“My Baby Saved Me”

Having a baby for the first time is a life-changing experience for new parents, but for Cheryl Wee, her newborn didn’t just alter her life, he saved it. Before her pregnancy, Cheryl shares that her health was poor, due in large part to aggressive dieting over the past four years.

Cheryl’s foray into Taiwan back in 2013 exposed her to the impossible standards of beauty set by the entertainment industry, where she had talent agencies and casting agents telling her she was not slim enough to succeed.

“I felt constantly pressured to lose weight. I was already at 42kg before entering the industry, but I was constantly reminded that I was fat, so much so that I actually believed it and began aggressively dieting and exercising for hours a day,” Cheryl reveals.

She soon developed an eating disorder, alternating between not eating and bingeing on desserts and sweets, then relying on laxatives to purge what she ate. Her health deteriorated to the point where she stopped menstruating for a year-and-a-half.

“It was quite a difficult period for her,” recalls her husband, Roy Fong, who urged her to come back to Singapore then. “After every meal, she would get very upset with herself for eating so much – even if it was just a little bit! She wasn’t happy, yet her job as an entertainer called on her to be happy and upbeat. Those extreme emotions made life very difficult for her.”

Then, things took a turn when Cheryl discovered she was pregnant last year – just two months after their wedding. “It caught us by surprise because up until my big day, I still had irregular periods. Our doctors had advised us it would take about six months to a year for me to conceive, while I worked on my health,” Cheryl says. But that was not the only surprise in store for her. Pregnancy changed her eating preferences, and she no longer craved sugar-laden desserts. Aiming to eat right for her baby also taught her to shift her attention away from her eating disorder.

“I knew I couldn’t diet while I was pregnant. I couldn’t be obsessed with what I was going to eat all the time, or with bingeing or what my next diet
was going to be. Instead, my mind naturally focused on what was right for the baby and on other areas in my life, such as work,” says Cheryl, who also owns Cheryl W, a weight management and wellness centre that has several locations across Singapore.

This shift in priorities turned out to have a lasting effect – long after baby Marc was born. Cheryl says she now eats “like a normal person”. “If I’m hungry, I eat, and if I’m not, I no longer think about food all the time. Before my pregnancy, I had to consciously suppress the thought of food, or of wanting to quit sugar. I’m heavier now than I was when I was in Taiwan, but I’m a far happier person.”

She adds: “I’ve been trying to change my poor eating habits for years with no success, but my baby did all that just by coming into my life.”

A human touch

Since his birth in April, baby Marc has generated quite a buzz among Cheryl’s 78,000-plus Instagram followers, due in no small part to Cheryl’s initial secrecy over the infant’s name, choosing to refer to him as “Baby M” in her posts. But the new mummy confesses that this wasn’t entirely intentional.

“I didn’t mean to keep it a secret, but since I just started off not saying his name, I thought I’d keep it until his 100th day before revealing it!” she laughs.

Baby Marc, who is now a little over three months old, was born at Thomson Medical – where Cheryl and Roy themselves were both delivered 31 years ago.

But that wasn’t the only reason the couple chose Thomson Medical. Roy admitted that they had searched extensively for gynaecologists, wanting only the best for their firstborn. They ended up finding what they were looking for in Dr Paul Tseng at Thomson Medical, sharing that it was the “human touch” which the gynaecologist and his staff have that convinced him and Cheryl to have their baby at Thomson.

“It’s clear that for him, this is more than just a job – he really does care for his patients,” says Cheryl.

The couple were also impressed with the care extended to them by nurses at Thomson Medical. “They really do know how to take care of mums, and they treat you like family, never failing to remember you by name,” Roy adds.

Changing family dynamics

Despite having spent much of her twenties in the limelight, Cheryl professes to be a homebody, so her personal life hasn’t really changed all that much with baby Marc in the picture. What has changed, however, are family dynamics, something she discovered with surprise.

The challenge for the new mother is to balance the needs and expectations of everyone in the family. Cheryl reveals that her parents are “very typical grandparents”, and they have been requesting more time with their grandson since birth.

“I understand that they want to be very involved in bringing him up. They worked so hard when my siblings and I were growing up so they didn’t spend as much time as they would have liked with us. This is their way of ‘making up’ to us,” she says. “However, it is also important for me and Roy to be active and engaged parents, to be given the room to make mistakes, so that we learn how to parent well,” she explains.

This has been the biggest test so far for the couple – managing the needs of their parents along with their own.

Cheryl adds that her faith has helped her learn to “let go” of things that are not within her control, and offers this advice to new mummies: “There is only so much you can do. I’ve recognised the importance of allowing things to happen on their own, a lesson I learnt while battling the pregnancy blues. My family friend and psychiatrist told me to just let the emotions happen and cry when I need to. This helps me deal with my emotions better.”

Despite the challenges, the couple are enthusiastic about their parenting journey. Cheryl shares: “We don’t expect it to be easy, but we look forward to raising Marc and our future children to be the best that
they can be.”