School Stories #14: Why do exams have to be so stressful?

The exam period has just ended, and as usual, children and parents were highly stressed.

I don’t get it.

Before I go on, let’s draw the perimeters. I’m referring to lower primary school kids. I understand the need for full revision for a high stakes exam like the Primary 6 PSLE. But what about the lower years?

To me, an examination is but an arbitrary guide to see if our children have learned what they are supposed to have picked up throughout the year, and to flag serious concerns, if present.

I like how in some other education systems, testing is done informally, where the children do not even know when it is just daily worksheets and when they are being tested.

My kids don’t get tuition in the lower primary years, and I resist giving them extra ‘mummy’s homework’. Thus, there’s no chance of squeezing in more sessions with the tutor nor piling on the home revision even when it’s nearing the exams.

During the exam period, they come home and play as per normal, and er, do things like making nests with twigs found at the playground.

#5 fashioned his own nest

They are inundated with past year exam papers in school and they deserve a break to relax and unwind. I don’t believe in forcing them to memorise chunks of information, only to regurgitate them and promptly forget after the exams are over. Not at this age.

In fact, I was flabbergasted when I asked a GEP (gifted education program) student, who was in my house, some P6 Science questions which #3 was stuck with and she could not answer any of them! (and this was barely a few months after she had passed the PSLE with flying colours) When I probed further, she replied rather sheepishly, “I’ve forgotten everything. We just cram to take the exams.”

This, we call education?

I get bombarded by questions on my laissez faire attitude towards their exam scores.

What if they end up in a lousy class?

All the better!

They will be with peers who are of a similar standard, and the pace will be more suitable.

Last year, #5 was in a mixed ability class because there is no streaming after P1. He got Band 2 for his Math. This year, he was streamed into one of the lower ability classes and he scored 46/50 for CA2!

Building a lil’ nest for Kate to play with

The other objection I hear all the time from my well-meaning friends is,

You have to push them, for them to do well.

Intrinsic motivation works way better, and it is a life skill for them to cultivate.

The kids had 4 extra days off from school the week before the exams. #4, who is in Primary 5, requested for some Math assessment books.

#4: Mum, can I buy a Math assessment book? I need to practice more before the exam.

Me: Are you sure you will do it? It’s only 1 week before your exams, seems like a waste. But I will buy if you will do it.

When we reached Popular bookstore, they were closed for stock take. I’ve never seen a child so disappointed in not being able to buy an assessment book before!

So. I decided to take her to the vendors who sold past year exam papers from various schools. They sold them in bundles of about 10 exam papers, costing $18.

Me: $18. Hmm. There are 11 papers in there. How many do you think you can complete?

#4: I have 8 days before my Math paper. I will do 1 each day. Ok?

Of course I bought it for her.

I was pleased as punched that she had finally taken responsibility for her own learning and wanted to do well. Whatever grade she gets in the end will be immaterial. The battle has already been won.

School Stories:

#1 – When your son gets into fights in school
#2 – My son the loan shark
#3 – So kids can’t play once they start school?

#11 – How #2 topped her level in English
#12 – DSA. Yet another initiative parents have warped
#13 – Tuition – First line of attack?

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

Kate turns 3 with a cosy party at home

Kate has been waiting for this day for a long time. Her slightly older cousin turned 3 several months ago, and when asked her age, will declare “I’m 3 years old”.

Kate would follow suit, only to be reminded that she is still 2.

She’s been hearing the constant refrain “You will be 3 when your birthday comes.”

Hence she has been awaiting this BIG day, when she can finally say SHE IS THREE. Like a badge of honour.

Her party last year was a low-key kampung-style affair, where everyone chipped in. The hubs cooked the dishes, the kids decorated our home, the older girls’ friends came over to help out and tried their hand at making a Mickey Mouse cake, and Kate’s friends played with her toys. At 2, it doesn’t take much to make them happy.

This year, having celebrated several of her friends’ birthdays in school, she requested for a Sofia the First cake, which I ordered from Bake Avenue 3 weeks in advance.

She has also been asking for a ‘sparkly princess dress’ after seeing her cousin wearing one and watching too much Sofia, so her aunt bought her one for her birthday present.

Cheeky poses

The whole morning, the entire family was busy preparing for the party, and Kate could feel the palpable buzz of activity in our house which put her in an ecstatic mood.

