It took the trauma of a car accident to “wake me up” says sleep trainer Zoe Chu
by Tan Huey Ying // January 22, 2021, 1:11 pm
Zoe's third baby, Callum, whom she calls her "miracle baby" was born in April 2011 while she was still undergoing therapy to relearn how to walk after a shocking accident in New Zealand. All photos courtesy of Zoe Chu.
The pain was excruciatingly sharp.
“Jesus loves me this I know.”
She could not move.
“For the Bible tells me so.”
Glass shards were everywhere: Under the jacket she was wearing, around her body that lay prone on the floor. Some had even pierced through her pants and were embedded in her legs.
“Little ones to Him belong.”
From the corner of her eye, she noticed her right leg lying at an impossible angle. Later, she would find out that her right tibia and fibula, the two bones in her lower leg, had been broken.
“They are weak but He is strong.”
Nineteen weeks pregnant, 31-year-old Zoe Chu had been thrown through the glass window of an aquarium shop she was walking past after a car lost control and hit her.
As she lay on her back waiting for help to arrive, Chu focused hard on the lyrics of this familiar children’s tune.
“I was trying to be strong,” Chu recalled of that Friday evening in December 2010 in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was all she could do in response to the shock and pain as she fought back the panic and unhinged fears that were sweeping through her.
But amongst her thoughts, one dominated.
Was this … punishment?
Earlier, Chu had been in her office working through the many preparations that had to be done before a hectic weekend of house viewings and family life.
Her decision to work late that evening was one she replayed in her mind for months.
As a real estate agent, weekends were the busiest time of the week. But Chu was also a mother to a pair of twins who were only four.
She recalled: “I was in my office and I remember looking at the clock, thinking: Should I stay back and do more work or should I go home and spend time with my kids?”
Chu chose to stay – a decision that she later replayed in her mind for months.
“I blamed myself for that,” Chu shared, explaining that she struggled with guilt and self-blame after the accident: Was this God’s punishment because she’d chosen the wrong thing?
Maybe things would have been different if she had gone home to her twins instead?
Chu had taken up her role as a realtor barely a year earlier.
Flexibility was a big factor: The job paid the bills while allowing her more time with her young family.
When Chu became a young mother of twin boys at 26, she quit her job as an accountant to become a stay home mum. Two years later, Chu rejoined the workforce, working as a finance manager.
“I didn’t want to talk to God.”
“We wanted a bigger house and cars,” she added, sharing that, several years after the twins were born, the couple upgraded and moved into a large double-storey house.
Unlike her previous job, Chu was based in Christchurch city and did not have to travel extensively, giving the couple time and space to plant roots in the city.
But it was a job beset with so many deadlines that Chu found herself missing out on her two sons’ developmental milestones as toddlers.
“Mom-guilt set in,” Chu said, explaining her decision to become a realtor. “I didn’t enjoy selling homes, but I had to do something.”
By this time, caught between chasing material wealth and juggling the demands of a working mother of two, Chu had strayed from her faith.
After the accident, the trauma pushed her into depression as Chu struggled to come to terms with it. Anger towards God took root.
“I didn’t want to talk to God,” Chu said who had grown up attending Sunday School at the church opposite her home.
In university, Chu was actively serving in the Overseas Christian Fellowship.
Even with overwhelming support from her church community, Chu could not shake off the toxic mix of anger and guilt she felt and distanced herself from God even as she struggled with the pain.
“I went through all kinds of negative thoughts.”
In January 2011, the couple decided to take a long holiday and visit Chu’s sister and relatives in Singapore over Chinese New Year. Around family, Chu finally started to emerge from the fog of depression that had settled.
Then, devastating news arrived.
A massive earthquake had hit Christchurch.
Among the victims were her ex-boss, Murray Wood, and several ex-colleagues.
Wood’s passing was especially traumatising. “He came to visit me in hospital after my accident,” Chu recalled of the man who’d been her “favourite” boss. “That was the last time I saw him.”
Still recovering from the effects of the accident, in her third trimester of pregnancy and with two boisterous young boys in tow, Chu could not stomach the thought of returning to New Zealand.
Instead, the couple decided to relocate to Singapore and, in early March, Chu’s husband, Justin, flew back to New Zealand alone to pack their belongings and sell their car and house.
Teaching families to sleep
But adjusting to life in Singapore was hard. There was no community apart from her sister’s family, some relatives and their next-door neighbour.
In April, Chu gave birth to Callum and, for a while, she held down the home front, caring for three young children without a helper and was learning how to walk again.
“That painful experience shook me to my core but I have learned to cherish life.”
Gradually, Chu found her way back to God as well. Plugged into a local church in Singapore, Grace Assembly of God, Chu said she came to recognise God’s hand at work in her life. “Like pieces of a puzzle being sorted out,” she said.
As Chu prepared to return to work after Callum turned one, she started exploring the possibility of running a sleep training consultancy. She had been receiving requests from tired parents who had read about her experiences with her three children through her blog.
In 2014, Chu started SG Supernanny where she has found her calling and purpose in equipping and empowering exhausted, sleep-deprived parents.
Ten years since her accident and six years into her journey as a sleep trainer, Chu says that, for her, life now is about being a blessing and giving back to others, not just about accumulating wealth and possessions.
“I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she mused. “Today, I thank God for every day.”
“Did I wish there was a less painful route? Yes, of course. But would it have changed me? I don’t know.
“I think God knew what it took to wake me up. I believe everything happened for a reason. I have no regrets.
“That painful experience shook me to my core but I have learned to cherish life.
“And no, I no longer see the accident as God’s punishment, but I have peace, knowing that God is at work and in full control.”