Despite being six months pregnant at the time of our interview, Joanne Peh’s baby bump barely shows – in fact, the 32-year-old actress looks almost as lithe as ever. But while the physical changes aren’t that apparent, Joanne says knowing she’s to become a mum has profoundly changed her views on life. She and Simply Her editor Penelope Chan have an intimate heart-to-heart chat about pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
Penelope: Are you prepared for childbirth – do you have a birth plan?
Joanne: I’m very much for the idea of a natural birth. I don’t want an epidural, and I want to be able to give birth in comfort – don’t strap me to a bed and force me to spread my legs, please! But this will also depend on the size and position of my baby as I approach labour. At the end of the day, I just want what’s best for my baby.
Penelope: Indeed, plans can fly out of the window when you’re in the delivery suite.
Joanne: Speaking of delivery, I cannot imagine what contractions must feel like! Will I know when I’m having a contraction? I read that labour contractions feel just like Braxton Hicks contractions.
Penelope: When I was having my third baby, I had no idea I was in labour. I thought that my water bag would break as usual, the contractions would start and then I could ask for my epidural. But I didn’t feel any pain at all, only some discomfort. I was this close to giving birth at home.
Joanne: Actually, that kind of unpredictability is precisely what excites me most about being a mother. For instance, I don’t even know how big my tummy is going to get! Right now, I feel great because my pregnancy has been smooth-sailing so far… it makes me want to have more kids in future. But I know that a second pregnancy might feel entirely different.
Penelope: You’re very, very brave! I need to know everything that’s going on.
Joanne: Every visit to my gynae has been really exciting. I clearly remember seeing my baby on screen for the first time – the foetus was as tiny as a bean, but I just started to weep tears of joy. I’ve played a mum on TV before, but real motherhood is definitely not what I imagined it to be. But while I can’t wait to see my baby, part of me doesn’t want this pregnancy to end. It’s been such a surreal experience.
Penelope: That just means that you should have more children.
Joanne: My husband Yuwu tells me that too! I think four kids is a good number to aim for. And the fact that you have four kids inspires me, too.
Penelope: I spent a good 10 years being pregnant, feeling nauseous and breastfeeding. I haven’t had a proper glass of wine in 10 years. Stolen sips are all I’ve allowed myself.
Joanne: You’re very disciplined!
Penelope: I had sashimi during my pregnancies though. I was put off by meat, so I took a chance on raw fish.
Joanne: They say that what you eat during pregnancy can really influence your child’s taste buds in future. I suppose your kids love sashimi?
Penelope: They do!
Joanne: In that case, I think my baby will love bread, as I’ve been eating a lot of it. Sandwiches, croissants, you name it. Some of my cravings have changed over time – first, it was local food, then soups, but I’ve been consistently hankering for bread throughout.
On having a support system
Joanne: I’m lucky to have a good support system. I’m home alone most of the time because Yuwu is overseas, but my friends and parents come over often to cook for me, take me out for meals and so on. I think my pregnancy has helped me to appreciate who my real friends are.
Penelope: It’s the same for me – I think that my family and friends are the reason why I managed to have four kids. Having a good support system means that your worries can be shared. No woman should ever have to feel that she is alone in her parenting journey.
On how kids change you
Joanne: How have your kids changed you?
Penelope: You become more aware that you’re not the only person in your life. You have to be more mindful of the things you say and do – no more uttering swear words for me, for example. It really changes you for the better.
Joanne: Yuwu and I were just saying that we have become very risk-averse lately. He told me today that he’s going to be filming a war scene for one of his shows, and that he’s worried for his safety, especially since he now has a wife and a baby to think about.
Penelope: I agree. As parents, we recognise that we need to be in good health – and alive – to take care of our children.
Joanne: I think my perspective on life has changed. As a single woman, I gave myself a lot of pressure to work myself to the bone. But now that I’m married and expecting a baby, my priorities have shifted. I’ve realised that career is not everything. I want a family, I want a life and I want someone to share it with, whether it’s a husband or a baby.
Penelope: To add to that, when you have kids, you also see everything through their eyes. You share their childlike wonder and appreciate things a lot more. You learn everything all over again, from nursery rhymes to maths. It can be quite an eye-opener.
Joanne: I think, sometimes, they teach us more than we teach them.
Penelope: I think that you’re going to be a great mum, Joanne. You seem very prepared.
Joanne: I hope so! However, I’m aware that there are some things that I can’t predict, and what I’ve learnt might not even apply to my child. We can be prepared, but things often don’t turn out the way they should. I’ll just have to go with the flow, learn whatever I can when I can and not be too hard on myself.
This article was originally published in Simply Her July 2015.