Bernice, our Miracle Baby

PLEASE BE WARNED: Explicit photographs may be disturbing.

Bernice dear,           

Let me continue from where I left off about you, our Miracle Baby because sharing this is an affirmation of God’s goodness and mercies towards you and your family.

Aunty Polly with baby Bernice on your
One Month Old celebration at 154
When you were old enough to understand, I believe your parents may have shared this Miracle Baby incident with you. It was then buried away because the horror of this traumatic incident was just too painful and ugly to bear.

When I discovered this set of photographs among the collection of photos by Uncle Victor, I couldn’t help getting vivid flashbacks to that awful night at 154.

The impressive quality of these Black-and-White shots have kept so well since 1972 and they serve as a firm record of what happened to you and your mother on that unforgettable night.

These photos are proof that it was truly God’s Mighty Hand that shielded you and your mother, and of course, Saroja the helper, from harm.

Ber, I was there too, and this is my version shared to give thanks and praise to GOD Almighty for preserving you and your dear mother through that ghastly incident.

I’m also sharing this with a SERIOUS WARNING to drinkers who drive under the influence of alcohol, to remind them to NEVER EVER drive after a few drinks.

Alcohol in the body will cause drinkers to lose control of their faculties and they are in NO condition to drive a motor vehicle. So please say NO to Drink-Driving!

Aunty Polly feeding baby Bernice; She is
seated on the low bed inside the bedroom.
Grandfather’s house at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng, was a double-storey bungalow with an adjacent badminton court that was surrounded by tall bamboo bushes growing through the wire fence, to keep breezes out during badminton training.

The downstairs section of this bungalow was constructed in bricks and concrete while the staircase and upstairs section was built of wood. After the building renovation, the kitchen, bathrooms and toilets downstairs were rebuilt in bricks.

My mother told me that during World War Two, the family left the house to hide from the Japanese invaders and this property was left in the charge of a caretaker.

Built of such sturdy materials, this old house survived the ravages of war and later when it was safe to return to town, the family moved back to 154.

Jalan Ngee Heng was then a two-way main road in Johor Baru for motor vehicles and public buses so while we lived at 154, we got used to the street sounds of motorists passing to and fro, from early morning till late at night.

The road behind 154 led to a round-about with roads that branched out to Jalan Tebrau, downtown to Jalan Wong Ah Fook and to the Causeway into Singapore.

It was a busy thoroughfare and every now and then, we would hear cars hooting or screeching to a sudden halt and sometimes it would end with a loud crash followed by heated arguments when vehicles happened to collide.

Whenever we heard a loud crash, it was normal for us to head to the nearest window upstairs to watch the altercation with morbid interest for any bloodshed, violence or gore, and to see if the parties settled the matter or if the Police would be involved.

As you know Ber, your mother welcomed you into the world in the absence of your father, who was then in Tasmania, Australia, on a Government study scholarship.

I’m sure he dearly wished to be by your mother’s side as she advanced in her first pregnancy, but they had reached a brave decision for him to proceed with the study course because it was a rare opportunity to be awarded such a scholarship.

Grandfather and grandmother were thrilled to have you at 154 and we, your cousins, were happy to have the newest addition to the family in the house for us to play with.

Our second sister, Pearly, was gifted in caring for others so your mother would entrust you into her care quite confidently. (Her skills were put to good use because later she qualified as a nurse in the UK and enjoyed a long and exciting career there.)

Your mother also had Saroja, a helper who stayed in the same room with the both of you, ready to lend a hand especially when you got up for feeds at night.

Your mother and Saroja slept on two single beds that were arranged end-to-end, with both beds lined against the right wall of the room, and the higher bed was placed closest to the room door.

In the room, your baby cot was placed parallel to your mother’s bed, the lower one (used by Uncle Billy when this was his room), arranged close to the back wall.

Back then, houses were designed with strategically placed windows for cross-ventilation because people lived with natural ventilation and there was no such thing as ceiling fans or air-conditioners.

There was probably an electric table fan to use but during the confinement month, the new mother was traditionally not encouraged to expose herself to any wind.

If grandmother were to sit down to relax, she would be steadily waving a hand fan to cool herself down. Hers was usually a strong satay fan that carried more wind. So, if your mother felt warm, she only had a hand fan to cool herself.

At night, the room windows were closed to keep out mosquitoes and other insects and on most nights, the double-doors of your bedroom downstairs would be closed.

But on that unforgettable night, it was just too warm, so the room doors were left open to allow more air to circulate from the sitting room and hall.

It happened that Aunty Annie and her baby, Derek, were staying at 154 because her husband was then based in Batu Pahat for work.

