If there was anything @NellieLim‘s followers followed her for from the start, it was her mix of style inspiration and honestly, her refreshing willingness to share about anything and everything in her moodboard-worthy life. Think a realistic (i.e. not so glam but totally candid) behind-the-scenes look at fashion weeks and shoots, her road to becoming an “influencer” (a word she’s also expressed her honest thoughts on), as well as personal tips and tricks on how to shoot and edit content—including a step-by-step video on how she made the sky move in one of her enviable airplane window seat shots.
Her knack for opening up and engaging with fellow ‘grammers also flowed into her most recent stage of life—becoming a mother of twins, Harley and Harper Ong (who already have a flourishing social media presence with 1,870 followers and counting, of course). Over the last nine months, she’s not only documented her own trying-to-conceive (TTC) journey but also provided an accessible and relatable glimpse into the entire IVF process, which has been an eye-opener for many. Tapping through her Instagram Stories titled “IVF”, “Pregnancy” and “Birth” serve as somewhat of a highly educational crash course on all those topics and more, and from all the answered questions and conversations she’s had in her DMs and comments section (from costs and gender selection to which hospital and doctors she trusts), it is evident that she has built her own little community with fellow new parents and couples trying to conceive.
Read on to find out the highs and lows of her pregnancy journey; how she’s striving to normalise conversations on previously stigmatised topics around female health and motherhood; what’s on her food, fashion and beauty wellness list; her insightful guide on IVF; and a detailed birth story of how she welcomed her girls into the world in a span of minutes.
On her IVF journey
We made the decision to seek help conceiving after two years of trying. We decided on signing up with KK Hospital because of the grants that were made available by the Singapore government to Singaporeans that made fertility treatment very inexpensive and affordable. To give credit to the Singapore government, the process of signing up for the treatment was a breeze and we managed to get an appointment within two months and proceeded with the treatment in just one month. I was lucky as I had a very strong support system around me, with friends who had been through it before so I knew exactly what to expect. The hormone injections were a little painful and the egg retrieval process was definitely a little crippling but it was an otherwise fairly straightforward journey for us. I understand that to most people, the most daunting part of IVF will be the injections and I’m not going to deny, they were a little uncomfortable, especially if you’re afraid of needles (something I’m not). My saving grace was that my husband wanted to be very involved in the whole process so I always felt like I had someone going through it with me and that I wasn’t isolated or going through it alone.
On finally getting pregnant
We were very impatient during the two-week wait for the official pregnancy blood test result and actually sneaked in two home pregnancy test kits despite our doctor’s advice. When the results came back positive for both tests, we were bursting with excitement but also didn’t allow ourselves to celebrate until we received a positive result from the official blood test. When the news was confirmed, we felt like we wanted the whole world to know about it but actually decided to keep the news, even from our family, until we could tell them in person over the weekend. It was definitely the best news that we had hoped for as it felt like our dreams of expanding our family were finally coming to fruition after two years of trying to conceive.
On advice for those TTC and exploring IVF
Cost shouldn’t be an inhibitive factor here if you are a Singaporean, because of the grants available should you want to undertake the process. Out of pocket outlay was very affordable and minimal so I’d encourage everyone to have an open mind when it comes to receiving any assisted reproductive treatments. Societal pressure and stigma shouldn’t be a hindrance, and we should all strive to normalise the conversation of getting help when it comes to conception.
Societal pressure and stigma shouldn’t be a hindrance, and we should all strive to normalise the conversation of getting help when it comes to conception.
On struggling with tough pregnancy
Throughout my first trimester, I experienced intense nausea and also chronic fatigue syndrome that left me bedridden for at least two months. It was only towards the end of the first trimester that I started to take herbal black chicken tonic which really helped to increase my energy and made me feel much better. That was a life saver in my opinion. I’ve also been consistently fed birds nest by my parents and aunties the traditional way, which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Everyone around me had relatively easy pregnancies and it was tough having to reconcile how terrible I was feeling against what I thought my pregnancy was going to be after chatting with everyone else. This often left me confused and frustrated because I always imagined it to be a magical experience. It was only through turning to a lot of forums that I realised that I wasn’t alone in struggling with a tough pregnancy.
On the birth of her twins
My birth story is admittedly quite boring but I love that everything was pre-planned and drama-free. My doctor strongly suggested getting a C-section for the twins as it’s highly risky giving birth to twin babies naturally and even more so for a first-time mum. As someone who likes to be in control, I enjoyed being able to pick out a special date to meet the twins and we were encouraged to check into our hospital the night before so we can get a good night’s rest before the surgery. It really helped with my birth anxiety that my C-section was planned months before and every step and procedure was explained to me beforehand. We woke up at 6:30AM and I took my time to get ready. My husband was teasing me for applying make-up before the procedure but I told him that first impression counts! I was wheeled into the operating theatre at 7:00am to prepare for the C-section while my husband waited outside. My lovely anaesthetist first asked for my choice of music to get me comfortable before administering a spinal block. My doctor joined us shortly and the nurses started setting up a screen so my belly would be covered from my sight. My doctor must have started operating on me while my husband was being brought in because within two minutes, we heard the first cries and our first baby appeared from behind the screen! She was immediately carried away to be cleaned and bundled up while the doctor worked to get the second baby out. While waiting for our second baby, our first twin was placed in my arms and I was overwhelmed with joy that I started tearing. Our second baby arrived earth side a few seconds later and we were so thankful that both babies were delivered safely and are healthy.
