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To Moms.

I spend a lot of time here talking about how great being a mom is – all the wonderful baby moments, the cuddles, the chubby cheek munches, the sweet things they say and do – and that’s the way I want it to be because these are the things I want to remember. It’s been almost 9 years of being a mom and I’ve accumulated a lot of amazing mom moments, for which I’m grateful.


When I first became a mom, I was not prepared for how hard it would be. And I’m not talking about the diaper changes, the explosive poops, the bathing of a slippery newborn, those are the easy parts. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much pressure it was to suddenly be responsible for another entire human being, having to come to terms with all my inadequacies, and the mom guilt that never goes away no matter how stellar a job I’m doing.

Then there was the postpartum depression, and the breastfeeding, which for me, led to more depression. I had just walked away from a job I could not afford to walk away from and gone ahead to have two needy babies 13 months apart.

I think the weight of all of it broke me.

For a long time during those early mom days, it was just dark and empty and lonely and scary. My two beautiful, precious, perfect babies were draining my soul from me and I didn’t know how to get it back. Each day felt like an eternity. I would wake up in the morning with the crippling weight of emptiness and the only thing that got me through the day was knowing that if I held on long enough, it would be bedtime and I could crawl back into bed and wallow.

After Kirsten was born, I spent the next 9 months just clawing my way to the end of each day. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house, partly because I wasn’t even going to try to manage two babies alone in public, and partly because I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to smile at strangers or make small talk or cry like a baby and then have to have that conversation about how I was losing it. I wasn’t a talker who talked about my dark, scary feelings to people. I was a get my act together through sheer mental strength person and that is exactly the kind of person that gets a proper walloping by postpartum depression.

I tried to pull myself out of my misery but the thing about being in a deep, dark hole is that you can’t.

The best I could do during those days was to force myself to smile at my babies so that they wouldn’t grow up with an unexplainable sadness because mommy couldn’t get it together. I would sing to them and tell that that everything was going to be ok even though I didn’t believe it.

To be honest, I had a pretty low bar – I wasn’t even gunning for good days, my scale of days was between Very Bad to Utter Misery. If I had a below average day, I would reward myself with an extra dose of self pity.

I was thankful for a husband who was there for me even though he didn’t understand why I was broken or how to make it better. Every night when he got home from work, he would ask me how my day was and if I needed to cry. Which I did. I always needed to cry, and I would sob into his shoulders until I was exhausted enough to go to bed.

It was only when I stopped breastfeeding Kirsten that things started to get better. I felt like there was light in my life again and I could finally breathe.


With each subsequent baby, I got better at dealing with the postpartum depression. I still feel the darkness creeping in, but I’m better equipped to keep it at arm’s length so it doesn’t cripple me (too much). Over the years, I’ve figured out some coping mechanisms that help me manage. I learnt to brace myself for the hit and take it instead of letting it catch me off guard. I learnt to fake it until it becomes real, to find that little ounce of joy and focus on it and pour it out because that’s what my kids need.

Experience helps for sure, but if there’s one thing that I could tell my 27-year-old self struggling with postpartum depression, it would be that IT GETS BETTER. In big, shouty caps.

It may not seem possible for a long time, but just keep getting through one day after the next and you’ll eventually get to the good parts. And trust me, that part is better than good. It will be everything you dreamed being a mother would be like. They will bring you so much joy it will make up for all those dark, dark days.

So on this Mother’s Day, here’s to all the moms who just need to make it to the next day. We’re all rooting for you. :)


Hey Monday

It’s another Monday morning and I’ve just spent the last 5 minutes holding my large cup of coffee and staring into space. The big kids are off to school and the baby is still in bed. Theo is having a sandwich next to me and he’s happy because there’s food. This is my me time, a little pocket of minutes that belong only to me and I hold on to it as tightly as my mug of frothy latte.

I think of all my mornings, waking up and doing the same things, just plodding along chasing the next weekend. Then the weekend comes and I wonder why I was looking forward to it all week because it’s possibly even more tiring than the weekdays.

I think of how exhausting every single day of the past 8 years have been and I come to the conclusion that I really do enjoy being a mom.

Of all the things I’ve ever had to do in my life, this is the one thing that’s made me the happiest by far. How else would I have gotten to this place of 5 kids and no downtime?

Motherhood can drain your soul, but at the same time, it fills you up so that you find more to give the next day, and the next, and the next. It’s like carrying around a magical bag of love that fills up as you pour it out; that’s the only way moms can wake up every morning and keep doing what they do.