It also happened that Uncle Arthur was home because the next morning he was to head to Kuala Lumpur to represent the Royal Malaysian Navy in a badminton tournament.

I have mentioned that Grandmother dubbed Uncle, “Tah Poh Wan Sek,” meaning he played badminton for a living, because he often represented the Navy in this game.

There was plenty of room at 154 so Aunty Annie and her son slept in the Girls’ room with Aunty Sylvia and our eldest sister Ruby, while Uncle Arthur slept on a canvas bed, set up in Uncle Victor’s room upstairs.

It was an ordinary school night for us, the children, who prepared for bed after doing our homework and studies because the next morning was a school day. So, the four of us, Philip and Kenneth, Pearly and I, went to bed in the Children’s room.

As usual, Uncle Arthur, Uncle Victor, and other players were at badminton training on the court while the grandparents would watch television before turning in for bed after the News.

The force of this crash that brought the
 fence down [under the car!] and through
the brick wall into this bedroom at 154;
The solid window frame is resting on the car;
A chilling sight of the baby pram...
Just as they did in the previous weeks since you and your mother returned from the hospital, Aunty Polly and Saroja settled you down for bed after your feed.

The uncles were probably the last people to turn in for the night and then everyone in 154 were in bed, drifting off to slumberland.

All of us were already in deep sleep when we were rudely awakened by such a shockingly loud bang that I thought it even shook our bed. 

From such a loud bang, we naturally assumed that it was a nearby collision and instinctively got up to open the back window to have a look.

Aunty Annie, who was sleeping in the Girls’ room located directly above your mother’s confinement room, heard the loud bang and she too felt her bed shake.

She too jumped up and opened the back window in their room almost the same time as we, the children in the next room had thrown open our window to look outside.

But in our initial scan of the panoramic view, there was no sign of any collision.

It was Aunty Annie’s screams that drew our eyes downwards and we were momentarily stunned when we saw the back of a car sticking out of the wall of the room directly below hers!

Fearful that the upstairs room might collapse, Aunty Annie immediately grabbed her son and rushed downstairs.

The shocking realization that no collision happened on the road but that a car had crashed INTO our house, galvanized us to move and all of us rushed downstairs.

A cloud of smokey dust had arisen from the rubble which obstructed our vision in the pitch darkness and our nostrils were greeted by the pungent smell of a mixture of concrete/brick dust, vegetation (broken bamboo!) and petrol.

Aunty Annie urgently called out instructions to open the front door and windows because she was worried that there might be an explosion.

Power supply was suddenly shut off because electricity cables were suddenly severed, and this overwhelming darkness added to our fear.

I am unclear about the sequence of events because everything happened so quickly. But the situation was simply chaotic.

I heard voices of grandfather and grandmother but as children who might get in the way, we stood aside (trembling in fear!) while the uncles dashed ahead into the horrific scene.

The lower bed, on which Aunty Polly was asleep, had been shoved under the higher bed by the impact of the crash!
When they saw the bonnet of the car half-way INSIDE the bedroom with a layer of bamboo fence under the car, surrounded by rubble from the broken wall and window strewn all over, emotions ran strong and wild in a mixture of fear and anger.

Grandfather panicked because he assumed that the baby cot was under the car!

While he called repeatedly, “Bernice! Bernice!” grandfather frantically dug through the rubble with his bare hands, attempting to find baby Bernice!

Someone stopped grandfather and assured him that Bernice was safe because the impact of the car crashing through the wall, had hit the wooden cot and sent it sliding safely out to the sitting room through the semi-opened room doors!

The baby cot, draped with a mosquito net canopy [Right]
went safely through the open doors of the bedroom!
It was indeed Divine Providence that kept the room’s double doors open that night for your cot to slide out smoothly through its doors, safely into the sitting room!

When they opened the pink canopy that covered your cot Ber, they saw you lying down quietly, still soundly asleep!

You were gently lifted and cuddled – waking you up in that process – and your soft cries were the most beautiful sounds we heard because you were virtually unharmed.

Assured that you were safe, grandfather turned his attention to your mother and by the light of torches, he searched for his daughter, urgently calling out repeatedly, “Polly! Polly!” because she was nowhere in sight.

As described, the two singled beds were arranged end-to-end with the lower bed on which your mother slept, placed nearest the wall and window that had collapsed.

Because that very spot for this bed was then occupied by the car which had crashed inside, the next few moments was of pure panic again…

Once again, it was Divine Providence that the impact of the horrific crash had sent the lower bed DIRECTLY under the higher bed, where your mother still laid!

Aunty Polly was retrieved from under the higher bed;
Note the dark outline on the bed that marked the spot where
Saroja was still asleep when the brick dust settled on her bed.
She might have passed out for a bit due to the impact because her muffled cries led us to discover her lying below the higher bed.

