Last week, I met up with Jani Combrink, founder of Stork’s Nest Singapore, a Facebook support group for mothers and families with over 1,160 members. An affable and candid lady, Jani kindly shared about her life, her work, and lessons she has learnt as a mother.
Read on to find out about Jani’ Combrink’s journey to becoming a lactation consultant at Mother and Child.
The lactation expert
Born and raised in South Africa, Jani Combrink worked as a registered nurse and as a midwife before moving to Singapore with her family. Jani is now a lactation consultant with Mother and Child, which was a job offer that came as a fortunate stroke of serendipity during a consultation she attended at the clinic to address her lactation concerns. However, she did not take the job at Mother and Child immediately because she had just given birth to her third child 11 days ago.
When Jani finally accepted the offer from Mother and Child, she felt that she was not qualified enough, two days into the job. This propelled her to study hard and squeeze a five-year course in a space of 15 months, in order to get herself certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Such was, and still is, her determination to be the best that she can be.
What was interesting was that Jani had never wanted to work with children. That fact has changed, now that she has worked with Mother and Child for more than three years. One could tell from the way she talked about her job that she loves doing what she does with a fierce passion. And this was what led her to set up Stork’s Nest Singapore in 2012.
The story behind Stork’s Nest Singapore (Photo: Stork’s Nest SIngapore’s Facebook page)
Stork’s Nest Singapore: A warm nest of support for mothers
Jani is a firm believer in the effectiveness of the lactation techniques that she studied as an IBCLC. Because of her subscription to the ideas she learnt, she wanted to share them with her fellow mummy friends. Jani joked that she must have “lost quite a few friends because of all the baby and boob posts” that she shared on her personal Facebook wall.
To Jani, Stork’s Nest is also an avenue where she can find support for herself as a mother. Before setting up the group, she “felt very adrift”, being away from her extended family members and relatives in a foreign land.
In order to help other mothers going through similar situations, she created Stork’s Nest Singapore and started out with only 20 members. It has grown to 1,160 members within a year, despite the fact that it is a closed and non-profit group which has not been publicised.
To my surprise, and maybe yours, the group helps not just expat mums, but local mummies too. According to Jani, Singaporeans make up 40% of the group.
What’s unique about this group is that mothers can seek immediate and timely advice from fellow members, many of whom are experts working in related fields, such as psychologists, lactation consultants, paediatricians, mid-wives and speech therapists.
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Jani’s boys: Harry – 7 and a half (top), Benjamin – 6 (left), Adam who’s almost 4 (right) and her husband.
On motherhood and living in Singapore
On top of juggling work and Stork’s Nest, Jani is the proud mother of three boisterous boys, Harry, Benjamin and Adam. It was amazing to hear her story on how she conceived all three of them. Jani shared that she had fertility issues because of a medical condition and had to undergo treatment to conceive her eldest child.
When Harry was seven months old, she became pregnant with Benjamin, which by her own words, was a miracle “against all the odds”. To conceive another child was beyond Jani’s imagination and it happened the third time with Adam, her youngest son.
She believes that the boys are a blessing to her and calls motherhood “an education” and “an exercise of humility”. “Just when you think you know what you’re doing, you realise you don’t”, she quips.
Jani tells me that she used to have big ambitions about what she wants to do in life but motherhood has changed her perspective on many things. She has learnt that it is okay not to be perfect and to stop comparing herself to others. Being a mother “forces you to become the person you want to be”, she says, with much wisdom and truth. Instead of her previous goals, now she just wants “to be the best [she] can be at what [she] can do” for her boys.
The boys playing outdoors
For for the past seven years, Jani and her family have been residing in Singapore, which has always been a place that they have wanted to live in. All five of them have become permanent residents and are happy to call Singapore their home. Jani’s husband has been trying to convince her about taking on citizenship but one thing that is deterring this next step is the concern she has with her children’s education.
Jani on what motherhood taught her: “It forces you to become the person you want to be.”
Don’t get me wrong, Jani believes that our education system is one of the best in the world. She recognises that the government has taken steps to invest in sports and arts schools for the next generation but feels that the system is still too academic-centric, which is a concern that many other parents have too.
Influence and inspire
Jani hopes for Stork’s Nest Singapore to continue to “empower parents to make informed decisions and to offer support to all members”. When asked about where she sees the group in the next five years, Jani replied, “I would love for Stork’s Nest to be bigger, without losing its intimacy… and respect between members.”
In addition to sharing of information online, members of the group have organised fundraising events and, most recently, participated in the Big Latch On. This is something that Jani wishes for Stork’s Nest to do more of, to “support charities… give the members opportunities to give back. Not necessarily financially, but with time.”
One more goal that Jani has for Stork’s Nest Singapore is to influence other similar support groups and inspire the start of more support groups, be it for parents or to address specific issues such as breastfeeding and more.
Jani is such an inspiring mother and it was great to hear her stories. Share with us what you think of the interview below and join Stork’s Nest Singapore if you would like to seek parenting advice from Jani and fellow parents!
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