It was still two weeks before she was due to give birth.
But when her water broke, Ms Cheng Kai Ling, a Malaysian who has worked and lived in Singapore for more than six years, was determined to stick to her plan to deliver her baby at a private hospital in Johor Bahru.
Not even the expected hordes of people heading into Johor Bahru on a Saturday morning could stop her and her husband, Mr Ong Teck San, from going across the Causeway – even if it meant they needed a little help from some Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers.
At around 7am on March 25, Ms Cheng was woken up by her husband’s alarm with the sensation that she was lying in a pool of water, nearly two weeks before she was expected to deliver her first child on April 7. Typically, labour begins after a pregnant woman’s water breaks, and contractions soon follow.
Ms Cheng and Mr Ong, a Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, then began the journey from their flat in Woodlands, about a 10-minute drive away from the checkpoint.
Once there, she summoned all the energy she had to walk the tunnels and pathways between the two countries with Mr Ong, to reach the counters and clear their passports.
“We were not thinking about other options, even though I was in some pain and discomfort,” Ms Cheng, 29, told The Straits Times over the phone on Saturday. “I thought about losing more amniotic fluid, which would affect the baby’s safety, but just kept going on.”
Even after her water broke, it never occurred to them to go to the nearest hospital in Singapore instead, she said.
Ms Cheng, who runs a home-based bakery, said she received the most help at the checkpoint from Singapore’s ICA officers, on a day when it seemed like “there were more people than usual”.
An ICA spokesman said two ICA officers, Ms Qaisarah Hata and Mr Umar Faarooq Raffick, approached the couple to better understand the situation after Ms Qaisarah spotted Mr Ong looking around anxiously in the bus hall.
Once Mr Ong, a 31-year-old contractor, told the officers his wife was due to deliver as her water had broken, they helped expedite the couple’s clearance. Mr Umar even got a wheelchair for Ms Cheng.
Afterwards, due to the heavy human traffic at the bus concourse, First Response Team officers were roped in to escort the couple to the departure bus concourse, and they asked a bus driver to ferry the two immediately to Malaysia.
The ICA spokesman said the couple departed the checkpoint in about 10 minutes with the help of the officers.
“We were both really surprised. We didn’t think they would bring out a wheelchair and help push me, but it provided a lot of relief,” said Ms Cheng, who got a lift from her father to the hospital in Johor Bahru.
Ms Qaisarah said: “I felt glad to be able to help the couple, as I could sense the worry in the husband’s voice. It’s a relief knowing that both the mother and child are safe.”
Commander of Woodlands Checkpoint Colin Tan said such acts from the officers “exemplified their strong sense of service and purpose as guardians of our borders”.
“We are proud of them for going beyond their call of duty to render assistance to the couple,” he said.
The assistance Ms Cheng received in Singapore helped alleviate some delays she experienced when clearing the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex in Johor Bahru, including when she was not able to present some documents verifying her stage of pregnancy.
Throughout the journey, Ms Cheng said she had been coaxing her yet-to-be-born baby to “cooperate” and wait till they reached the hospital to “come out”.
The couple eventually arrived at Columbia Asia Hospital in Iskandar Puteri, around 2½ hours from the time they left their home.
Ms Cheng had a smooth delivery, giving birth to a boy they have named Torrex Ong, just after 4pm. She is now seeing out her confinement at a centre in Johor Bahru.
The proud new mum, who will be operating her home bakery business online after her post-partum recovery, has one takeaway from the episode that stands out among others.
She said: “Even though there may be worries over how many days of leave mothers-to-be should take before they deliver, they should try to be in the country where they want to give birth.”
Text: Lok Jian Wen And Chin Hui Shan/The Straits Times