Parenthood | Braving the odds
For Karthikeiyan S. and his wife Rajesvathiy P, life at present is filled with much happiness and anticipation. The couple recently welcomed a daughter into their family, and have derived much joy from raising their three year-old son Tarrshen. However, the journey to starting a family was far from smooth-sailing.
In fact, Karthik and Rajes, as they prefer to be known, weren’t even looking to have kids after their marriage in 2014. Karthik, 35, was self-employed at that time and his erratic income led to financial struggles. Even securing their own flat proved difficult, so they ended up living with Karthik’s parents for two years. “We were also concerned about who would look after our kids when we were working, and how expensive child-rearing would be,” says Rajes, a 33 year-old civil servant.
In December 2014, however, the couple were surprised to discover that Rajes was pregnant. Unfortunately, their first baby boy, Siddarth, was stillborn. This turn of events left them devastated. “It was extremely hard to be around people with kids, and painful to know that we created a child but didn't get a chance to raise him,” says Rajes.
The couple were grateful for the emotional and psychological support provided through counselling, family and friends. Prior to tying the knot, they attended a marriage preparation programme at Care Corner Counselling Centre.
The road to recovery
While the healing process was slow, the couple were grateful for the emotional and psychological support provided through counselling, family and friends. Prior to tying the knot, they attended a marriage preparation programme at Care Corner Counselling Centre located in Toa Payoh. “After the loss of Siddarth, it wasn't difficult for us to return there for counselling because we had a good experience with them,” Rajes recalls. “Their pre-marital course really helped strengthen our relationship. And as the centre is supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, we were able to get government rebates for therapy sessions too.”
Rajes was also granted paid maternity leave and extended hospitalisation leave by her organisation, giving her more time to recover from her loss. The couple also joined Child Bereavement Support, a support network for parents, and eventually became comfortable spending time with their friends’ children.
A turn of the tide
In May 2016, surprising news came again. Rajes found out that she was expecting a second son — another unplanned pregnancy. “There was a lot of anxiety because we were afraid of another stillbirth, so I had to make sure that I kept myself in good spirits,” she says.
Thankfully, Rajes’ delivery was smooth this time around, and the Karthikeiyans welcomed Tarrshen in January 2017. "It was amazing to be able to hold my son's hands and finally experience the joy of being a mother!” Rajes enthuses.
In the year leading up to Tarrshen’s birth, things had started to look up financially as well. Karthik took on a full-time job, first as a customer relations officer and then as an educational therapist. The financial stability meant that the couple could secure a higher housing loan, and they found a resale flat at Serangoon North close to Karthik’s parents. The HDB Proximity Housing Grant also made their home much more affordable.
There were other avenues of financial support as well, such as the ECDA preschool subsidy for working mothers, which has substantially reduced Tarrshen’s school’s fees. Another leg-up were the levy concessions for hiring their domestic helper, which are given to households with children or elderly individuals. “The Baby Bonus scheme really benefited us too, because it helped reduce the cost of my gynaecologist visits, delivery and baby necessities,” adds Rajes.
The Karthikeiyans also received help from their family in caring for Tarrshen, with Rajes’ mother taking unpaid leave to help look after him in his first month. Even today, whenever the couple need time alone, both Rajes’ and Karthik’s parents are more than willing to take over childcare duties.
Having children is worth the commitment − nothing is better than the feeling of your child hugging you and telling you they love you , You have a newfound purpose too − contributing to the development of the next generation.”RAJESVATHIY KARTHIKEIYAN, MUM OF TARRSHEN
Plenty of love and support
Given the ample support and the joy they felt at raising Tarrshen, the Karthikeiyans decided to try for another baby in January 2019. However, the lack of success was frustrating and they decided to give up after nine months. “It was a never-ending cycle of emotional stress, because you keep trying and nothing happens,” recalls Rajes. “So we decided to leave it to fate.”
And as fate would have it, Rajes had another surprise pregnancy in December and delivered her daughter on 20 July 2020. “We were initially worried about Rajes being pregnant during the COVID-19 outbreak, as babies have naturally low immune systems and we didn't want her to catch the virus,” Karthik acknowledges.
The stringent protocols — coupled with Singapore’s Circuit Breaker period to contain the virus — made the couple feel at ease about the safety of her baby during her pregnancy.
Their concerns were alleviated with the strict safety guidelines imposed by National University Hospital. Rajes recalls the hospital contacting her a few days before each doctor’s appointment, to ensure she had no flu symptoms and remind her not to visit if unwell. When she delivered at Thomson Medical Centre, additional precautions were taken to ensure both Karthik and herself had little to no interaction with other couples in the delivery suite. Only a pre-registered maximum number of five visitors were allowed to visit them. The stringent protocols — coupled with Singapore’s Circuit Breaker period to contain the virus — made the couple feel at ease about the safety of her baby during her pregnancy.
They received lots of love from friends and family as well, who would send them care packages or connect with them via video calls to ensure they weren't feeling isolated. “Tarrshen’s preschool did an excellent job of keeping him engaged during the Circuit Breaker,” adds Rajes. “They would send us activities to do with him and instruct us to post photos afterward. It was so much fun and we loved bonding with him that way!”
As Rajes shares, her daughter’s natural delivery was smooth and fast as well, requiring no epidural. “Having my daughter placed on my chest right after birth made all the nine months of nausea and backaches worth it,” she says. “And knowing that she recognised my voice and calmed down is something every mother can relate to!”
As for workplace support post-birth, Rajes is grateful for the option to switch to a lighter workload so she can better juggle work and family. Karthik will also be starting paternity leave right after her maternity leave ends, so as to maximise the time they will be able to spend with their newborn.
And while they feel two is a comfortable number, the couple are open to having more children. “Having children is worth the commitment — nothing is better than the feeling of your child hugging you and telling you they love you,” Rajes says. “You have a newfound purpose too — contributing to the development of the next generation.”
Karthik also advises other couples not to be overly worried about the prospect of having kids. “As adults, we sometimes plan too much and imagine negative outcomes,” he says. “But if you feel you’re ready, just go for it! There is plenty of support and you are not in this journey alone.”