Up close and personal with new mum, Tin Pei Ling

We chat with Ms. Tin Pei Ling in an exclusive interview about her journey as a new mum, mummy's guilt and how she plans to juggle family and work.

Tin Pei Ling, working mum in Singapore

Our privileged chat over coffee with new mum, Ms. Tin Pei Ling.

Becoming a new mother is the beginning of a lifelong chapter, whether you are a public figure or not.

theAsianparent had the pleasure of chatting with Member of Parliament, Ms. Tin Pei Ling, who recently welcomed her baby boy, Ng Kee Hau, on 5 August 2015. Ms. Tin represents the MacPherson ward.

While she took time off her confinement period (the first month after delivery where mothers are supposed to recuperate and bond with their newborn) for this interview, it seems that she is already up and about due to her work commitments.

We caught up with her to find out how the past three weeks have been for her as a new mum.

This is the first installation of a two-part interview series, and has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Hello, Ms. Tin. Thank you for taking time to meet with us. How has motherhood been for you?

Hello. It’s been a beautiful journey spending time with my baby. I’ve been learning to understand what he needs when he cries, breastfeeding him, and picking up tips from the confinement nanny like how to bathe him.

What was your labour like? 

I first experienced some contractions in the afternoon of 4 Aug, and I was trying to be garang (tough) and didn’t want any epidural. I wanted minimal intervention, as some people have shared that there might be repercussions when I get older. I also wanted to recover quickly because there was speculation that the General Elections (GE) was around the corner.

Two hours after contractions started, though, I opted for epidural as the pain was too much. I initially used the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine and I even tried the laughing gas for pain management, but I could not tahan (bear it/tolerate it). They eventually found an anesthetist who administered the epidural, which certainly helped with the pain.

The contractions continued past midnight and it was already in the wee hours of 5 August. After an hour and a half of pushing, I was just too tired. So in the end we used the suction vacuum and fairly soon after I pushed, the baby was born, 12 hours after labour started!

I insisted on skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible and baby was on me for about an hour.

Was your husband, Mr. Ng How Yue in the labour ward with you? How did you feel when you first saw your baby?

Yes, hubby was in the labour room. In the beginning, he wasn’t so sure what he needed to do, but towards the end he was the cheerleader. He would tell me, “Coming, I can see it!” We attended prenatal class, so there was some sort of prep, but until the actual day, nobody knew what really happens in childbirth.

He cut the umbilical cord and there was a lot of blood after delivery – all was good.  He did not cry; he does not usually get too emotional as he’s generally quite cool.

The first moment I saw my son, I was relieved that he’s safely out. I was also really very exhausted. There was also an overwhelming emotion – and I thought to myself “this is my son”. He’s finally here, right in front of me, on me. He was 3.56 kg and I could feel the weight – it was like this is real. I felt a sense of achievement at that point.

Did you have a birth plan?

We did actually! But in the end it was I who could not follow it.

For example, I indicated that I did not want to have an epidural and an episiotomy. But in the end, I requested for those. I respect those who did not take epidural, but don’t know how they take it. I don’t know how they tahan.

Find out how Ms. Tin Pei Ling is adjusting into her new role and what made her tear up…

tin pei ling, working mum in Singapore

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, visiting baby Kee Hau and mummy Tin Pei Ling. Source: Channel NewsAsia

Did you bank your baby’s cord blood?

Yes, we did. Initially we were not sure if it would be possible as we wanted to have delayed clamping. We wanted to make sure that he has a good start.

Thankfully there was enough blood volume so we managed to bank it in. We informed the doctor to practice delayed clamping and he did so for a minute.

Are you currently breastfeeding?

Yes, but I started expressing too as I’ve been out of the house. Demand is going to outstrip my supply. Normally the volume is enough, but frequency is just too high.

His feed cycle ranges from one hour to three hours. Sometimes, he does not drink everything at one go. When he is in the mood or when he is really hungry, he will finish the bottle very quickly or suckle for a long time.

We have a confinement lady to help. It is not even one month yet and I would have loved to be with him to take care of him and spend more time together.

Currently, the confinement nanny takes the night shift as it can get really tiring for both my husband and I, as we have to work the next day.

We feel bad to take time away from him, especially that he’s only weeks old. We would have liked to spend time for one or two months… mummy’s guilt…

(Pauses. At this moment, Ms. Tin’s eyes welled up with tears)

Will you regret not spending the time with him?

I might regret this, but you have to do what you have to do.

For me, I know that the GE is really important. It’s about Singapore; it’s about forming a government. I have been in MacPherson for more than four years. There will always be an emotional attachment there, so I can’t just let it go.

If we lose because we don’t do enough, then that would be a shame. So because of the seriousness of a GE, I would have to do my best for it.

For my son, thankfully I have my husband’s help and support. He has been making sure that logistically what needs to be done is done – he helps to wash, sterilise my breast pump and spends time with the baby.

Sometimes he helps to feed the baby, too. He enjoys being with him and I can tell because every morning before he goes to work, he will spend time with the baby, trying to make him laugh. He’s a hands-on dad.

