SINGAPORE - As many in the country were counting down to bid goodbye to the Covid-19 year at 11.59pm on Thursday, three couples in the delivery wards of three hospitals were about to meet their newborns.
At the stroke of midnight, doctors at Raffles Hospital, Mount Alvernia Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital delivered Singapore's new year babies of 2021.
Earlier, at 2pm on Thursday, soon-to-be parents Audrey Tjioe, 31, and Zemin Tan, 32, were having a leisurely new year's eve lunch with family when Ms Tjioe "felt a gush of water" as her water broke.
It was then a frenzied rush to Raffles Hospital.
"We weren't expecting it to happen so early as our doctor told us to be admitted only in the evening," said Ms Tjioe, who works in a recruitment firm.
At night, her contractions became more frequent and it was time to push at 11.25pm.
"At 11pm, when the baby wasn't out yet, we thought there could be a chance that our child might be the first baby of the new year," said Mr Tan, a financial adviser.
"So, it was an encouragement to her to try to push harder and faster," he added.
At exactly midnight, their daughter, Avery Tan, was born.
They had decided on the name months ago, and Mr Tan said it "sounds catchy". He added: "It also means 'ruler', so it could mean that she could achieve great things in the future."
Having a healthy baby was most important, but giving birth at the start of the new year was the icing on the cake, said Ms Tjioe.
"She is our firstborn, and also happened to be a New Year baby. That's not a very common thing," added Mr Tan.
In Mount Alvernia Hospital, Ms Yu Hui-Lan, 32, and Mr David Chan, 36, also had their daughter at midnight. The couple, who also have a two-year-old son, have not decided on their daughter's name yet.
Ms Yu was hoping to give birth by Dec 31, to avoid having to undergo labour induction a week later.
"I didn't want to wait another week, and thankfully I went into labour at 4.30pm on Thursday," said the homemaker.
The silver lining in being pregnant during a pandemic year was having her husband by her side every day, while he worked from home.
"During my first pregnancy, I was alone at home and lonely. This time, my husband and I bonded more and went out hunting for nice food. My moods were better," added Ms Yu.
Singapore's third new year baby, a boy, was born at midnight at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
On Friday morning, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah visited three other families who had babies after midnight at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH).
The hospital's first new year baby, a boy, was born at 12.10am.
"The (three) mums were very tired and relieved, and just very happy that their babies were born safely," Ms Indranee told the media after her visit. She also visited Singapore's only human milk bank, in KKH.