The struggle to not keep looking back is real. A few night ago, I laid in bed crying inconsolably over our babies once again. I cried because I had convinced myself in that moment that I was the reason they are no longer here. Perhaps I could have done more. Only I was to blame. And then, Mum crawled into bed with me, cradling me to sleep. Our three babies were supposed to spend their first years in this room. They were the ones meant to be crying here, not me.
There is an understanding that when we die, it is the ones we leave behind who suffer. It’s true. However, Florian and I also know that life goes on. We don’t move on as such. Instead, we move forward. In the past weeks, we have managed to do so with the overwhelming love and support from our family and dearest friends. Florian and I as well, have been spending more quality time together.
Last weekend, after months of procrastination, we finally hauled ourselves over to MacRitchie Reservoir to complete the 12km round-trip treetop walk. We spent much of our time sharing our thoughts and feelings, reconnecting emotionally with each other.
I managed to become teary listening to a father talk to his young son like an equal. We always imagined that we would be parents like this father is. There was so much love between them that my heart ached at the beauty of their bond, as well as our loss.
One thing we are certain of though, is that we need to continue holding tightly onto Hope. Florian and I made a conscious decision to make the most of the rest of 2019. We plan to do more activities together as a couple, and continue to spend quality time with friends and family.
No number of ‘If only’s and ‘What if’s will bring our babies back. There is no ‘rewind’ button. Instead, all we can do is go on with life, live it well, and face each day with optimism knowing that our triplets are peeping down at us from up above.
This past Saturday, my first day out of a month’s confinement, I chose to celebrate life with my loved ones. It was meant to be a belated birthday celebration – a much happier one compared to the one I had in hospital, a day after our babies went to heaven.
We had brunch at 11 Hamilton.
Then together, without our husbands, we went off to learn how to make Png Kueh, a Teochew heritage food in Singapore.
Png Kueh is a kind of dumpling filled with a savoury glutinous rice studded with peanuts, shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp. Its slightly chewy, soft skin gives way to a burst of earthy, nutty, sweet, salty amalgamation. Pink skin png kuehs are eaten any time, while the white skin ones are traditionally used by Taoists to offer to gods. After the offering, a pink or red dot on the white skin makes it permissible for consumption.
Heritage foods such as these are seldom made from scratch these days. Reason being is that they are time-consuming and laborious to prepare. Making a batch of dough for the skin took 30 minutes of constant stirring. This batch made about 40 kuehs. Imagine if you were a kueh seller and had to make hundreds for sale daily!
We learned how to get the dough flattened, lay it into the mould, fill it with the glutinous rice filling, and wrapped, ready to be steamed.
Making kuehs in the past was often a communal thing. Either families would come around to set up a ‘factory line’, each being in charge of one part of the kueh-making process, or gossiping aunties would get together in the afternoon to make them.
Many hands make light work that’s for sure. Getting our hands dirty was fun. It was also very satisfying to see the kuehs popping out nicely from the moulds.
We also made green png kuehs which was Chef Chris’s modern spin on the traditional png kueh. The green ones were Thunder Tea aka Lei Cha versions involving sushi rice mixed with a myriad of the morning’s fresh vegetables at the wet market. It was herbaceous and healthful.
I still prefer the original png kueh, and I think thunder tea rice in its original form appeals to me more than this kueh rendition. Then again, I’ve always been one to opt for original flavours. There’s a reason why they were original in the first place right?
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at The Kitchen Society. Chef Chris was incredibly knowledgeable about kuehs. We could ask him anything, and he was keen to share all that he knew about them from their history, to how they evolved over the years. Hsin Yi, the coordinator, was also very warm and hospitable, taking time to chat with us and get to know us.
With the fruit of our labour packed in boxes, we bid goodbye to Chef Chris and Hsin Yi, promising to return soon (once we’ve saved enough).
Dinner was at Mum and Dad’s. Dad had promised everyone that he would cook Lor Bak – Braised pork belly, another heritage dish. He never made it before this weekend, but had confidently stepped up to the plate before my hospitalisation. He also promised Cincalok (Fermented shrimp) Omelette. We made sure he held up his end of the bargain – he would cook, we would eat.
Mum supported Dad by cooking my favourite Chap Chye (Braised mixed vegetables – usually cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, black fungus and lily bulbs).
YJ contributed delicious, perfectly cooked, grilled miso black cod. I’ve already made a request for it to make a reappearance when we go to theirs for Shabu-Shabu. The two portions of Thai mango salad were bought. The salad may not look outstanding but it was a flavour-bomb.
Dad’s Lor Bak turned out well especially for a first-try. All the men especially lapped up the meat. Mum’s Chap Chye was nearly wiped out. She had made a huge pot for dinner, using over 2kg of cabbage. A small soup bowl’s worth was all that was left.
And there was cake! This is everyone’s favourite cake. I bake cakes but I don’t have a favourite cake as of now so we went with the people’s choice – Meringue cake with Passionfruit mousse and fresh mangoes and strawberries from The Patissier. Lesley very sweetly ordered this for me and meant for it to be a secret. Only, I already knew.
In recent years, every birthday has been spent like this: One meal with Florian and my parents, another celebration with friends, and a nice meal/activity with just Florian.
Keeping with tradition, we had lunch with Mum and Dad on Sunday after my first yoga class since my week 20 prenatal class. Also, it was my first yoga class with Florian!
Lunch was at Li Bai because I missed dim sum.
Li Bai serves really awesome dim sum. All the steamed items were stellar. The deep fried prawn in taro dumplings were not my favourite. The original minced meat stuffed taro dumplings would have been better but I can appreciate the break from tradition.
I also prefer the usual XO carrot cake fried with eggs and without dark soy sauce, so I wasn’t a big fan of this version either. It was a bit oily for my liking.
Food aside, what matters most is the blessings I have surrounding me every day.
Mum and Dad’s love and support for us have never wavered. Even as their hearts broke seeing ours broken, they held us up and helped us to heal. Mum’s insistence on me going through confinement and having post part massages helped strengthen me from day to day. Getting stronger physically has also helped me become stronger emotionally.
After lunch, Florian and I headed to Jalan Sultan to do some painting. I love the therapy in art even though I don’t do it as often as I’d like to.
I was in a bit of a mad rush at the end because I was slightly over time. They didn’t chase me out though, which was nice. In fact, they didn’t even come to me to say that time was up.
My favourite man and his sea turtle.
Dinner was Kaisen Chirashi Don at The Sushi Bar in Ngee Ann City, and an Ika Shio. It wasn’t that I was craving raw seafood. I decided to have it only because I can now eat sashimi. I don’t plan on having it often though since I should try to keep my body and uterus ‘warm’. It was delectable nonetheless and I enjoyed it.
Getting back out, doing things with Florian, my parents, our friends, have helped me to be reminded that life goes on even after death. Once in a while, I may have to hit pause and allow myself that moment to grieve. That’s okay. What’s important is to find things that can help us see the light again, or find reasons to laugh again.
Our friends and family hurt when we hurt. They smile when we smile. In moving forward, we are reassuring those we love, and those who love us most, that we will be okay. There is still so much life in us to live. Our babies have taught us that life can be given and taken away in a flash. As much as we miss them, as much as we love them, we still need to continue living each day as best as we can. If not at first for ourselves, then at least for the ones who are cheering us one, every step of the way.
It does get better.