To the majority of women, the choice of whether or not to have a child is probably one of the most crucial decisions in life. Whatever choice one makes, I respect it.

It was not until I reached advanced maternal age after a decade-long career as a journalist that I made up my mind to have children. In my humble opinion, a mom should not solely focus on career development.

I adore kids. When I was little, my parents used to go to work before dawn and come home after dark. My grandma told me, “Take good care of your little bro.” I would stealthily keep some of the snacks and biscuits I received from my kindergarten teachers for my younger brother. His gulps and smiles were the best display of appreciation.

When I was still at university, I worked as an intern at the News Department of the then Asia Television. My first interview with a child was for a feature story about the rights and interests of patients in Hong Kong. The interviewee was a blind girl about the age of 10. Due to a medical blunder, she has been living in darkness since birth. Despite her mom keeping her company throughout the interview, she kept walking to and fro before the camera and refused to take a seat. She even slammed the table and repeatedly said, “I can't see anything. I feel so insecure.” As a journalist intern, I was unable to cope with the situation. In the end, only her mom was interviewed.

When I worked as a fulltime TV journalist, I would go overseas for news reporting for months on end. One day, I told my supervisor that I was going abroad to get married. While congratulating me, he/she asked me to drop by the United States for a business trip on my way to the wedding venue. Temporarily dumbfounded, I went home to pack my suitcase with my wedding dress, bridal gown and some gold ornaments. Upon completion of my duty, I took a flight to meet up with my fiancé for our wedding.

Newlyweds, we had not yet had any kids. One Christmas morning, my husband and I deliberately woke up early, dressed ourselves like Santa Claus, and brought quite a lot of goodies and small gifts to an eight-year-old boy in Po Leung Kok whom my husband had been sponsoring. Unexpectedly, he leaned against me and burst into tears. With almost zero experience in childcare, we were at a complete loss as to what to do, wondering whether any of our acts caused him prickling pain. According to the sponsorship rules, we were prohibited from probing into the kid's background, and we never intended to do so. We could only pat his shoulders and let him cry his eyes out before opening the gifts one by one in an attempt to cheer him up. Then he took us to his place but remained silent all along. His good friend, the girl who stayed beside him, was rather straightforward, “Bro and sis, could you please buy rice crackers (of a certain brand) for us next time? It’s super yummy! All the visitors buy it for us.” While grateful to her for breaking the ice, both of us sighed for her worldliness from “having gotten used to visits by strangers”. It was the most unforgettable Christmas that I have ever had!

After getting married, I kept going abroad for news reporting. Sometimes I even went to high-risk countries and had to receive travel vaccines beforehand. I could not get pregnant until at least six months after each shot lest development of the embryo, if any, be affected. However, I had to go from one country to another, which meant receiving one shot after another at less-than-six-month intervals. I longed to be a mom, but I was keen on working too. I did not know how to make the right choice. I cried my heart out almost every week when I was home. After struggling for a few months, I finally made up my mind and told my supervisor that I would like to have a baby. He/she suggested that I take a long vacation and think it over. I declined his/her kind offer as I knew very well that if I did not resign, it would be even harder for me to get pregnant. Without regret, I left my position and looked for a new one with less pressure.

With health conditions improved from exercise, consulting a Chinese medicine practitioner and changing my diet for over half a year, I eventually got pregnant for the first time. I would never forget my jubilation upon hearing such good news. In order to acquire parenting knowledge, I attended antenatal classes apart from reading and net surfing, learning how to feed and bathe a newborn as well as change diapers. What impressed me most was the scene of a large group of expectant moms in a big room, all carrying a naked baby doll in an attempt to bathe it in a waterless plastic basin. The instructor came over, checked if each and every one of us was carrying the “baby” with good posture, and gave each one of us a nod of approval. I was rather puzzled, “There was no water in the basin, and the ‘baby’ neither moved nor cried…have I really learnt how to do it?” Every day my husband and I would talk to our unborn baby while touching my baby bump, “Dad and mom simply wish you good health and happiness.” Perhaps every parent-to-be would like to keep this original wish.

My three kids were born one after another, and soon they reached school age. It was not until then that I gradually became aware that it is no easy task to make my wish come true though it remains unchanged. Simply looking at their health, we have found that it is not fully under our control. Again and again I tumbled down and developed a hysterical disorder in the course of educating and parenting them. After 10 years of motherhood, I no longer ask myself, “Have I really learnt how to do it?” On the contrary, I have come to accept that I am an “imperfect mom”. However, I am willing to continue to learn how to be a good mom, and I do enjoy the whole process with positive energy. After all, motherhood is a lifelong commitment. Take your time, and never forget your original wish for your child!

(Article originally posted on Apple Daily webpage on 15 March 2018)