Do I look at the kids and wonder if we overestimated ourselves and bit off more than we can chew? All the time.

There are so many days when it feels like I took a huge mouthful and then realised that I can barely even bring my jaws together and bits of food is just falling out unglamorously and maybe I should just let it all fall out because my mouth is starting to hurt and I’m feeling chokey but I know I can’t just give up, so I try to shove everything back in with my hands and power through it slowly the best I know how. Just doing enough to keep it together till the end of each day so my magical love bag can fill up again.

So much of my day is exhausting and maddening and difficult, but also deeply satisfying.

Like for example, mealtime. Why is it so hard for kids to put healthy, (sort of) delicious food into their mouths? They know nothing about the journey of their lovingly-prepared dinners – mommy selecting the freshest produce from the market, paying for it, cleaning it, cooking it, arranging it beautifully on their plates. They just poke at it, make rude faces, walk around, decide to go poop midway because the food looks gross, spill it all over the floor. But then some days, they polish off everything in 5 minutes I’m filled with so much joy. I never thought I’d be so happy just watching another human being swallow food, but I am.

And then there’s bedtime. Putting a child to bed is the ultimate test of one’s patience and sanity. It’s when you discover answers to important questions like how many times can you say “lie down and close your eyes” before losing your mind. Kids have a special radar to know when you’re distracted or in a rush to do something else and they’ll deliberately slow things down until they know that you’re all in, it’s infuriating. I’ve learnt that the only way to do this with my sanity intact is to let it go and be fully present as I lie next to them with their heads snuggled up against my chest. I get to breathe in the faint scent of kids shampoo and feel their tubby hands in mine until all I hear are the long, deep breaths of a sleeping baby. I’ve had the chance to do this enough times and I’ll tell you right now, there’s no better therapy than having a baby drift off to sleep in your arms as you gently munch on chubby baby rolls.

How about homework time, the most miserable time of all? Should I even be a hardass about academics? There’s a lot of groaning and hair grabbing and sad faces (mostly by me) when I’m making them learn things. But when I see their eyes beaming with pride knowing that they killed it in a test, that’s all the payoff I need.

And also all the other in between time. Having to deal with a raging, tantrumy toddler and five minutes later, they’re holding my face and kissing me on the nose just because. One moment I’m physically breaking up fights and the next, they’re holding hands and feeding each other gummies. Urgh.

At the end of every day, I think about whether I’ve achieved anything at all, which is a sobering thought. I’ve driven kids around, fixed some snacks, read a few books, went through homework, cleaned snot from drippy noses, nothing noteworthy or important. There will be no medals or congratulatory high fives for the day.

Most days, I’m just getting into the trenches and just grinding out the routine but come bedtime, I look at my babies who are safe and healthy and thriving and I think, “I did it. These babies are still alive and happy because of me and that counts for something.

These guys are all the trophies I need.

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So done.

The husband and I were having dinner at this hainanese curry rice stall (the famous one with the long queue at Upper Serangoon Road) last week when this elderly aunty saw me carrying the baby and came over to start a conversation.

You know how elderly aunties love babies and they love to give advice about babies and while I love showing off my babies to sweet little old ladies, some days, I’m just not really feeling talky because I just want to shove food into my face before the baby gets all sweaty and fussy and there goes my quiet, peaceful dinner.

The conversations usually go like this (in mandarin):

Aunty: So cute, how many months?

Me: 2 months. *smiley face*

Aunty: Is this your first kid? 

One must choose the answer to this question wisely because yes usually means “please give me unsolicited advice on how I shouldn’t prop the baby on my lap precariously like this because my thigh might spasm and drop her or worse, food might fall onto her face when I eat.” And no means “please ask me the next question, which is how many kids I already have.”

I smiled again and mumbled something incoherent like “不是” with a semi silent 不 so she might think I’ve got a speech impediment and stop talking to me out of pity.

But this aunty had razor sharp hearing, so she asked the next question anyway.

Aunty: Oh, how many kids do you have?

I’m ashamed to say that I considered lying and saying 3 because 2-3 kids is like the magic number for them to leave you alone. One kid and you need advice on how to parent, but 2-3 kids, you’re mostly safe. But then if you say something ridiculous like 5 kids, this leads to a whole other conversation about how people these days don’t have 5 kids anymore am I for real?

Lying is bad, so I took another spoonful of food and in between chews, mumbled “I have 5 kids” with another half smile.

Aunty: 5?? Can’t tell that you have 5!!

And then things suddenly got very interesting. “你有没有去绑?” (did you tie?), she asked. I wasn’t sure what it was exactly that I should be tying but I assumed it was like some postpartum jamu wrap thing so I said “没有,很麻烦” (no, too much of a hassle.)

五个应该去绑” (after 5, you should go tie), she went on. “我绑了四十多年,很好” (I’ve tied for over forty years)

At this point, I figured she was trying to solicit business for her jamu services so I politely said no thanks, I’m ok.

不会麻烦,你绑了很好,给你的丈夫外面睡几个月可以了” (it’s not a hassle, it’ll be good after you tie, just let you husband sleep outside for a few months), she added.

This conversation was getting super weird, and then it dawned upon me that she was telling me to get my tubes tied, which is exactly the kind of conversation I did not plan to have with a random aunty while grabbing a quick dinner. I thought about telling her that yes, I have in fact gotten my tubes tied, thanks for the advice (even though the husband will not be pleased about the sleeping outside for months), but then I was getting to the end of my very uncomfortable dinner so I smiled again and said thanks before making a quick getaway.

My point of this story is that when random elderly ladies start telling you to get a ligation, maybe it’s time to get it done.

And also, yes I’ve gotten it done. Which is to say that there ain’t gonna be no baby #6 happening here because this factory is closed for good.


Before I had the ligation done, I was searching for information on getting my tubes tied but not many people talk about it so I didn’t really have much to work with.

So if you’re considering a tubal ligation, here are some things you need to know.

1. It really hurts.

Be prepared for the pain – it’s not as bad as a c-section but way worse than a normal delivery. I asked my doctor a few times about the pain and he was all “don’t worry about it, it’s very minor, just a tiny incision.” LIES.

Right after the delivery, I was wheeled into the operating theatre to get the ligation done while the epidural was still at work. They got me all prepped and the someone was prodding my stomach area to test the pain medication and I was supposed to be completely numb but I could feel everything, which was terrifying. It was like one of those nightmares when you get cut up while still awake so I was all like “stop, stop, don’t cut anything, I can feel pain!!” and next thing I knew, it was 3 hours later and I woke up to a terrible pain in my stomach.

Apparently the epidural didn’t quite hold up so they put me under GA for the surgery. If I had known GA was required, I might have made the husband go with the vasectomy. For the next 5 days, I took every pain medication I was given because the pain was pretty intense.

2. It’s called KEYhole for a reason. 

I was under the impression that a keyhole surgery was kind of like a tiny hole but turns out, it’s more like a big ass key. When I woke up from the anaesthesia, I couldn’t sit up without wincing in pain for a week and when I finally removed the bandage, I found the incision wound to be about the width of a 50 cent coin right under my belly button.

I suppose it earns me some street cred when I’m in a bikini, but know that you’ll be dealing with a pretty obvious scar after it’s all over.

3. Be sure that you’re sure. 

If you’re not 5000% sure about this, don’t do it. But if you are, go celebrate because this means never having to deal with condoms  (ewww so gross), spermicide (way more gross), the pill (nauseating), patches (equally nauseating), IUDs (no thanks!) and the whole I’m-late-am-I-pregnant-am-I-not situation ever again.

How do I feel about doing this?

It feels right this time. We were really close to having a ligation done after Theo (we had decided on it and I was about to be wheeled into the OR after the delivery) but right as the very last moment, we both felt like we wanted to hold out for one more baby. And I’m glad we did. :)

This time, we both knew for sure that we were done making more babies. Over the past 3 months, the husband has asked me several times if I regret it and it’s true, every time I watch the kids loving on each other, my ovaries will override my logical brain but it’s time for me to listen to my brain so no, no regrets here.

I might just cry a little bit when this last baby grows up.

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Squishy little red hearts

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This is the seventh time I’m celebrating Mother’s Day and like all the other 6 times, I’m spending the day doing the one thing that makes me the happiest. Sleeping? Very close second, but no. Out for some me time? Nuh-uh, although the husband makes this offer every year. Binge watch dramas? Relaxing massage? High tea? No, no and no.

I’m here just basking in the adoration of my four little ones. Why go off to do my own thing alone when I can be here to soak in all the love and appreciation coming my way?

