Yan Ping’s Story
My name is Yan Ping. I am in my late 30s and I have two children.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter, I was confused, exasperated and scared. I didn’t know what lay ahead of me and there weren’t many people I could talk to. The people I did talk to were split into 2 camps: the first camp told me to “let it go”. They wanted me to have an abortion. The other camp urged me to treasure the gift from God. Needless to say, I was torn. Time was ticking by and I needed to come to a decision quickly. I will never forget how traumatising that period was.
Thankfully, when my second child, my son, came along, I faced the pregnancy with a completely different mindset. The first five years with my daughter had shown me that I could do this, with or without my partner’s support. Plus her companionship really raised my spirits throughout the pregnancy. My daughter made my second pregnancy a joyous journey.
The father of my children, on the other hand, did not make the process any easier. For the most part, he wiped his hands of all responsibility and left me to make decisions on my own. He didn’t want any of the blame if something were to happen to the children. Initially, the stress of doing this alone, on top of all the hormonal and physical changes, really frustrated me. I demanded that he be more involved, that he have more of an opinion, that he gave me answers. But he didn’t. My first pregnancy was tough because of this.
Things have changed since then. Even though he was not supportive of me in my pregnancy, he is now starting to show up a lot more often. I have made the decision not to push him away as I believe the children should have the right to decide whether or not they want him in their lives. In time to come, the children will be able to make their own decisions on the matter. But as for now, they are still his children and he is still their father.
The Big Question
When making the decision to keep my child, everyday was a challenge. Everyday my decision wavered – on good days, I’d convince myself that this was God’s gift to me. But on the bad days, giving up the baby seemed like the only logical thing to do. There was no one to bounce ideas off, no one to assure me that everything would be alright if I were to have this baby. This back and forth went on for a few months and before I knew it, it was too late to go for an abortion.
For mothers going through what I went through, ask yourself this: are you ready to take on the questions, the pressure society will impose on you, the physical stress? Are you financially sound? You don’t need a big pot of gold but you’re raising a child, a child who’d need toys, milk powder, school fees all the way till university. So, are you prepared?
Now that I’m a mother to two wonderful children, I believe that every life is precious. If you can’t afford to keep it, let someone else do it. An abortion is a quick solution but you will have to live with that decision for your entire life. For me, I’d rather take on three jobs than have to wonder, several years later, where my baby is.
The toughest part of the pregnancy was the solitude. Going baby shopping was dull and uneventful, medical check-ups were cold and sterile, dealing with awkward questions when filling up forms was painful. But I had to shrug them off and pretend that they didn’t hurt.
Every month, I’d watch my baby kick and squirm on the ultrasound monitor, I’d count all the little fingers and toes to make sure there were 10 of each. But in my heart, I felt hollow. There was no one to share the joy with. It became nothing more than a medical procedure.
No one accompanied me to the hospital when I gave birth to my first child. I checked myself into the hospital, I delivered the baby on my own with only the medical staff to hold my hand. There was no one to wait for me outside of the delivery room, no crying relatives, no friends rushing in to embrace me, no husband to hold our child for the first time together.
That was the toughest part.
Money, Equal Benefits and More Money
Living on a single income with two young children is a feat. I have to juggle between taking care of the kids and working (or finding work). At the same time, I’m worried that I’m not spending enough time with them. I’ve heard that this could cause children to turn wayward. This is why being financially-sound is so important. For one, children fall sick very easily. My kids fall sick almost every other month and one visit to the pediatrics can cost from $120 to $150. On top of that, the essentials like milk powder are very expensive.
True, there are subsidies but these subsidies are not readily available unless you’re at the bottom range of the income level. I’m not at the bottom but I’m barely scraping by. There is no excess for a rainy day. Can you imagine what a difference $3,000 i.e. the Baby Bonus Cash Gift would make for my children? The penalty imposed on me invariably trickles down to my children.
Finding a trustworthy foreign domestic worker has also been challenging. They come and go as they please, leaving me stranded with no adequate form of childcare. Furthermore, the childcare and infant care subsidies contradict themselves by requiring applicants to be currently employed. But because I cannot secure proper care for my children, it’s been difficult for me to find work outside.
I strongly urge people in policy to sit down and listen to what’s going on on the ground. If you have budgeted for this money to help the truly needy but the money is not reaching them, hasn’t it failed in its objectives?
When I found out that I was only entitled to eight weeks of paid maternity leave, I was appalled. What can you do with eight weeks? The first four weeks, you’re confined at home. The only time you leave home is to head to the hospital for post-natal check ups. On top of that, you have to bring your baby for jabs at the polyclinic. The next thing you know, eight weeks are gone and it’s back to work. I was still in pain when I returned to work. Imagine how much more challenging it would be for mothers who underwent caesarian section or who had complications in their delivery – they couldn’t possibly be up and running in eight weeks! But with the risk of getting a pay cut or losing their jobs, they’re back at work after those eight short weeks. Unwed mothers must have a supernatural ability to heal faster than women with a marriage certificate.
We are mothers, whether or not we are married.
Breaking It Down To Bite-sized Pieces
My children are still very young but I know that in time to come, I will have to tell them the truth. But how will I tell them they don’t have a normal family? How do I downplay it so they don’t feel inadequate? I want them to grow up as normally as possible, to be strong and healthy not just physically but mentally as well.
Because I want them to have as normal a life as possible, I have allowed the father to be involved in their lives. But as he’s not around very often, I tell them that he is working overseas. A friend once asked my daughter if her father was ever coming back. My little girl innocently replied, “I don’t know.”
In time, I’ll tell her everything. But for now, this is the reality I have chosen for us.
I won’t make a big deal out of it to them. I don’t believe in self-pity. I believe in educating them in the right manner in a world that is changing, demographics that are shifting, people who are evolving. I will not whine about having it tough – whining is a luxury. When I go for night classes and I can’t leave my children with anyone, I bring them along with me. I apologise for having to bring them but I sit them in a corner and I carry on with the task at hand. If I have a meeting to attend, I pack my children and we go together. We deal with it, every single day. We manage with grocery shopping as well – I carry my 11KG baby on one hip and a 5KG bag of rice on my other with my little five-year old helping out with the smaller items. We manage on our own. We try our best. And we don’t make a fuss.
Deep down, I know the hurts are there. But I try not to pay too much attention to them. There’s barely enough time in a day for my children, much less my personal baggage. I won’t lie – there are times when I think to myself: why have I put myself in this situation? Two crying children, outstanding work, a thousand and one things to do at the same time… What have I done?! But when the house quietens down, when my children are sound asleep, I look at their peaceful sleeping faces and everything else fades away. Everything in the world is OK again.
Time will heal. It’s the best medicine. Whatever I felt five years ago, I no longer feel it. Instead, I feel joy now. When I see my nine-month old baby crawling up to me and trying to give me a wet kiss, everything else because unimportant. When I come home from a long day and my daughter presents me with a card to tell me that she thinks I’m the best mum in the world and that she loves me, it makes everything worth it. Healing will come but it’s how we choose to face it. We can either sink into an abyss or stand up to embrace the world. It’s up to us.