A double parent is someone who carries out all parenting responsibilities because of the absence of a devoted spouse - simply put, it is another way to talk about being a single parent. This is my story of how I became pregnant with Gordon, and why I chose to be a single parent at 18.
Disclaimer: I took a really long time before I convinced myself to write this article. I fought so long with myself over why I was willing to share with whoever asked me about it, but I never had the courage to write it out - after seeing many articles and videos of other single/young parents talking about their stories, I decided to tell mine too. I'm not showing off or being proud about anything I've done, but I hope this helps someone else in some way - if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all - life's too short to have all that negativity!
HOW I BECAME PREGNANT
Back in December 2015, I was having a really difficult time managing my school assignments and stress coming from home - I spent all my school breaks working and taking on external projects, just to earn some extra allowance and be away from the negativity at home. All I desperately wanted was a break from my responsibilities - to be away from project deadlines and family drama - so that was what I did.
Around the time that I conceived Gordon, I had sex with two guys - let's just name them A and B - about a week or two apart. To keep things short, I was with A right after my menstrual period ended and B nearer to my estimated ovulation period. Both of them weren't planned, and I guess you could say I'm a replacement that guys look for - but that's another story.
I don't know what kind of relationship I had with A, but I did love him before I found out he had a girlfriend - and then I started seeing him lesser until they broke up (not because of me!). He was having a bad time too, and I just decided I could make a quick trip over to cheer him up - the things we do for love.
B was an online friend that I knew for several months, someone I thought who was "different" than the others - man, I was wrong. He wanted to take time off from his university exams preparation, and I needed a break from my family drama and the spam of texts about assignments - so we ended up resting in a hotel room together. As what people would say, "what could a man and woman do in a room together?" - I only wanted to have a good nap (haven't slept more than 5 hours for a while) but he had other plans, so we ultimately ended up doing things we shouldn't.
WHEN DID I FIND OUT
I think my mum was the first to catch on that something was wrong. My periods were always regular, but I missed my period in January. On the first week of February, my mum made a casual remark to me - "Haven't you gotten your period yet?"
I don't keep track of my periods so I didn't notice until then. A few days later, I bought a pregnancy test kit from Guardian at Yew Tee MRT - and I was so apprehensive that I took the train all the way to Jurong East and walked several rounds around JEM before I mustered the courage to get it tested.
You know how test kits say to leave them lying flat for 3-5 minutes before you could see the results? Well, mine showed positive as soon as the fluid went into the test kit (the cover photo is the actual test kit I used!) - the line was so dark and clear that I got a surprise.
This happened before my final examinations for that school year, so I kept it quiet and sat for my papers - I have stomach trouble since young, so most people thought that my morning sickness was just my stomach being unwell.
HOW DID I/MY FAMILY REACT?
To be honest, I was happy and excited at first - and I immediately took a photo and sent it to one of my friends whom I knew I could trust and wouldn't judge me. I then sat in the washroom thinking about what to do next, fear then set in on how I should tell my parents about it.
I went on with life as per normal, except that I started taking note of things I shouldn't be eating/doing while pregnant. I found out on 12th February 2016, but I took a long while to muster my courage to talk to my parents about it, and sat my mum down in the room later that day.
I didn't know what to say or how to start, but my mum sort of knew so she asked if I had anything to tell her - and I just burst out in tears. After not speaking for some time, my mum finally asked "Are you pregnant?" and I nodded my head. I've never seen my mum react that way before, she started tearing up and looked lost while staring at me. After spacing out for a bit, she asked me who the father was and how I knew - I told her that I didn't know for sure (some people can get pregnant while having/right after periods so I couldn't be 100% sure) and that I took a pregnancy test a few weeks ago. It was then that my mum called my dad (who was driving night shift) back home while I just sat there crying.
My dad came home and he started asking what happened. Well, when I was young, my dad got so mad at me for not wanting to eat my medication that he hit me with a leather belt - so I was really scared of how he would've react - I just continued crying until my mum spilled the beans. Instead of yelling or hitting me, my dad sat down beside me and gave me a big hug - I just snuggled tight and burst out crying even louder, my parents hadn't hugged me for many years before this happened.
CHOOSING TO BE A SINGLE PARENT
When did I make the decision to be a single parent? I think the thought was in my mind as soon as I found out I was pregnant, but I guess the defining moment was when my dad tried to call the guys up after I told him that B (most likely Gordon's father) blocked me on all platforms after I told him I was pregnant - he decided to call them up to "scare" them, hoping they won't do it to someone else.
My dad tried calling A, but he didn't pick up. He was busy with work, and he didn't answer unknown calls so he didn't know that it was my dad who called him.
When my dad called B, he picked up and my dad put him on speaker phone - B then proceeded to defend himself saying it was mutually agreed upon, and said that I should just abort because "he didn't want to ruin his future". Those were the exact words he said, and also the moment where I thought, "I don't need a guy like you."
