“I realised that we think that we can control everything but when it comes down to the actual moment, you really have to leave it up to God.”
“I was also super-worried because the doctor mentioned that I should keep count of the baby’s kicks and I was in so much pain that I don’t even know what I was feeling. I was also wondering if this was normal or not.”
To make matters worse, shortly before her baby’s arrival, the Mata Mata star started feeling feverish. But at 9am, Cheryl’s gynae noted that she was only 3cm dilated — a long way from the 10cm needed to start pushing her baby out.
Cheryl, who’s married to her junior college sweetheart, Roy Fong, giggles, “Oh my goodness, the nurses told me most woman dilate about 1cm per hour and that means there’s another seven hours to go!”
Cheryl says, “To my surprise, it was easier than I expected, I only pushed for 15 minutes and it was all done. I told them, this was faster than I expected.”
The couple’s little miracle — whom they’ve nicknamed “Baby M” — arrived in the afternoon on 26 April weighing a healthy 3kg. Before long, the epidural had worn off, and the pain set in with a vengeance.
“To my surprise, it was easier than I expected, I only pushed for 15 minutes and it was all done. I told them, this was faster than I expected.”
“Within 24 hours of giving birth, you breastfeed your baby, so your boobs feel very painful because it’s the first time you’re doing it. And there’s pain in the lower part of my body because the womb was also healing and the wound as well, so my whole body was in pain.”
Because the nurses brought Baby M to her every two hours for a feed, Cheryl acknowledges, “It was kind of a love-hate thing at that point because I loved that I got to see him, but each time I tried to feed him, it was also very painful.”
SmartParents catches up with the new mum to get her thoughts on confinement, her babycare plans and if she’ll ever announce Baby M’s name…
Hey Cheryl, congrats on Baby M’s arrival! Would you say that he is the best birthday gift?
Thank you! I haven’t thought about this... I still really cannot believe that a human being came out of me. [Laughs] But I believe that every child is really God’s gift because you can’t never imagine the kind of happiness, joy and the kind of love that you feel for him.
How was your childbirth experience?
I was really worried because I felt the contractions for such a long time and I was wondering whether the baby was okay and that if feeling this kind of pain was normal. My friends told me that it is really out of your control. I heard from the nurses that some mothers risk their lives to have their baby, so the doctors have to decide which one to save. So, I realised that it really is outside of my control when it comes to things like this.
Was Roy there with you during the delivery?
Yes, he was very calm throughout the whole process even when I was pushing. I told him that he better sleep while waiting for the delivery to begin because once the baby arrives, a lot of people will come and I don’t think I’ll be able to handle them, so it’s best if he took over. So, he tried to sleep a bit but he also woke up when the nurses come to check my contractions.
What advice would you like to give other first-time mums about labour and delivery?
I’ll say don’t think so much about it. Everybody’s delivery and threshold of pain is very different, so don’t have too many expectations about it. I know some mums want a natural birth and when that is out of the question, they get very frustrated and the same happens with other mums who don’t want to use epidural.
I’ll say don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for making any decision because then, you’ll feel a sense of guilt. I’ve realised you’ll become very sensitive emotionally during the first two weeks after delivery about a lot of things. So, don’t add unnecessary pressure on yourself. Just let things take their course.
How was it like bringing baby home for the first time?
The paediatrician had actually said he had jaundice because of the blood type incompatibility. I am blood type O, and Baby M is blood type B. Because of this, there was an early onset of jaundice and the doctor initially wanted to do phototherapy, which means exposing my baby to the UV lamp. But I wanted us to be discharged at the same time… So, I was very happy to be able to bring him home. They tested him the day after and the jaundice levels had come down.
Now that you are doing confinement, any challenges so far?
The first week was tough because I really followed the rules. They say cannot bathe and cannot touch water, so I really didn’t. But, I got a UTI, so I was placed on antibiotics, which was a blessing in disguise. Because of that, I could drink water and bathe. [Laughs]
How is Baby M doing at home?
Baby is doing quite well and having a confinement nanny really helps a lot. So for me, my main responsibility is to feed him. For the first two weeks, I was in a lot of pain so I couldn’t do much and I was told to lie down and rest more during that time. For now, during the daytime, I will feed him as normal and I’ll take a break only at night. I feel that breastfeeding is like a marathon, so there’s no need to be so uptight about it and in the end feel all burnt-out and emotional because already, caring for a baby is very tiring. So, at night I’ll let the nanny bottle-feed him and I’ll just get up to pump because if I don’t pump, I’ll get engorgement and all those issues.
Have you settled into a routine?