I ran through with Kate how she should graciously give the party bags to her guests when they are leaving and thank them for coming (and not cry or whine that we were giving away her toys).

For the party bags, I didn’t want to put token toys which would be thrown away, nor fill the bags with candy as the majority of the kids are 3.

I came across these adorable play dough Party Favours from Tickle your Senses, and knew they would be the perfect take home gifts for her little guests. Not only do they look appealing, but the play dough is of premium quality which is non-toxic and taste-safe.

Party favours $5

I figured they would also be well-received by the handful of older kids, and suit both girls and boys. Perfect. #2 commented that they smelt so good (essential oils were added) and the texture was better than the commercial ones we had.

Their party favours range from $5 – $10 per child, and the sticker on the lid can be personalised with message and theme.

I have to say a big thank you to the 2 lovely mums behind this homegrown brand for obliging with the sponsorship which made Kate’s birthday that much more special.

“Thank you aunties for gifting us all the party bags and play dough. My friends and I like it very much!” 🙂
Love, Kate
The older kids took care of the entertainment and organised simple party games for the little ones.

Being the resident chef, it was natural for the hubs to be in charge of the menu. He went to the market bright and early and spent the whole morning in the kitchen. That is his way of showing his love for the children.

Everyone enjoyed his legendary fried chicken wings, which he only whips up during parties. The girls helped with the platter of finger food and made an assortment of heart-shaped sandwiches.

Midway through the party, as more and more guests arrived, Kate was overwhelmed. While receiving yet another present, she shook her head and cried out, “I don’t want anymore presents!” The poor kid giving it didn’t know how to respond.

When we got round to cutting her birthday cake, she was still rather bewildered by all the attention and wanted to be carried.

Sofia the First Cake

After the kids had their cake, we set up the Dough Table Party set which Tickle your Senses had also sent over. Their tubs of coloured play dough and assortment of cutters were all so pretty!

Play dough accessories

The kids naturally gravitated to the table as it looked so inviting, and the parents could enjoy their cake and conversations in peace. I have never seen such detailed princess-sy cutters, and they were easy to use too. Just let them know your theme and guest numbers and they would be able to customize something suitable for your party.

Lil’ princesses hard at work

All in all, it was a splendid little party.

On her actual day, as it was a school day, we waited for the older kids to return and had a simple family celebration at home. This time, Kate seemed to understand it was her special day and revelled in the attention.

How extremely fortunate she is. More than 3 years ago, when I found out I was pregnant with our 6th child, with the kids’ stuff given away, our resources further stretched, and starting all over again with a young one, we didn’t know what the future would hold.

Kate’s 3rd birthday

3 years on, I still marvel at how Kate’s life is unfolding, as we take things one day at a time. It was a poignant reminder that

If God brings you to it,
He will bring you through it.

Happy Birthday my dear Kate.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

{Interview #8} Ebelle Chong – Dance Practitioner / Choreographer

Ebelle Chong, 39, is a Dance Practitioner and Educator. She was part of a wave of contemporary dance artists who shook up the local dance scene in the early 2000’s. Her latest work SSLD:7 premiered in R.e.P 2015 to great critical acclaim. Ebelle’s choreography for CHIJ Katong Primary School bagged the Certificate of Distinction at the Singapore Youth Festival 2014. Her husband is in Corporate Communications and they have 3 boys aged 8, 4 and 2.

This initiative is part of our 101 Paths to Success series of interviews to gain insight into how successful people came to do what they are doing, and enlighten parents that there is a vast array of occupations for our children to discover. Hopefully it might spark an interest in our children and youths to start their journey of discerning their life’s path.

Your qualifications

Bachelor of Business Administration, NUS
Diploma in Contemporary Dance, LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts

Photo credit: Jingkai (SSLD:7 premiered in R.e.P 2015, Raw Moves)

Describe your job
As a Dance Practitioner, I often collaborate with independent artists from different genres, or work with a Company to create a new piece of work. Most often for theatre pieces, I collaborate with a Music / Sound Composer, Lighting Designer and the Performers. Rehearsals are always work-in-progress where we try new material and see what works or doesn’t.

As an Educator, I go to schools to teach contemporary dance techniques and choreograph the Dance CCA. I also teach a program called Program for Active Learning (PAL) for Primary 1 students using dance to aid in learning of creation and cooperation.

