Blessings & Banes is the reverent honouring of the Journey. To celebrate motherhood and womanhood, we sit with three women to hear their stories – the good and the bad. Today, Carissa sits with Jihan (@nrjhn).
Jihan is an influencer, air stewardess, and mom to Izzul, her three-year-old son. Our team member Carissa sits with Jihan as she joins us for our Blessings & Banes campaign shoot; during which she talks about her journey of motherhood, raising a child with Down’s syndrome, and her hope for the future.
What is it like to be a mom?
Jihan: I’ve definitely learnt a lot and yeah, having a special kid is something that I’ve never thought I’d actually go through.
Carissa: How old is Izzul now?
Jihan: He’s three!
Carissa: Oh my gosh – wait, he’s so cute like he’s still so young! Tell me about Izzul, what is he like?
Jihan: He’s very clingy with his parents!
What do you guys like doing together?
Jihan: We’re now teaching him a lot of things because of several development delays, so at the moment we’re working on his speech. We’ll do activities at home like drawing, ABCs, and singing together. We just brought him out to an indoor playground because he’s finally gained the strength and confidence to actually go out and just climb around.
Carissa: Oh that’s so nice! Wait, this is an indoor playground?
Jihan: Yeah, an indoor playground! There are many in Singapore, with ball pits and everything.
Carissa: Oh my gosh – can adults go?
Jihan: [Laughs] Yeah, sure!
What made you want to be public about Izzul’s Down’s syndrome?
Because I suppose a lot of women aren’t very public about it, what made you want to speak up on it on social media?
Jihan: I have a few friends who are really vocal about it, actually. Like, I’ve got a few friends who’ve kids with Down’s syndrome, so they really want to create public awareness so people know what it’s like (having a special kid). Don’t be afraid, even if you have a special kid – don’t be afraid, you can do something about it, they can grow into a normal adult, like it’s just delays that we have to deal with?
But they’re just like any normal kid, they can be happy, they’re lovable, of course, and they really add a different kind of joy to your life? It’s just something very special!
Carissa: I’m curious – so some people find out that, you know, their child might have special needs before pregnancy [Jihan: Oh yes] or they only find out once they’ve given birth. When did you find out?
Jihan: After, when he was born. The doctor just told us that he noticed something a little bit different about him so we just got it checked out and yeah, (did) some genetic testing. He has an extra chromosome which is Trisomy 21, Down’s syndrome.
What was your first reaction? What were the thoughts in your head?
Jihan: Yeah, initially I couldn’t… accept it? I thought, ‘There was no way.’ I mean, there’s no one in our family lines with Down’s syndrome. So when it really hit me, I was just taken aback and I was lost? I was really lost – I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know who to talk to, I was just, yeah. I just broke down in front of the doctors and my husband was just… He was stronger than me, definitely; he just told me it’s okay while I cried, and I just… couldn’t.
When did you accept it?
Jihan: At a point, I had been speaking to another mother of a child with Down’s syndrome, a seven-year-old girl. The mother then introduced me to a group of other mothers – a support group for mothers of kids with Down’s syndrome. From there, I got to know more people and so I now have a lot of friends within the same group. Being with them, it just opened my eyes, my heart, and I accepted it.
Talking about becoming a mom, were you scared? Or were you excited?
Jihan: Hm, I was really excited to be a mom, but I was also scared that I wouldn’t have as much time with my husband because our honeymoon period was cut short! [Laughs] I was definitely going to miss flying (as an air stewardess) because I knew I had to quit once I was pregnant. Izzul was also born prematurely so I wasn’t able to prepare myself for his arrival. That was pretty abrupt.
Carissa: What is your favourite memory of you and Izzul?
Jihan: We’ve had a few trips together, but my favourite… was when we celebrated Izzul’s 2nd birthday in South Korea! That was right before CO-VID19 in February last year, so… It was cold but we had a photoshoot at one of the palaces and we had Bingsu as his birthday cake!
What kind of relationship do you hope to have with Izzul?
Jihan: In the future, I’d like him to think of me as his best friend? [Laughs] Yeah, I want it to be like he can tell me everything! I don’t want any secrets between us! If he had a hard day at school or work, I want him to come home and tell me about it. I just want to be there for him and I want to be his support system.
Carissa: You definitely don’t have to answer this but do you have any plans on having another child, a sibling for Izzul?
Jihan: Yeah actually, we do plan on having another child. I just want someone who can be there for him (Izzul) when I’m no longer around or… yeah, just to have a friend!
Carissa: That’s nice, yeah – it’s always nice to have siblings, I have two myself so it’s like a very fun party every time we get together [laughs] Was Izzul a planned baby? Did you always want kids?
Jihan: We both wanted a child, yes, but we didn’t know it’d be so soon! That was like… six months into the marriage [laughs]. We intended on having a child like a year after marriage, actually. We wanted to travel more but it’s okay! We managed to travel quite a bit before...
Carissa: Oh yeah totally, like you guys have been to South Korea!
Jihan: Actually, Izzul’s been to Switzerland and London…
Carissa: Oh my gosh.
Jihan: Yeah [Laughs] He’s been to Dubai, Jakarta, Bangkok… Because he’s such an easy baby, I can take him on a long flight and he’s perfect.
What is one thing you want Izzul to know in the future?
Jihan: Mm, in the future… I just want him to know that he is loved by a lot of people, he’s very special. He brings a lot of joy to us and that he’s in no way a burden on us, yeah.
What is something that you want other moms to know? Like other moms that are going through the same situation as you?
Jihan: I have had a few people who’ve DM-ed me on Instagram, like some who’ve just found out about their child’s diagnosis of Down’s syndrome. And another recently DM-ed me to tell me that she’s pregnant and it’s confirmed that her baby will have Down’s syndrome. She was as lost as I was; since it’s her first child, she doesn’t know how to handle it, saying she’s crying every day, her husband is crying every day
There are a lot of things to think of, with school and early intervention and everything. But it isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds… I told her I’d introduce her to the group of other moms – the support group – and that if she has anything she wants to ask me, about school or anything, she can text me.
I told her to just focus on her pregnancy and to just take it one day at a time, don’t stress too much. There’s always so much help around. Especially in Singapore, there are a lot of schools and good therapists that are accessible. The child will be safe.
Just… have a lot of patience, take things slow, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember to breathe.
What’s one thing you want people to know about motherhood?
Jihan: Motherhood. It’s a… really beautiful journey. To everyone who really wants to be a mother – I hope they're granted this chance in life because it's really something indescribable. It’s a good feeling.
Many thanks to Jihan for her time and story!