It was not easy for Mommy and me to bring you into our lives. It took us eight years to finally have you, our bouncy “Miracle Baby” whom we had longed for, a happy addition that made us the cute little family we are today.
There were three others before you.
We have never really spoken much about this to you but it is time for you to know how much your folks went through to start a family and the lessons learnt during that journey. So, focus and pay attention!
Into the first year and a half of our marriage, Mommy and I had our first pregnancy but two and a half months into it, we lost that kid. Although it was only a short gestation (the period Mommy was carrying the baby inside her), the loss was devastating.
After that, we felt it right to wait a while before attempting again to build our family.
About two years later, we decided to try again. This time, we discovered it was really challenging to conceive a child.
There were hits and misses along the way (pregnancy tests showing positive but a day or two later, negative). Then we finally got the good news.
Not just good news but after the first trimester (the first three months of pregnancy), the doctor told us to expect twins! Son, you could not have imagined our joy! Everyone around us was just overjoyed!
But your Daddy, despite being really happy at the prospect of having two kids, was then a younger and more ambitious man, eager and anxious to be the best provider he can be.
I worked really hard. I worked each day from early morning till late at night. I worked even on weekends. Not because I did not care about your Mommy, but because I was worried I could not get that promotion that would have put our family in a more financially comfortable position; too aware that soon, we will need to feed two extra mouths.
“What exactly happened and how she got there, I had no clue at that point.”
Image courtesy: Chris Henson
Your Mommy has always been – and even up to this day – supportive of everything I do. She has never ever blamed me or lost her patience. She has stood by me through thick and thin and Son, there were more “thin” or lean periods than good times. I took your Mommy’s understanding for granted and never considered how difficult or dangerous that period had been for her.
Mommy carried the twins for about five and a half months while still working. One day, I was busy in the office and I received a call from her. She was sobbing uncontrollably and incoherent, somewhat afraid – or reluctant – to tell me what the matter was.
Finally, she blurted: “I lost the babies.” I was dumbfounded for a moment. At that point, all that mattered to me was your Mommy. I drove to pick her up just outside Mount Elizabeth Hospital. What exactly happened and how she got there, I had no clue at that point.
But later, I found out Mommy was on her way to visit a client along Orchard Road. While alighting from the bus at Lucky Plaza, she felt faint. She looked down and saw she was bleeding profusely. She collapsed outside Lucky Plaza, half-conscious. No one stepped forward to help her until a tourist carried her to a clinic in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, dropped a few hundred dollars in cash with them, and went away.
When we lost the first child, the pain we endured was bad enough but when we lost the twins, there was a lot of anguish. The clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital that had attended to Mommy, told her there were no babies inside her. It was highly probable they were lost outside of her, except we did not know where. It was then I realised how inconsiderate and negligent I had been.
I had never accompanied her to see her obstetrician. I only saw the ultrasound of the twins once. I was always too busy and Mommy always left me to my work. She never wanted to add pressure on me and went for check-ups on her own. I did not even know when her scheduled check-ups were.
“I could not help but feel partly responsible for what your Mommy had gone through alone”
Image courtesy: iStock | Photograph is for representational purposes only.
I belittled the entire process, perhaps unintentionally and unconsciously. I failed to prioritise what was more important to me.
Son, I am not saying that even if I had held her hand throughout that journey, everything would have turned out all right. We both know now that no matter what, twin pregnancies were risky. Still, I could not help but feel partly responsible for what Mommy had gone through alone – throughout the few months when she had carried them, and throughout the ordeal when she had lost them.
I am telling you what had happened now so you can learn that no matter what happens, your family must always, always come first. Work ambitions and responsibilities must be maturely measured with those of your family’s. We fight on in life for our family more than for ourselves.
We do our level best to manage our bosses and our time to be there for the more important things in life – and that is family. What happened after this episode? Well, your Mommy lost her Daddy, just two months after we lost the twins.
Her pain that year was unimaginable but her strength, admirable. She never stopped us from continuing to plan for a family, despite it all. We were mindful of our fertility plans since, being practising Catholics, we wanted to stay away from In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). This was against the teachings of our faith.
This time, and every step of the way, I was there with Mommy. I participated. I held her hand. We experienced the disappointments but always joked about the years of not being able to conceive, despite all the crazy methods we tried, based on the advice of our doctor and well-meaning friends who had similar difficulties in conceiving.
One day, we decided that it did seem our lives would be spent together, just the two of us. We decided we will make ourselves happy for each other and build a home to grow old together in. We bought a mid-level floor, three-room apartment with a full view of the sea, from the bedrooms to the living room and balcony. We knocked down a room and this made for a larger living area and a huge walk-in wardrobe. Although we never stopped trying for a child, we did slow it down.
“We both knelt and prayed to St. Catherine that we would have a child.”
Then came the Paris-UK trip. The weekend prior to leaving town, we were invited to dinner by our favourite priest, Friar Clifford Augustine, with the other Franciscan Friars of The Friary at The Church of St. Mary of The Angels. After dinner, the Friars prayed over us; Friar Clifford specifically prayed that one day, we will have a child.
Well, off we went to Paris. For some strange reason, we decided to conduct our own personal pilgrimage. We had heard so much about the Church of The Miraculous Medal where Mother Mary had appeared to St. Catherine Laboure. After a few hours of traipsing around quite a large area of Rue du Bac, we found it! The church was closed for cleaning for a few hours, so we sat on the curb munching on sandwiches.
That was when we were mugged by homeless people. It did not matter to us because, after all, they were homeless people. Remember our last trip to Oslo and what the three of us did on Christmas Day? We cooked hot food and went into town to give it to a homeless person. We did our best to teach you that giving to those most in need is what Christmas is all about. So perhaps “mugged” is the wrong word here but they certainly did not beg or ask.
When the church doors opened, we went to the main church and saw two saints lying uncorrupted (their bodies never decomposed and that is one criterion the Catholic Church uses to decide if a person should be canonised). We both knelt and prayed to St. Catherine that we would have a child.
When we got home from Europe, we went about our daily lives but one day the following week, Mommy told me to come home early because she had something to tell me.
When I arrived home, she held up a pregnancy test kit and asked me to confirm what she had seen. By this time, Son, we were so experienced in this that we took every pregnancy test lightly. I checked the kit and it showed positive.
“There was this bright, fast-blinking, strobe light on that screen! That was your heart beating, Son!”
Image courtesy: iStock | Photograph is for representational purposes only.
Your Mommy, being the person that she is, whipped up another pregnancy test kit. Again, it showed she was positively pregnant. After a few false alarms, we remained cynical but still arranged to see the gynaecologist the following week.
This time, I made sure I was there with Mommy. We peered at the ultrasound screen and suddenly, I saw the most remarkable thing – a memory that will last with me forever. There was this bright, fast-blinking, strobe light on that screen! That was your heart beating, Son! It was so beautiful, so remarkable. I then knew that life begins with the heart. You are that heart. The beautiful child you are now is that heart. I saw it. I knew you since you were just that heart beating brightly and strongly. I have loved you since then.
Well, overjoyed and way over the moon at that point, we both knew the risks involved. This certainly was not our first rodeo but deep inside us, we somehow knew you will be okay. Maybe we know you are a miracle, a gift from God in answer to our prayers and for keeping faith with Him.
We live in love, hope and faith. It is difficult, sometimes seemingly insurmountable but that is perseverance and discipline, Son. You are a product of all that. Love, Faith, Hope, Charity, Perseverance and Discipline.
Mommy and I had a wonderful time when she was carrying you. We attended every check-up together. We went for a prenatal course each weekend, excited and anxious about how we should take care of our baby. I watched and remembered each time we saw during the ultrasound scan how you developed and grew.
In fact, Mommy got so big with you that she could not even see her feet! You were a strain on her back and her feet swelled for months. But she took everything in her stride and was always smiling, never complaining.