After those calls, I told my parents that I wanted to keep Gordon because I loved children and didn't see a reason why he should be punished for something I did wrong. However, my parents were adamant about me not keeping because they didn't want me to carry that burden - and so, we went into a cold war for the next few days.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
The first gynaecologist visit was on 16th February 2016. My parents originally scheduled for an abortion appointment on this day (without asking me beforehand), but I fought hard to keep Gordon - so they gave in and we eventually went to Thomson Women's Clinic at Choa Chu Kang to check if everything was okay.
We met Dr Adrian Woodworth there, and we heard Gordon's heartbeat - it was then that my mum softened her heart and said that we cannot abandon a life. Seeing that tiny blob on screen and hearing Gordon's heartbeat made reality sink in, I was about 6 and a half weeks pregnant then.
MY PREGNANCY JOURNEY
Thankfully, I had a term break in March where I could stay home and hide a little - before going back to school for my internship in April. However, my morning sickness and blood deficiency made things so bad for me in the first trimester that I made a tough decision to take a year off from school to focus on having Gordon and looking after him. While it did give me a lot more free time to prepare for Gordon's arrival and recuperate, it also meant that I wasn't able to do my final year with my friends or graduate with them - that was the hardest decision I had to make because my friends and I have been talking about grouping together for our Final Year Project, to form the "best team ever" to save myself from another year of torturous assignments (I did most of my group assignments on my own for the first two years and I had enough).
The first hurdle was early on because I have a blood deficiency disorder called Thalassemia Minor (or some would know it as Mediterranean anemia or 地中海贫血). It generally doesn't cause much of an issue, but when it comes to having children, it could be life-threatening to the baby if my partner has it too. The problem was I couldn't get Gordon's father (whoever it may be) to do a blood test, so we just went ahead with one ourselves - thankfully it came out okay, and everything was well!
In my second trimester, things got a little better as morning sickness started to spare me - but I still had trouble leaving home because I'd feel faint easily and didn't have anyone with me. What I'd do is bring a small backpack with my water bottle, some sweets, a packet of fruit juice/Ribena, light snacks, an umbrella and some plastic bags in case I do throw up. As with all pregnant women, I also started to "protect" myself a lot so my hands were almost 24/7 around/in front of my bump.
Our second hurdle came in when we had to do a 20-weeks OSCAR scan. If you don't know what that is, it's basically an ultrasound to see whether the baby is developing well! Gordon wasn't being co-operative so we spent over an hour there trying to get him in the right position. Everything turned out okay, but one of my tests showed that there was a 1/1000+ risk that Gordon may have had down syndrome - it was totally okay with me because I would still have had Gordon even if he did, but my parents were worried about the physical and financial burden it would have had on me - so we did a $1000+ test to verify. The results that came back with only a 19% possibility, and also confirmed that I was having a boy!
I'm a person who loves planning ahead, so I spent my second trimester doing some planning about how I could manage our expenses - it was then that I realized I would never have been able to do it with my savings, so I started reaching out for help. I looked for sample sizes of products like baby wash, lotion and diapers, and started asking around if people were willing to give them to me so I could spend on other more important things instead - and I was surprised by how many people who were willing to help. I even managed to get some hand-me-down items like clothes and carriers, which helped a lot! By the end of my second trimester, I had everything I needed for Gordon's arrival until he was around 3 months old.
Having that extra time on my hands, I also started helping others the same way others helped me. Before I was pregnant, I did a lot of self-initiated campaigns or donation drives - but I just couldn't continue doing so while knowing I have a newborn to prepare for. Therefore, I started a small movement on Carousell looking for people who needed help, and others who could help - one example can be seen here, where I helped a family with 5 children prepare for a new school year.
One unexpected thing that happened in the third trimester was that I started developing stretch marks! I didn't have the slightest mark before that, but at 32 weeks, I started having a few streaks ... Then, more came along. One day, I woke up with my stomach looking like I got attacked by a bear overnight! They even started appearing on my chest and inner thighs, and I took over a year to be comfortable enough to look in the mirror and not be disgusted by it.
GETTING OVER SOCIAL STIGMA
One of the worst things about being a teenage, single mother in Singapore is the social stigma that most people have. Every time I go for an appointment, I see many people staring at me and my parents like they were trying to figure out our relationship with one another (I look a lot like my dad but my mum would always be the one sticking to me). As my bump got bigger, many people started talking to me in the buses and trains - asking how far along I was, and how old I am. Those didn't hurt as much since people tend to be nicer (although awkward) face-to-face, but there were also a lot of negativity online.
It's almost like a taboo to talk about being a single parent or having a child before marriage, and people judge no matter the decision you make! If you decide to abort a child, people call you out for being irresponsible and a "baby killer". If you decide to keep your child, people say it's a shotgun marriage and that you should know better. If you decide to raise your child alone, people say you are a disgrace to the family and will never find a partner. The ugly things go on and on, but the point is - it does not concern them whatever the decision I make, so why do people try to put us down when they don't even know our story?
