Couplehood

Articles

By Tan Yi Lin
 

“Oh, it’s the ‘have more babies’ propaganda bus again,” muttered my colleague, rolling her eyes at the sight of the I Love Children Bus parked along Amoy Street.

 

“Come, let me take you up the bus. It’s not what you think it is”, I offered.

 

We made our way under the shade of the leafy sidewalk trees towards the stationary bus.

 

“The ‘C’ money can’t buy?” exclaimed my friend, reading aloud the gigantic words plastered on the bus exterior, “That means children are very expensive, right?”

 

“Like I said – it’s not what you think,” I replied, squeezing onto the already-packed bus, which had attracted a sizeable lunch-hour crowd from nearby Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar.

 

Understanding Finances

A common misunderstanding that couples have about starting a family is that babies are expensive. To address their financial concerns, I Love Children offered some sound advice on how to be financially-wise, for example, starting a family fund before babies come along and prioritising spending.

 

Recognising that younger couples may be deterred by the thought of having to save up thousands of dollars in the kitty so soon after the wedding before trying for a baby, celebrity chefs Sam and Forest Leong jovially reminded everyone that “No matter what your age, it’s never too early to start saving for baby!”

 

Now parents to two adult children, the Leongs – pictured on a poster above our heads – affirmed, “Our bank statement was almost empty when we started our parenthood journey in our early 20s…There was no Baby Bonus and fewer government subsidies. So we had to be prudent, buy only necessary items and not overspend on baby stuff….”

 

 

Unlike during the challenging times that Sam and Forest had keeping afloat while juggling a career in the culinary world with two young boys, there are now grants, subsidies and reliefs to cope with the additional costs that come with the pitter-patter of tiny feet.

 

These are the various types of financial help available to parents:

 

• Baby Bonus Cash Gift

Child Order               
Born between
17 Aug 2008 
15 Aug 2012 (for each child)
Born on or after
26 Aug 2012 (for each child)
 
1st & 2nd child
 
$4,000$6,000
 
3rd & 4th child
 
$6,000$8,000
The cash gift is given out in 3 instalments over 12 months: 50% atf birth, 25% at 6 months and 25% at 12 months.
 
• Baby Bonus Child Development Account (CDA)

The CDA is a co-savings scheme for children, matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government, up to a specific ceiling:

Child OrderFrom 17 Aug 2008 onwards
(for each child)
 1st & 2nd child                       $6,000
3rd & 4th child$12,000
5th child & beyond$18,000
 
• Medisave Grant for Newborns

A CPF Medisave account is created for all Singapore Citizen newborns born on or after 26 August 2012 and they will receive $3,000 grant in their Medisave account in two equal tranches. The grant can be used to pay for healthcare expenses, like vaccinations.

 

The I Love Children ambassador pointed out more tips on how parents and would-be parents could maximise their dollar without compromising their lifestyle, such as accepting hand-me-downs, eating at home more often instead of at restaurants and spending within a budget.

 

“That was useful advice,” nodded my friend, “And that’s quite a bit of money that the government gives out for each child, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes, but money shouldn’t be the only factor in deciding when to start family,” I said, as I brought her over to the next panel “Fertility matters too. Here, let me share our story with you.”

 

Watch That Clock

“Hey! That’s your photo! Your daughters are so cute!” exclaimed my friend at the sight of my huge family picture on the wall of the bus.

 

When we were planning to start a family back in 2010, my husband and I never thought that we would have to resort to IVF. We had assumed that babies would come naturally when we wanted them. After all, at 30, I didn’t consider myself too old to get pregnant. Little did I know that at that age, I only had a 10% chance of conceiving naturally. What’s more, fertility checks revealed that I had blockage in my fallopian tubes and that it was only through In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) that we would have any hope of conceiving at all.

 

 

 

Acknowledging that we needed help in conceiving and embracing fertility treatment was difficult at first. Now, looking back, we know that it was the best decision of our lives. Those anxious times of hospital visits, long waits, injections and scans have since transformed into happy ones, filled with joy and laughter now that we're parents to Colette and Claire.

 

“Ohhhh,” exhaled my friend in surprise, “I would never have thought that you did IVF. You’re so young!”

 

Next to us, an I Love Children ambassador was explaining to a young male visitor that baby-making was not a matter of ‘hitting the jackpot’ on the very first try and that couples had to give themselves ample time and be prepared for delays.


