When her dad was diagnosed with cancer, it was a rude wake-up call for entrepreneur Andrea Chow. Late nights attending social events, smoking and drinking — it was time to re-evaluate her lifestyle. After all, she had a loving husband and two teenage children to think about. What she didn’t expect from this newfound dedication to her health was finding herself naturally pregnant at 45, making her just one in 10 women who conceive naturally in their mid-40s! With her littlest one now 17 months old, Andrea reflects on how she got here.
Always Wanted to be a Mum
I was pregnant with my first child, Janelle, at the age of 25. As I didn’t know much about pregnancy nutrition then, I ate whatever I wanted and gained an astounding 26 kg. Fortunately, this didn’t cause any serious complications; I only had water retention and leg cramps during the third trimester. However, my baby was too big and required a Caesarean section delivery.
(See also: Caesarean Delivery – What Really Happens during Your C-section?)
Shortly after I had Janelle, I became pregnant with my second child, Jeremiah. My gynaecologist warned me back then that going through a second C-section within 21 months was rather risky. But I decided to take the risk and went ahead with the pregnancy. This time, I was mindful of what I ate and kept a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. I gained only 15 kg during this pregnancy.
I had always wanted to be a mum. Growing up, I hardly got to see my parents, as they were always busy with their career. Motherhood, to me, is more than just a parent providing the basic needs for a child. We also need to cater to their emotional needs, and nurture the important cultural and moral values. Watching my children grow up and supporting them through their milestones is truly rewarding.
I am quite a hands-on mum and always involved with my children’s activities. We are like friends, and they can share anything with me. By showing them my love openly, they feel able to run to me for shelter and seek comfort. I don’t set high expectations for them, nor do I pressure them for excellent academic results. I want my children to be happy, and most importantly, I want to be there for them.
(See also: Why the Alternative to Tiger Mums is not “Laissez-faire Parenting” but “Attentive Parenting”)
A Wake-up Call
In 2018, my dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and the doctor said that he had only six months left to live. It came as a total shock. My dad had always been very healthy, exercised regularly, and had no other medical condition. However, he was a heavy smoker and drinker. His diagnosis struck me hard. It brought home the frailty of human mortality — it could happen to me and my family as well. It was time to re-evaluate my life.
Looking back, I’ve always been a very determined person. With my parents busy working, it was my grandmother who brought me up. A strict, no-nonsense character, grandma trained me to be independent. From five years of age, I was learning to do household chores, then marketing, and even cooking for the family. Later, I worked part-time while studying. I entered the workforce as a teacher, before switching to a career in sales. I did so well that at the tender age of 22 years, I bought a brand-new car, paying in full, as well as a two-bedroom condo in Singapore.
I’ve always believed that if you put your heart into doing whatever it takes to reach your goals, nothing is impossible. Now, I decided to direct that positive mindset towards revamping my lifestyle.
Together with my husband, Shaun, I embarked on a strict workout regimen. Joining a fitness club, we began exercising three to four times a week, and cycling about 60 km every Saturday. I even got him to quit a 30-year-long smoking habit. We researched the science of long, healthy lifespans and curated recommendations from nutritionists, doctors, and scientists. Completely overhauling our dietary habits, we adhered to a food plan individually tailored using data from DNA testing.
In just two short years, we not only lost a good amount of weight and became medically healthier, we even looked 10 years younger! The benefits we experienced also inspired us to launch a geroscience company that invests in regenerative medicine, longevity, and anti-ageing therapies.
An Unexpected Bonus
I certainly did not expect to find myself pregnant at age 45. When my menstrual cycle became irregular when I was 42, my doctor said I was going through perimenopause — the chances of conceiving at this age are just three to four percent! Even Shaun thought I was imagining things when I asked him to purchase a pregnancy test kit.
Besides, with Janelle and Jeremiah already 18 and 19, I thought my family was complete. Shocked but supportive, my daughter said she would do her best to help me through this pregnancy. On the other hand, after researching the risks, my son was concerned about me going through a geriatric pregnancy. He said, “Now that we are grown up, you and dad can actually relax and enjoy life.”
Shaun and I, too, had mixed feelings about this pregnancy. We would love to have the child but worried about the risks involved. Unable to sleep that night, we looked at each other and didn’t know what we should do. Finally, we booked an appointment the next day with a gynaecologist recommended by a friend.
(See also: I Dream of Gynae – How to Choose Dr Right when You’re Pregnant)
During the visit, the gynae confirmed that I was six weeks pregnant. However, the ultrasound scan did not detect the baby’s heartbeat. Predicting a 60 to 70 percent chance of a miscarriage, the gynae advised me to terminate the pregnancy.
My heart was heavy, but at the back of my mind, something kept telling me not to give up just yet. I decided to seek a second opinion with the gynae who had delivered my first two. This time, the gynae told me that there was a heartbeat and that my baby was due on Christmas day!
My Christmas Miracle
At that stage in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the health of the baby and whether I would encounter any complications during the pregnancy. I had concerns about the recovery process as well, as it had taken a full year to recover after Janelle’s birth. However, I was determined to take things day by day and focus on the positive.
Shaun and I even discussed what to do if it came down to a difficult decision between the safety of the baby and my own health. While that was a challenging conversation to have, it ultimately helped us both feel more prepared for whatever the future held.
I went through a lot of tests and screenings, including one for Down syndrome, a high risk for advanced pregnancies. Thankfully, the result showed a zero percent chance of that happening. This news gave me a sense of relief and helped me to feel even more excited about the future.
(See also: Bad OSCAR Test Results? Here’s What you Should Do Next)
Despite all our worries, this miracle pregnancy continued smoothly. Not only were there no complications, it was also the most enjoyable pregnancy of the three. I didn’t even experience water retention or leg cramps this time. Post-recovery was also fast, and I was discharged just two days after the C-section, carrying baby Jazelle myself!
Shaun and I attribute this to my pregnancy diet. Due to the increased risks, we had a dietician advise us on the type of food and supplements I should be consuming in a month-to-month plan. At various stages of pregnancy, the baby is developing in different areas. Hence, for example, bone development during particular months calls for increased calcium intake.
(See also: Pregnancy Week-by-Week Guide – Everything You Need to Know as Your Baby Bump Grows)
Additionally, instead of taking traditional dishes such as pig trotters with black vinegar and ginger (豬腳薑醋), I opted for cleaner, preservative-free, and unprocessed foods without oil, salt, and sugar. This time around, I also did not observe confinement, yet amazingly suffered no adverse effects. Overall, it was a very positive personal journey that taught me the importance of taking care of myself and my baby with science-backed research.
While this pregnancy came as a complete surprise, I am grateful and so glad to have another beautiful child in my life. Despite the challenges and uncertainties, I remain positive and hopeful, knowing that we can overcome any obstacle as a family.
The Future is Bright
I am blessed to have a wonderful family. My older kids are mature enough to help with their younger sister and my husband, as always, is my rock. A special shout-out also to my long-time helper who was very supportive and excited for us.
My eldest girl, Janelle, is now 20 and currently studying overseas. Whenever she is home for term breaks, she helps to look after her baby sister. Jeremiah, 19, is serving his national service. He, too, helps care for Jazelle when he is home. Every weekend, the whole family spends time together. Our miracle baby has brought the family even closer despite everyone’s busy schedule.
I want all of us to live long and fulfilling lives, full of passion and purpose. My primary mission is to ensure that my family is happy and healthy along the way. As an older mum, and with my husband being 10 years older than me, it is essential that we prioritise our own health and well-being, so that we can watch our youngest grow up and one day start a family of her own.