Celeb mum-to-be Velda Tan: I’ll tell my daughter not to quit school, unlike me

Fashionista Velda Tan opens up about her rocky road to pregnancy and what kind of mum she aspires to be.

Social media maven and fashion It-girl Velda Tan’s life story is an open book. One look at the successful serial entrepreneur’s Instagram page (@belluspuera) ― which boasts 153k followers ― will tell you exactly what this pregnant 30-year-old is up to.

Velda, who celebrated her fifth wedding anniversary recently with her restaurateur husband Frederick Yap, 30, also marked her second trimester with a babymoon in Bali. Scroll further and you’ll marvel at her stunning sense of fashion, even though she’s sporting an eight-month bump.

Velda, who has been a presence in the local fashion scene for over a decade, and co-founded Love, Bonito with her sister, Viola, and best friend, Rachel Lim, is now the creative brain behind Collate The Label, her fourth business venture.

And while Velda is comfortable living in the limelight, she quickly admits that it’s not a reflection of her real life.

“On Instagram, you only get to see the highlights,” Velda notes. “You don’t really see what happens when you’re running a business or even for me struggling to get pregnant for the last two years.”

Indeed, despite her picture-perfect social media posts, it wasn’t always the case offline. Diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects fertility, Velda’s road to a baby was a tough one ― something she kept tightly under wraps. The down-to-earth social media celeb opens up to SmartParents about the obstacles she faced while trying to conceive, and her hopes and dreams for her daughter.

Hi, Velda, you’re looking great! Pregnancy really agrees with you. So, how has it been so far?
Surprisingly, it’s been easier than I thought. I’ve had a very smooth journey. None of the morning sickness or pregnancy complications I read about in books. Since my journey to becoming pregnant wasn’t so easy, I thought the pregnancy might not be all that smooth either. So, I’m very thankful for how it’s turned out.

It was very disappointing, after each failed cycle I would take it out on my husband. But he’s never really blamed me for anything. It wasn’t a blaming game between us, it was more of getting through it together.

How did you find out about your fertility issues?
Five years ago, after we got married, I went to the gynae for a pre-conception screening because we were doing some family planning. That’s when I found out I had PCOS, but I didn’t really take it seriously then. I thought if my mum could give birth to three daughters with PCOS, I wouldn’t have any problems either. It was only two years back when we started to actively try for a baby that we realised it was not happening.

What did you and Frederick do then?
My first gynae put me on medication. I did nine Clomid cycles over two years. Clomid is a fertility drug that is supposed to help me ovulate, because my body wasn’t doing it on its own. I don’t think the medication was suitable for my body, I put on 10kg and had bad mood swings. We also ended up not seeing any results. It was very disappointing, after each failed cycle, I would take it out on my husband. But he’s never really blamed me for anything. It wasn’t a blaming game between us, it was more of getting through it together.

What happened next?
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to get a second opinion, but I guess we were busy with work and when you’re in the grind of things, you don’t put your health as a priority. Eventually, my friend recommended a fertility specialist to me, since my old gynae wasn’t one. My new gynae was clear on the direction he was about to take. He first put my husband through a fertility test, which he was cleared from. For me, since medication wasn’t working, we decided to go for hormonal injectables, a pre-IVF procedure, to stimulate my ovaries to produce enough eggs. However, one of the side effects is hyper ovulation syndrome [when ovaries become swollen and painful, which I did get ― I was bloated like I was 6 months pregnant.


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Did it work?
Yes, we got pregnant on our first cycle, but it didn’t sink in first, since everything felt planned out. We planned when to have intercourse, when to do the pregnancy test and the scans to find out if I was pregnant. But at our five-week scan, the doctor said there was no baby yet, just the yolk sac. Being very practical, he said brace yourself, you never know, it just might not develop. So, I think that was when the reality sank in. We’d done the blood test, confirmed the pregnancy and gone for the scan. Now, there was a possibility that it might not actually happen. Then, we realised we would have to go through the entire cycle again, which was quite traumatic.

Must have taken an emotional toll on both of you. How did you guys handle it?
I just kept praying. On week six, I think my husband could feel I was very stressed about it, so instead of going for the scan, he brought me on a trip to Japan. He said, let’s give the baby more time to develop. At seven weeks, we saw her and heard her heartbeat and that changed everything for us.

