Lara Quigaman-Alcaraz has been out of the scene for quite some time, from the last few months of her pregnancy up to her birth.
But now, the Miss International titleholder turned actress is back through the ABS-CBN teleserye Little Champ, and, with joy, tells the public of her wonderful new experiences as a mom.
At the press conference for Anmum’s Buntis Day project, held April 16, at Mary Grace restaurant in Greenbelt, Makati, Lara named the major adjustments that she and husband Marco Alcaraz had to make now that they are parents.
“Naku marami, marami talaga. Kasi ako, wala kaming yaya ni Marco, e, so ngayon siya iyong nagbabantay po sa bahay.
“Hindi siya pwedeng umalis kasi siya iyong nag-aalaga, so hindi na kami puwedeng basta-basta lumabas kung gusto namin ni Marco.
“Although we do set a time for the two of us to go out, pero iyon nga, the lifestyle change talaga is very big.
"Hindi na pwedeng… lahat talaga ng gagawin ko, ng gagawin nami ni Marco, we have to think of the baby.”
SECRET PREGNANCY. Lara describes herself today as a very hands-on and protective mom.
"Kahit kay Marco hindi ako masyadong nagtitiwala. Feeling ko ilalaglag niya iyong anak namin," she quipped during the presscon.
It was only fitting, though, that she takes extra care of her baby, considering what they went through together during the pregnancy and birthing process.
Lara recalls the toughest part of being pregnant: "[Most difficult for me] siguro iyong... kasi the first part of my pregnancy I had to keep it a secret.
“Kasi we had a civil wedding in January 1, 2011, pero secret iyon, walang nakakaalam, so when I got pregnant… may plan talaga kaming magkaroon ng big wedding, pero since hindi nga alam ng tao na kasal kami, we had to keep the pregnancy a secret until the big wedding day.”
Lara was abroad when she first found out about her pregnancy, through a home pregnancy test kit that she bought at a pharmacy.
At that time, she was working on the show Princess And I, where she had to do some taxing dramatic scenes.
"I think iyon iyong mahirap sa akin because at work kailangan ko pang tumakbo, kailangan kong lumuhod sa mga putik habang may rain effects... siyempre, di ba, pag buntis kailangan maingat, dahan-dahan, laging may nakaalalay?"
It helped that Lara's inquisitiveness prompted her to research about pregnancy and how to care for her unborn baby without having to seek professional help, so as not to risk exposing her secret.
"Ako kasi iyong buntis na mommy na I do a lot of research tungkol sa [pagbubuntis]. Marami kasing tanong, di ba, so kailangan alam ko iyong sagot.
“So, alam ko na, na very complex iyong nagpo-protect sa baby ko, so kahit medyo tumakbo ako ng konti, hindi siya basta maaalog o made-deform."
PREGNANCY BLUES. Luckily for Lara, she did not experience a lot of physical discomforts during her pregnancy.
She says, “Nausea, not so much. Cravings, hindi masyado. Pero kung may pagkain sa lamesa, kaya ko lahat ubusin iyon in one go.
“Mood swings… before ako mabuntis, madalas akong mainis kay Marco, pero nung buntis na ako, parang mahal na mahal ko siya— parang gusto lagi ko siyang nakikita, gusto ko lagi siyang kasama, lagi ko siyang katabi.
“Pero nitong nanganak ako bumalik na sa dati,” Lara says with a chuckle.
She also said that she became extremely conscious of her looks during the latter part of her pregnancy.
“I remember may mga times na ayokong lumabas kasi feeling ko ang pangit-pangit ko, ang taba-taba ko na, and wala akong masuot.
“E, kasi I didn’t buy maternity clothes e, so gusto ko iyong damit ko sa closet ko masusuot ko pa rin.
“So, iyon iyong feeling ko na hindi ako maganda— and I think a lot of moms na-experience nila na feeling nila hindi sila maganda.
“Ang laki ng natulong ng asawa ko na kahit feeling ko bolang bola na [sasabihin niya pa rin], ‘Hindi, ang ganda-ganda mo pa rin,’ kahit nangingitim na iyong leeg ko, iyong kili-kili ko.
“And also because when I was seven months pregnant, wala akong stretch marks. Pero pagdating ng eight, ang dami na nilang gumagapang.
