“An interview with The Singapore Women’s Weekly usually means I’ve hit another milestone in my life,” Sheila Sim says with a laugh, on what was about to be an hour-long chat over the phone with the actress and entrepreneur.
It’s true. The last we spoke to Sheila, 36, was in April, when she had just announced the news of her bundle of joy. She gets real about her pregnancy journey, how she’s handled it throughout the Covid-19 situation, and how she’s been prepping for her newborn.
Sheila Sim (SS): It’s actually been very smooth right from the beginning. I’ve had no morning sickness, and even my water retention only started a couple of weeks ago. In fact, no one suspected I was pregnant at all! I was still filming intensively for the first three months. But as I knew I was already pregnant and didn’t know how it would all pan out, I had my scenes scheduled first.
SS: Everything about motherhood is nerve-wracking! There’s a lot of uncertainty; anything can happen as the due date inches closer. I’ve never been a mother, and I’ve always been scared of carrying newborns – they’re so fragile! There are all the little details, like clipping their nails, and the major things like breastfeeding and latching. I worry if I can possibly do all that – it’s a whole new world for me.
But one amazing thing I experienced through this pregnancy is the power of women supporting each other, and my social circle has widened. I’ve received an overwhelming show of support from other women, including from those whom I don’t know (from social media as well as friends of friends). It’s comforting to know that there is a huge network out there that I can turn to. I also got to know the folks from baby product brands like Hegen and Motherswork, who are experienced in their field, and give great advice.
SS: Because of the Covid-19 situation, I didn’t have to go to work and managed to rest a lot. Even with the safety measures in place, there’s still a risk and there’s nowhere safer than home.
But of course, there were other worries as well. We were told my husband wouldn’t be able to be in the operating theater with me, but thankfully, the restrictions have been lifted. And there were definitely concerns and precautions that had to be taken when I went for checkups.
I’ve had so much time to prepare, including tidying the house, so I’m mentally more relaxed. It would have been more stressful under normal circumstances, and if I had to work or attend events. I feel very lucky.
SS: I actually did up my nursery a few months ago! Motherhood has changed me in ways I didn’t think it would. I used to be quite a procrastinator, but with this one, I made preparations really early. With so much uncertainty, trying to get anything in order gives me peace of mind.
My hospital bag was packed when I was 34 weeks pregnant, and a lot of my friends said I’m very kiasu (laughs). I was getting rid of stuff and making space during the Circuit Breaker. I also did a lot of research online, and checked out the things I needed to buy.
As for the nursery, I’d initially wanted it to be all white, but it turned out quite colourful. I bought little cloud decals for the feature wall, and gifts from friends also added to the decor. But it’s still ultimately a nice and restful space for the baby.
SS: I love dressing up my bump! This is when you can truly embrace your body shape. I’ve always been into loose clothes, so most them still fit. I usually pair voluminous tops and dresses with basic bottoms, like tights or high-waisted pencil skirts. A lot of my dresses are huge and pregnancy-friendly, and I’ll add a belt for some definition.
I didn’t like a lot of the typical maternity clothes that were available in the shops. A lot of them were dresses, and while convenient, the materials can be quite thick. Feeling hot and sweating is a constant during pregnancy, so I’ve worn a lot of singlets, and casual pieces. Comfort aside, I would try to accessorise and brighten up my outfit with colours. Colours make me feel happier.
SS: I didn’t have an idea of what a maternity shoot should be like, and Pinterest was my go-to for inspiration. I wanted something sophisticated and timeless as it’s a moment I want to remember for a lifetime. My hair and makeup were kept simple and the clothes were all neutral. I was really happy with the outcome!
I didn’t want to reveal too much, and I think it’s important to feel comfortable. I’ve never done a lingerie shoot and I was really shy! If I had to give a tip, it would be to put insecurities aside and choose outfits that you’re comfortable in – I chose to wear a kaftan over my lingerie. Any discomfort you feel will show up in the shots.
(“How was (husband) Deon during the shoot?”, we asked.)
He totally surprised me! He’s never really been interested in photo shoots. In fact, he was on his phone all the time, even as I was there in all my lingerie! And that’s what I love him for. But when he was in front of the camera, I was completely impressed with how well he did, and how the shots turned out.
SS: He’s been really sweet and I feel blessed to have a good husband. Pregnancy is a pretty vulnerable time, and insecurities and emotional moments will arise. Especially being in the media industry, there’s a pressure to still look good. But things like water retention and breakouts aren’t something we can control. This is when it’s important for the people around you, especially your spouse, to be supportive.
Our relationship has evolved as well. In the past, we were both quick-tempered, and would get into tense disagreements. But as the time pasts, I feel that things have changed. Sometimes, we agree to disagree, but also talk it out and compromise. The real challenge will come when the baby arrives, when there may be different viewpoints and priorities. But our values have been very aligned so far and I’m happy with that.
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As I inch closer to my due date, my back is starting to ache from #babyWooLaLa exponential weight gain. I'm starting to get water retention in my legs and feet. I'm constantly feeling hot and sweaty, severely dehydrated even with 3l of water intake everyday. My hair is limp and weak (that luscious hair during pregnancy thing DID NOT AT ALL happen for me). I feel tired, but can't maintain my sleep well at night. Exercise really helps me feel better! I missed swimming the whole of last week and was feeling uncomfortable all over. Today's swim is such a treat! So glad i manage to do my usual 10 laps before it started to pour! On top of swimming, I've now also included once a week pilates session with @thebettermovementstudio and trekking. I recently rediscovered the beauty of Botanic Gardens, so will likely take my mom for a trek sometime this week! #34 weeks into the pregnancy already! So proud that i manage to stay active the whole time. I'm sure all of this will help with my c-sect postnatal recovery! #sheilaloveherlife #SSpregnancyjourney #pregnancy #pregnantbelly #exercise #sheilaworksout #pregnancyjourney #pregnantstyle #34weeks
A post shared by Sheila Sim 沈琳宸 (@sheila_sim) on
SS: My gynaecologist said I had to avoid exercise during the first trimester as the baby had just been implanted in the womb. But afterwards, up until two weeks ago, I swam, did yoga and pilates, and went trekking. I also bonded with my parents through some of these activities – I wanted them to feel involved throughout the pregnancy. So that was nice.
I think pregnancy isn’t a good time to pick up a new habit, especially if you aren’t usually active. But I feel that swimming is a good exercise for mums-to-be as it’s less impactful on the joints. I love the water as it gives me a sense of peace.
I think they can sense that something is different; they’ve been completely needy in the third trimester! But honestly, I’m just really excited to see how they’ll react. They’ve been good cats and have never scratched or bitten us, so I believe they’ll be gentle (and curious!) with the baby. They’re such a joy and I hope they’ll be best friends!
SS: I definitely want to go back to work, but only when both the baby and I are ready. It really depends on her temperament and when she does settle down. We haven’t established the support and help we’ll need from the family as well. I think it’s very stressful to be a stay-home mum and I have a newfound respect for that. Going back to work is healthier for my mental space but I’ll have to make the necessary adjustments. I want to enjoy my time with my child, and not be obligated to constantly stay around.
I realised that veterans in the media industry have good relationships with their children, because they’re constantly interacting with younger people and they’re up-to-date with trends. So I think that helps in being more open-minded as a parent, and it’s a good mental state to be in.