It took me a while to get used to it, my own parents didn't even tell my relatives until much later - or even two weeks before I'm due. Times have changed, so if you're still judging a young/single parent for being "naive" or a "disgrace" - please stop. We don't ask for your pity or sympathy, but just your respect and acknowledgement that we are just like other parents - and be glad that we chose life. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all - that's all we ask for.
PILLARS OF SUPPORT
I'm fortunate that my parents were supportive of me throughout my pregnancy. They were there for every appointment, they stopped working a month before I was due, they helped with the hospital expenses and they never kicked me out of the house. Becoming a mother made me understand many things that my parents did, which I didn't before - it also made our relationship better because we started talking things out instead of slamming doors at each other.
I couldn't be more grateful or appreciative about the friends that I've made in polytechnic - they were shocked to find out about it but they didn't judge me (or at least, not in front of me), in fact, they were so supportive and I even had a friend's mother text me (through my friend) to show her support. On Gordon's full month celebration, my classmates even came together and raised over $500 in cash as a red packet blessing for us - and they made me open the envelope only when they left because they knew I wouldn't have accepted it. I was moved to tears and just sat there crying my heart out (thankfully they weren't there) because I had no source of income and we weren't well-to-do.
GORDON'S NAME ORIGIN
Many people asked if there's a meaning behind his name, so I decided to just share it here!
No, we didn't name him after Gordon Ramsay (although we are Masterchef fans), but it's a story that dates back to when I was born. You see, back when my mum had her ultrasound, the gynaecologist told my parents that they were expecting a boy - so they prepared for the arrival of a little prince and my dad was ready to name me Gordon. Fast forward to the day I was born, I turned out a girl and coupled with the amount of blood my mum lost (she has Thalassemia too)? My mum fainted and went into a coma for a few days. Since then, the name was stuck in my dad's head - so when we found out that I'm expecting a boy, I decided to name him Gordon even though I had other names in mind because I could always have more children in the future. I even made a baby-naming voucher for my dad as his Father's Day present as a surprise!
Gordon's surname is Lim, following my family because we didn't see the need for him to follow anyone else's. His Chinese name is Lim Jing Chang, or 林敬倡 - combining characters from suggested names calculated based on his Eight Characters of Birth Time (or 生辰八字). It was either that or Lim Jing Ju (林敬桔) and well, I didn't want him to be respecting oranges his whole life so ... we combined it with Lim Song Chang (林颂倡) and that's how he got his name!
LIFE AFTER GORDON
So much has happened after having Gordon that I'd probably write a book before telling you everything, but you can keep up with our story on my Instagram page because I share regular updates about his milestones, experiences and growing up together!
After giving birth to Gordon (you can read his birth story here), I spent about 6 months looking after him at home and I was writing notes for some friends at school so I could pick up some knowledge while preparing for school.
I also started the biggest initiative ever, an islandwide distribution of goodies to MRT staff on Christmas Day in 2016 - supported by kind sponsors, donors and volunteers! It was named Christmas Joy Ride and you can read that here.
Then I finished my final semester in school under an entrepreneurship program in school called SPiNOFF before ending off my polytechnic studies with an internship at Airfrov as a web developer intern (check out their awesome feature of me here!).
Right now, I'm doing several adhoc/remote jobs to help with family expenses while preparing to send Gordon to childcare in October - and I have plans to find a full-time job once he settles down (he can be a cranky Mummy's boy when he's sick/frustrated).
WHAT'S GORDON LIKE?
Another common question I get is people asking me what Gordon is like. I wouldn't go into detail, but he looks and behaves a lot like me - I'd say he's our happy pill and can be cheeky at times, but he's also Mummy's boy and has high emotional quotient (EQ)/empathy for his age.
Watching him grow in the first few months made me understand so much about what he was doing inside my womb. One of the most amusing things was watching him stretch because he'd be fighting these air monsters and doing karate kicks, which explained a lot about me feeling him move several limbs at a time - causing a ton of pain (yes, fetal movements can hurt!) during pregnancy.
When people ask whether I have any regrets, they usually expect to hear me say that I regret being a mother at this age, or I regret having Gordon - but my two biggest regrets have nothing to do with that.
My first biggest regret is not attending my friends' graduation ceremony. It happened on a schooling day for me, and I went home between my lessons because Gordon wasn't feeling well and I forgot my pump parts - the ceremony was in the evening and I just couldn't step away to get back to school so I missed it.
My second regret is not taking more photos during pregnancy. I only have a few photos of me and my bump because I didn't feel pretty to be taking photos, I wished I did because I have nothing to look back at - and seeing others post their pregnancy photos with their partners can be upsetting at times.
If you're reading this last paragraph, thank you for bearing with my naggy story! This took me a lot of courage to write, but I hope it inspires/helps someone out there who's struggling with teen pregnancy or single parenthood - if you ever need someone to talk to, no matter your circumstances/background, you can drop me a message under my "Contact Me" section in this blog. I promise I'd listen to your stories, and I'll help in any way I can!