Tell us about your career path
After obtaining my BBA, I went to LASALLE-SIA to pursue dance. Upon graduating in 2001, I joined TOUCH entertainment and was part of the Magic of Love production team. I was the production manager, choreographer and dancer all rolled into one. Then in 2003-04, I was the General Manager, Production Manager and Dancer for a local dance company Ah Hock and Peng Yu (AHPY).

In 2005, some friends and I, all independent artists from different genres formed Collective MAYHEM. In 2008, my work “w a l l s” was commissioned by the Singapore Festival of the Arts and I performed a solo title “Mama:Machine”. I took a hiatus of 7 years to take care of my kids and this year, I premiered my new work SSLD:7 at R.e.P 2015 by Raw Moves. Most recently, I have finished co-creating Open Homes-SIFA in September 2015.

How did you find your passion?
Interestingly, it was when I helped out backstage at a LASALLE-SIA Dance Graduation show. I saw what the dancers / choreographers did and was moved by what they had to say through their dance. That’s when I decided, “Hey, if they can do this, so can I!”

Which aspect of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
Creation 🙂

How do you find time to balance work and family?
It’s tough but I try to be away only 3 times a week. With that in mind, I plan my projects so that when one finishes, there is enough leeway to prepare for the next. I am very aware that I am also a mum and a wife, not just a dance practitioner / educator.

What does success mean to you?
When I have inspired or at least facilitated a thought process either through my teachers or creations.

Are you involved in any voluntary work?
Currently I am volunteering in World Dance Alliance Singapore as the Conference Secretary in organising Asia Pacific Dance Bridge: Connectivity Through Dance, which was held in Singapore on 16-18 October 2015.

One advice to parents
Let your child try it out for themselves because only they will know if this is what they really want.

One advice to teens
It is demanding being a dancer / choreographer, and you need to be strong mentally, emotionally and physically and just carry on. If possible, further your studies in dance as the lifespan of a dancer is quite short. There are many other areas in the industry where you can move on to, such as Arts Management, Dance Reviewer / Researcher / Academia etc.

To be a good dancer or choreographer, it takes someone with passion to press on, an open mind to learn more, and sensitivity to all that is around you to gain inspiration.

    {Interviews} 101 Paths to Success

    #1 – Dr Karen Crasta Scientist Associate Prof at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

    #2 – Jeremiah Choy Creative Director Sing50 Mega concert at the National Stadium
    #3 – Elaine Yeo Musician Singapore Symphony Orchestra
    #4 – Chong Ee Jay Cyber Wellness Educator TOUCH Cyber Wellness
    #5 – Professor Tan Huay Cheem Cardiologist Director of National University Heart Centre
    #6 – Ruth Wan Children’s Book Author Timmy and Tammy series
    #7 – Andrea Decruz Media Personality Owner of CINQ Salon & Belmont Flora
    ~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

    Thankful… for the teenagers and the toddler

    #1 always manages to get Kate to pose for her. They spent a carefree evening at the playground together.

    “If I can’t see you, you can’t see me too!”

    Hide & seek

    Learning to pout?

    Or pretending to be sad…

    That’s more like our Kate.

    This precocious child became a part of our large family a short 3 years ago, but it’s hard to imagine life without her.

    When they are young and needy, we can’t wait to have our peace and wish they would play alone instead of bugging us all the time.

    All too soon, they morph into sullen teenagers and want their space. The tables are turned and now it’s us trying to inch our way into their lives.

    How ironic.

    The strangest thing is, we never see the transition coming.

    My eldest & my youngest

    I’m glad that I have the teenagers to remind me how precious everything about Kate is, and how fleeting the moments are.

    Yes, even when she whines and throws tantrums. Even when she keeps pushing the boundaries and drives me mad.

    And I’m thankful to have Kate to bring out the best in the older kids, in nurturing and caring for her.

    “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” – Epictetus

    Thankful… for the hub’s cooking

    Thankful… for our helper
    Thankful… for my family
    Thankful… for the beauty of nature
    Thankful… for my mum-in-law
    ~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

    Kate’s bedtime routine… or mine?

    One of my hot buttons is that the kids go to bed on time.

    They know that I get really angry if they sleep late during school nights.

    Not enough sleep = poor concentration & immunity lowered = falling sick and spreading germs to the others = overtired & grumpy mummy.

