquidate our investments, pull out our savings, and possibly even ask for money from other people. That would have pinched my dignity.
If you are a non-citizen/PR in Singapore (lots of my Filipino friends here are not), this is something to act on QUICKLY. Reality check:
One day of admission in a public hospital in Singapore is at least $600. Our 14-week stay in the hospital with all the procedures done on Mateo was at least $120k. That is P4.4M that can send five children to Ateneo for a 4-year degree. Or afford you a house and lot in Quezon City. We did not have to pay a peso/dollar out of pocket.
Will you have peace of mind if you ever have to be hospitalized here? Or if any, God forbid, of your children does? Or are you thinking of just banking on the generosity of friends and family in times of crisis? Or the public's help through GoFundMe? That will be torture. I know of family and friends who had to suffer the consequence of not having any hospitalization insurance. It becomes a burden on everyone.
I've been a strong advocate of health and hospitalization insurances as part of your overall FINANCIAL PLAN since experiencing plenty of crisis since young. If you are spending on STAYCATIONS but have no health or hospitalization insurance, you're probably not being wise. If you can afford three high-end meals in a year but have no insurance, you're probably too careless. I'm blunt because I know someone needs to hear this.
If this ever crosses your mind again and you want to share this news with a family or friend, you can share this link to the same blog post. If you need sound, unbiased financial advice, especially if you're in Singapore, I can connect you to an advisor. Message me.
By Mateo's mom, Joanna Blanding.
The past weekend was packed with socials more than I've been used to lately.
I've dramatically turned into both an introvert and anti-social in the past year.
For all of my 20s, I dreaded not seeing friends for longer than, maybe, two days. I was always on a mission to meet someone new every week. In my early 30s, I've learned to value staying at home by myself or with my family to re-energize. That's when I realized I had turned into an introvert (getting my fuel back from being alone) while still being reasonably social.
Mateo's death plus COVID did something to my appetite towards small talks, big-group gatherings, and overall relationships with people.
I can count with both hands the people I feel quite comfortable seeing in person and confide to. I can somehow make room for a couple more people, but I would need to deliberately muster the energy for these meetings. So far, I always come home thankful that I went out and pushed myself.
I am surprisingly excited, however, whenever I need to talk to someone new about business. My past extroversion gets resurrected. If I try to analyze it, it's perhaps because my work has allowed me to give birth to so many things. That is in stark contrast to the death of lives and dreams I've experienced in the past years.
And like in most death experiences, we bury bodies, heartaches, pain, and many things in the past. While I crave conversations about Mateo because they keep him alive in the spirit, there are plenty of things that I have refused to go back to in the past year.
One of which is the memory of our last trip to the Philippines.
In February 2020, we traveled to introduce Mateo in person to our Filipino family. Our excitement was beyond what we could all contain. As March that year was our fifth wedding anniversary, we had also arranged to take a couple's getaway to the beautiful beaches in Palawan during the same trip.
We had planned everything to the tee. The kids were to enjoy time with the cousins, aunties, uncles, and grannies, while Mike and I were to rekindle marital sparks by being away for a little while from both kids.
The kids had a grand time. Mike and I had some of the most scenic and sweetest moments together too.
Little did we know that our return to the city to pick up our kids would be the third to the last day we'd ever see our dear Mateo conscious.
And everything else that followed is wholly embedded in my memory and has changed our lives forever.
I used to feel repugnant thinking about that Manila trip. There was, and maybe still is, self-blame ("Why did we leave the kids behind?"). Once in a while, I catch myself mentally blaming people who interacted with Mateo during his time in the Philippines.
Today, I went through the photos finally. There is still discomfort when I look at them. But it's no longer that strong aversion that made me shut off from everyone related to that trip—my family, our helper, friends in Manila, our two dear friends who joined us to Palawan, etc.
Is it because a fair amount of time had passed? I don't think so. Because if time indeed heals all wounds, why does the ache for Mateo still feel the same as day one? What allows me to remain in loving relationships with my family, our helper, and friends who my mind is telling me are to be blamed for my loss? What sustains me from the temptation to self-blame when things are quiet, and I miss Mateo so much?
