Motherhood brings unique joys and pains to every mum, and we are better off acknowledging that. In this series called Mum Truths, mums reveal their secret successes, miseries and gripes about parenting in a no-holds-barred first-person recount.

About eight years ago, I had a lengthy labour before my eldest arrived Earth-side. He was induced late Thursday night because he apparently had a large head that might make vaginal birth difficult. Fine, we rolled with it and naively thought the process would be relatively quick.

How wrong we were. Contractions were slow to come, cervical dilation even slower. I developed a fever in the process of waiting, so neither my husband nor I had much rest in those hours.

 It was 5pm the following day when our precious babe finally made his appearance. It wasn’t the end of the physical discomfort though. I started vomiting buckets immediately after delivery—it happened for all my three births—and the exhaustion and raging hormones were making me sob. 

And then right on cue, my husband announced that all our family members were on their way to the hospital. #FML

By 7pm, the ward was packed to the brim with well-wishers. I tried to be friendly, despite my tear-streaked face, post-partum pain and vomit caught in my hair. But really, I was dying inside with the chatter that was going on across the bed. (And I really wanted to yank that IV needle out from my skin.)

Fast forward to 19 months later, just before my second child was due, I knew I had to set firm boundaries. Thanks to my husband’s support, we told everyone to stay away from the hospital until at least the second day post-partum.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Unlike my first childbirth, my second kid came naturally at 39 weeks and popped right out in a few short hours. The only people I saw on day one were my newborn, husband and the medical team. 

I remember taking naps liberally in between the times they brought the baby to me for his feeds. I even dozed off in the middle of lunch, fork in hand. It was utter bliss.

When visitors arrived the following day, I was perky and welcoming. I felt good; they felt good. Everyone’s a winner.

Things got even more convenient when our third child came along at the end of 2021. Strict Covid safety measures were in place then. Visitors had to do a clinic-administered ART test and were only allowed to stay for an hour. 

We did not even have to say a word. Everyone knew what to do. It was after a week or two that we felt up to it for family members to swing by our home to cuddle with the babe. No one took offence. 

I felt grateful, still am, to have been given that little bit of space and quiet to heal. Even with the chaos of having three young children and no helper at home, I could take my time to settle into our natural rhythm after returning from the hospital. There was no need to worry about hosting outsiders who with all their best intentions tend to give unwelcome unsolicited advice. 

Some friends, who also prefer privacy post-partum, have marveled at how we have managed to keep family away from the hospital. To that I always say, “You have to ask for what you want.” You will be surprised at just how obliging loved ones can be. And if they aren’t, at least you tried. 

Mei Yan is mother to three boisterous children and two furry felines. She maintains her sanity with kopi siew dai, Reiki and Tarot reading, and hopes to pay off her sleep debt in this lifetime.