Being a new mom is tough in peacetime, but during a pandemic, it’s downright terrifying. Three new mothers from City Harvest Church share their ordeals.
“Having a baby during the pandemic was difficult and traumatic,” says Eftwati Tjang. “Sometimes when I think back on that Circuit Breaker period, I feel nauseated all over again. Thank God that we survived that period—it was truly by the grace of God.”
Efiwati, City Harvest Church’s finance manager, is a mother of three. She discovered she was pregnant with her third child at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We didn’t really think so much about it as we didn’t know what to expect or how long COVID would last,” she recalls.
FIRST TRIMESTER IN A LOCKDOWN
“The most difficult period for us was in my first trimester,” she shares. “That was the time Singapore went into Circuit Breaker. The childcare centre was closed, and my two boys (4 and 2 then) were home the whole day for many weeks.”
With both Efiwati and her husband Wesley working from home, the house soon felt too crowded. “I was having bad morning sickness, loss of appetite and tiredness due to the pregnancy. We needed to juggle between our heavy office workload, household chores, buying and preparing food and taking care of our two active boys,” she describes. “There was no place to go—even the neighbourhood playgrounds were all closed. It was challenging for everyone to be home the whole day all the time.”
Another downside of being pregnant during the pandemic was the lack of physical connection Efiwati with friends and family. “During my first two pregnancies, my friends and colleagues got to witness my tummy growing bigger each day. We could attend weekend services and cell group meetings regularly so even when the boys were in the womb, they got to ‘experience’ the vibrant praise and worship in church,” she explains.
“After they were born, we brought them to cell group meetings and church services after the first month, so they experienced life with the cell group members and in the church nursery. Our friends in the cell group would play with them during fellowship and we would go out every week,” Efiwati reminisces.
Her third child, a girl, has only met Efiwati’s cell group a few times, and she has never had the chance to play in the nursery in church. “I hope everything will be back to normal soon so that we can bring her to church soon!” says Efiwati.
LEARNING THE ROPES WITHOUT HELP
While Efiwati’s struggles were during pregnancy, Marcella Deviani felt the stress after she gave birth. Becoming a mother for the first time, there were many things that came as a surprise to Marcella.
“When the Singapore government closed the border due to COVID-19 situation, my husband and I surrendered it all to God,” she says. Marcella and her husband Vincent are both Indonesian and have no family in Singapore.
“My mother-in-law was supposed to come to help us after the birth of our daughter, but all those plans had to be cancelled,” she adds.
Marcella and Vincent tried their best to prepare all the necessities for their baby and equip themselves with the basic skills of baby care. But when the time came for them to step into the role of parent, they found themselves still unprepared.
The first hurdle came when, just a few days after bringing their baby Ciana home, they discovered she had a reflux issue. “One day at dawn, when I woke up to feed Ciana, I found her in her crib with milk coming out of her nose. Her face was red,” relates Marcella. “We rushed her to hospital. I was shaking as I carried her.”
Because of the Circuit Breaker, the emergency room only allowed one parent to accompany the patient. “As a first-time parent, it was challenging for me to be in that situation. I had to take care of all the hospital administration by myself while carrying the baby—all without panicking,” Marcella remembers.
Thankfully, Ciana’s condition was not serious and she could go home later that day.
The Circuit Breaker also meant that the couple could not have visitors in the house, so they could not hire any house-cleaning or postpartum home services. “It was really an exhausting time for me and my husband, we were so stretched physically and mentally,” she says.
Like many new moms, Marcella was shocked to discover that looking after her baby did not come naturally to her. “I thought I would have the instinct to take care of our baby, but that did not happen to me,” she admits. “The postpartum pain only made things harder.”
It was a tough period for the new mother. “My parents and some of my friends advised me to take care of my body and rest but I could not have proper rest because I needed to take care of the baby,” she says.
All these things took a toll on Marcella and she soon developed baby blues. “I cried so much during the first few weeks of Ciana’s arrival. There were days when I did not want to see my baby at all, and I even had thoughts of jumping off the balcony. It might sound exaggerated, but that happened to me. I did not know why; it could have been because of the hormonal changes in my body, and the overwhelming responsibilities we had to face at that time.”
Her husband became her knight in shining armour. “He was always there, giving his best for me and our baby. He even did household chores that he had never done before!” she marvels.
God was with the couple through it all, says Marcella. “Despite all the challenges, I really thank God for my husband, for getting out of his comfort zone and being a great support for me at all times. I also thank God for many friends who showed me their love by giving advice, tutorials or simply cheered me up when I found it difficult to care for Ciana. A close church friend even went the extra mile, helping me many times during that tough period. I’m also thankful for my pastor who lovingly counselled me with Godly wisdom when I struggled with baby blues.”
She adds, “There were many other challenges in that period, but every time I faced challenges and felt like giving up, I turned to God. He always answered, reminding me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, Cella’. So, I learned to trust Him, for He was always in the room with me and my family.”
THE PRESENCE OF GOD SAW ME THROUGH
When Inessabelle Lee and her husband Aldrich received news that they were pregnant, they were exhilarated yet worried. Inessebelle had just returned from an overseas trip and had contracted bird flu, while her husband was down with common flu. It was so serious that they had to be warded for one night. “However, this was just the start of our challenging time,” Inessabelle shares.
“As the pregnancy progressed, I began to vomit severely and could not keep any food or water down,” she started. “I was placed on medication and had to be hospitalised for a period so that I could receive saline intravenously to keep myself and baby hydrated. My weight dropped quickly and within a month, I had lost 10 kg.”
Just then, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out causing Inessabelle even more stress and worry. “I was worried about losing my job, and the thought of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus was constantly on my mind. Unexpectedly, one of my medications caused me to have suicidal depression, and to make things worse, my beloved grandfather passed away during the Circuit Breaker.”
Crowning all these stressors was her chaotic work schedule that required her to work long hours without much rest.
On the morning her grandfather passed on, an old worship song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” Inessabelle used to sing in cell group meetings many years ago popped into her mind. “The lyrics serve as a reminder from God to focus on Him alone. That prepared me to face the loss of my grandpa and all the difficulties that came after that,” she recalls.
“There was another worship song ‘The Blessing’ by Elevation Church—it was released a few weeks before I went into labour. When I first heard the song, it penetrated my spirit, and through the lyrics, God assured me that He will bless me, my family and even a thousand generations of my descendants,” she says. ” truly marvel at the grace of our Lord Jesus.”
God also placed people around Inessabelle to take care of her. “My husband was so caring. He had to be my personal chef just to ensure that I ate regularly. My cell group leader and his wife visited us and gave us sound advice. Our cell group kept us in prayer, and a few of our close friends came to spend time with us when the Circuit Breaker was over, bringing us joy and laughter. As the days passed, I became stronger mentally and better prepared to welcome the arrival of our little one.”
Inessabelle experienced a smooth delivery. “But just when we thought everything would be fine, our baby fell sick. It saddened me very much and I cried daily worrying about his condition,” she relates. “But God didn’t forsake us. Our baby was healed shortly after the treatments given by his experienced doctor. It was a victory and we declared it at the chapel located in the hospital on the day of our baby’s discharge.”
This month, Baby Jairius turns one. It’s been an eventful journey, one that Inessabelle knows she has survived by the grace of God. “In my darkest moments of my pregnancy and birth, God showed Himself to be real,” she says. “I could feel His strong presence and I felt so comforted, knowing God is always with me whenever I worshipped.”