Calling Off Her Abortion
Many people will probably be able to tell you at what age they aim to get married and have kids. It makes sense. In an expensive society like Singapore’s, apart from financial concerns, potential parents need to consider if they are mentally ready to have children too. There’s no doubt most couples would wish to go through extensive planning before taking the plunge.
As such, unplanned pregnancies are somewhat of a taboo in Singapore and a topic rarely discussed. Previously we invited our colleague, Gwen Lee, down for an episode of our YouTube series, Ask ZULA. During her interview, she shared about her unplanned pregnancy, calling off her abortion, navigating social media and experiences with motherhood.
Finding out she was pregnant and considering abortion
Image courtesy of Gwen Lee
Realising she was pregnant
Gwen realised she was pregnant with her son, Jayden, “late into the first trimester”. Back then, she had missed her period but thought nothing of it as her menses was “not very regular”.
It was only after she missed her period for the second month in a row when she decided to take a pregnancy test. Even then, the results were not conclusive as the test kit revealed a very faint line, leaving Gwen and her partner unsure of whether it was positive or not.
Gwen took a second pregnancy test a week later when her period still had not come. This time, the result was definitely positive. Upon finding out, her “first reaction was to cry”. Gwen’s husband was younger than her and she had another year of university left to finish. The unexpected news caused Gwen to feel “troubled” and she “felt a lot of burden”.
Gwen describes herself, at that point, being “not emotionally stable”. She experienced “mood swings” and said things that were “hurtful” toward her husband. Amidst all this, the couple decided their next step would be to consult a gynaecologist.
Considering and calling off her abortion
Picture this: you’re 25, living in Singapore, with one more year left of school. Pregnancy would no doubt come as a big shock and would not fit into your current plans. Naturally, abortion would be a logical consideration.
However, while she acknowledges it is a choice, Gwen personally did not “like the idea of abortion”. Her circumstances put her in a difficult situation full of emotional turmoil, as she had to consider going through a procedure that was against her beliefs.
At their first consultation with the gynae, he was upfront with the couple. He asked if they were ready to have a baby, and, “if not, abort”, as it would be a better option than having and abandoning the baby. The visit ended with Gwen being prescribed pills for the abortion, with the date set for the procedure.
When the time came for her to consume the pills, Gwen was “shaking” and she couldn’t bear to take them. The words of her gynae: “once you eat this, there’s no going back”, echoed in her head. In the end, the couple went back to the clinic to meet with the gynae again.
During this visit, the gynae directly asked Gwen whether, instead of going through the abortion now, she was going to wait until the baby was “fully grown”. While blunt, this “woke [Gwen] up”. The consultation ended like the first, with Gwen being prescribed the pills for abortion.
On the date of her second attempt, almost akin to a deja vu moment, “the same thing happened again”. But, this time, she spoke to a psychiatrist back at the clinic. The psychiatrist explained that the reason why Gwen was crying so much was because she was “not telling anyone”. She also stressed to Gwen that emotional support is extremely important.
“You never try you never know”, was what the psychiatrist shared with Gwen after she expressed her fear of her telling her parents. The abortion was called off and the couple decided they would first work on telling Gwen’s parents.
Her pregnancy journey
Image courtesy of Gwen Lee
Telling her family and friends
Planning to tell her family was one thing, but execution was far from simple. According to Gwen, she didn’t reveal her pregnancy to them for “2 months”.
The distress caused Gwen to be noticeably different, both emotionally and physically. When she was home, she would often lock herself in her room. Gwen didn’t eat well and lost weight to the point she was a mere “38 to 39kg”.
“You can call me crazy, cause that’s the word I would describe myself [with] back then”, Gwen shared. Although her whole family felt “something was wrong”, her sister was the first to find out, and she encouraged her to open up to their parents.
“It’s okay, come home”, was the text Gwen’s mum sent her when her parents eventually found out about the pregnancy. Her parents’ affirmation and love gave Gwen the resolve she needed to keep the baby.
Gwen’s close friends were equally supportive. They expressed their happiness for her and even got excited at the possibility of being “godmothers and godfathers”. This assurance from her friends also helped Gwen “feel happy to be a preggie” and look forward to being a “soon-to-be mum”.
Schooling while pregnant
However, Gwen still had a year of school left when she found out about her pregnancy. She chose not to quit or take a break from school. Instead, she completed her degree programme while pregnant with Jayden.
“I was scared to go to school because I was scared people would judge me”, Gwen mentioned. Luckily for her, the COVID-19 situation intensified right when her bump started to become more obvious. As such, she could continue her education online, physically away from potential judgment from peers.
Funnily enough, Gwen’s estimated due date, 16 June 2020, happened to be the day of her final class in university. During this time of schooling while pregnant, Gwen was also working on her Final Year Project, otherwise known as FYP.
Going into labour unexpectedly
“Bam! Shit happened. Jayden decided to burst my water bag 1 month early”. The arrival of Gwen’s son came prematurely. Coincidentally, she went into labour on the day she was supposed to ROM, something she had to wait a long time for due to the pandemic.
