in the beginning…



I’ve always considered myself a late bloomer.

It started even when I was in my mother’s womb, almost four decades ago in Sarawak.  I was the third child my mother conceived and instead of becoming the youngest spoilt princess I was meant to be, I ended up becoming the firstborn. I never met my two elder brothers. The first was miscarried. The second lived 10 days before breathing his last.

My father’s mother and siblings were naturally loudly concerned when my mother found out she was pregnant for the third time. By hook or by crook, the third baby had to be born healthy and live past 10 days. My mother quit her job and was forced to lie in bed and be waited upon hand and food for the remaining 8 months while I grew in her belly.

My grandmother made chicken soup everyday for my mother. My mother told me after 3 months of drinking chicken soup everyday, she got nauseous whenever she smelt chicken soup brewing in the kitchen.  In the end, she told my grandmother she couldn’t drink any more of it.  My father began buying turtle eggs so my grandmother could make turtle eggs soup for my mother instead.

I’m pretty sure I ingested something from those turtle eggs that’s resulted in what I’ve become. But I digress.

After 10 months of drinking chicken and turtle eggs soup and lying in bed, my mother realised I was quite comfy floating in her watery, warm womb and had no intention of seeing the outside world. My aunt and uncle took her to see the midwife after I was a month past my due date, and the midwife gave my mother an injection. I kicked my mother’s belly in protest as if I knew everyone outside was telling me to hurry up and come out. I wanted to float in my comfort zone for just a little while longer.

I held on for as long as I could, I did.  It took only a few days before the waters broke so suddenly, my mother didn’t see it coming. My uncle had left for work that morning on his motorbike, so my aunt had to run down the dirt road to the neighbours to ask for a ride to the midwife’s for my mother and me.

My mother told me I was born right before lunchtime.  She was disappointed I turned out to be a girl, but my father and grandmother was just happy to have a healthy grandchild to cherish and to hold. My birth was the happiest event after the death of my grandmother and my elder brothers.

To the joy of my family and the dear friends I’ve accumulated over the years, I not only survived past 10 days, I made it to a month, to adolescence and to full-blown adulthood. 

My life’s been full of false starts and delays. I often feel like I get to everything a little later than others. Sometimes I’ve been grateful for this, but more often than not, I’ve been more than a little frustrated at why I seem to come to every party so…… late. I blame it on the turtle genes/hormones I ingested while floating in my mother’s womb.

The I remember that the turtle won in that rabbit and turtle race story. And I can’t help but smile.


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