So In Tune With Motherhood

Singer Tay Kewei grabbed our attention by sharing her labour video online and throwing a gangster-themed first-month party. But what we really want to know is, what’s baby #ShenMo’s real name? By LYNN WEE

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
You may have been one of the thousands that have attended her concerts, heard her songs on the radio, or, seen her in the Web reality video series, Married, And Then?, on Youtube.
You know that singer Tay Kewei is one busy woman. But did you know that the moment she stops work, she rushes home to breastfeed her three-month-old baby?
“Both his grandmothers are always around the house and they are so obsessed with him. If I weren’t breastfeeding him, I don’t think I’d get to touch him. So when it’s breastfeeding time, it’s my time with him,” quips the 34-year-old.
Her musings on motherhood, which she documents on her various social-media accounts, might give the impression that she has nailed this new role effortlessly. 
Young Parents caught up with her recently to find out more about her parenting journey with baby #ShenMo, whose name is still a secret.
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You recently celebrated your baby’s full-month birthday with a gangster -themed party. Who came up with the idea?

One evening (when I was still pregnant), I thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a gangster mafia-themed party, as most baby parties are usually Disney-themed.

So Alfred (her 36-year-old singer and athletics coach husband) and I wanted to go for the most “un-baby” theme possible. Also, it was very cute to see a baby doing something that babies don’t usually do!

We also got baby #ShenMo a tattoo-sleeve onesie, temporary sticker tattoos for the kids, and 300 tattoo sleeves for our guests to join in the fun.

Another social-media post that caught everyone’s attention was the baby delivery video. Were you hesitant about showing that vulnerable moment during labour?

When we were planning to shoot the delivery video, my first concern was actually, who’s the cameraperson? 

I’ve been working with the production team – A Better TV – for so long, and I didn’t want to stress the camerawoman, or make her feel uncomfortable. In the end, my good friend, Sharon, who is also my makeup artist, came into the delivery room with us and she shot us, while Alfred filmed from his point of view.

I thought it was a moment that most people would want to video. Of course, showing it publicly is another thing, but if it’s edited properly, then there’s no issue at all.

You also shared a touching post about why you tried to have a drug-free birth, and your disappointment when you caved in to getting an epidural shot. Why did you decide to share this?

For a lot of us, we think we can do it because our mums all went through childbirth without drugs, and I thought I should give it a shot as well.

It was more of a subconscious pressure. There were always stories of people going through the entire delivery process without drugs, and it’s almost like a badge of honour. I wanted to try, and I told myself, if it comes to a point when I can’t take it anymore, then I’ll ask for an epidural.

Each time the contractions hit, I’d tell Alfred I couldn’t do it anymore. But when the contractions were gone, it felt almost like nothing happened. This went on for three hours until I finally gave in.

I definitely felt disappointed with myself for getting the epidural as I couldn’t feel anything from waist down. I felt like a lab rat.

They put me on a drip, attached me to a urine bag, and it felt terrible. I was very emotional as I felt like I was being plugged to different things to make me deliver, instead of doing it naturally. I was taking so much laughing gas and there were so many things going through my head, and tears just kept streaming down my face.

Of course, everyone tells you that no matter what the delivery process was, as long as the baby is healthy, you’re fine, then everything is fine. But we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. And through the post, I wanted to let mothers know that it’s okay to not have a drug-free birth.

How would you describe your parenting style? Who’s the good cop?

We’re now really focused on engaging him and getting his attention. He’s learning how to talk, and is making funny noises every day, so he’s really cute (shows us a video of #ShenMo).

But in the future, I feel that Alfred and I should play both roles. I don’t think it’s right for one parent to be the good cop, and the other to be the bad cop all the time. Alfred is an athletics coach and he deals a lot with youth – not toddlers, of course – but he’s good at talking to kids. I’ve also read up on how to educate a child, and how to let them know what’s right from wrong.

