Michael Fernandez, aged 73, is married to Baratha Mary, aged 61. They have four children and three grandchildren – Matthew, aged four years, Max, two years, and Megan, four months.
(written from the hospital bed on 29th October 2003, six days after Matthew was born)
Appoopa(Grandpa): Hello Matthew, how are you feeling? I see you are looking chubby, rosy and healthy. I was told that when I was born, I nearly died. When my mother was pregnant with me, the last of 12 children, she didn’t get enough nutrition. Hence I was very tiny. When I was born, everyone gave up hope. My mother asked the women who came to help her to burn the incense and blow it into my nostrils frequently. I started coughing and then slowly began to breathe. As my mother’s milk dried up, other breast-feeding mothers in the village came to feed me regularly. I was so weak and sickly that I never learned to crawl until I was more than a year old. In the meantime, my eldest sister, Kernoly, gave birth to a baby girl, Mabel. I was 6 months older than my eldest niece. Being young and healthy, my sister had a lot of milk. She used to tandem feed me and my niece from each of her breasts.
Can you recall anything while you were in your Mum’s womb?
Matt.: Very vaguely. I don’t know how long I was floating about. I remember Mum was cooing and moaning, and Daddy seemed to be comforting her. I could feel her muscles crushing me. Some people were shouting to her to “push”. I also heard Daddy pleading with her to push harder. To “push” me, I too tried to kick the wall of the womb. Then I began to sense light coming through. I was apprehensive of what was beyond the light. Then I felt two hard metal pieces griping the sides of my head. I was pulled out slowly and groaning with pain. I let out the biggest and loudest yell of my life! I thought I frightened Mum and Dad, but to my pleasant surprise I heard them laughing with joy. After I was cleaned up, they handed me to Mum. She carried me in both her arms and kissed me several times, her warm tears wetting my cheeks. Then she handed me over to Dad who cuddled me close to his chest and also kissed me many times.
App.: What else do you remember about your ordeal in the hospital?
Matt.: I remember I was put in a cot among other babies who disturbed my sleep by yelling all the time. It was rather cold there even though I was wrapped up from head to toe like an Egyptian mummy. When I was taken to Grandma’s house, I was still wrapped up. I felt suffocated and hot. What annoyed me most was being tossed around into several arms and laps. Many people kissed me and patted me! It was a tiring experience.
App.: Well, you really had a wonderful welcoming party of loving relatives!
This letter is republished with permission from the National Library Board. Letters From Grandma and Grandpa (2008) is an initiative to create opportunities for youth and seniors to strengthen ties, enhance understanding and appreciate each other. Singapore grandpas and grandmas share their stories from the past, their hopes for the future, their love from their hearts, and their values for the soul. The letters capture their thoughts and feelings on important values, such as family and heritage, respect for the elders, generosity, love, courage and responsibility.
First published on 14-02-2011.
Categories: Letters from Grandpa