“What’s that, baby? I’m the best mommy in the universe? WHY YES, TELL ME MORE!! Also, you missed a spot on my cheek with the kissing…”

In the past 7 years, motherhood has changed me so much. In some ways, it’s obvious, like this c-section scar that will never go away. And these stretch marks accumulated from four pregnancies. And the resolute baby fats that have permanently attached itself to my…everywhere. My back and shoulders ache persistently from holding babies, these knees have started to creak, and when no one is looking, I try to smoothen out the lines on my face as I check myself out in the mirror.

Some of these other changes aren’t so apparent but I notice them every now and then. I’m stronger, as mothers are required to be. Kids give you a reason to dig deep and find a strength you never knew you had. I’m happier, though I can’t explain why. When I was younger, I used to wake up and spend the first moments of my day trying to think of something that would make me happy; something to look forward to. These days, I wake up feeling like I’ve fought a shark, been backed into by a car and then run over by a train several times but also strangely happy.

Today, we brought the kids to the playground. It was an epic journey (all 50 metres!) hauling 3 excited kids, 2 ridiculously heavy big kid bikes, 1 little kid bike and 1 fat baby all the way to the playground. Two minutes after we arrived, it started to rain so we spent the rest of the time shrieking and laughing and running for cover, then hauling everything all the way back.

While struggling with 2 bikes and one hyperactive Finn, the husband turned to me and said, “This just about sums up our life and parenting.”

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. This life is intense and insane (just moving from point to point with the whole troop is like an odyssey) and people watching from the outside won’t understand why anyone would possibly want to do this.

But once you’re in on the secret, it’s like a drug that keeps you going.

My kind of Mother’s Day isn’t very different from all the other days I get to be a mom. It’s about having grubby hands smear chocolate on my cheeks as my sweet boy shares his cookie with me. It’s about falling asleep with the weight of a baby on my chest and waking up to tiny feet jabbing my spleen. It’s about squishy red hearts and messy half-torn handwritten notes that read “Hares a prassen for you mammy you are super awsum i love you.” It’s about being adored by tiny people who choose only me when they’re happy, sad, sleepy, poopy and ill (such privilege!). It’s about being extravagantly loved by the raddest little humans and loving on them in return.

mother's day

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Being a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I’m so grateful for every single day I get to do it.

//Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, you are all rockstars.


It takes a village

There’s a traditional African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child, but I was always kind of iffy about that. I mean, it’s a nice idea but 1 kid, really? You need a whole village for that? I could do it with one hand tied behind my back. Oh 2 kids? I’ll need my other hand, I suppose, but not much more. Because see this mom vest I’m wearing, the one that says “MOM” in bold uppercase Arial Black font? That means nobody does a better job with these kids than me so step on aside, I’ve got it covered. (I know, I’m with you – how did I get away with being that annoying?)

Right now with 4 kids, I’m reconsidering my stand on that. As a matter of fact, I’LL GO AHEAD AND TAKE THE VILLAGE OFFER, thankyouverymuch.

Coping with 4 is proving to be quite the challenge. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge but wow, this is a big one. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so out of my depth before, like everything is one step away from spinning out of control and I’m one breath away from drowning.

Doesn’t help that I’ve been dreadfully ill twice in the past couple of weeks, floored by a bout of flu and then followed by a terrible stomach bug episode, of which I am still recovering from. In between vomit sessions with my head still in a barf bag two nights ago, I looked at the husband and said “why did I think I could do this? Because I clearly can’t.”

“It’s ok, you don’t have to do this on your own,” my very wise husband said.

It’s true. Raising these kids, making sure they’re clean and fed and hugged and educated and loved, it ain’t a 1-person task. I need my village for that.

Also, when you’re so ill you feel like you’re going to die, you morbidly start thinking about your own mortality. Like “bollocks, what if I die from this, what happens then??” I panicked for a moment at that thought but then I considered my village and I thought, “ok relax, the kids are going to be ok either way. Maybe not the best kind of ok (because hello, mom vest!), but ok enough.” Although turns out that I’m not dying of a stomach virus so that’s moot.

I guess what I mean to say is that this post is really about all the people who make up this village of mine, to whom all the thank you’s in the world would not be sufficient. And perhaps being ill is making me sentimental but they’re the reason my head’s still above water and I am so grateful I’ve got them in my corner.

And as for feeling like I’m out of my depth, well, as my favourite fish, Dory, would say, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I’m cherishing every crazy, stressful and happy moment one day at a time.


The end of babymaking

I’ve been thinking about it a lot – not having any more babies – and for the first time, it finally feels right. With the other kids, I always knew there’d be more babies on the horizon. My ovaries weren’t done. NEED MORE BABIES!