Have you been sticking to traditional confinement practices so far?

Well, the fact that I’m here tells you that I have already broken the rules. (Laughs)

And, I cannot stand not washing my hair! If I go campaigning without washing my hair, it would not be very helpful. For diet, I’ve been taking confinement food as I believe it helps the mother’s body recuperate after childbirth. As for bathing, I’ve been doing so with those herbal baths.

Ms. Tin Pei Ling shares memorable advice from the heartwarming MacPherson residents and her hopes for little Kee Hau’s future. Find out what she says on the next page.

tin pei ling, working mum in Singapore

Baby Kee Hau in the arms of his 99 year old great-grandmother – 100 years apart! Source: Tin Pei Ling Facebook

When you return to work, what will your son’s care-giver arrangement be?

I am considered officially back to work. I would have actually taken a longer break if circumstances were different. I don’t want to give other new mothers the pressure though; the kind of signal I am sending – (however) the GE is such an important event – it’s a sense of duty to do my best. For now it’s an exception.

As for child-giver arrangements, we’ll have a helper and look to our family members for support. It’s quite challenging for our parents as we have to take into consideration their age, health and physical fitness.

Child care may be an option too, and there are other kids he can socialise with.

I hope that there will be enough child care centres. I have been and will continue speaking up about child care centres even in mature estates, as there are also young families in those areas.

Outside of parliament I have been lobbying for more child care centres too, and we are happy to secure one at the new Build-to-order flats (BTO) at MacPherson. If everything is smooth, this will happen sometime next year.

During your walkabouts when you were pregnant, did you make any “mummy friends”? Were there any memorable reactions?

Yes, many mummies were excited to share their tips about kids and what to expect. Some pregnant mummies and I took baby bump to baby bump photos too!

Nothing feels awkward anymore – when we were trying for a kid, we would get unsolicited and well-meaning conception advice too.

They have been very kind, warm and welcoming. There is a certain connection in that shared experience. They have been sending me their well wishes and they have also sent me handwritten cards after I popped.

I remember this old aunty with walking difficulties, who made an effort to pass cards to the volunteers to pass to me. It’s very heartwarming.

There is a human spirit in MacPherson; it’s a wonderful community. There is a strong local flavor and “人情味” (human touch), which is very similar to the kind of feeling in the housing estate I grew up in.

What are some of your hopes and dreams for your son?

I hope that he will be happy and healthy, that he will succeed in whatever he chooses. I won’t prescribe what path he should go on.

It is important for us to build and shape a future conducive for him and his peers. The responsibility is on us. You won’t know what their strengths or weaknesses are. I can’t foretell the future but we can try to create an environment for him to thrive. Every child deserves a good shot to be successful and happy.

So how did the both of you decide on his name?

We wanted to have a meaningful name for him and “Kee Hau” means good blessings and righteousness and integrity.

We also went to the fortune teller so our son’s name is a mix of our short-listed option and from the fortune teller.

Ms. Tin Pei Ling admits to the struggles of a working mum, and hopes more can be done to support them. Find out what she thinks mums need the most.

Tin Pei Ling, working mum in Singapore

Tin Pei Ling, back at work and spending time with her residents. Source: Tin Pei Ling Facebook

What are some of our Asian values that you hope to impart to your child?

Collectiveness is important; not to focus on success at the cost of others.

We hope our baby and his peers will embrace compassion, as life without compassion is worthless. If one has no regard for others, that would be cold, meaningless and selfish.

In your opinion, how do you think working mums can balance their careers and family life?

After being a mother, I understand how working mums feel. Family support and social support are very important when it comes to helping working mums balance family and work.

Encouragement from friends, husbands and the general public will be helpful too. I hope new mums can get support from people around them so they can easily get back into the groove.

How have your personal friends taken to your new role as a mother?

I have quite a few friends who became mothers themselves recently too, and our conversations have since evolved.

During our school days, we used to talk about boy-girl relationship, our ambitions and careers, and now it’s motherhood. They share their tips with me too.

A fellow colleague, Ms. Chan Hui Yuh, wasn’t being fielded as a People’s Action Party candidate for the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency, due to family commitments to her two young children. Do you think your job will be affected as a mum? How will you manage it?

I do have worries that I may miss out on key milestones, but I hope that my kid will grow up to understand the importance of good Government, why we need to set a good foundation for future generations.

We need more women representatives in what we do. We see progress in what we champion, and more women with more powerful voices are needed to help women in a stronger way.

As a new mother, I’m still learning to balance family and work but I believe that I can do it.

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It’s been a wonderful chat with Ms. Tin Pei Ling to understand her thoughts as a new mother, as well as the dilemma and struggles of a working mum.

In our second installation of this two-part interview series, we curate our interview session with Ms. Tin Pei Ling on her work, and what her plans are for the upcoming GE campaigns. Stay tuned!

Are you a working mum struggling to balance family and work too? Do share some tips on how you manage to find the right balance!