The headache comes when he’s older. For now, he’s just so cute – he doesn’t even roll around.

We’ve been talking about baby #ShenMo, but we don’t know his real name yet. Why is it a secret, and are there any plans to reveal it in the future?

We won’t be revealing his real name and I’m not sure why I’m keeping it a secret. I’m not very strict when it comes to exposing his name or face. I have friends who have taken a lot of photos with him, and his face is on our Youtube channel.

But, we haven’t really showed his face up close. I guess we don’t want to overexpose his face all the time. We’re just taking this really slowly.

Since we are on this topic, would you let #ShenMo grow up in the public eye (like Kate Pang’s kids), or be shielded (like Joanne Peh’s)?

Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this, but I don’t know how to draw the line. I’m still figuring out. Maybe if he’s too cute, and I cannot resist sharing, then I will (laughs).

Lots of mums struggle with breastfeeding, but it seems to have been a smooth-sailing journey for you. What is your secret?

I thought I had it easy until I reached Day 26 or 27 of my confinement. I started having hard lumps and engorgement. And in the recent week, as I’ve been pumping outside due to work, I developed really serious mastitis, and had a fever and blocked ducts. So, there were lots of problems and even when I stayed at home the entire day to latch him, the breast milk wouldn’t clear, and I had to take antibiotics.

It was only after I visited a lactation consultant that I realised I’ve been doing many things wrongly. For example, I’ve been using a hands-free bra for pumping since day one, and this compresses certain parts of the breasts, which causes blockage.

With work starting again, how do you continue breastfeeding?

I carry a huge bag around, and find a place to pump when I’m outside. I definitely want to keep up with exclusive breastfeeding. I’ve not considered feeding him formula at this moment.

But if anything happens to my supply in six months’ time, then I’ll have no choice. Currently, I’m still storing and I’m even considering getting a deep freezer to store the milk.

You look really amazing now! How did you lose your pregnancy weight so quickly?

Honestly, I don’t really know. I put on 15kg after pregnancy, and I’ve lost 9kg so far. I only just started circuit training (her first session was before this interview), but I’ve been doing squats and lunges with my baby as the movement helps to soothe him when he’s fussy – he weighs 6kg, so it’s quite a workout.

I guess breastfeeding and post-natal massages help you lose the calories, too.

You’ve bagged quite a few parenting endorsement deals. What are some of the challenges of being a celebrity influencer?

It can sometimes get really overwhelming having to decide what’s suitable for us. But we’ve figured that out, and all the deals are managed by our management, so the hard part is over. I’m just really thankful for all the support, and it’s a blessing as these endorsements have relieved us from a lot of financial burdens.

What are your views on the parenting influencer landscape in Singapore?

I’m starting to recognise and know the various Mummy in uencers. It’s a very interesting world because you get to learn about so many different products, which can be really difficult to research about.

How has motherhood changed your life?

I really enjoyed how my life has changed. Some mums might feel that confinement is very boring, and they can’t wait to get out of the house.

But I had zero thoughts like that. I even wished confinement would last much longer (laughs). But going out to work and having to dress up is also important. Otherwise, you’ll start to forget your identity. 

Both my mothers (mum and mum-in-law) are really helpful, and they give me lots of free time – to the extent that it’s possible to live how I lived before I had a child, plus pumping. But at the end of the day, I want to be there for him as much as possible, because kids grow up very fast.

Any plans to have more kids in the future?

Yes! I feel two is the minimum, so it’s just a matter of when.

What tips or advice you would give to mums?

Get help when you can. For myself, I had the help of a confinement lady and I was very grateful for her. It took the stress out of everybody – including my mothers – who haven’t dealt with babies for 30-odd years.

Not forgetting my lactation consultant, as well, whom I wished I had gone to see earlier.

So, if you can, seek help when necessary – it’ll relieve some of the burden, making motherhood a lot more enjoyable. 

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