Giving birth at an older age — through heightened risks and fertility treatments — can be a difficult process for anyone. Veteran actress and getai star Liu Lingling knows the challenges all too well, having gone through eight unsuccessful in-vitro fertilisation procedures and one miscarriage before giving birth to her son Caleb in 2013.
On the latest episode of the meWATCH talk show Hear U Out, the 59-year-old shared about her first pregnancy from artificial insemination.
“My first attempt was successful, but I miscarried shortly after at six weeks — the child’s heart stopped beating,” she told host Quan Yi Fong.
“It so happened that it was the seventh lunar month,” Liu Lingling said, adding that she was doing getai performances at the time. “That night was the most painful time in my life.”
Despite her dancers’ concerns that she appeared “as white as a sheet,” it seems that Lingling might not have known she was pregnant as she initially reckoned she was on her period or had “eaten something wrong” and continued with the performance.
She recalled: “At such a difficult time, I had to crack jokes and perform on stage. It was an incredibly complicated feeling.”
Not one to give up, Liu Lingling tried once again, despite concerns from her doctors and even her husband.
She revealed that her unlikely ally in the decision-making process was local director Royston Tan, who told her: “Hasn’t this always been your dream? You can do it, go for it!”
The two worked together in the movies 881 and 12 Lotus.
This time, the pregnancy was kept a secret from everyone including her own mother. Having read up on pregnancies for the past two years, Lingling even used her knowledge to avoid “making any movements typical to pregnant women”.
When fellow getai singer and actor Wang Lei asked her if she was pregnant, Lingling’s response was: “Pregnant, my foot! I’m not pregnant, I only have haemorrhoids.”
While she kept her pregnancy hidden, Lingling didn’t pause her career either.
“I had to get up at 5am to film for a movie every day and the filming went on until 5pm or later,” she recalled. “I’d take a nap in the car and proceed to my getai events 15 minutes later.”
Unfortunately for Lingling, the secrecy didn’t end with Caleb’s birth in 2013, as the protective mother kept her son away from the public eye for the first five years of his life.
She feared that her husband, who had struggled with debts, might have had enemies who would want to harm the child, and did not reveal he was Caleb’s biological father until 2018.
“I had to protect him and give him a chance to grow up healthily,” she said. “After those five years, I observed that everyone had matured and the timing was right — there was no more danger in introducing him.”
It was only in March 2022 that the whole family appeared on TV together, with Caleb and his dad participating on the Channel 8 game show Dad, I’ve Got Your Back, and proud mum Lingling cheering on from the sidelines.