<b>TEXT</b> STELLA THNG/SIMPLY HER & CHARLENE CHUA/THE NEW PAPER <b>PHOTOGRAPHY</b> VERONICA TAY
When postpartum depression hit after her son’s birth, celebrity host Jaymee Ong refused to wallow in tears. She recounts her battle with the condition and how she regained her footing.
She suffered from mild baby blues after giving birth to her daughter six years ago, so Jaymee Ong was confident she knew what she would be dealing with, with her second baby.
But severe postpartum depression struck just three days after she gave birth to her son, Harrison, in September 2015.
It got so bad that, at one point, she did not even want to pick him up.
“I was crying my eyes out. I lost all confidence and I felt so incapable,” Jaymee recalls.
After she sought help, her condition improved. The Chinese-Australian host of AXN’s entertainment show, eBuzz, agreed to recount her battle with the psychologically debilitating condition to create awareness.
Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of and women who suffer from it should not be afraid to seek help, she says.
“I want to stress that this is not me saying that I hate my baby or that I hate being a mum,” she adds. “I love being a mum, which was why I felt so much guilt when I was hit by depression.”
Her emotional well-being hit rock bottom soon after her son’s birth and the fast and intense downward spiral caught her off-guard.
“I kept thinking, I should be able to handle this, I’ve done it before. But I couldn’t control the way I felt. I felt like I had affected my family badly because I was so scared that I couldn’t handle anything to do with my baby.”
Even with her daughter Juliet, Jaymee says it took her three months to fall in love with the child.
She adds: “Some women say that they have this amazing connection with their babies right after they are born, but I didn’t feel that at all.
“I thought I would love my son right away. When I felt detached, I was devastated.”
She added that while her husband, Australian electrical engineer Matthew Heath, 37, was understanding about her depressive state, she knew she had to seek help for the sake of her family and herself.
Two weeks after Harrison’s birth, Jaymee went to a psychiatrist who prescribed her anti-depressants.
She declined to reveal the name of the medication because she doesn’t want to promote the drug to mums.
“Taking medication was a personal choice because I had it (postpartum depression) bad. I’m not ashamed that I sought the treatment I needed and I do feel 1,000 per cent better.
“Women don’t talk about having baby blues because they don’t want to seem like failures, but they have to do whatever it takes to feel better.
“After all, as a woman, being a mum is the biggest thing you’ll ever do in your life.” After seeing a psychiatrist and taking antidepressants for the past year, Jaymee has rebalanced her life and is loving being a busy mum of two.
“Parenthood is the most amazing thing in the world, but it’s really difficult,” Jaymee says.
Medical help aside, the 37-year-old believes staying positive was also key to helping her regain her footing. The battle-toughened mum shares her tips on staying happy.
1 Having a healthy, happy family
Before Jaymee’s post-partum depression, her family was hit by a previous health crisis. In 2012, she and her husband were attending a friend’s wedding in Perth when he suffered a sudden stroke. Then a new dad, Matthew was just 33, healthy and exercised regularly.
He has since made a full recovery, but the episode scarred Jaymee for life.
“When you’re younger and haven’t had kids, you think you’re indestructible,” she says ruefully. “But as I get older, I really, really don’t take our health for granted anymore.”
She strives to lead by example. For instance, she takes Juliet grocery shopping so she can see that Mummy buys lots of fresh produce, vegetables and fruits instead of processed food. “We have veggies every single night. Any meat is usually grilled or steamed,” explains Jaymee, who adds that they indulge in the occasional snack, but Juliet doesn’t have a habit of asking for them.
“She’d rather eat a punnet of strawberries than candy. She saw some kids having candy floss the other day and she told me, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so much sugar!’” chuckles Jaymee. Amazingly, Juliet has never tasted flzzy drinks either.
Jaymee once offered her some Sprite and she turned it down.
Jaymee, who likes to start her day with a 30- to 45-minute exercise routine, also inculcates the right exercise habits in Juliet by doing yoga or Tracy Anderson exercise videos in front of her. “She puts her little mat next to mine and copies my moves!” She also bikes or scoots along when Jaymee takes Harrison on walks.
“It’s such a cliche but, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have much,” says Jaymee. “You see people who work themselves to the bone, but at what cost?
You may be really successful at your job, but there’s no point if you are miserable.”
