Philippine Volleyball’s Ms. Everything Is Going to Be a Mom

Motherhood has always been a complicated subject. We try so hard to define it and to categorize women’s struggles, but in the end it’s all in pursuit of taking care of others. It’s a different experience for everyone, and it’s something that Cha Cruz is facing as the professional athlete and teacher gratefully announces her pregnancy.

Her journey has had its share of twists and turns, and it involves a fair amount of stories about health issues, career choices, and funnily enough, a myriad of pregnancy tests. She tells the tale of how she got here, and talks about what’s to come.

A Period of Healing

“I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2017,” began Cha. This meant that her thyroid gland was producing an unnatural amount of hormones. Her doctor would then offer her three choices for treatment: oral medication, radiation, or surgery. Cha chose the first option, and then got engaged later that year.

In February 2018, she married Ray Behag in a cozy ceremony in Tagaytay. While the newlyweds wanted to start their family right away, Cha was advised to postpone pregnancy until her condition became stable. It would also be a decision that would affect her sporting career. Cha had to carefully plan her pregnancy around competitions, but given the doctor’s advice, they simply went ahead and focused on their careers, with Cha as the team captain of the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers and Ray as a pilot for Philippine Airlines.

She followed the doctor’s orders and gave it 18 to 24 months—first with medication and then a few months without. “This January nag blood test ako, and pinayagan na kami ng doctor, so we shifted to new meds na puwede pang baby.” Cha felt that the circumstances were a blessing because while the Philippine Super Liga Grand Prix conference had just started, she was not cleared to play due to prior injuries. This meant less training hours for Cha which would be beneficial to her trying to conceive.

The couple tried in January, but they were unsuccessful. So they tried again last February. “Alam ko na made-delay ako ng one day, so hinintay ko si Ray, sinundo ko siya from a flight.” She had hoped to surprise her husband but she knew that he was just as eager. “Nag-countdown talaga siya, like “Are you delayed?” And so she gave herself a condition. If he asked, they would check but if he didn’t, she’d surprise him on their first wedding anniversary last February 28.

The condition was answered the moment Cha picked him up. She knew that it would be the first thing on his mind, “Nagtanong siya agad, ‘So delayed ka?’” And Cha was indeed delayed. While she knew that a day late was too early to check, they wanted to know nonetheless. “Parang may gut feeling na I wanted to check.” They rushed to the nearest drug store and bought several pregnancy tests; checking the aisles for the most expensive to the cheapest.

Once they arrived at home, nerves and confusion scattered around the house since this was their first time to take the test. “Nakalagay sa instructions to wait for three minutes. Sabi niya na ‘wag muna natin tignan. So pagtalikod niya, ako nakatingin pa rin and I immediately saw the two lines. I jumped in bed and cried and he hugged me wondering what the emotions were all about.” After the three minutes had passed, it was made official. They were in such a state of disbelief and joy that they checked it again, resulting in 4 out of 4 positive results in all. “We were thankful, happy, excited, and afraid all at the same time.”

They rushed to tell their loved ones about the good news and a week after checking they made a visit to the OB GYN to see if everything was okay. The couple’s prayer was finally answered.

A New Life

In the early stages of her pregnancy, Cha’s routine hasn’t changed all that much. “I still show up to training for rehab and strengthening, and also to personally be there for my team for support. Although I can’t be on the court with them, they [coaches, teammates and management] knew of my situation and were all very understanding and supportive.”

She’s aware of the challenges that will come but is excited for her future. “Siguro it will slowly kick in as my tummy gets bigger. Everything from my clothing, to my weight and when my baby finally comes out, mare-realize ko na everything’s going to be different. Ray and I will learn along the way and be trained by going through the stages together. Just imagining the process excites me.”

Her excitement doesn’t end just there. Having spent some time as a teacher, Cha knows a thing or two about children. “Nakikita ko pagka-cute nila, minsan makulit. Mahilig ako mag-alaga ng bata so I’m very much looking forward to taking care of my own, to see what they’ll look like and to see how [Ray] would be as a father.”

Cha especially looks forward to when her child becomes a toddler, “For us it’s spending quality time together like having conversations over dinner, going on family vacations and just having a hand in molding our child and teaching them how to act and to appreciate the little things.”

And when it came to the practical, as the second eldest of nine, Cha has mastered the diaper change, giving baths, and the occasional moments of discipline with her siblings but while her experience is extensive, she recognizes the difference of being an actual parent. “I take care of my siblings, bring them to school and tutor them but I know that there’s a huge difference. Pag nag-aalaga ako and pagod na ako, I can just tell my mom na siya na but as a parent I’m anticipating sleepless nights, no days off, and having to deal with hardships head on as they grow older.” Patience is key, according to Cha, because it’s a vital part of the parenting playbook. “Suddenly pag anak mo na, it’s going to be very different kasi there is a difficult balance between being strict and spoiling them.”

Ms. Everything Comes Through

More than raising the child itself, especially as a first time mom, certain fears and anxieties don’t escape her as her pregnancy goes further along. “You read all these things and you worry na baka I might have eaten something wrong or magka-sakit ako. Pero kasi worrying is a big no-no. You just have to be positive, trust the process and follow your OB, but beyond that it’s about putting your complete trust in the Lord because He knows what’s best for you.”

Ray reflects as well, adding that “My dad would always remind me and my siblings about how much my mom had sacrificed for us, even though I was too young to remember I always treated my mom as a hero. I would tell my child that “Your mom loves you and is working hard to take care of you.” I will grow in them a grateful heart and help them realize the love and sacrifice their mother had to rear them.”

As for the future, Cha only knows how to give her best, “We know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, but with our parents’ backgrounds and our experiences with them, we’re pulling together the lessons and wisdom we acquired through the positive and difficult times to give our child the best.”

“We hope to give them best opportunities. We hope that they would be independent and God-fearing. We hope that they grow up as individuals with a moral compass that does not waver. Not necessarily knowing what to do at all times, but knowing who to go to and ask for wisdom and guidance. I’m just excited to go through the process and experience every stage of life with them. We always give our best in everything we do and parenthood is no exception, we accept the challenge and responsibility!”

Cha is due to give birth in October 2019 and will be back with the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in 2020.

Photos | Ed Simon