'I Am 18. I Am A Single Mum In Singapore. This Is My Story.'
"This took me a lot of courage to write, but I hope it inspires/helps someone out there who's struggling with teen pregnancy or single parenthood..."
"My mum asked me, "Are you pregnant?"
"I nodded my head."
"She asked me who the father was. I told her that I didn't know for sure."
This is the story of how Jena Lxy became a mum. A single mum at 18.
Before judging or shaming her though, you might want to read her story. How she fought her battles on her own is truly inspiring.
"This took me a lot of courage to write, but I hope it inspires/helps someone out there who's struggling with teen pregnancy or single parenthood", Jena writes on her blog.
Jena reveals how it all started, "Back in December 2015, I was having a really difficult time managing my school assignments and stress coming from home."
"All I desperately wanted was a break from my responsibilities - to be away from project deadlines and family drama..."
"Around the time that I conceived Gordon, I had sex with two guys - let's just name them A and B - about a week or two apart. To keep things short, I was with A right after my menstrual period ended and B nearer to my estimated ovulation period."
She confesses that she loved A, even though he probably didn't love her back. As for B, he was an online friend, who treated her more like a welcome distraction.
Anyway, when she missed her period, her mum was the first to get suspicious.
"I don't keep track of my periods so I didn't notice until then."
"A few days later, I bought a pregnancy test kit from Guardian at Yew Tee MRT - and I was so apprehensive that I took the train all the way to Jurong East and walked several rounds around JEM before I mustered the courage to get it tested."
Jena finally found the courage to do the test, and the result was a dark, clear line. She was engulfed by a strange sense of happiness.
"To be honest, I was happy and excited at first - and I immediately took a photo and sent it to one of my friends whom I knew I could trust and wouldn't judge me. I then sat in the washroom thinking about what to do next, fear then set in on how I should tell my parents about it."
Jena decided to keep things a secret.
"This happened before my final examinations for that school year, so I kept it quiet and sat for my papers - I have stomach trouble since young, so most people thought that my morning sickness was just my stomach being unwell."
"I went on with life as per normal, except that I started taking note of things I shouldn't be eating/doing while pregnant."
She finally decided to break the news to her mum.
"I didn't know what to say or how to start, but my mum sort of knew so she asked if I had anything to tell her - and I just burst out in tears."
"After not speaking for some time, my mum finally asked "Are you pregnant?" and I nodded my head. I've never seen my mum react that way before, she started tearing up and looked lost while staring at me."
"After spacing out for a bit, she asked me who the father was and how I knew - I told her that I didn't know for sure and that I took a pregnancy test a few weeks ago." It was then that my mum called my dad (who was driving night shift) back home while I just sat there crying.
"My dad came home and he started asking what happened. I just continued crying until my mum spilled the beans. Instead of yelling or hitting me, my dad sat down beside me and gave me a big hug - I just snuggled tight and burst out crying even louder, my parents hadn't hugged me for many years before this happened."
Jena's father was furious with A and B. "He decided to call them up to "scare" them, hoping they won't do it to someone else."
"My dad tried calling A, but he didn't pick up. He was busy with work, and he didn't answer unknown calls so he didn't know that it was my dad who called him."
"When my dad called B, he picked up and my dad put him on speaker phone - B then proceeded to defend himself saying it was mutually agreed upon, and said that I should just abort because "he didn't want to ruin his future"."
"Those were the exact words he said, and also the moment where I thought, "I don't need a guy like you.""
That's also when Jena decided to become a single parent.
Becoming a teen mum in Singapore
Her parents though, wanted her to abort the baby.
"After those calls, I told my parents that I wanted to keep Gordon(her baby) because I loved children and didn't see a reason why he should be punished for something I did wrong."
"However, my parents were adamant about me not keeping because they didn't want me to carry that burden - and so, we went into a cold war for the next few days."
Things changed at their first visit to the gynaecologist, "We heard Gordon's heartbeat -it was then that my mum softened her heart and said that we cannot abandon a life. Seeing that tiny blob on screen and hearing Gordon's heartbeat made reality sink in."
"I was about 6 and a half weeks pregnant then."
Jena had a tough first trimester, and it meant that she had to miss out on normal school girl things.
"My morning sickness and blood deficiency made things so bad for me in the first trimester that I made a tough decision to take a year off from school to focus on having Gordon and looking after him."
"It also meant that I wasn't able to do my final year with my friends or graduate with them."
There were more hurdles in her pregnancy than she had anticipated.
"The first hurdle was early on because I have a blood deficiency disorder called Thalassemia Minor (or some would know it as Mediterranean anemia or 地中海贫血)."