2 Feeling strong and being healthy
“Eating right, exercising, sleeping right, really taking care of my body, feeling good – that’s when I feel my best,” says Jaymee, now also the face of SOS (Science on Skin), a new skincare range produced and used by doctors that was recently launched in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
She swears by its Multivitamins+ serum.
“It really helps with the pigmentation I developed during pregnancy.”
Unlike during her early modelling career, Jaymee now focuses less on the numbers on her weighing scale and more on being healthy. The svelte mum works out at a gym her friend runs in Tanjong Katong.
She knows, too, from personal experience, that physical and emotional wellness go hand in hand. “When you feel like you’re in a slump, it’s easy to laze around on the couch in pyjamas and it’s a difficult cycle to break. That’s why I like to get going first thing in the morning with a workout – it lays the groundwork for the rest of the day.”
3 Getting ready for a good sleep
Jaymee dreams of getting eight solid hours of sleep every night, but as every parent knows, that seldom happens.
“I wake up when Harrison wants a cuddle, and I can’t get back to sleep. My mind wanders and I think about the things to do the next day.”
To counter that, she’s in bed by 10pm.
“It’s hard, but I really try not to look at my phone to check Instagram or Facebook before bed,” she says. Instead, she spends 45 minutes reading, which helps her to get tired and ready for a good sleep.
The coffee lover also avoids drinking it after 2pm, sticking to herbal tea instead.
If sleep still eludes her, she counts on her breathing exercises.
“Inhale for four counts, hold for eight counts, then exhale for eight counts,” shares Jaymee. “I do it four or five times. It helps!”
4 Dancing with her kids
Before the kids came along, she loved hitting the clubs. “I’d be the first one on the dance floor and the last one off it!” These days, she does her jiving at home. She plays anything from old-school Eurythmics to Bruno Mars and Juliet’s favourite, Katy Perry, while they prance around.
“My son loves watching us, he thinks it’s hysterical! I also pick him up and dance with him. It’s hard not to laugh and smile when you’re dancing. It’s a mood lifter.”
5 Heading for the beach when in Australia
“It’s my happy place. There’s nothing like water, breeze and sand to make me feel alive,” says Jaymee dreamily. Whenever she goes home to Australia, she heads for the beach – even during winter. “You just don’t get that same fresh air in Singapore.”
6 Hanging out with her little sis
Although separated from each other for half their lives, Jaymee, who left Australia when she was 18, and sister Lindsay, 32, who lives in the Gold Coast, remain extremely close. They Facetime twice a day and text each other all the time. And they visit each other twice a year.
Husband Matthew jokes that he cannot tell them apart when he shuts his eyes – they sound the same, talk the same way and have the same mannerisms.
“She’s one of my favourite people in the world. Nobody makes me laugh the way she does,” declares the doting big sis. “We can sit around in our pyjamas, watch bad TV, and talk and laugh all day.”
Observing that some of her friends have siblings they just tolerate, Jaymee is grateful that she has a best friend in her sister. “Do we piss each other off sometimes? Of course!
But we’re not afraid to call each other out when we argue, and are willing to listen to each other and say, ‘Okay, you were right’.”
7 Getting dressed for date night with Hubby
“I love getting my makeup and hair done, dressing up, having a couple of cocktails and holding hands with my hubby!” Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen every week, but when they do get a night out, they make it count. It doesn’t even have to be anywhere fancy-schmancy, says Jaymee.
“Just having a kiss and a cuddle – no nagging, no eye-rolling or getting on each other’s nerves. It’s important to make that effort and time. We’re due for one soon!”
8 Going offline and loving it
During a recent trip to Australia, Jaymee discovered the joys of going offline. She didn’t have access to reliable Wi-Fi so she checked in just once a day, for a few minutes, on her social-media accounts. And she loved it!
She finds the current social media culture unhealthy and exhausting. “You know where everybody is all the time, what they’re wearing, eating, doing… You can’t even queue at the bank without checking in,” muses Jaymee.
She is concerned that her kids are growing up in a world where photos and status updates become measures for validation. “Your life is not defined by how many Instagram followers you have.
It shouldn’t be this important. It doesn’t make you a better person.”
So she strives to model the right behaviour. For example, she avoids being on her phone too much in front of Juliet.
“It’s quite frightening that that’s the world they’ll grow up in,” says Jaymee, citing the oft-seen example of everyone at dinner scrolling through social-media updates on their phones. “When I’m with them, I want to be all there, not checking Facebook!
I want to set that standard for my kids.”