They said it's grace. I remembered about grace. Perhaps it's grace. It should be grace. I want to believe it's grace.
The #MightyMateo Legacy lives on.
Our little Mateo was highly involved in our efforts to fight online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines during his seven months of life. We believe that he'd love for us to continue this legacy.
From Mateo's mommy, Joanna Blanding
My dearest Mateo,
It'll be one year soon since you left for heaven. Truth is, it still feels like yesterday when your daddy and I said goodbye to your swollen body at the hospital. Tears soaking your infant clothes that I wish I had taken back home with me. I wish to this day that I had gone to your cremation, to have fetched your urn, to have visited your friends at the ICU who continued fighting for their own lives. But I had no energy left with me those days. I know I should just think of the happy thought that you are playing with the best of friends you could ever have, but it's still a struggle to appreciate heaven when I'm not there with you.
You have been such an amazing gift to our family. You are my angel. I miss our cuddles, our dances while you doze off in the carrier, and our many adventures with daddy and André.
Your brother is growing up to be such a gentleman. You'll be so proud of him. He asks about you often, and I try my best not to cry whenever I answer his question, "When is Mateo coming back?" And I try not to laugh when he tells strangers "Wash your hands or else you'll die like my brother!"
Your daddy remains to be the strongest and kindest person I know. He helps me survive bad days, and cheers me on all the time. I know you rember how funny he is with his jokes and accents.
I've changed so much, Mateo, you know. I enjoy now just staying at home for days. I am more careful about keeping everything around daddy, André and myself clean and disinfected. I don't want to have another reason to blame myself if anyone in our family gets sick again. I am still battling with that. I'll soon fully forgive myself. I also have lost a bit of excitement about things that I used to be passionate about. I'm still building back my faith that God loves me even if He took you away from me. I know it's not something to be proud of. But it's also the truth you have to know about mommy--that mommy also gets hurt. Very hurt. I'm still trusting Jesus, who you are now very close to, that He will come to me and give me back my passions.
I hope you meet my friends' babies who are also in heaven now. I don't know how it works, but maybe you can tell Jesus to send the babies' mommies lots of hugs and kisses every day. Tell him please to save some for me too.
I miss you sooooo much, Mateo. Your laughs, your cries, your silly noises. I will try my best to uphold your legacy of compassion for children who don't have anyone to fight for them.
It may still be a long wait for us to see each other again, but I'll wait, my baby. I love you. ❤️
By Joanna Blanding, mother to Mateo
1. I can smile and laugh during the day, and cry myself to sleep.
I’ve had many laughs the last few months discovering André’s personality that’s much like mine, much like Mike’s, and pretty much his own.
I’ve laughed at plenty of memes of parents trying to cope with the need for productivity or enjoy their elusive me time during the lockdown. This is the best I’ve seen.
Mike amusing André with his dad jokes has made me laugh a lot too.
2. I took comfort in the fact that everyone was in an abnormal situation, theirs because of the lockdown, mine because I have one less kid.
I wasn’t alone in experiencing a new normal.
So when Singapore announced it was going to go back to some normalcy, I got greatly anxious. Everyone will move on and I’ll be alone experiencing a new life.
3. I cope through productivity.
I’ve been working hard by waking up at 4am so I can have some constructive time while everyone else is asleep.
I work during the hours when Mike or André are busy or don’t need me.
I enjoy working on my businesses a lot. My team at work, apart from Mike and André, has been my constant since my grief started. They invest their time in the things that I put a lot of my time and effort into, so I prefer to spend my time and effort in investing in them.
4. I’m learning that people have no clue how to respond, reach out, or relate to a grieving person.
More so to someone grieving the loss of a young child. I didn’t have any idea too before this.
And that’s just how it is.
I confided to someone about my erratic emotions so that I can be heard. But I felt like I was judged for my choice of coping mechanism—which is being ultra productive. I was hurt to be honest. I’ve been releasing to God the hurt of what I feel is people’s judgement of my productivity during this grieving period. It seems that the expectation is to be solemn and taking prolonged rest.