“Everything was in a mess”, Gwen shared regarding her experience of going into labour. Many things, from school to her ROM, were racing through her head at the hospital. Baby essentials like breast pumps and milk bottles were on her mind too. The couple even considered completing her ROM ceremony while waiting.
Gwen asserts that rushing to formalise her marriage was not all about being “geh kiang”. She had many valid concerns, one being requiring the marriage certificate to qualify for the government’s Baby Bonus scheme.
Luckily, everything worked out in the end, as Jayden was born a day later. In the interim, Gwen had the assistance of family to settle miscellaneous matters such as buying supplies like the baby cot.
Experience as a mother of a newborn
Image courtesy of Gwen Lee
When comparing the challenges of being pregnant against that of a newborn’s mother, she jokingly remarked she would “rather be pregnant”. She added that during her pregnancy, she didn’t “suffer from what most mothers would”. Gwen highlighted the worst symptoms she experienced were swollen feet “once or twice”.
Among the challenges of being a newborn’s mother, Gwen had a particularly difficult time with breastfeeding. “I suffer a bit from oversupply”, said Gwen, which essentially meant her body produced more milk than Jayden required. “It was a happy problem”, Gwen thankfully added.
To put it into context, while most newborn mums would be able to pump their breast milk in 3 to 4 hour intervals, Gwen had to do so every hour. Due to the oversupply, her breasts often became engorged too, causing pain and discomfort that’s similar to a “cramp on your boobs”, according to the first-time mum.
Navigating social media while pregnant
Gwen’s reveal scan on social media
Image courtesy of Gwen Lee
Going public with her pregnancy
Multiple factors came into play that led to Gwen’s decision to go public with her pregnancy. One reason was that once Jayden would be born in a few months time, there was no way to hide [him] anymore. In a way, the reveal was inevitable.
Arguably, the biggest reason though, was that people were already talking about her pregnancy. From acquaintances, mutual friends and even “sadly” some close friends, rumors about Gwen’s pregnancy had spread. “I was angry, I was hurt”, Gwen explained, and she had spent a significant amount of time confronting those said close friends.
Eventually, Gwen decided to rip the band aid off since “people already knew”. “I had nothing to hide”, Gwen asserted, and she would rather be open about the pregnancy than have naysayers gossip about her situation.
She also received advice from her husband and close friends to “think about the positive side”, and to consider the people who would be nothing but happy for her pregnancy.
Responding to naysayers
Gwen received her fair share of backlash on social media – think of your usual remarks about shotgun marriages and whatnot. Some netizens even compared her to other young social media personalities who were public about their own pregnancies.
“I felt very pissed off, to the point I threw my phone”, Gwen openly shared about being riled up by negative comments. However, she thought to herself, “so what”. She remarked that even if the pregnancy was unplanned, we should be supportive of these mothers instead of shutting them down. She also implored others to think about how pregnancy at a young age, with its host of challenges, is “not easy”.
Gwen explained that receiving positive messages from friends and colleagues were “more assuring”. They helped her to cope with negative comments and eventually outweighed them.
Using her platform to help others
Being open about her journey on social media gave Gwen the opportunity to be a source of advice for others. “It was great because I could lend a helping hand”, Gwen shared. Many of her followers would ask Gwen questions about where to buy certain items or how to deal with aspects of pregnancy.
Relationship with her husband
Like with any milestone, the dynamics of a relationship will change with the presence of kids. Gwen’s relationship with her husband was no exception.
“Jayden brought us closer”, Gwen said of her son’s presence. “It felt like a family, and I love that feeling”.
Gwen also pointed out that Jayden has made her husband more appreciative of her. She highlighted a specific example where her husband would at times come up to her and massage her neck. At the same time, he would thank Gwen for being such a “strong wife”.
“We grew together, we matured together”, was how Gwen summed up the impact her son’s presence had on the couple.
Plans for the future
The interview wrapped up with Gwen sharing plans about the future of her son, who is now just over a year old.
Gwen intends to “go with the flow”, considering herself as someone who does not have completely concrete plans in life. For now, Gwen’s focus and priority is on Jayden and to “expect the unexpected”.
When asked about what she’s looking forward to in Jayden’s future, Gwen answered that she is content with him “growing up healthily” and “happily”. The new mother also added that her son will “hopefully have a sister or a brother” as she has always loved children and wishes to have more.
Calling off her abortion and unplanned pregnancy at the age of 25
We can plan and chart out our life as much as we want, but more often than not, things might go awry. But, while that may be the case, life will somehow always find its way. Gwen’s story is testament to that.
Gwen’s sharing has shown us that rather than stigmatising the notion of unplanned pregnancies, we should look towards supporting mothers, in whatever decision they choose. Be it keeping the baby or choosing an abortion, as long as we’re responsible for our own decisions and actions, we should not be afraid of travelling the road less taken.
If you’ve enjoyed reading and have learnt from Gwen’s story, check out our feature on Jasmine Hu, a single mother who raised 4 children single handedly.
Quotes have been edited for clarity and grammar.
Cover: Source, images courtesy of Gwen Lee
Watch the full Ask Zula episode below: