The first-time mum and social media influencer discusses caring for her new baby while managing an intense work schedule.

Fashion and travel influencer Melissa Celestine Koh doesn’t let being a new mother stop her from embracing life at full speed.

In fact, when we met her, the 30-year-old self-proclaimed go-getter, who had delivered her baby boy, Noah Tobias Chen, in June had just returned from several work trips while “pumping milk on the go”.

“The schedule was so tight on one of my trips that I missed a few pumps,” she sighs. “It felt painful, and I was borderline guilty that work might get in the way and affect my supply.”

Melissa is no stranger to hard work. Not only is the blogger with an Instagram following of 267,000 the founder of fashion labels Run After and Some Days at Home, she is also creating content for brands.

Her husband James Chen, 30, whom she wed in 2017, works with her on her business ventures. Now that baby Noah is in the picture, Melissa acknowledges that her son is now her top priority.

“I try to revolve my time and schedule around my baby,” she says. “It’s still challenging though, because everything is important.”

SmartParents chats to Melissa about her journey to motherhood and how she is balancing work and family as a new mum.

Hi Melissa, what was your pregnancy experience like?

It was smooth sailing. The first trimester was the most difficult I had to keep my pregnancy a secret as I didn't want to reveal it so soon. So, I went about my days as if I wasn’t pregnant. During meetings, I would feel so bad that I had to excuse myself to go to the toilet. I had 5am shoots as well, so that was tough.

I felt a lot better during my second and third trimesters. Going into my third, I could still operate like everything was normal. I was pretty active all the way until I gave birth.

How did you and James first find out that you were expecting?

We found out about the pregnancy together. I was in Korea for a work trip and was very tired leading up to it. I felt sick of Korean food and my appetite was really weird I was craving Japanese food and sashimi instead. So, I took a pregnancy test to be sure.

It was our first pregnancy test, and we didn't know how to use it ― the instructions were also in Korean! We had no idea how to read the results, and that two lines actually means pregnant!

How was the delivery?

I was very chill and calm! During the 38th week of pregnancy, I found out I was 2cm dilated and having regular contractions. We went to see the gynae for a check-up on a Friday, and she said I could be delivering soon.

The following Wednesday, I checked into the hospital. We were going out for supper because I was hungry, and that was when my water bag burst. My delivery itself was smooth, too, I checked in at around 2am and delivered at around 11 by the next morning. The nurses said it was really fast they told me they had expected the delivery to be in the afternoon!

 

How are you adjusting to motherhood?

It’s been a huge change! I definitely have less sleep, although I had already slept very little before giving birth. I am a go-getter who likes to accomplish a lot, so my schedule is always very packed.

But now, my priorities have definitely shifted. I can’t go for every single event, and I have to be back by a certain hour for Noah’s bedtime.

Motherhood is a whole big deal of fun! I wake up to this smiling face, and any bad day I have gets better when I look at Noah.

What’s your toughest struggle?

Breastfeeding is definitely the toughest part of this whole journey. It’s my first time ― so, you don't really know what’s happening, but you are determined to provide for your child and stick at it.  For me, breastfeeding is painful. But I was grateful for the help from my lactation consultants when I first started.

Sharing my life is very natural to me I feel a lot of joy being able to connect with other mums in the Instagram community. Watching how everybody supports each other means a lot.

Now, I pump throughout the day, and latch every time I’m with Noah. It’s especially difficult when I'm travelling and on a hectic schedule. I have to pump anywhere and everywhere even on the bus and during lunch!

Who looks after bubba when you are both working?

I engaged a helper a month after Noah was born. I sought help from my mother-in-law, too, as well as a nanny. I don’t bring Noah along on work trips, but we get pictures of him sent regularly to us.

And ever since my nanny left, Noah comes along on events and shoots in Singapore. He’s quite a social baby and is accustomed to seeing people around.

How you juggle work and spending time with Noah?

That’s the most difficult part! James and I work around the clock, but we try to implement a schedule, so we don’t cross the line. Any pocket of time I get, I feel I need to reply to e-mails because my inbox is always flooding! As such, we try to have barriers to avoid going overboard.

What is your parenting style?

We’ve actually talked about this! Both of us are not strict people, and we cannot picture ourselves putting our foot down. I also believe we should never discipline our children emotionally. For example, if we’re angry because we’re irritated, that has to be separated from what our child is doing. We have to rationally identify the wrong our child has done, and calmly deal with the issue.

Ever thought about how much exposure Noah should have on social media?

I haven't really thought about that. Sharing my life is very natural to me I feel a lot of joy being able to connect with other mums in the Instagram community. Watching how everybody supports each other means a lot.

Recently, I attended an event for a brand and we managed to gather a group of mums. Their already knowing Noah (though my online sharing) felt really nice. It was as if there was already a personal connection.

How do you decide which endorsements to take up when you’re approached?

I am very selective. My branding is still fashion and travel, and I try not to cross over too much. For Noah, I take sponsorships and work with brands in his capacity.

Are you planning to have more kids soon?

I love babies so much, and I really miss that newborn stage! Sometimes, I wish I had another child sooner, so I can relive all those newborn moments.

But we don’t really want to pressure ourselves to have more kids too soon. We believe babies are God’s gift, so when it happens, we will be thankful.

What do you most wish for when it comes to your son?

We don’t really have any particular aspirations for him ― we want him to see as much of the world as possible though. Travelling and being exposed to different cultures is very valuable ― it teaches you how to be kind, think about others and respect someone who is different from you. I hope Noah gets all this through real-life experiences. 

 

As a mum, has your career direction changed in any way?

My career direction hasn’t really changed. Noah has made me more aware of the need to work towards my dreams and goals. With him around, there’s another reason why I want to work even harder.

Apart from social media, I love content creation and everything creative. So, that is one area that I’m planning to develop and work towards.

Lastly, any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?

I’ve always focused on social media and blog content, but James and I are slowly moving towards creating visual assets for brands. Moving forward, we are taking on more photography and videography assignments that don't involve IG.

For me, giving back is important, especially in areas where I have the talent and skill set.  I hope to work with more fellow women entrepreneurs. I’ve met many mums that have left their full-time jobs to start something that they're passionate about, and I want to support them in whatever ways I can.

I love babies so much, and I really miss that newborn stage! Sometimes, I wish I had another child sooner, so I can relive all those newborn moments. But we don’t really want to pressure ourselves to have more kids too soon.”

Please complete these sentences:

My favourite pregnancy outfit was... A basic bodycon dress, it’s fuss-free and shows my bump!

The pregnancy side-effect I disliked most was… Being tired! I’m like an Energizer Bunny, so anything that gets me down upsets me.

The first thing of value I ever bought that I still have is… My engagement ring James bought it!

The first person James and I told about my pregnancy was… My mum-in-law.

After a long day of work, there’s nothing better than… Looking at Noah and watching him grin widely at me!

The most romantic country that I’ve been to is… Probably Paris in France. And Turkey, where we went for our honeymoon. 

If I could use one word to describe James, it would be… Patient― he is the epitome of patience!

The one place I would love for my child to see is… New York, I did an internship there I love the city deeply.

One object that always goes into my suitcase when travelling is… My laptop.

If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, that would be… Rice I’m a carbs girl.

My favourite song to sing to Noah is… A morning song that I made up myself. He likes Rockabye Baby too! 

The one thing I miss doing before becoming a parent is… Exercising.

My guilty pleasure TV viewing is… Soccer ― we went World Cup crazy back in 2018!

The best advice I would give other mums is… Treasure every moment, your baby’s never going to be this little again!

Photos: Melissa Koh

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