Meet Anabel Chew, a forerunner in the world of Barre and a true inspiration to mums far and wide. This professionally-trained flutist and mum to Arya and Miles, now empowers others through fitness. In this edition of Mums We Love, Anabel shares about her growing up years, pregnancy and postpartum journeys, as well as what it’s like being a mum and thriving entrepreneur all at once.
Anabel in three words?
No nonsense, resourceful, intuitive.
Share with us about your childhood and growing up years.
I grew up in a typical Singaporean Chinese family. I am the oldest of three. Growing up, we were very close to our extended family on my Dad’s side and spent every Sunday in a massive 30 people dinner gathering. We were raised in a Christian family so as a kid I spent a lot of time in church. I was always the responsible, older sibling that was good at school and excelled in music. We were quite seasoned travellers from a young age and I remember spending most school holidays travelling with my parents.
What were your two pregnancy journeys like? Were they the same or different?
They were actually pretty much the same! In my second pregnancy, I had no symptoms for the longest time and it didn’t feel I was really pregnant until I felt Miles’ kicks in the second trimester. The only annoying thing I had with both pregnancies was Pelvic Girdle Pain. From about 28 weeks onwards, it became really quite painful. I had to manage with a physiotherapist and made small lifestyle changes such as sleeping with a pillow between my legs to keep the pelvis stacked as well as wearing a hip belt. Despite that, I was still active and worked out all the way until my last week of pregnancy!
Share with us about your postpartum journeys for both pregnancies.
Looking back, my postpartum journey with Arya feels super stressful. However, in the thick of it and during that time, I was actually doing alright and managing it one day at a time.
Shortly after we were discharged from the hospital, we got a call from the paediatrician saying that her heel prick test came back worrying and she is suspected to have SCID (bubble boy syndrome), where she lacks the ability to produce an immune system. I was in tears as when I was told over the phone about a potential bone marrow transplant and blood transfusion. We had to go and see a specialist to further investigate.
We were sent to the ICU, and because we were just out of Circuit Breaker, my husband wasn’t allowed in the ward with Arya and I. Eventually, they made an exception for us. I truly felt that I was able to go through it all with a positive mindset because I had my husband with me. Together, we can weather anything. Long story short, it turned out to be a false alarm and she does not have SCID! Confused but relieved, we were sent home.
Shortly after that, we had to fire our helper on short notice because our confinement nanny told us that she would go into Arya’s room and repeatedly say “I hate you” to her (which we later verified on CCTV). As if in a stroke of blessing, her ex-employer randomly called me and told me that she only just discovered that the helper previously abused her kids! So we fired her immediately and were without a helper for a while. Thankfully my mum moved in with us and helped us out for two months.
Thankfully the days that followed were a lot smoother and stress-free. We were also ‘lucky’ to be living in Covid days where my husband could work from home. We didn’t have too many visitors and were allowed to just settle into a nice routine at home.
The experience with Miles was definitely less dramatic! We could return home after one night in the hospital. It was a very smooth journey despite broken sleep, breastfeeding and managing Arya, who has come to realise that she’s not the only baby in the house anymore. I felt more confident this time round and even told my husband not to take his paternity leave (since we had a helper, a nanny and my mum around). Miles was an incredibly easy baby and he just found his own way to ‘fit in’ to our family. He’s an absolute sweetheart.
Has your character, attitude and approach to life changed after becoming a mum? How so?
Yes! My friends and family have all said that I’m softer, more flexible and embrace life and love more after having kids. I think pre-kids, being an entrepreneur and with my driven and ambitious personality, it also means sometimes I’m a bit demanding plus a control freak. With motherhood, I accept that things can change anytime and there are many things out of my control. Thus, I’m very much happy to take things one step at a time and go with the flow. If it’s meant to be, it will find its way.
Most challenging time in your motherhood journey thus far?
The struggle between wanting to pursue my personal and professional goals as well as the desire to be with my kids as much as I can. I truly feel that at this young age, quantity time is quality time.
Three things you absolutely love about being a mum?
- Seeing the world through their eyes, as they discover the world around them. Watching them try, letting them fail and seeing that joy and pride when they eventually work it out is indescribable.
- To them, I can almost do no wrong. They accept my imperfections and I am their world. This makes me want to be a better person, a better parent for my kids.
- That I now have low or zero tolerance for things that don’t serve me. I’m a mum, I’m busy, my kids need me, my family needs me. If it’s not serving me, I don’t need it in my life and I love that I have that self-assuredness and confidence to step up.
We love WeBarre! What or who inspired you to set it up? Tell us all about it!
Me too! I met my business partner, Linda, at a now-defunct indoor cycling studio back in 2015. They wanted to introduce a Barre programme and asked if I wanted to train as a part-time instructor. By the time the Barre programme was ready to launch, the studio changed hands and the new owners scrapped the Barre programme. Linda and I felt that it was such a good opportunity. We were at a point in both our careers where we wanted to try something different. We also saw a lot of potential being the first Barre studio in Singapore and leading the way for boutique fitness. Six months later, after lots of research, programme development, and training, WeBarre was born.
How long after having kids did you return to your regular barre workout routine?
About six to eight weeks! As much as I am an advocate for exercising, I also am well aware that our bodies need time to heal. I didn’t rush back into exercise right away.
One advice for postpartum mums looking to get back into shape?
Accept that your body will forever be different, and that’s alright. It will take time for that to sink in and for us to realise that we are WAY MORE than what our bodies look like. Whenever you feel ready to exercise, start small. It could be a 15-minute walk in the stroller with your baby (great to get some fresh air!), or a 10-minute stretch while baby is napping (WeBarre On Demand is great for this, to workout in the comfort of your home) and slowly building it up. My belief is that some movement is better than none at all. Do what you can during this time when you’re very much in the trenches of survival mode!
Two things I love to do with my kids is…
Cuddling while reading bedtime stories and going on weekend adventures together. This can be to the beach, playground, park… it’s all in the little moments.
I wish that I had more time for…
Self-reflection, journaling and working on personal growth. As mums we always put the family on the top of our list and anything that is ’selfish’, we de-prioritise. I would like to make little tweaks to focus on myself a little more now that the kids are a bit older.
Next travel destination with my family is…
Langkawi – We are taking Ari on a special trip for her third birthday and leaving baby brother behind.
Future plans for my family and career are…
Ask me again in six months! I feel like I’m at the juncture where a few big decisions are going to be made with regards to career and family. I can see a scenario where I take a step back from my career to spend more time with my family. On the other hand, I see another scenario where I potentially seek out expansion opportunities to take WeBarre to greater scale and heights. I am also not excluding the possibility of also starting/creating something new. The world is my oyster!