Maybe, that’s all in my head. But you see, this is how a grieving person can possibly feel.
5. And to my point in #4, I kind of understand why there is an abrupt decline in the support during the grieving period.
We had received massive support during the period when we were still fighting for Mateo’s life in the hospital, for which we have been so thankful. Anyone who would experience the kind of support we’ve received will feel no grief.
Then, when prayer groups started going silent, God allowed me to feel real pain and loneliness. Again, it’s just that people don’t know how to comfort a grieving person. Or people were giving our family space. Or it’s just the reality of life—people will move on.
6. My heart is extra tender, so I choose not to expose myself to triggers.
I honestly avoid meeting other parents.
My friends are highly competent moms and dads. A well-meaning gesture to help feed my son, push his stroller, or call me out when I’m not paying attention to my kid are all triggers to feel incompetent.
I’ve lost a son. The lie of the enemy, which I am trying hard (everyday) to win against, is the lie that I am an incompetent mother, thus I lost Mateo.
7. I am on a totally different page of grief from my husband. And I should respect that.
He doesn’t feel any of what I’m feeling right now. And that should be fine. He’s been very understanding and supportive, and for that, I’m grateful.
I can’t imagine going through this without him.
8. It’s tricky to show my vulnerability.
I either fear being judged that I’m not nourishing my relationship with God that’s why I’m not victorious over my grief.
Or that people might think their prayers for me are not working.
9. I find that the most helpful responses from people to me have been:
10. I respect people who are also grieving, but I am careful about confiding in them.
I’ve noticed that there is a tendency to project their grief over my own situation. Reality for me is, every grief seems to be different from each other.
So, I’m unsure how God will use my situation to comfort other people, in the future, who will go through my situation. I hope to find out.
11. Grief is a very lonely place.
Even while I have an extraordinarily supportive husband who lost a son himself, it is still lonely. Our griefs are very different from each other.
But this loneliness has been a gateway to a very special relationship with God.
God did not promise a good life on earth. The Bible says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Moreso, the Christian life does not promise a comfortable life, but it is a fulfilling one.
Through my grief, I’m getting a bit of an insight into these promises. My conversations with God are profound. And only He and I know about that.
I’m more curious now about heaven more than ever.
Without a promise of heaven, there is no point to living when you’ve lost a child, even if I still have a husband and a son on earth. Because it’s been clear in my experience that God can also take them away anytime He chooses to. So if that happens, what will make me still carry on with life?
Without the promise of heaven, life on earth has no purpose. I would simply decide to put my death in my own hands. But doing so may forfeit my ticket to heaven. So I won’t.
So, I still think, the combo of receiving Christ in my life + heaven is still a pretty good deal.
(Written on 21 May 2020 by Joanna Blanding, Mateo’s mother.)
That evening, after we said “goodbye” to Mateo at the ICU, Mike and I headed over to the patio of our then-newly-found favorite restaurant, a short walk from home. We sat there looking out to the green field where we had previously imagined Mateo practicing his first steps.
Breaths were deep, tears were frequent, hearts were tender. It was not very long ago when we sat at the same place with Mateo and some friends. He was always a stellar company.
(by Joanna Blanding)
Our dear André has turned three years old. Where did time go?
They were right. Days are long but the years are short.
Even if André and I have been spending time together from the day he was born, except when he’s in school for four hours in the day, it still feels like not enough time.
(By Joanna Blanding)
André just turned three. He’s very well. Loving Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig. And has a knack for cracking jokes like his father. Say “I’m hungry” and he returns with, “Hi Hungry! I’m André. Nice to meet you.”
(by Mike Blanding, father of Mateo)
Have you ever gone to a department store and purchased something that was larger than their largest bag could contain?
A microwave perhaps, or a TV, or a corona-virus-quarantine-survival-48-roll-pack of toilet paper? I have (not the toilet paper).
#MightyMateo's parents document their journey through grief towards healing.