By Patricia May P. Catan
Life’s unforeseen events can sometimes transform into the biggest blessing. Hannah Katrina Lim Santos received hers with open arms at the age of 32. Lim, who works as a programs and marketing officer in a whole new continent, was in the process of nurturing her career when along the way she found out that she was to rear another. Everything still played out well for her in the end as she is now a career woman and supermom at the same time. Lim breaks the norm for women of her age who worry about juggling career and family. She might still be learning the ropes of playing two different roles but her life as a new mom and a career person in a foreign city is something every mom like her can take inspiration from.
Why and when did you move to Australia?
I moved to Sydney in January 2018 to be with my husband.
What’s it like working overseas?
There’s no way to sugarcoat it — getting into Sydney’s workforce as an outsider is challenging. It’s competitive and they prioritize hiring their own before anyone else with local experience. It took me nearly three months to get hired. I got lucky to land a job that allows me to always come home in time for dinner with my family. It’s a bonus that I have the best boss!
I needed a lot of adjusting to new work etiquette at the beginning. When I did my first work stint in Hong Kong, it took me months before I was able to go around on my own. The good thing about Sydney is everyone speaks English. But there’s no denying that I had a little bit of a culture shock during my first weeks.
What was your initial reaction when you first knew you were having a baby?
It was unexpected but definitely not unwanted.
Have you always dreamed of becoming a mom at your age?
Yes. I’ve always dreamed of having my own family.
Looking back, what were your favorite moments during pregnancy?
I had my pregnancy challenges in the first trimester. But being treated like a queen anywhere especially in airports was a win for me! I felt like I was celebrated — which I think all women should be.
What’s your daughter’s name?
My daughter’s name is Solei Elle Martine Santos.
When and where was your daughter born?
She was born on the 14th of February 2019 in Sydney, Australia.
What’s it like raising your child in a foreign country so far?
I have always pictured myself to be a hands-on mom even before when I haven’t settled down yet. I wanted to witness every milestone of my child and have that strong mother-child bond. But I never closed my mind to seeking help — from my doula during my pregnancy journey to hiring a babysitter.
Motherhood is overwhelming and having a child away from the familiarities of the way things are done back home is a whole different challenge. A strong mental state is essential. I would like to believe that the benefits outweigh the struggles.
At the end of the day, what matters most is how my daughter is nurtured and has a place to call home regardless of where she may be.
How has life been since you became a mom?
Now I understand the phrase “moms are the real heroes.” We are magical beings with amazing super powers!
It’s a shifting time for me. The focus, the energy and my desires — it has been a lot to take in. I’m in constant battle of feeling disoriented and having self-doubt. I’m finding my balance still. But motherhood has been the most life-altering and amazing experience.
What are the joys of being a first-time mom?
Motherhood is the refresher that I needed in my life. I’m just so thrilled where this new soul is taking me. Simple joys of just being in awe of the transitioning powers of the human body and of course with this newfound love and obsession, my daughter.
I found love in breastfeeding. I’m not saying it has been easy but I found it to be my special time with my daughter. These little humans are already built with incredible survival skills that I’ve never seen before. Babies are just amazing creatures.
What are the challenges of being a first-time mom?
Being in a different zip code from my friends and family is tough. Especially to my momma friends. The longing for a friend to have play dates with, share my frustrations with and just simply to have a rant with. I have built a whole virtual support system with messaging apps when I need a friend to listen to my rants, mommy vlogs for tips and advice and mommy podcast channels when I want to listen to ranting moms to make me feel that I’m not alone in my journey. Yes, moms just need to vent from time to time. We are walking explosives.
These are just some of my realities as a rookie mom. Training my mind to be resilient and learn to count my blessings made me a mom fit to care for my bubba.
Now that you’re a mom, how would you describe motherhood in general?
Strategic planning is key. You’ll never make it to brunch. Relaxation plans are always exhausting. Scream-filled car rides, being a full-time entertainer to a little nugget.
I’d like to think motherhood as a simple concept of a mother’s pure love for her child. Motherhood has been a force that pulled me open. It’s a full surrender to the unknown because even with the thousands of advice you get, you will never understand what it’s like until you’re in it.
How do you balance your career and being a mom at the same time?
Going back to work after a three-month maternity leave was pretty tough. Even if I have set up our house with nanny cameras and I could see a live view of what my daughter is doing on my phone while at work, it still doesn’t make it feel any better.
I have gotten over the reality that I don’t own my body anymore. You know how amazing our body, mind and heart work when they’re in sync? Our bodies adjust to this new norm of less than eight hours of sleep and function perfectly to look after a tiny human. Although there is that danger of burning out and things going rock bottom but I’m determined to make it work.
What kind of relationship do you want to have with your daughter as she grows up?
One day she will be stripped away from her innocence and exposed to the world we live in. I don’t want to be that person who will stop her from living. I’ll be that person in her life whoever she wants me to be.
What are the values you’ve learned from your mother that you plan to instill in your daughter when she grows up?
A strong sense of self and to live true.
As a millennial mom, what are the new and improved ways of parenting that you’ve realized so far?
As a new mom in general and living in this age and time, there’s so much out there that could assist parents. A smart bassinet that soothes your baby to sleep so parents can rest, a mobile or hands-free or silent breast pump for working moms, a wrist activity tracker to track everything your child does and a whole lot more in the market today that could make parents’ life a little more convenient especially in my case where we live with no help.
I’ve always believed to never lose yourself to bring out the best version of yourself. I apply that to how I think is best to care for my daughter. To be honest, I know nothing about parenting. It has just been a little over two months since I started this role. I’m just winging it one day at a time and just trusting my inner knowing.