"It generally doesn't cause much of an issue, but when it comes to having children, it could be life-threatening to the baby if my partner has it too. The problem was I couldn't get Gordon's father (whoever it may be) to do a blood test, so we just went ahead with one ourselves - thankfully it came out okay, and everything was well!"
"In my second trimester, things got a little better as morning sickness started to spare me. But I still had trouble leaving home because I'd feel faint easily and didn't have anyone with me."
"What I'd do is bring a small backpack with my water bottle, some sweets, a packet of fruit juice/Ribena, light snacks, an umbrella and some plastic bags in case I do throw up. As with all pregnant women, I also started to "protect" myself a lot so my hands were almost 24/7 around/in front of my bump."
"Our second hurdle came in when we had to do a 20-weeks OSCAR scan."
"If you don't know what that is, it's basically an ultrasound to see whether the baby is developing well.One of my tests showed that there was a 1/1000+ risk that Gordon may have had Down Syndrome."
It was totally okay with me because I would still have had Gordon even if he did, but my parents were worried about the physical and financial burden it would have had on me."
"So we did a $1000+ test to verify. The results that came back with only a 19% possibility, and also confirmed that I was having a boy!
Her pregnancy also made Jena realise that things would get tough if she didn't plan ahead. Especially since she had to raise her baby on her own.
"I realized I would never have been able to do it with my savings, so I started reaching out for help."
"I looked for sample sizes of products like baby wash, lotion and diapers, and started asking around if people were willing to give them to me so I could spend on other more important things instead - and I was surprised by how many people who were willing to help."
She even managed to get some hand-me-down items like clothes and carriers.
"By the end of my second trimester, I had everything I needed for Gordon's arrival until he was around 3 months old."
Jena realised that the world would be a better place if more people helped each other.
"Having that extra time on my hands, I also started helping others the same way others helped me."
She initiated various campaigns for needy people. For instance, she helped a family with 5 children prepare for a new school year.
The social stigma of being a teen mum in Singapore
As expected, society has been far from kind to Jena.
"One of the worst things about being a teenage, single mother in Singapore is the social stigma that most people have."
"It's almost like a taboo to talk about being a single parent or having a child before marriage, and people judge no matter the decision you make!"
"If you decide to abort a child, people call you out for being irresponsible and a "baby killer". If you decide to keep your child, people say it's a shotgun marriage and that you should know better. And if you decide to raise your child alone, people say you are a disgrace to the family and will never find a partner."
"It took me a while to get used to it, my own parents didn't even tell my relatives until much later - or even two weeks before I'm due. Times have changed, so if you're still judging a young/single parent for being "naive" or a "disgrace" - please stop."
"We don't ask for your pity or sympathy, but just your respect and acknowledgement that we are just like other parents - and be glad that we chose life. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all - that's all we ask for."
Thankful for support system
Jena is thankful for her solid support system.
"I'm fortunate that my parents were supportive of me throughout my pregnancy. They were there for every appointment, they stopped working a month before I was due, they helped with the hospital expenses and they never kicked me out of the house."
"Becoming a mother made me understand many things that my parents did, which I didn't before - it also made our relationship better because we started talking things out instead of slamming doors at each other."
"I couldn't be more grateful or appreciative about the friends that I've made in polytechnic - they were shocked to find out about it but they didn't judge me."
"On Gordon's full month celebration, my classmates even came together and raised over $500 in cash as a red packet blessing for us."
"I was moved to tears and just sat there crying my heart out because I had no source of income and we weren't well-to-do."
Life as a teen mum in Singapore
As a single mum at 18, it would have been easy for Jena to give up and get frustrated. But she knew that she had a responsibility to fulfill for the life she had chosen.
"When people ask whether I have any regrets, they usually expect to hear me say that I regret being a mother at this age, or I regret having Gordon. But my two biggest regrets have nothing to do with that."
"My first biggest regret is not attending my friends' graduation ceremony. My second regret is not taking more photos during pregnancy."
"After giving birth to Gordon, I spent about 6 months looking after him at home and I was writing notes for some friends at school so I could pick up some knowledge while preparing for school."
"Then I finished my final semester in school under an entrepreneurship program in school called SPiNOFF before ending off my polytechnic studies with an internship at Airfrov as a web developer intern."
"Right now, I'm doing several adhoc/remote jobs to help with family expenses while preparing to send Gordon to childcare in October. I have plans to find a full-time job once he settles down (he can be a cranky Mummy's boy when he's sick/frustrated)."
Here's wishing this mummy and baby much love and happiness! :)