Artwork: Jane Tan

Turning 30 is certainly a cause for celebration… but what are we celebrating exactly? In ‘My Dirty 30s’, columnist Samantha Y. reflects on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly truth about what this decade spells for “ageing” millennials like herself. 

When I was a singleton in my mid-20s, I had a long hard think about whether I wanted children. After deliberating over things like my finances, quality of life, goals and state of mental health, I came to the logical conclusion that perhaps motherhood isn’t for me. 

Then I met my current partner, now husband, who very much wanted to start his own family. We had a big discussion before we got married and long story short, I relented, thinking that I guess I wouldn’t mind having one kid with him because he seemed to be the type who would be a very hands-on dad (and I was right!).  

A year after we got married, I fell pregnant. After getting over the initial shock (we weren’t really trying), I was surprised to find that my reaction to the two positive lines was that of pure joy and excitement. It is a pretty big leap for someone who was firmly in the childfree camp just three years ago. 

Then the first trimester — and all of its wonderful symptoms — hit me like a ton of bricks, and suddenly I wasn’t as joyful about my pregnancy anymore. This was further exacerbated by anxieties about my capabilities as a mum. 

Let me put it this way — my partner had 9 months to mentally prepare himself for fatherhood, while I had to go into “mum mode” pretty much immediately. Am I eating well enough? Am I exercising in a safe manner? Will doing XYZ hurt my baby? 

Also, nobody warned me about how quickly my sense of self would erode. It’s tough enough dealing with a body that changes every other week to accommodate a growing foetus, and it doesn’t help that affordable maternity clothes generally look so frumpy. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I’m not proud of this, but at my lowest point, I seriously considered a termination.

And that was just the first trimester. Thankfully, the second and third trimesters were a little less rough as I had more or less wrapped my head around my new role as a mum, but those anxieties that I had in the first trimester never really went away. The guilt of failing my child continued to weigh heavily on me, especially when I got Covid at around 20 weeks after coming back from my babymoon overseas, against the advice of my gynecologist (“Covid is still a thing you know? Do you want to risk it?”). 

I’m not proud of this, but at my lowest point, I seriously considered a termination.

Looking back, I was blessed with a textbook pregnancy and delivery. Even though I got covid, it didn’t hit me too badly and presented no danger to my baby. Plus, I conceived so easily without any complications or issues, so sometimes I feel bad for even entertaining these negative feelings. How dare I whine about my perfect pregnancy when there are so many women who are struggling with fertility? And if I’m already complaining about my child now, what would happen when they’re actually here? Is this an indication that I would be a terrible mom? 

Now, at three weeks postpartum, the hormonal fog has somewhat lifted and I’m happy to report that my human Tamagotchi is very much still alive and thriving — you should see the chunky rolls on this baby. And if I could go back in time to reassure myself, I’d say this: You won’t regret having a kid (not yet, at least). And no, admitting that motherhood is not all rainbows and sunshine doesn’t automatically make you a bad mother — it just means you’re honest. As I love my child, I now understand why stressed-out hamsters eat their own babies. 

Am I fully cut out for this? Who knows! When my doctor asked if I was confident enough to be discharged from the hospital on my third day, I had a mild panic attack and thought to myself, “You’re really letting me walk out of here with a baby?!”

I have since learnt that it’s perfectly normal to have days where your newborn is crying inconsolably and nothing you do will soothe him. The real punch in the gut is when you hand them over to another caretaker, only for them to quiet down immediately. You will sob in the bathroom for 20 minutes after that, then go back to nursing, changing and soothing them throughout the day and night, at the expense of your own rest. If that’s not the benchmark for a good mum, I don’t know what is. 

Admitting that motherhood is not all rainbows and sunshine doesn’t automatically make you a bad mother — it just means you’re honest.

And after lurking on mummy forums and Facebook groups for almost a year, I can safely say that it’s impossible to be fully prepared for the extreme highs and lows of motherhood. One minute I’m snuggling my baby and huffing that intoxicating new-baby smell like it’s my only lifeline, but at the next crying fit, I’d be wondering where the off switch on this damn thing is. 

That said, my baby only has one mum, and the silver lining is that I will only get better at this, one poopy diaper at a time.