    Lately, the bedtime routine of the 2 youngest ones is starting to drive me crazy.

    Kate’s babies

    Kate & #5 sleep in the same room, and after showering and brushing their teeth, they get in bed by 7.30pm. Nice.

    But then the real routine begins.

    I read Kate her bedtime stories while #5 reads to himself.

    There’s always the “one more, pleaseeee”, while trying to put on her cutest face. We have settled on 5 books, although she is using the 1 to 1 correspondence skill (or lack of) to try and wriggle a few more books into the 5.

    Then it’s lights out.

    I am constantly surprised how kids can think of so many things to do in semi-darkness.

    “I want to sleep here, next to mummy.” Shuffle, shuffle. Silence for 3 seconds.

    “I don’t want to sleep at the bad guy side.” (the side closest to the wall) More shuffling.

    “I have no space!” Nudging, pushing, shoving.

    Stop moving both of you, and go to sleep!

    Silence for 10 seconds.

    “I have a mosquito bite on my arm. I need to put oil.” No. Sleep.

    “I need. I need!” Ok quickly put oil and lie down.

    #5 will take the opportunity to start telling some jokes.

    Enough, both of you! Keep quiet!

    #5: “I need to use the toilet.” You just went!

    “I need!” Ok. GO!

    And this can go on until 8.30.

    Some days, I get so worked up I start yelling at them.


    Then I lose it and start ranting.

    “Why must you two keep on messing around until I get angry, yell at you before you sleep? WHY??” Can’t you yada yada yada…

    Some days, when I’ve had a tough day, I cut myself some slack and just GIVE UP.

    I lie down, close my eyes, and let all their talking and quibbling wash over me, and tell myself that they will fall asleep.

    When it felt like they will go on forever, I open my eyes, ready to hiss some orders.

    But then, I see them doing the simplest, sweetest things. Being siblings.

    Sibling love

    And I let it slide.

    Ah well, sometimes, these precious moments are worth the delayed bedtime.

    #5 will eventually be knocked out as he wakes up at 5.30am to catch the school bus.

    But Kate? She will be busy arranging and re-arranging her soft toys, softly singing lullabies to them, and patting them to sleep.

    At this juncture, if the hubs walks into the room, in my drowsy state, I can hear him say, “She put you to sleep again?”

    ~ www.mummyweeblog – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

    District 21 – Family fun at IOI City Mall KL

    District 21, in Kuala Lumpur, is an awesome place for the whole family. We left after 4 hours to meet relatives, but could have easily made our money’s worth and played the entire day!

    In my opinion, it is more suitable for children from 6 or 7 years and above as they are able to enjoy the majority of the activities.

    Having said that, Kate is just 3 and she had a swell time. Mostly because she had so many siblings to take care of her. Given her age, she was only allowed to play a few things – the tubby ride, trampoline, and the random slides.

    District 21

    Good that this place is air-conditioned, so the kids could play for a long time without grumbling about the heat.

    The Power Station takes an interesting twist on the usual rock-climbing wall, with their interactive walls. All the walls are equipped with auto-belays, so parents can relax and watch (or join in the fun!)

    Power Station

    For crowd control, they only allow a certain number in at one time. Including queuing, the kids were in there for about an hour.

    Min: 15kg, Max: 130kg

    Various rock walls @ Power Station

    You can even stack the foam blocks to create your own wall to climb!

    Or have you ever imagined what it felt like to jump off a building?

    I was watching some adorable kids confidently climb up one building at a time, and they squealed with glee when they jumped off the tallest building! Way cool. (that’s the blue and yellow-checked thin pillars)

    Crumbling wall

    The younger kids are allowed to play this tube slide, accompanied by an adult.

    Kate bounced around for half an hour on the trampoline, climbed up the tilted bus, and was so tired she didn’t resist when I called her for a nap. She was knocked out for 2 hours while the older ones carried on.

    Tubby Ride

    There is a minimum height of 125cm to ride alone on the Tubby Ride. #5 and his cousin enjoyed this very much.


    The Maze looks deceptively simple, but once you get in, it’s not so easy to get out! His cousin got stuck in the middle and it was heartwarming to see #5 talk him through and encourage him.

    The Maze
    For the younger kids, they have their own mini version of the Sky Trail at the Low RopesIf your kids have always wanted to try an obstacle course but is afraid of heights, this is a good one to start with to build their confidence, as it is relatively low.
    Low Ropes

    The kids can burn some energy or race one another round this little Pump Track.

