Motherhood is not a journey that one embarks on lightly. Unlike all the other turns we may take in life, motherhood is a path that goes beyond self-fulfilment -- it's about looking at your own life and knowing that you are willing to be responsible for the life of another.
It's a journey that begins with that one touch at birth that gives life to years of encouragement, fulfilment, love, and an intense bond between mother and child. A journey that passes through generations.
So this Mother's Day, we caught up with mother, entrepreneur, and Instagram star Bella Koh and got her chatting about the career change that shifted her life's path towards motherhood and the lessons she has learned so far as she rediscovers life with her 7-month old daughter, Alessandra.
We learned that you quit your job, took up yoga, and changed career paths. What drove you to pursue a drastic career change?
My mind was telling me my body wasn't well. I had wonderful bosses whom I learnt so much from; but the hours and amount of work were very demanding. I was travelling non-stop and managing stressful deadlines from design development to production. The work took a toll on me physically and mentally. So I decided to call it quits and took a step back in life.
Somehow, yoga and a vegan diet found me. I became drawn to the world of food knowledge and factory farming. I became more conscious of what I ate and did. I became so addicted to yoga I was practicing 2-3 hot classes a day. In a strange way, my body felt compelled to do something that felt good. I'm still practicing yoga until today at Pure Yoga. It's been almost 7 years and I definitely feel that my body age remained the same as it was 7 years ago.
Growing up, did you always envision yourself to eventually head towards the path of motherhood?
Honestly, I was the kind of person who never really saw myself as a mother. Being quite an imaginative person, I could visualise everything except this maternal part of myself. I was also at a stage when everything was perfect in my life. I was free to do whatever I wanted at my own time except for tending to a few felines. I hated commitment then, which also explained why we took forever to get married! I was pretty much in denial all the way through my pregnancy until after two weeks when Alessandra was born.
Did you have initial expectations on how being a mother would be like? Did reality meet those expectations?
It's like you try to see the future with a baby but there was no vision. And I meant none, basically blank. I also didn't enjoy being pregnant as I felt like I couldn't do much as I was carrying a bump everywhere I went. Pretty frustrating. I still remember the time when we were at the hospital and everyone was cooing to the baby while me and the husband looked on. Almost stunned by this strange little thing that is now part of our lives. We just didn't know how to express ourselves at the point. It was only a month after Alessandra was born when reality started kicking in. And that unexpected moment when your baby starts to smile back at you...the world evolved almost magically.
Were there things you wish you knew before becoming a mother?
That 9 months of pregnancy will feel more difficult than looking after your child. That contractions are the worst pain you'll ever encounter in your life. That you'll have 15,000 photographs of your baby on your phone.
A lot of people say that motherhood is a blessing, so what do you love most about being a mother?
If anyone told me that before I had a baby, I'll probably roll my eyes and give that person the "you are lying please" type of look. But the first blessing truly comes from the moment your child looks you in the eye with so much innocence and gradually unleashing the most beautiful smile on her face. The second blessing makes you understand how wonderful your parents are and how tough it was for them to bring you up from a tiny helpless baby to an adult.
Motherhood demonstrates the greatness of all beings. After that the blessings become endless. You experience love every other day and you become a kinder, more tolerant person. Because to sacrifice is to love.
But everything, including motherhood, has its ups and downs...so what are some of the difficulties that you face as a new mom and how have you worked through them?
That there are a dozen items a child requires once she is born. I read extensively but I found out the best way to make this work is to: trust yourself and simplify your baby's stuff in order to simplify yours.
I only bought the same style of onesies for her daily wear so I never have to think about what she has to wear. I also made it a point to keep her wardrobe to a minimal and muted colour palette. We also made our lives easier by following the French way of putting your baby to sleep early and wean off night feeds as early as possible.
What are some of the things your mother has taught you that you would like to pass on to your child?
My mother taught me many things. She was a very artistic person. I always remember her helping me with arts and crafts in primary school which I usually scored As for! Thanks to her, I cultivated a deep love towards art and design which became my career.
She also had a very kind heart for animals. I think all of us siblings got that from her. We would weep together watching documentaries of preys and predators on TV. I vividly remember this one time when we went on a trip to Thailand and a friend of my Daddy brought us to an elephant safari where tourists rode on them. Our entire family broke down into tears and sobbed throughout that session. We refused to ride on any of them when we saw how cruel they were being treated.
Most importantly, when I grew older and became a teenager, she would always preach to me about self-love. I guess that was her way of educating us at that point when we were turning rebellious and nagging ceased to work.
For all the new moms or soon-to-be moms out there, can you share some tips about motherhood?
I made a bold decision to bring up my child on my own without any help after a bad experience with my live-in helper. Taking a lot of chances here as a first time mum; but seeing how my mother brought the three of us up by herself, I felt challenged to do the same.
Motherhood can be a breeze if you don't start worrying so early about what would be the best for them... like schools, education and a whole list of things that won't be happening anytime soon.
Live in the moment and allow plenty of playtime with your child. It's all they need. Be involved as much as you can. Share your values, principles, and simply observe what they do and what their interests may be. There are only a few short years of them as an infant to a toddler. These years will be precious and very much cherished.