Last weekend, we were in the car on the way to church and I said to the husband, “You know babe, I think we’re done.” Without even missing a beat, he replied, “Are you talking about babies? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

So that’s it. The end of babymaking where this babymaking factory is concerned. This uterus has done its job (a fine job too!) and it’s time to power things down for good.

Since I’m already oversharing here, let’s go all the way with this. Right up to the day when Theo was born, we were still open to the idea of #5 because come on, another girl would be so dorbs right? I know Kirsten would love to have a little sister to get her girly on with. While he was delivering my placenta, my OBGYN asked if I wanted a ligation since I was already pumped with epidural – two birds with one stone, that sort of thing. We were so close to going ahead with it but truth be told, right up to that point, we were still toying with the idea of a fifth kid. I know how insane it sounds, there I was in the labor ward just delivering a fourth baby and already contemplating a fifth, that’s how hardcore we are. To be fair, it was 85-15. We were 85% sure we were done but that 15% seemed huge and I was too hormonal too make life-changing decisions I might have a 15% chance of regretting.

2 months in with Theo, this 15% is down to 0. I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with my 4 babies and I’ve never been more sure that we’re done. It feels like all the missing pieces of the puzzle are now in place and our little family is complete. I look at these fab kids and I’m so jazzed that I get to be a part of this family of 6.

We have a good thing going here, I’m so grateful for it.

And it feels right to be moving on from making babies. My uterus just did a celebratory dance upon hearing the news. In a couple of months when baby Theo weans, my body will finally go back to just functioning for one human being. I’ll mark that day by knocking back 5 fully caffeinated lattes in a row. No more of this decaf nonsense.

But more importantly, we’ll get to properly enjoy these kids, to watch them grow up and have fun with them. Instead of operating at intense full battle mode all the time (so exhausting!), we’ll finally be able to take things down a few notches. There are so many things I miss doing – read a book, go for a leisurely brunch, eat food at a normal speed where I can actually taste them, binge on The Good Wife, go for concerts. One of these days we might even get to go crazy and sleep in till noon!!

It’s a little bittersweet to know that Theo will be my last baby but I’m feeling good about this. Does looking at this dreamboat baby change my mind? Not even a little. Maybe a little bit. SNAP OUT OF IT! Okayy no.

theo 1

I guess this little guy is feeling good about it too. It’s the most fun being the baby of the family.

the baby


Day 7 Postpartum.

Having a baby is intense.

There’s the labor (we’ll talk about that soon) wherein you feel like you’ve battled a bull shark. Add to that the afterpains, the hormone crash, the postnatal depression, the exhaustion, the epic struggle that is breastfeeding…and a helpless little baby whose only form of self-expression is a series of high-pitched screams. Like I said, INTENSE.

The good thing about this being #4 is that at least my brain is ready for this. I know it’s coming and I can take a deep breath and ride it out, knowing that it will pass and everything is going to be ok. All I need to do is get through one fuzzy day at a time.

The crazy thing about this being #4 is that there are 3 other kids who all need their dose of mommy time. There’s a lot of mayhem but strangely, having them around makes me feel better.

Day 7 and still standing.


Some thoughts about getting through these postpartum days.

1. It’s a good thing newborns are so delicious.

Their have a high cuteness to difficulty ratio, which explains why you don’t end up yelling at them for being so screamy. They’re like “I know I’m being all kinds of difficult but seriously, just look at this face. This smooshy face will make you feel better in no time, momma!”


2. Husbands.

The real reason I’m still standing is because of the husband. I don’t know how I’d do this without him. He handles the baby like a pro, watches the three bigger kids, then works till the middle of the night and stays up to make sure I’m feeling ok feeding the baby at 2 in the morning. He knows when I need to cry and exactly how to make me feel better. How did I luck out with this man?

3. Morale boosters, take them.

I know there are strict rules for the confinement but sometimes, it’s ok to colour outside the lines. After I get through a rough day, I reward myself with a tiny scoop of ice-cream. Ok, a large scoop of ice-cream. And it makes me feel just a little bit better.

4. Siblings = love.

Watching the kids loving their baby is the sweetest thing ever. When Kirsten first saw him, she said, “this is the cutest baby in the whole world and I’m glad he’s mine.”


5. Family support

My mom has been a lifesaver, bathing the baby and helping with the kids and making sure I’m eating proper food. And my in-laws help to take care of the two big kids every week – they look forward to party time at Ah Ma’s house. I’m grateful for the support and we take the help wherever we can get them.