On her first month as a mum
The first month back home was really tough as I had to navigate the unexpected emotional outbursts and hormonal imbalances but it was all made manageable with the guidance of my amazing confinement nanny and help of our incredibly supportive family. It really takes a village to raise twins and I’m thankful we have a strong support system.
I’ve never felt so overwhelmed and exhausted in my entire life and some days I question my sanity because I’m sacrificing my body, time, sleep and mental health to raise them. Being a mother is probably the hardest non-paying 24-hour job I’ll ever do, but motherhood has made my life more colourful than I ever knew it could be, because I have two little people who melt my heart every time they smile and it makes every sacrifice worth it.
On post-natal health, beauty and wellness rituals
I only gained a total of nine kilograms throughout my entire pregnancy and have yet to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I get a lot of questions from well-meaning people who are curious about me snapping back into shape so quickly and I always jokingly share that my babies were literally parasites sucking the life out of me. I’m still waiting for my doctor to give me the clearance to start exercising as I’m currently only nine weeks postpartum but I’ve been sticking to a very big but healthy confinement-friendly diet to boost breastmilk production and encourage post-pregnancy recovery. I’ve also been receiving a lot of relaxing post-natal massages at home to ensure I stay on top of my mental and emotional health.
On the skincare front, I’ve been using Clarins’ best selling firming body oil religiously for body care as it’s been touted for being the best in preventing stretch marks. I’m also obsessed with the aroma behind the product as it feels like I’m getting a spa every night! My skincare routine has generally stayed the same throughout because I’m a firm believer of the saying that if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My favourite products include glycolic acid from Aeras, vitamin C serums from Skinceuticals, hyaluronic acid from The Ordinary and La Mer’s Moisturizing Cream. My pre-pregnancy involved quite a few retinol products so they were the only products I’ve had to cut out from my routine during my pregnancy. I’ve actually been told that my skin looked even more amazing and glowing during pregnancy so I guess there’s a product that you can’t buy off the shelves!
On food and wellness advice from her confinement nanny
My confinement nanny was very strict with my diet and nutrition intake. She made sure that there was always fish in every meal to boost breastmilk production. Interestingly, I’ve also been asked to drink a short glass of Benedictine D.O.M Liqueur every night to nourish my body back to health. Short naps were also strongly enforced by my confinement nanny as it’s the only way to truly mentally and emotionally check out from being a mum.
Short naps were also strongly enforced by my confinement nanny as it’s the only way to truly mentally and emotionally check out from being a mum.
On new mum essentials
I live in robes now and they’re honestly the best mom product you’ll need for 24/7 breastfeeding and pumping. I’m also obsessed with my spanx and compression underwear, they really help with shaping your body back to shape after pregnancy. My belly band was also a lifesaver towards the end of my pregnancy when my belly started getting too heavy. I’ve also been fascinated with how convenient my portable pump from Elvie is—it’s wireless and sits quietly in your bra, allowing you to be out and about around people without being confined to a room or being tethered to a wired pump. Lastly, a good app (I use Glow Baby) to track baby developments, feeds and diaper changes is the most helpful tool for all mums!
On what she’s learned along the way
While I was pregnant, I reminded myself daily that I’m a lot stronger than I think and to also take each day as it comes. As a workaholic, I also allowed myself to take breaks and to slow down my otherwise breakneck pace that I used to pursue my career at.
I’ve also learned to be patient with both myself and the twins because I’ve discovered that even though there’ve been so many things that are hard to do, but I can do hard things. I’ve also learned both the physical and emotional strengths I never knew I had. I’ve had moments of exhaustion, emotions and then complete triumph and realised at the end that I was made for this.
On who the twins take after more
It might be too soon to tell but from what we’ve seen, they definitely take on both our personalities. Harper loves to feed and sleep like her Dad but she’s a deep sleeper like me. My husband likes to think that Harley has also taken after my sassiness as she’s been a lot more interactive, earning her the title of being the diva. That said, I want my twins to inherit my husband’s endless capacity for love as well as his drive and determination to succeed…. and maybe my comparatively better fashion sense!
On her final words of advice for couples trying to conceive
Have faith and enjoy the process as much as you can because the process of trying to conceive shouldn’t take away the romance of making love. It’s also easier said than done but don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to love yourself harder when you feel like you’re hard to love.