“I tend to read up to find what works for baby whereas my mother and mother-in-law suggest non-evidence-based approaches traditionally passed down from generation to generation.”
This month’s That Mama is healthcare worker and mother of one, Navasakhti Sundra Moorthi. Nava is a Senior Staff Nurse at a High Dependency Unit at the National Heart Centre Singapore. Here she tells us about her decision to get pregnant despite the start of the pandemic, how she copes with her mother and mother-in-law’s differing parenting strategies, and what life was really like as a healthcare worker when COVID-19 was at its worst in Singapore.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family!
I am a Senior Staff Nurse at National Heart Centre Singapore, Intermediate Care Area which functions like a High Dependency Unit. I have been working for about 8 years now. I am married to my wonderful husband, Winson Eugene and am blessed with a 7-month-old baby boy Jireh Eugene.
Before Jireh, it was just me and my husband in our 5 room HDB home. We felt much freedom and space to do whatever we wanted at any time. After our marriage in October 2019, we took a year to get to know each other on a deeper level before trying for a child. We also strongly felt that it was highly necessary for us to have our own personal time during that first year before a child came into the picture.
How have you coped with looking after your baby and returning to work?
Once my son Jireh was born in Sept 2021, my mother in law came to live with us to help in his care. We also made arrangements for a domestic helper to come in from India to help us with the household chores and take care of both my mother-in-law and Jireh. My parents will come home on alternate days to play and take care of him.
Winson and I had many changes to adapt to and get accustomed to being parents. The fact that we have more people living in the house was already a new change. This is still a challenge as we need to meet and satisfy the various needs of everyone in the household.
Returning to work after maternity leave was exciting for me as being cooped up in the house made me feel mundane and restless. It was a good change of environment and a breath of fresh air. Even now, work seems to be a good break for me from home affairs. Although there are times when I can’t bear to say goodbye to Jireh as I leave home for my shift or miss him at work during break times, it has always been rather stress-relieving to go to work.
You decided to get pregnant during 2020 when the pandemic was in full swing – tell us about this?
Since we had informed our parents from the time we got married that we wanted a one year period just for the both of us, they waited patiently for the one year to be over! As promised, Winson and I tried for a baby at the end of 2020 and not long after I conceived Jireh. Being a Christian, getting pregnant during the pandemic season did not seem to be of much concern to us. It did pose its own set of challenges. One example would be needing to wear the N95 mask throughout work and feeling breathless because of it. We strongly believed that if God provided us with a child, He will bring us through all circumstances. No matter the kind of situation, He will provide a way out. Hence we were not very worried from the beginning.
How have you navigated living with your mother-in-law?
Living with two new people in the house (my mother-in-law and a new helper) was certainly difficult. It still is! Haha. I presume it’s the generation gap between my mother-in-law and myself that causes friction and difference in opinion. To date, it’s a challenge and every day brings about a new obstacle on its own.
My helper on the other hand is new to this country and this job itself. Hence training her was demanding at the start and ensuring jobs around the house get done is presently a feat.
Do the grandparents have different views when it comes to parenting your baby?
Yes!! Haha. I believe this will continue as Jireh grows up and even when another baby comes into the picture. One major difference in opinion would be how the traditional way of caring for baby interferes with current research that new parents love to adopt. Winson and I tend to read up to find what works for baby and possible solutions to various challenges whereas my mother and mother-in-law seem to suggest non-evidence based approaches which were traditionally passed down from generation to generation. Definitely there is a clash in ideas and views.
Winson and I often remind our folks that we are the parents, not them and to allow us to be the final decision-makers for our baby.
We have so much respect and appreciation for front liners in healthcare. How did COVID-19 affect your job if at all?
COVID-19 did not pose too much extra stress on my side of Nursing as my ward was not exposed to many COVID-19 patients. During the initial period of the spread of the virus in the year 2020, other hospitals needed help with manpower. My department called for volunteers and I gave my name. Eventually, I wasn’t activated however my fellow colleagues were. The experiences that they shared were simply remarkable as they had to don the full PPE each time before attending to patients. They also mentioned that they felt very fulfilled nursing these COVID-19 patients.
When the pandemic was at its worst and less was known about the virus, did you or your colleagues experience burnout due to extra shifts and the added stresses?
No we did not experience much stress or burnout as my department did not tend to many COVID-19 patients. In fact, to be really honest, the COVID-19 period was a good break for all of us working in my department as we had less patients to care for. Pre-COVID-19, on a usual day, we take in elective cases that are post procedure needing additional monitoring as well as emergency cases that require a higher level of care. Thus it’s mostly always a busy and stressful day for my colleagues and myself. However during COVID-19, the surge in cases was low in my area allowing us to breathe a little. Currently, it is back to normal and as demanding as before.
Have you found interesting ways of coping with the work stress given you work in a high dependency ward?
Generally, my team is a fun-loving bunch and our presence together at work is always filled with much joy and laughter. Even most of our patients tend to ask us, “Wah you all so happy ah?” or comment “You all are so joyful and keep laughing that makes my stay here happy also.” It is very heartening to hear this from our patients as we relieve the stress from our workload by being happy and coming to work with a heart full of joy. This is so that when we serve our patients, we can do with utmost exuberance and enthusiasm.
Did you always know you wanted to work in healthcare?
Nursing was my calling. I had never imagined myself to be a Nurse or be in the healthcare arena. As a believer in Christ, I found myself being led by Him to this profession through mainly His word and unceasing prayer. Certainly, the encouragement I received from the people around me and their wise words also helped me to make this decision. Never regretted it once to this day!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Don’t bother about what others have to say about how you should be as a parent. Make the best decision with your spouse knowing that even if it fails, there is always something to learn from and mistakes are the best way to grow. If you don’t make them, you will never know what you don’t know.
Do you have any tips for other parents of small babies for keeping the romance alive?
Always remember to have your ‘ME’ time with one another. Also do accept and take advantage of people who offer to take care of baby and genuinely want to babysit while you and your spouse take some time off.
Winson and I always remind each other how much we love each other and take lots of time during car rides back from work or to church to communicate and talk about our lives.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Breastfeeding and that I had put in more effort with this.
I wish I had more time for…
I always feel saner after…
Talking and venting to my husband, praying to Jesus and journaling after.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Nothing in general. Most of the time I am up because of baby and wish I could sleep longer haha!
My favourite moment of the day is…
When I see my baby’s face after work, full of smiles and excitement to see me!
Thank you for your time and sharing your story with us Nava! And a big thank you to all your team and fellow healthcare colleagues looking after everyone!
Read More: Past That Mama Interviews