Birthdays are difficult things to the bereaved. Especially if you have surviving young children who won't understand. You feel ambivalent. You want to make your kids happy, but you are crying inside.
The day Andrew was born, he was already on his journey to becoming an angel. I was a bereaved mum, the healthy baby I wanted had gone and I was just waiting for his death. Any mum who has to wait for that awful day is journeying a most heart wrenching path.
How long must you wait?
Your patience wears thin.
It was my birthday on the 25th. Usually, I tell Deborah to remind Daddy that it was my birthday, and he would buy a cake and we’d go out for a meal. In the hustle and bustle of 11A, we forgot. The next morning, I lay on the bed in the Nurses’ Home and realised it was the first time in my life I didn’t have any celebration for my birthday. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel disappointed with Chen Onn. I was too exhausted to care.
To every Chinese mother who has delivered her baby, when her baby is one month, it is a big celebration. It is a day she is released from her confinement. She could go out and do anything she wants. There is a big celebration known as the baby’s full moon. Both sets of grandmas would bring special cakes and red eggs and they have a big party. They give gifts of a special red cake called Ang Gu Kuai. It is red because red is an auspicious colour, and it is shaped a turtle. Turtles have long life. I sat beside Andrew’s cot. There was no release of confinement prison for me; there was no Ang Gu kuai for Andrew. There was nothing. Sob!!!!
October 1990 we are in Singapore.
This date, 29th September 1989, a year ago was my fateful day. I lie in bed, today was Andrew’s first birthday. But there was no rejoicing and no remembering. To Chen Onn, it was as if Andrew didn’t exist. To me, a nail was thrust in my heart. I was ambushed by grief. To some Chinese and Taiwanese people, mothers are acknowledged on their children’s birthdays. That day was mum’s “Shou nan re”, mum’s day of great suffering. When the children are young, dads give mum a present. When the children grow up, they give mum one. It makes sense; even the Bible tells that there is no greater pain than child birth. In New Zealand, some bereaved mums celebrate their deceased child’s birthday, and mark the occasion by visiting their graves.
I went to the doctor to make sure I had a strong contraceptive pill so I wouldn’t get pregnant. I wasn’t going to have another baby. Period! I don’t know why nobody recommended a ligation. I think Chen Onn was hoping once I got over my grief, I would change my mind. I don’t know; we never talked. Andrew became his unmentionable. He worked long hours in Singapore. They don’t work nine to five. He even worked on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons, sometimes he worked in the evenings.
I didn't write anything about celebrating my birthday. I probably didn't celebrate it. I was in no mood. I didn't want to be involved in anything frivolous. I wanted my baby. Nobody remembered. The girls was too young.