I think for a newborn, it’s harder to create a routine. But in the morning when we are all up, we’ll feed him and let him suntan for about 20 minutes before we bathe him. For the past couple of weeks because I was unwell, the nanny was the one who’s bathing him but I have been observing how she does it and I’ve also helped to change him after bathing. After he’s done, then I’ll have my own breakfast and Roy will leave for work and I’ll nap for a little bit because I’ve been up from about 5am in the morning. At lunchtime, it’s feeding time again, then I’ll try to lie down. But, I’ll still have my phone switched on and I’ll still be talking to my staff every now and then.
So now that you are maternity leave, who will be running the business in the meantime?
My mum has been helping me a lot and so has my cousin. I speak to them daily. Recently, she told me we’re in need of manpower ,then I’ll look through the resumés and if I cannot do a face-to-face or Skype interview, then I’ll ask my cousin to do it.
“I feel that breastfeeding is like a marathon, so there’s no need to be so uptight about it and in the end feel all burnt-out and emotional because already, caring for a baby is very tiring.”
Sounds like your confinement is packed back-to-back with things to do…
Yes and people will come by like my aunties and good friends. But on certain days when it all gets too much, I’ll ask them to come over after Baby M’s full month.
Have you had any breastfeeding challenges?
For the first two days, it was quite painful for the baby to latch on because my nipples were cracking. When the pain persisted, I decided to take short break from breastfeeding. Then, it got better. He also eventually got the hang of it and there haven’t been any problems so far. Touch wood. I hope it stays that way because I have heard a lot of horror stories.
Are you doing anything to increase breastmilk supply?
My mum has been feeding me a lot of fish and I think that really helps with supply — I eat fish at every meal. I actually said I can’t eat anymore but she told me I have to. A lactation consultant came and guided me on how to help Baby M get the best latch and how I can massage the breast before I let him latch.
Any plans to get a helper after your confinement?
Yes, actually my helper just arrived. So for the first 14 days, it was mainly just me and the nanny. This gives me the chance to learn how to take care of the baby and bond with him. Eventually, I will be going back to work. For practical reasons, I will definitely need a helper, but I really want to be there for Baby M. I have been thinking very hard the past couple of days on how I can shift the business, so that I can have more time with the baby and work from home.
Everyone at home must be going gaga over Baby M?
Yes, [laughs] my mum comes to wake him up and talk to him every single day. She just flew to Japan and has already been asking me to send pictures of him every day. She says she finds it hard to leave home to go to work because she wants to spend time with him. And actually for the first week, I feeling a little more sensitive and I was thinking that the baby isn’t getting enough rest. Everyone was taking him out and playing with him ― I was getting a bit overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm and Roy and my dad were very aware of it. So, they try to make sure that I get to spend alone time with the baby.
Have you gotten the hang of changing diapers or bathing the baby?
I still don’t dare to bathe the baby but I’ve been observing when the nanny does it. He’s so small so I’m very afraid to do it wrongly. I don’t dare to try it because it can be quite slippery. But when it comes to changing diapers, I have changed it a few times and actually try to do it myself. I don’t know if I’m good at it but I try!
How about Roy?
He has been learning to burp the baby. I’m still very scared to burp the baby because you have to hold the baby’s chin. I’ve actually been using a different method to burp him — I’ll put him on my chest instead of holding his chin. But most of the time, it’s done by Roy, so after I’ve fed him after dinner, I will ask for Roy to come up and burp the baby. Baby M is just so small, I’m very scared to hurt him. Roy has also been cleaning the baby’s gums. Then sometimes at night, the feed at about 11-something, he will tell the nanny to let him take over and bottle-feed the baby.
“Everyone was taking him out and just playing with him and I was also getting a bit overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm and Roy and my dad was very aware of it.”
What has been the biggest challenge for you when it comes to caring for Baby M?
When the baby breastfeeds, sometimes, he will start to make a lot of noise as if he’s feeling uncomfortable and I’ll get a bit scared thinking something is wrong. But the nanny will explain that sometimes, it’s because of gas, so it’s normal and I should just let him stretch and let him be. Sometimes, when the baby start to shift a bit and the neck is so soft, I’ll get very scared that I’ll hurt him. So, the biggest challenge for me is to learn to hold him correctly. A lot of it is psychological fear.
Because you’re afraid of passing any germs to the baby?
Yes, I think the difficult part is that I would sanitise my hands and stuff and I find myself reminding everyone to do the same. Another thing I’m also quite particular about: I’ll ask the person carrying Baby M if they can put the swaddle over themselves before carrying him. For your own parents, you can tell them. Other people, it’s a bit tougher. Even my own aunties and in-laws — these are relatives and I know they mean well and I feel quite bad.
Finally, what’s Baby M’s name? I remember you mentioned it’ll be name after a saint, I have a list of names...
Cannot like that lah. We will reveal it after the first 100 days. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m not releasing the name. We always had a name in mind and we already know what the name is but all I’ll say is we’ll release it when the time comes.
Photos: Instagram/Cheryl Wee
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