Midnight babies say 'hello, world' on National Day

Mr Eddy Kulniawan and his wife Rabitah Razali with their newborn son Emir Rayhan.
Mr Eddy Kulniawan and his wife Rabitah Razali with their newborn son Emir Rayhan. PHOTO: RAFFLES HOSPITAL

SINGAPORE - Gloomy skies marked the morning of National Day, but for the family of Mr Eddy Kurniawan, it could not have been brighter.

At exactly midnight on Wednesday (Aug 9), his first child was born, becoming one of two Singaporean babies reported by two hospitals here to have been naturally born at exactly 00:00:00 hours on Aug 9, making them the first National Day babies of 2017.

The arrival of baby boy Emir Rayhan - whose name means "prince" and "flower in heaven" - at Raffles Hospital 12 days earlier than expected was a surprise.

But it did not faze 28-year-old Mr Kurniawan, an airport emergency services officer.

He said of his wife, 28-year-old Housing Board administrative executive Rabitah Razali: "I whispered words of encouragement to her and said prayers. I also extended my arm to her and she gripped it very hard." She endured an 18-hour labour to deliver a 50cm-tall Emir tipping the scales at 3.3kg.

Mr Kurniawan even cut the umbilical cord himself, at the encouragement of the doctor.

The moment it was over, Madam Rabitah burst into tears, when the extreme pain she had endured for hours suddenly "dropped to zero".

"I feel quite honoured because this is a special day and we can celebrate with the whole nation," said Madam Rabitah.

In fact, she had already requested that visiting family and friends observe a dress code of red and white, she quipped.

Someone even sent her a text, joking that since Emir was born on National Day, he should be named Sang Nila Utama - a prince who is said to have founded pre-colonial Singapore.

Mr Kurniawan's brother, customer service officer Izad Razali, 36, was waiting at home with their mother and other relatives, anxiously monitoring the family's WhatsApp phone messaging group.

When another brother finally broke the good news from the hospital, there was a flood of congratulatory messages.

"I could not sleep the whole night," said Mr Izad. "I wanted to go to the hospital straight away but my mother said it's better to go in the morning."

The situation at Mount Alvernia Hospital in the final minutes of Aug 8 was no less tense - former Singapore Airlines stewardess Soh Bei En, 29, was screaming the house down.

Ms Soh Bei En and Mr Tan Shi Chang with their first child Matheus Tan Pin Xu. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Her first child, Matheus Tan Pin Xu, was six days overdue and a little oversized, at nearly 4kg.

And when he finally popped out, he cried almost as loudly as she did. But he soon calmed down when father Tan Shi Chang, an HR executive, 34, took him to one side and soothed him by saying, "Papa is here".

Ms Soh, who is good in Chinese, said she and Mr Tan had started thinking about possible Chinese names for the baby as soon as she became pregnant.

They experimented with different character combinations, finally settling on the Chinese character "pin", which stands for "personality", and "xu", which means "bright and cheerful".

Their first child has certainly started life on a bright and cheerful note, but celebrations will come a bit later.

As a loving and responsible husband, Mr Tan said of his wife: "She needs to rest."