    Pump Track

    For the older kids, there are lots more activities offering some serious fun. #1 and #3 thoroughly enjoyed the Sky Trail. #2 is afraid of heights and gave this a miss.

    They took almost 2 hours for this, to queue, get briefed and manoeuvre through the whole course. They said it was quite tiring, but very fun. They sure had a good workout!

    Min height: 155cm

    Sky Trail

    Some rules for Sky Trail / Power Station

    • No slippers / loose footwear
    • Avoid loose clothing and hanging jewellery
    • Long hair to be tied
    • Empty pockets and spectacles to be secured
    Not for the faint hearted
    The older kids really enjoyed the Roller Glider, which is like a zip line cum roller coaster high above our heads. Verdict: Way less scarier than it looks and heaps of fun!

    Disposable caps are to be worn for quite a few of the attractions, and they can be purchased for RM 2 at the counter.
    Exits at lower and upper level

    On the upper level, right outside of District 21, they have some rides for the little ones. These are all payable separately.

    We reached IOI City Mall early, and as District 21 only opens at 12pm, we whiled away our time playing at the level right above.

    Carousel RM 5

    Adults are allowed to accompany the kids on the carousel rides and don’t have to pay.

    Mini Train RM 5

    This cute little train makes about 2 or 3 rounds around this part of the mall. Adults need a ticket as well, but kids below 2 ride for free.

    You can get the combo of Train + Car for RM 8 per person.

    “Please Stop!”

    Kate kept asking for a ride in the convertible, but after she got in and the staff helped her to step on the pedal, she must have gotten a fright that it took off! She burst into tears, and in her panic mode, could not understand my instructions to remove her feet from the pedal. Not sure if she would want to ride in it anytime soon!

    Mini Car: RM 5. (Age limit: 7 years old)

    Archery Zone

    For the older kids, there is a really simple Archery zone, and some simulator rides.

    You could easily spend an entire day (or two) at this mall, as there is also an ice-skating rink, a bowling alley, and a movie theatre all contained within. The next round, we might check out the adjoining resort or hotel which I spied coming in, and spend 2 or 3 days letting the kids have a blast.

    Sane tip: This was our strategy to make the most of our time at District 21. It opens at 12pm, but when we arrived at around 11 plus, the ticketing counter was already opened. You can purchase the tickets and sign the indemnity form first so that the kids can enter once the doors open at 12pm, as there might be a long ticketing queue on weekends or public holidays. Do start with the Power Station (climbing walls) if you get in early as that tends to have a long waiting time.

    District 21
    AT-6, IOI City Mall
    Lebuh IRC, IOI Resort City
    62502 Putrajaya
    Sepang, Selangor

    ~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

    Children’s Day – divide and conquer

    We’ve been doing the same thing on Children’s Day for the past 6 years until it became a family tradition which the kids look forward to and the older ones fondly reminisce.

    The hubs would redeem shopping vouchers with our credit card points and they would eagerly await the crisp $50 voucher and take a long time at the children’s department trying to decide what to buy.

    I allow them 3 presents per year; birthday, Children’s Day, and Christmas. They learn delayed gratification and realise they don’t want the toy they had previously wanted on a whim.

    The rest of the day would be spent at home playing with all their toys. Win-win situation. Kids win, mummy win nap time.

    This year, with #3 moving up to Secondary school, children’s day logistics have changed, and it hit me (again), that the 6 of them are no more a ‘bunch’ of kids to herd around together.

    Homemade clay

    As usual, the 2 youngest were up bright and early at 7am. It was Children’s Day!

    They hopped downstairs and after a happy breakfast, Kate entertained herself playing with clay which #1 made the day before, while #5 contentedly plonked himself in front of the TV.

    It was nice that all 6 of them were home, and it felt like a holiday. #2 & #3 had a day off as it was marking day, and chose to stay home and relax after finishing their last exam papers.

    Kate & #4 followed their cousins to the zoo, which left us with #5. The hubs offered some options, and it was a no-brainer to him.

    The Sentosa Luge with daddy it was gonna be!

    A real treat for #5 to spend time alone with daddy, and what do the guys do? They challenged each other, with popcorn as the prize. Guess who won.