When your mother was retrieved from her tight cocoon, it was a huge relieve to see that she could stand up in spite of some bleeding from wounds on her knee and she was helped to walk to the next room (the grandparents’ room) where she rested.

Later your mother and Saroja were taken to hospital for a thorough examination and while Saroja was treated as an outpatient, your mother was admitted for observation.

Your mother described this hospital stay as two of the most dreadful days of her life because she was apart from you, her newborn baby girl.

Meanwhile someone had dispatched the uncles to inform eldest brother, Uncle Roland, who was then based in the Johor Baru General Hospital and lived in the Government quarters there.

Right view of the car halfway inside the room!
Uncle Arthur rode pillion while Uncle Victor drove grandfather’s Lambretta scooter.

Remember the crash happened so unexpectedly while everyone including Aunty Polly, Saroja, and you, were soundly asleep.

Moments after the brick dust had settled over Saroja (the outlines of her prone body were evident from her bed covers!) she got up to the shocking scene of the bonnet of a car INSIDE their room.

Covered in a whitish coat of brick dust, Saroja looked a strange sight and we remembered the first words she uttered in shock, “Nasib baik, kaki tak patah!” [Malay for, So fortunate that my legs were not fractured!]

As the cloud of dust cleared, they saw a strange man standing in the room – the driver of the car – who was obviously drunk because his first reaction was concern for his car!

Everyone was in shock and so stunned that nobody knew how to confront him!

Left view of the car; the tortoise
aquarium was on the ground [Right] and
grandfather's orchids hanging on the stand
At some point the uncles returned with Uncle Roland, along with a lawyer friend who was in a better position to offer professional advice.

When Uncle Roland witnessed the horrific scene that involved his sister and newborn baby, he could not help his furious reaction towards that drunkard driver.

We know Uncle Roland… and this irresponsible driver would have suffered untold physical damage if Uncle unleashed his barely suppressed fury on him but thankfully, grandfather stopped Uncle from laying a hand on him.

By this time, it was already dawn and we, the children were ushered away to get ready for school and firmly instructed not to breathe a word about what happened.

Everything that unfolded later that day passed in a blur because we were still in shock and with so little sleep, the unsettled feeling was like a horrible nightmare.

Someone must have done a physical assessment on the building structure and deemed it safe to go upstairs even though that wall downstairs had collapsed.

Bernice at the JB Railway Station with her
mother [Right], cousin Catherine and my
sister, Pearly [Left] all ready for a train ride; 1974
In the light of day – and from these explicit photos – we saw that the car had shot through the thick fence of wire and tall bamboo, crashed on shelves of grandfather’s potted orchid plants and across Uncle Victor’s tortoise aquarium on the ground before it smashed through the window and wall of the bedroom.

Uncle Roland then spent the rest of the day at 154 helping to sort out the situation.

I later learnt that Uncle was scheduled to participate in a badminton tournament the next day. But due to this horrific incident at 154, for once he gave a poor performance in his game.

Meanwhile we were worried that grandfather’s heart might fail him, but thankfully he held up quite well. After the debris was cleared, the wall downstairs was quickly rebuilt.

I do not know the outcome of this case, but I overheard snippets of adult conversations and learnt that the drunkard driver was in fact, a Police Inspector.

Ber, on the two days while your mother was warded in hospital, Aunty Annie cared for you with the help from our sister, Pearly, and of course, all of us at 154.

Cousin Bernice and I share a special bond
At the hospital, the doctor’s examination revealed that there was damage to your mother’s inner ear. While the wounds on her knee may have healed, this horrific incident left her with hearing issues that continued to bother her over the years.

So, at your One Month Old celebration we had every reason for thanksgiving because my dear Ber, you were our beloved Miracle Baby, preserved by God’s merciful grace!

On your father’s return to be with his beloved wife and first-born babe, words could not describe your parents’ joy and great relieve when they were reunited again.

Even though this was so many years ago, we can still look back and acknowledge that it was clearly GOD’s divine intervention that preserved our precious Miracle Baby.

And by God’s grace, this Miracle Baby grew up to be a charming girl and confident young lady who developed an exciting career that took you to live and work abroad, and now, blessed with a loving husband and two handsome sons.

Ber, God is always so good.

Much, much love
from your Peggy jie jie

Note: Photos of the horrific incident by Victor Ng; Information gathered from first-hand experiences of Polly Ng-Choo, Annie Ng-Gan, Sylvia Ng-Mok, Arthur Ng and my sisters, Ruby and Pearly.

No comments:

Post a Comment