Congratulations! What advice would you give to couples who are struggling to conceive?
Don’t give up. There are so many methods now days. For me, nine cycles of Clomid were unsuccessful, but just switching a doctor changed everything. So, it’s good to get a second opinion and just explore your options and persevere. At the end of the day, if it’s your desire to have a kid, nothing can stop you.

“Being very practical, he [the doctor] said brace yourself, you never know, it just might not develop.”

Only a few more weeks until you give birth. Do you have a birth plan in place?
I’m trying to go natural as much as possible. I’m still thinking if I should take the epidural or not. My girlfriends think I am crazy to even consider not to. At the end of the day, it also depends on the circumstance. If it’s a C-section, then so be it. Anything can happen.

What about preparations for baby? All done?
Not really [laughs]. I did some shopping for her in London when I was there recently to do some courses and have a girl’s trip. It was sort of like a last hurrah, something just for me before baby comes. It was nice.

Would you ever create a baby clothing line?
I haven’t thought about it yet. I think it’s very important to get the right fabric, the right composition and adhere to safety hazards. I really haven’t had time to research on all that yet. Maybe later on, after my daughter arrives.

What are you looking forward to most of all in your motherhood journey?
My relationship with my daughter. I think I’m really looking forward to that. I am close to my mum, but not as much as my other siblings because I moved out quite early and I’ve been quite independent since early on. But I do respect that although my mother is handicapped ― she had polio ― she still managed to have three kids though she has PCOS.
 

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What life lesson are you hoping to pass on to your daughter?
We saw our parents struggle to put us through school, not to give us a cushy life, but just to provide for us. My elder sister and I came out to work very early. Since our ‘O’ level days, we would always take up part-time jobs to help the family and make sure we were financially okay. So, I had a financial independence streak early on. This is definitely something I want to pass on to my daughter. Being so independent from young has its good and bad sides. One of the positive things is that we learn life lessons early as we go through all the different experiences.

You quit while studying at SIM to pursue your interest in fashion. Would you allow your daughter to do the same?
I wouldn’t tell her to quit school, but if that advances her life in a way that I can’t foresee right now, then I guess, yeah. It really depends.

“I wouldn’t tell her to quit school, but if that advances her life in a way that I can’t foresee right now, then I guess, yeah. It really depends.”

Your husband quit university as well didn’t he?
Yes, he initially went to the US to do his degree. That was the time I started my first company Bonito Chico and things were very hectic for me. It was quite a pivotal period. When he was away, we were already five years into our relationship. We’ve known each other since we were 17 years old and studying in ACJC.

At that point, I think he could see I really needed help and for that reason, he decided to leave school to help me. It was a big move, going overseas, settling down and then after one semester deciding to come back to help me with my business. I thought it was a really sweet move, I didn’t expect it and I didn’t want him to do that as well. But he insisted.

He really helped us tremendously to build Love, Bonito from Bonito Chico. Career-wise, that was his decision, but relationship-wise, it meant something to me and at that point I knew he was the one. Shortly after he came back, he brought me on my first trip to Europe and proposed to me in Paris, in a small garden next to the Eiffel Tower.

Sounds like the perfect love story. Are you both on the same page when it comes to parenting philosophies?

We don’t have clashing parenting philosophies, but we know our roles clearly. I’m quite a free spirit, so I think my husband will be the disciplinarian. Maybe if I had a boy, I would be stricter. Since it’s a girl, we’ll just go shopping together! [laughs].

Do you both want more kids?
Yes, we are hoping to have more. We’ve always wanted four, that’s why we got married early. But I think we will have one and see. It’s only after that that we will know realistically how many we will want!

*This interview was edited for clarity.

Main photo: Hong Chee Yan

Additional photos: Velda Tan's Instagram

Art direction: Rachel Lim
Assistance: Syahirah Maszaid
Styling: Ben Chin
Hair & make up: Angel Gwee, using RMK and Kevin Murphy

Silk shantung kimono, $799, by Sean & Sheila (available at Society A)
Leggings, model’s own. Bracelet, by Bimba Y Lola, slip-ons, by Charles & Keith

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