“Pero lahat naman iyon dumadaan sa physical changes, so siguro iyong sa akin more of an emotional na feeling mo, ‘Babalik pa ba sa dati iyong itsura ko?’
“And babalik naman if you just learn to take care of yourself.”
BIRTH AND RECOVERY. Indeed, Lara is looking sexy as ever, as if she didn’t get pregnant at all.
Her current weight-loss regimen involves getting regular non-invasive treatments and a strict slimming diet to go along with it.
“Siyempre I also have to eat properly, di ba? Hindi na pwedeng… kasi medyo nagbe-breastfeed pa rin ako e, so kailangang kumain.
“Pero kailangan pipigilin mo rin, so hindi pwedeng sobra-sobra. It really helps when you regulate your diet,” says Lara about getting back into shape.
Aside from being “medyo tamad” and “too tired na,” Lara has been prohibited from doing strenuous workouts to help her slim down, due to her Caesarean operation.
She recalls her birthing pains: “Sobrang gusto ko talagang mag-normal. Sinabi ko iyan sa OB [obstetrician] ko, iyon talaga iyong plan ko. May birth plan ako.
“November 9, dinala ako ni Marco sa hospital kasi nag-break na iyong water ko.
“Pagdating sa hospital, ang bilis— from 2 cm to 4 cm [cervical dilation] in two hours— so in-epidural na ako, kasi sabi ko painless pero gusto ko normal.
“E, hindi nagwo-work ang epidural sa akin! Very rare daw ang case na iyon na hindi gumagana, so ramdam na ramdam ko every contraction.
“Hanggang dumating ng 10 hours later, 7:00 PM, hindi na nagpo-progress [ang labor], tapos nilagnat na po ako, tapos naubos na raw iyong water and kailangan na daw akong i-emergency CS.
“So pag labas ng doctor, iyak ako ng iyak. Sabi ko, ‘Ayoko! Ayoko!’
“Sabi ni Marco, ‘Bakit umiiyak ka? Para naman iyan sa safety ng baby, sa safety mo, e.’
“Sabi ko, ‘Ayoko. Ayoko ng Caesarean. Mahal iyon!”
“Tawa nang tawa si Marco, pero siyempre I wasn’t just thinking of that, kasi gusto ko rin talaga mas mabilis ang recovery, and mas mahirap talaga [mag-recover] pag CS, pero everything was worth it.”
MOMMY ADVICE. Truly, all the pain and hardships served as rain before the rainbow for Lara, who is now overjoyed about having her son Noah Lamar.
"Definitely, [I feel fulfilled as a woman]. Eversince talaga pangarap ko talagang maging mommy.
"And now that I am one, parang feeling ko talaga is there’s this joy that you can't really describe, na you have someone, theres a gift there na bigay sa 'yo ni Lord.
"And even though, ako, feeling ko personally I don’t deserve, pero meron. So, definitely very fulfilled as a mom, as a person."
She couldn’t even compare her feeling as to when she won the 2005 Miss International crown.
“Magkaiba talaga. Sabi ko nga, if I were to choose between winning Miss International or being a mom, I would choose being a mom talaga.
“Kasi in as much as its my dream to be a beauty queen, hindi ko pwedeng ipagpalit iyong nararamdaman ko everytime I see my baby.
“Iba po talaga. It doesn’t compare at all.”
Now that she is a mom, Lara has become closer to other moms and moms-to-be whom she meets on social networks.
“Dumami ang followers ko na mga moms and mga pregnant women or iyong nagpa-plano to have a baby,” she says.
And her advice to these fellow mommies: “To enjoy the pregnancy.
“Ang dami ko rin kasing nakasabay na friends na buntis, and a lot of them would worry about little things. Kesyo bawal ang ganito, ganyan.
“Pero if you know sa sarili mo you have the right diet, you're doing everything right… minsan kasi when we worry too much naapektuhan ang baby natin.
“Eveything we feel, the baby feels it as well. So, my advice is just try to enjoy it and try not to worry as much because everything naman will fall into place.”
Lara also stressed that moms should drink milk regularly during and after pregnancy, and even prior to getting pregnant, in order to achieve full nutrition and aid the baby’s development.