It’s 11 am on a weekday and Melody Chen is exhausted.The former ONE FM deejay has just tucked her twins into bed for a nap. She has some alone time to herself before their eat-play-sleep routine begins again. At 22 months, the #Mezzaran duo – as Melody and actor-husband Randall Tan call them – are definitely a handful but their loving mum and dad wouldn’t have it any other way.
“They are our little miracles. It’s been a huge learning curve for us when they came into our lives. I don’t know how it feels with children of different ages but I think it may be slightly easier. Having twins is like having two different characters vie for your attention and affection at the same time,” says the new mum.
A MOTHER’S WISH
Melody, aged 42, and Randall, 45, had been trying for a baby since they married in 2008. They would have their first chance five years later, when Melody got pregnant in 2013. Sadly, their hopes of having a child then was dashed.
“It was a natural pregnancy but it didn’t last. I suffered a miscarriage and had to have it flushed out. At the time, it did put a strain on my marriage. We just had to work through it to really stay together,” she reveals.
“I just didn’t think having kids would be so challenging. After the miscarriage, we just let things be. We said ‘Let fate take its course’ and we decided that for now it would just be the two of us, travelling the world with our two cats for company.”
When Melody turned 40 in 2017, she decided to give pregnancy another shot. The couple turned to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in an effort to start a family.
“Randall had to inject me with all sorts of hormones for a month to retrieve my eggs. A normal woman would get 40 to 50 eggs I believe – I had two. After a whole month of jabbing, I only had two,” says Melody.
“Of course we thought, ‘Ooh, maybe it’s a special two’, so we put them through implantation, and I thought everything was fine, but it failed again. After that failure, I said, ‘That’s it, we’re done’. I didn’t want to go through the whole process again, the pain and the money spent was just too much.”
The couple peppered the rest of their 2017 with trips to Bali, the US and Maldives as a way of coping with their loss. Melody thought nothing of it when she experienced a bout of spotting during one “drunken weekend” in Hong Kong. It was about two months after their failed IVF attempt.
A quick check-in with her gynaecologist in Singapore would render her speechless.“She said ‘Melody, you are pregnant’, and I went ‘What?’ I don’t cuss a lot but in that moment I did, I was like ‘Oh shucks, are you sure? Are you really, really sure?’, and she was like, ‘Yeah, and it’s not one, you’ve got two babies’. At that time I was about eight to nine weeks along already,” she recalls.
“I asked her whether it was the two eggs from before but she said it was impossible because everything had been flushed out so this was a natural conception. Maybe the hormones kicked in late, we don’t know, but we don’t have any twins in our lineage so mine was considered a natural pregnancy for twins with separate sex. You can imagine my shock when we found out.”
Saying she had been “burned” twice before, Melody cautiously shared the happy news with her parents and largely kept mum about her growing bump.
She always knew she would have a delicate pregnancy as a result of going through surgery to remove abnormal cells in her cervix when she was younger. But everything went along swimmingly up until the four-month mark when she went on doctor-ordered bed rest due to her shortened cervix.
“I really enjoyed the pregnancy part, the hard part was being in bed all the time. I wanted to be an active mum, you know do the prenatal Pilates, go for walks, but I couldn’t even go to the toilet without help,” says Melody.
“The babies were due in December 2017 but nearing September, I was getting really big, really fast. I remember it was just a regular day, I was eating in bed and I felt damp down there. I quickly realised I was leaking amniotic fluid.”
Melody was rushed to Mount Elizabeth Hospital where she quickly developed a high fever over the next few days – a sign of an infection which could endanger her babies’ lives. She was transferred to Singapore General Hospital (SGH) where a decision was made to get the babies out via emergency caesarean section.
Reuban Micheal Tan and Meagan Riley Tan were delivered on September 15, 2017, at almost 27 weeks. Meagan weighed 800 g and Reuban was 990 g. They were admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where they stayed for some three months.
“When I saw my babies for the first time, I was scared. Scared that I would lose them because they really looked like dead babies. They weren’t ready to be born yet. I felt a lot of guilt seeing them like that and knowing that they were suffering,” shares Melody.
“You blame yourself and you just get overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, fear and sadness. I had to tell myself that if I lost them it would be okay because we’ve been down that road before. It was hard because I carried them this far, but it was also too early for them to be in this world, so I had to harden my heart a little.”
While Melody herself was discharged from SGH four days later, she went back to the hospital every day to check up on the status of her babies. Things were touch and go in the beginning, but slowly and surely, the babies pulled through.
LIFE WITH TWINS
“Reuban came home first then Meagan followed a month after. It was a relief but I was still worried because they were still so small,” she confesses.
“Premature or preemie babies have a long list of check-ups and tests they have to go through in their first year because their development is set back. They typically don’t match up to their peers until they reach the age of two.”
Melody reveals that she took up to a year to get used to her new life with the twins. While she describes their day-to-day schedule as quite regimented, she says having a routine helps to keep her sane.
“Raising them has been challenging but it has also made me grow up a lot over the last two years. I never realised that I had the mental and physical capacity to go through all these overwhelming experiences: Joy that I was pregnant, then despair when I lost it, then hope when I got a second chance, then fear when I could’ve lost the babies,” Melody explains.
“The rollercoaster of emotions took a lot out of me but I learnt to handle it. I always knew that I could be a good mum but I didn’t know that it would be so traumatic and challenging for me to get there. It did make me a stronger person for sure, now I feel like I could take on anything,” she says.
"I had to tell myself that if I lost them it would be okay"
ART DIRECTION: IVY CHOONG / PHOTOS: FRENCHESCAR LIM / STYLING: DARYLL ALEXIUS YEO / HAIR: ASH LOI/SONDER SALON, USING REVLON COSMETICS / MAKEUP: GINGER LYNETTE, USING NARS