    “Too bright! I can’t open my eyes”

    In the meantime, I had to take #1 for her post-op check-up. She had been having problems with an ingrown toenail for almost a year, and after conservative treatment failed, we decided to go ahead with the little surgery to remove a sliver of her toenail.

    Burger Bistro

    We re-grouped for dinner with the grandparents. My dad announced that he would give them a big treat since it was Children’ Day, and take them to eat suckling pig.

    “Suckling pig?!” What kind of treat was that even.
    The kids opted for burgers, and I decided to take them all to Quayside Isle.

    The old folks were surprised at how much that part of Sentosa had changed, while the kids mused about what life would be like living on a boat.

    The burgers and truffle fries were quite good, but my dad was disappointed with his steak. Ok, we got it. Suckling pig for Grandpa Day.

    Pet guests

    They ended the night playing with the guinea pigs #1 was pet-sitting for a friend. Kate was concerned they were not eating the hay and kept encouraging her little guests. “Here, eat. Eat.”

    We were so amused…

    ~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

    Birth stories of my 6 children

    My first 5 kids were all born 2 years apart, and their birth stories went almost exactly the same way.

    No Braxton Hicks, no water bag bursting beforehand, no pre-labour signs. They were all natural, with no epidural, and lasted approximately 3 to 4 hours long (or short. Thankfully!)

    The height of the pain, where I remember uttering to the hubs through gritted teeth “I-am-go-ing-to-die” probably lasted no more than 20 minutes. I’m sure I would have begged for pain relief if it was any longer.

    And after all that agony, I would declare to the hubs that I am NOT going to go through this again.

    But I did. Again, and again. It’s funny how we forget the pain just as quickly.

    Kate’s birth, on the other hand, was totally different. She was breeched and needed a caesarean.

    Here’s their birth stories condensed into one post.

    Kate, our 6th child

    #1’s birth story

    With #1, I was studying overseas and the norm there was “natural births”. So I went along with it. No epidural, no doctor.

    We were given material to read, where I learnt that labour pains should be seen as helpful and productive, and the imagery of our pregnant body as a lotus flower, with the contractions aiding us to push the baby out. Pain is our friend, not foe.

    Ok, I was brainwashed.

    At 39.5 weeks, I was getting a little worried that there was no sign of impending labour.

    I chanced upon a magazine which had an article “10 ways to bring on labour”.

    I decided on the easiest, which was to go for a long walk.

    I accompanied the hubs on the golf course and walked for a few hours. A day or two later, labour started.
    I felt the first contraction in the morning. It increased in intensity very quickly and I timed it. Very soon, they were less than 5 minutes apart, consistently.

    This was it!

    The hospital was a 15-minute drive away and by the time I walked into the lobby, I was in such pain that someone quickly approached me with a wheelchair.

    I was wheeled to the labour room without even registering.

    The room was huge and cosy, and even had a jacuzzi!

    I started having an excruciating backache and the 2 midwives filled the jacuzzi with warm water to try and ease the pain. I was barely in for a couple of minutes before I told them that the pain was unbearable. In fact, the pain in my back was worse than the contractions.

    They got me out and guided me to the bed to check my progress and I was fully dilated! They immediately helped me onto the birthing stool, to give birth in a kneeling position.

    Everything happened so quickly and I don’t even remember pushing.


    She was bundled up and placed on me, and the midwives helped her to establish some sucking. Apparently, if you do that as soon as possible after birth, it would improve the chances of successful breastfeeding.

    We were encouraged to room in with our babies, and that night, I slept with her right beside me on my bed. It was such a surreal night.

    Looking at this tiny living, breathing baby was a defining moment I will never forget.

    The wonderment of having created a new life was at the same time incredible yet humbling.

    #2’s birth story…

    With #2, since my labour was so fast, I decided not to use the birthing stool.

    Instead, I read that I should give birth lying sideways, and should let the baby crown for a few seconds to stretch the perineum before pushing baby out to minimise tearing.

    Round 2.

    The same sequence happened, but I was more prepared. 

    When I felt the first contractions, I calmly fetched my hospital bag and told the hubs we had to go.

    I informed the midwives that I wanted to give birth lying on the bed, on my side, instead of using the birthing stool.

    I settled in nicely on the hospital bed, enjoying my favourite CD which I had brought along.

    As the contractions became intolerable, I started screaming.

    It must have been a hilarious sight.

    Me lying on the bed, hubs on one side, 2 midwives at the foot of the bed.

    Dead silence, then 3 seconds of agonised screams, and dead silence again.

    This went on for what felt like 15 minutes until one of the midwives calmly said, “If you stop screaming and conserve your energy to push, the baby might come out sooner.”

    She was right, of course. I stopped screaming, pushed a few times, and #2 was out. Done.

    The hubs asked the nurse when was the earliest we could be discharged. As he had to cook the confinement food and ferry them to me 3 times a day, he was keen on having me home asap.

    The nurse replied, “If mum and baby are well, you could leave after 4 hours.”

    Beg your pardon? 4 hours?? Yippee!!

    My mum was shocked to see us walk through the door that evening with baby in hand, and commented wryly, “You 2 look like you went shopping.”

    For the next 5 days, midwives came out to our house to check on us, weigh the baby, and assisted with breastfeeding and other issues I had. It was marvelous.

    #3’s birth story…

    We were back in Singapore by then. After dinner, we took the 2 kids to a mini fun fair in our neighbourhood.

    After walking there and back, carrying them up and down the rides, I told the hubs that I had over-exerted myself and my contractions would start that night.

    I had come to understand my body well and could feel the subtle changes of impending labour.

    I tried to get as best a sleep as I could, but it’s not easy with a huge belly and constant urge to go to the toilet!
    In the wee hours of the morning, I felt the first pang of contractions. I had a nice warm shower and we got into the car.

    The hubs assessed my condition, saw that I could still have a conversation, and knew that he had enough time to make a detour to the market to buy some black chicken. Yeah, the hubs is chill like that.

    He drove home and quickly started boiling the soup. We then made our way to the hospital.

    I decided not to have an epidural, and to go through it the same way I had done the previous times.

    The environment here is a little different, and the doctor and nurses did not seem to be pro-natural birth. (Or maybe it was just my gynae)

    I had discussed it earlier with him and he said their philosophy was to provide a “pleasant birth”.
    As the contractions went into full swing, the hubs held my hand and tried to soothe me.

    When I finally released it, his palm was bleeding. Oh well, they have to share some of our pain, don’t they?

    #4’s birth story…

    With #4, I was sick of entering the hospital with everyone staring.

    I wanted to walk in, register properly, and settle in. Besides, with every subsequent birth, the labour was getting shorter and shorter.

    No going to the market!
    Bad move.

    Once I was changed and the nurses strapped me down to monitor the contractions, it started slowing down.

    For the previous 3 times, because I was moving, the contractions continued to get stronger.

    This time, as I had not passed the ‘point of no return’, by lying down and relaxing, the contractions diminished in intensity.

    My gynae had already been called and he gave me an oxytocin jab to hasten the contraction as he did not have time to wait around.

    I was a little thrown off by the change of events, and with the lack of support for a completely natural birth.

    The labour pains came on much stronger, and in the end, I took the gas that was offered and thank goodness baby came out very quickly, because I felt so horribly nauseous.

    #4 cuddled by #3 (day 3)

    #5’s birth story…

    Finally. I was pregnant with a boy. To me, children are God’s gifts, and it didn’t matter if it was a girl or boy.

    My dad-in-law and the hubs, on the other hand, were eager for a boy.

    I decided to change a gynae, partly because he was not pro-natural, and partly because he was so popular that we had to wait for close to 2 hours for every check-up.
    A nurse friend recommended a lovely gynae and he was supportive of my decisions throughout the pregnancy and delivery.

    Everyone seemed thrilled, and asked about his EDD. (I guess the anticipation of finally having a boy after 4 girls was exciting. Or perhaps, they were all excited for me that I could finally close shop.)

    His EDD was on the 17th, but I told them I would have him out on the 8th. Not only was it a nice number, but the pattern of his birthday would be easy to remember.

    Caesarean? They enquired. Nope, natural birth. I was so seasoned that I could “tell” my body to go into labour.
    Upon reaching the hospital, I informed them that the doctor’s instructions was to call him immediately as he knew my labours were very quick.

    He arrived at 7.45am, and was disappointed that I was so far from being fully dilated.

    I saw his crest-fallen face and told him, Doc, don’t worry, I promise you can go home by 9.30am.

    Well, I was a few minutes late. My boy came out at 9.33am, on the 8th, as I had predicted.

    With #5, the hubs and I were done.

    My one and only son

    As the kids entered their teens, they started retreating behind closed doors.

    The hubs was less involved as the girls became more independent and wanted their space, and I got annoyed that he spent more time playing golf than spending time with the kids.

    Everyone was drawing apart.

    I kept praying for more unity in the family. My parents were feeling the void very sharply as they looked forwards to spending their weekends taking the kids on outings, which they were reluctant to go on anymore.

    I also didn’t like the way I had become. I have been scolding them so much that I had unknowingly morphed into this mean mummy monster. I prayed for humility.

    God works in mysterious ways. He answered all my prayers by giving us Kate. She was born 6 years after #5.

    This last pregnancy was more difficult than all the previous 5 combined. I had a nasty rash all over my body which itched so badly I couldn’t sleep. My gynae could only give me steroids, which I refused to take.

    I turned to TCM and he explained that my body had shifted from a Yin consistency to a Yang. I had to avoid all deep fried foods, dairy, seafood, beef, and chicken.

    I was miserable. No desserts, no snacks, no fried foods. Every meal was steamed fish, veggies and fruits. The rash also left rough, dark patches on my limbs.

    I was bedridden for the last 3 months because my scaitic nerve was pinched and the kids had to push me to the toilet in a study chair. I had to rely on everyone around me for help. I learnt humility and compassion for the sick and elderly. 

    For the first time, I became aware and grateful for every little thing, which I had taken for granted. Being able to walk, being able to eat whatever I wished, being able to go out of the house.

    In my helpless and dependent state, I saw my children through different eyes, and witnessed the beauty in #3, who never wavered in assisting me through those 9 months.

    You know what was so astonishing?

    The birth dates of the 4 older girls ran consecutively, with a gap in the middle.

    10, 11, 13, 14. We were missing the 12th.

    The birth months of the 5 kids each coincided with 1 adult. Me, my parents and my in-laws. Only the hubs had no child born in the same month.

    We were joking that if the baby was born on the 12th of October, the puzzle would fit perfectly.

    Kate’s EDD was on the 21st, but as I got nearer to term, my gynae broke the news that the baby was breeched, and I would need a caesarean.

    He had to schedule the date very carefully because it couldn’t be too late as I might go into labour. It also couldn’t be too early because my babies were all small, weighing between 2.6 – 2.9 kg, and this baby looked to be about that same range. He wanted her to pass the 2.5kg mark.

    He did the calculations and said, “We’ll schedule the caesarean for the 12th of October.”

    We were stunned.

    On the morning of the 12th, we checked in for the scheduled caesarean.

    I changed and was pushed into the operating theatre. The nurses asked me to please move over to the OT bed.

    I told them that I can’t quite do that.

    They looked at each other in bewilderment and must have thought this was a very uncooperative patient!

    I was given general anaesthesia and off I went into dreamland.

    I’m so done
    Later on, my gynae told me excitedly, “Did you know that you had already gone into labour? Thank goodness we had scheduled you in for a C-section!”

    How do Singaporeans say it?

    Double confirm.

    Guess her birth was really meant to be.

    I woke up after the caesarean feeling terrible, in pain, and not able to move. The hubs put Kate next to me and whispered, “Look, she’s perfect.”

    Just like that, everything I had gone through and suffered was worth it.

    Kate will be celebrating her 3rd birthday soon.

    I never knew a little child can effortlessly draw a family together, and bring so much joy to those around her.

    I am also extremely thankful that I have this chance to finally enjoy every moment with this little one.


    This post is part of the “Birth Stories” Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other exciting stories, please click here.

    Owls Well “Birth Stories” Blog train

    If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories, you can start with this one here by Vera. She is a don’t-stay-at-home mum of 2, who loves exploring new places with her kids in tow, cooking up a storm and planning theme parties. During her downtime, she writes at Life is in the Small Things, sharing little adventures, parenting misadventures and everything in between.

    At next week’s stop, we will be visiting Karen, a mum to 2 wonderful children who muses over at Mum’s Calling. She believes it is almost every woman’s calling to be a Mum. While fulfilling hers, she finds the journey truly rewarding and enjoyable. She is convinced that Motherhood is life changing and full of surprises. Over on her blog next week, she shares the birth story of her firstborn girl.

    ~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~