 

 

He expressed genuine surprise at the percentages:

 

Female Fertility

 

The ambassador nodded gravely, “Exactly. Money can always be earned but you can’t ‘earn’ back your fertility. Fertility is a gift with an expiry date.”

 

I studied the statistics on the number of eggs in a woman and turned to my friend, “See? I told you this isn’t a ‘have more babies’ Bus. It’s a ‘must plan early because your eggs are dying by the thousand every month’ bus”, I joked.

 

“How about male fertility? What can I do to protect my, erm, ‘soldiers’?” whispered the young man. In response, the ambassador directed him to the panel on male fertility:

 

Male Fertility

• Fertility decreases significantly in men after 35 as the quality and quantity of sperm tend to decline with age.
• Have a balanced diet, increase protein and fresh foods, i.e. less processed foods, when trying for baby.
• Sperm takes three months to develop from cell to sperm, so anything that damages it along this timeline will decrease semen quality.
• Wearing boxer shorts will help to keep temperatures cooler for better sperm production.
• Reduce alcohol for two months prior to trying for baby.
• Never put laptops directly on your lap!

* Source: Women & Fetal Centre – a member of Pacific Healthcare @ Paragon

 

“Ah okay, do not place laptop directly on lap,” he noted. “Got it. Thanks.”

 

“And if you and your wife have been trying for more than a year to 18 months without success, consult your gynaecologist, okay?” added the ambassador.

 

“What if I need to resort to IVF?” my friend asked me, “Is it very expensive? How did you manage to pay for all the treatment expenses?”

 

I pointed her to the information on the Enhanced Co-funding for Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) Treatment, where eligible couples seeking ART treatment in public hospitals can receive up to 75% in Government co-funding, for a maximum of three fresh and three frozen ART cycles. “Even though we already have two children, we will be eligible for the co-funding scheme when we try for our third through the frozen cycle,” I shared.

 

Parenthood Rocks!

Oh yes indeed – the arrival of a newborn definitely rocks the dreamboat that marriage is.

 

Celebrities Darren Lim and Evelyn Tan have literally let parenthood rock their world – by raising their family on a boat. In a poster, the spunky duo and their brood of four grin happily at us but also share with visitors the reality that “There were adjustments to make, as living in close proximity meant getting our elbows in one another’s way.”

 

But with the smaller living space, the Lims spend less time with housework and have more family time. So what’s to say that we cannot have the adventure of our lives with children?

 

The parenthood journey can be a roller-coaster ride of emotions. The key to managing your new life as a parent is to be flexible and make your life work with baby now in the picture.

 

I Love Children shared some tips on how new parents could care for their baby and for themselves, such as sleeping along with the baby, keeping energy up with a healthy balanced diet, and combining tasks like bonding with baby together with a walk.

 

 

The friendly ambassador reminded us that it was important to set aside time to engage in hobbies, and to stay connected with our spouse and friends. I nodded along in agreement with her advice on how to manage both career and motherhood, such as exploring flexible work arrangements at the workplace and learning that it’s okay to ask for help – both at work and at home.

 

Pledging for Parenthood

“What are all these people signing up for?” asked my friend, looking at a group of smartly-dressed women busily scribbling alongside one another.

 

“That’s the Parenthood Pledge!” I said,

 

“My husband and I made a pledge to parenthood before our daughters came along and we were amongst the first 100 couples to successfully conceive. Abbott Nutrition delivered $300 worth of follow-on formula for the girls when they turned six months old.”

 

“Oh wow, I’m signing up too!” she replied, grabbing a pen.

 

The Verdict

“So how did you find the I Love Children bus?” I asked my friend, as we walked back to the office along Amoy Street, “Not as un-cool as you thought it would be, huh?”

 

“Definitely not,” she admitted, “On the contrary, the facts and figures were a real eye-opener and a wake-up call for couples who are delaying family plans in fear of drastic lifestyle changes or additional financial burden that children may bring. I Love Children has recognised these as valid concerns, and have addressed them with sound advice and practical tips. It certainly is food for thought. Thanks for bringing me up the....oh, wait!”

 

She spun on her heels and headed back towards the bus... “I want to get more brochures for my friends and tell them where the bus will be going to next!”

 

Mission accomplished.

 

Look out for the I Love Children Bus as it goes all over town. Catch it next at:

• IMM on Wednesday, 5 March, 11am to 3.30pm
• Bread Talk IHQ on Friday, 7 March, 11 am to 3.30pm

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