Then came that day!
It was five weeks prior to the day you were supposed to arrive when I received a call from Mommy’s colleague that Mommy was in labour. I picked her up from her office and drove her to the hospital. We were calm and quietly excited. So, we waited. And waited. Nothing happened. It was about 2pm.
“Always, always love and honour your Mommy”
By about 5pm, the doctor said she had to induce labour and manually break Mommy’s water bag. They had to insert an instrument that looked like a shoe horn. That was painful. And yet, you stubborn little fella, you refused to pop!
To cut a long story short, you put Mommy through 36 hours of labour! She decided to have you naturally and refused to have you cut out of her. And your Daddy was there every step of the way. I saw the top of your head and your little tufts of hair as you came out. I cut your umbilical cord with so much pride and was never squeamish about it. Mommy wanted to go through the entire birthing process, bearing the crazy pain and believe me, it was super-duper painful.
This is why I am telling you this story. Always, always love and honour your Mommy. My Daddy (your Grandpa) had told me the same thing. Our faith teaches this too. So, every time you get angry at Mommy for whatever stupid reason–now or over the years as you grow up – read this account again!
One day, you will meet a girl you will love and marry. Remember, after marriage, it is no longer just about you! It is about two! You have to learn acceptance, tolerance and patience because that is what love is.
You have to honour your wife. You have to respect her and more so, when she becomes the mother of your children! I made a promise to my wife, your Mommy, I will raise our children to love and honour their mother.
I also told her she must respect the fact I have my duty to fulfill as a son and a brother to my own mother (your Mama) and sister (your Godma). But my wife must come first and even Mama taught me that. When you are old enough and when that time arrives, remember these things.
This is what makes a man. A real man.
Image courtesy: Chris Henson
On that note, just these last few things I want to leave you with. A real man. Exactly what is that?
- A real man cries and is not ashamed of it.
- A real man can be gentle and kind. Your heart is a light, remember?
- A real man reaches out to those who need him most and to those who cannot help themselves. You are their hero.
- A real man can be scared and afraid. There is wisdom in fear and in understanding fear, you will find wisdom.
- A real man understands and appreciates diligence and hard work.
- A real man manages each day that brings different trials, as best as he can and knowing that his best is all that he can give at any given point in time. Don’t punish yourself unnecessarily but push yourself as far as you can go.
- Effort is limitless. You will earn the respect of those around you just because of your efforts, regardless of the results, because a real man is indefatigable.
- A real man loves his folks, his family and his friends.
- A real man fears God. A real man loves God. God put you here for us. You are a testament to your parents that God exists and that God truly loves.
- A real man stays with one woman. More than one complicates life and things get really messy! You don’t want the mess! Life is complicated as it is. So be a one-woman man!
- A real man does not need to turn to alcohol or vice to be a man. These are for idiots and you are no idiot!
- A real man does his best to be fit and healthy because he needs it to play with his grandchildren eventually.
- And that is it, Son! My Monkey and A Half! My Boy! The Apple of My Eye! Always remember that my heart beats with yours. I will always love you. Oh, and um… Glory, Glory, Man United!
Written by: Chris Henson who is a veteran in both the entertainment world and the financial services industry. He is an emcee, a voice artiste, a singer, an actor, a vocals and emcee trainer; a podcaster for Happy TV Singapore’s chat shows, Kopi With Chris and In Our Humble Opinion. Chris is also Singapore’s premier Elvis performer and has been featured on City Beat on Channel 8. Chris has acted in local TV shows such as PCK Pte Ltd, Triple 9, Shiver and The Donny Lee Show. He has also voiced numerous commercials, including the Hugo Boss commercial featuring Joseph Schooling.
Chris is also an agency leader for a prominent life insurer in a career spanning almost 30 years. He is a proud Dad and proudly Singaporean.
This letter was first published in Letter to My Son, edited by Felix Cheong and published by Marshall Cavendish.
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