Family, Health, Meaning of Life, Relationships

Miscarriages, abuse and betrayal drove her to the brink of suicide … but a new kind of motherhood brought her back to life

By Joshua Ow Yong & Gemma Koh , 26 September 2023

TRIGGER WARNING: The following mentions suicide ideation. Reader discretion advised. 

At the age of 41, Jessica Ong felt like an outsider whenever friends included her in outings with their children.

By then, she had had three miscarriages; the pregnancies never passed the eight-week mark.

Jessica tried all sorts of therapies to get pregnant with her Scottish husband, Brian Barron. Doctors could not find anything physically wrong with her, but she was fast approaching the cut-off age for trying for a child.

Newly wed in 2013.

“I felt like an outsider – left out, ostracised,” Jessica, now 49, regional customer director of a global logistics company, told Stories of Hope.

“I felt hollow, like a robot, just functioning to get through life,” she said.

“A lesser woman”

Some people commented that she couldn’t carry a baby to full-term because she was “too active”.

Well-meaning Christians asked her to pray. Worse, others suggested that she had sinned and was “being punished”.  

“Sometimes the words were spoken out of good intentions and encouragement, but they were not helpful,” she said. 

“I also felt that God had betrayed me because He took away motherhood from me.”

Jessica’s grief at not being able to become a mother was compounded by other wounds.

She shared that for over a decade, she had been physically, mentally and emotionally abused and betrayed in past relationships.

Jessica was often told – and believed – that she was “good for nothing”.

Abandoned and forgotten

Doubts about herself and disillusions with people spilled into her spiritual life.

“I asked God, ‘What’s wrong with me? I’ve done my best. I am following You, and You are supposed to watch over me. I think You’ve deserted me.’

“I also felt that God had betrayed me because He took away motherhood from me.

“I told Him, ‘I don’t know what the joy of labour feels like. You made me imperfect. You made me a lesser woman’,” said Jessica who started pulling away from church.

“I was angry with God. At one point, I told Him, ‘I love you, but I hate you to the core. Brian is the last in the Barron lineage. How can I carry the guilt of his bloodline ending with me?’

“I told God, ‘I don’t know what the joy of labour feels like. You made me imperfect’.”

“I thought He hated me. 

“Then I became disillusioned with God and stopped talking to Him.

“I was very broken.” 

By 2016, the pain became too much to bear. 

“I felt life wasn’t worth living anymore. It wasn’t worth the pain, the ridicule I was feeling. I thought God had abandoned me.”

In her mind, she had it all planned out.

“After Brian left for work the next morning, I would open the window of our eighth story flat and jump out.” 

A new peace

That night, when Jessica went to bed, she had a dream.

“I saw a majestic, powerful figure sitting by a massive, ancient wooden table. Lightning was flashing across the sky, but it wasn’t scary. I walked up to this person with my head bowed low, not daring to lift my face to Him. Somehow I knew He was God because of the awesome love and peace I felt.”

“It felt like I had been hugged by God,” said Jessica. When she woke from her dream, her hollow and heavy heart was replaced with a peace and love she had never felt before.

Their conversation was not spoken, but came as an impression.

“He asked me, ‘What are you doing?’

Jessica had no answer.

“I heard Him say, ‘I love you. I’ve always been here for you.’

“This feeling of love was so overwhelming that I started crying.”

“I felt comforted knowing that God has been there for me through the challenges, hurts and pain I had experienced. I felt so humbled and small. 

“When I woke up in the morning, my heavy heart and the emptiness that had been gnawing at me was gone.

“It was replaced with a peace I had never felt before. It felt like I had been hugged by God.

“This feeling of love was so overwhelming that I started crying. I have no idea if it was tears of joy or relief. 

“I told my husband, ‘I saw God’.” 

The siblings

But even after the dream, Jessica still pinned her hopes on becoming pregnant, but was disappointed again and again. She knew that God had a plan and purpose for her life, but often wondered if God would answer her prayers to experience motherhood.

However, almost concurrently, a few things started happening that showed her that God had heard her and was caring for her.

Two children – siblings ages 11 and 13 – needed a home as their parents were unable to care for them.

“I had never thought about adoption,” Jessica admitted. 

Close friends from church prayed for God to open doors for the Barrons to adopt the two siblings.

“We prayed one prayer – ‘God, if this is your will, you open all the doors’,” said Jessica.

The adoption process was challenging and difficult. But finally, after 18 months, the couple were officially the parents of the two siblings.

Jessica and Brian and their children. They are now 18 and 20 years old.

“Who else could open all the doors but God?

“God gave me the joy of having not one but two children,” said an emotional Jessica.

Bird mama

God also showed Jessica the joy of motherhood in unusual ways.

Slightly after the adoption process started, there was a knock on their door. It was a neighbour that Jessica and Brian usually said “hi” to in the lift. He had found a baby myna with an injured leg. 

“I don’t know why the neighbour came to us, but he said, ‘I think you will know what to do with it’,” said Jessica.

They weren’t able to find the nest the fledgling had fallen from.

They named the bird Max.

“I was feeding the very young birds every 15 minutes from sun up to sun down. I was doing a job of a mother.”

Jessica and Brian contacted Animals Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) and got advice on how to feed the common bird.

The animal lovers also spent a few hundred dollars sending him to an avian vet for treatment. The vet taught them how to strengthen the muscles in the myna’s left leg that was crippled from the fall.

“Jessica wouldn’t put the bird down even if it was cheaper to,” said her husband, Brian.  

The bird needed to be fed every hour. So Brian took him to his office and fed him during breaks.

The couple also Googled how to teach the bird survival skills, with the aim of releasing him back to the wild.

“We taught Max to feed himself, and how to shred tissues so that he could tear food apart,” said Jessica. After nursing Max for three months, they released him. “He often came back to visit, and later, brought his family. I became a grandmother!” exclaimed Jessica.

Over the next two years, the couple came across several more abandoned baby or injured birds. They were common ones – pigeons, mynas, sparrows and crows – that might have otherwise been left to die.

Neighbours jokingly called Jessica “the bird whisperer”.

Jessica said: “One day a friend said, ‘Congratulations, you are a mama to birds’.

“It dawned on me: This is what I am. I was feeding the very young ones every 15 minutes from sun up to sun down. I was doing a job of a mother – but in a different way.”

“God, You must be kidding me,” Jessica told God when three birds needing care showed up at one time. They included mynas that she named Faith and Hope.

When the baby birds (like Faith and Hope, pictured) started flapping their wings, Jessica trained them to fly by gently launching them towards Brian. She felt joy, releasing the birds she had nursed back into the wild.

“After the 14th bird came to us, I told God, ‘Enough birds. I understand.'”

Smelling joy

In the same year Max arrived, Jessica started a garden at her HDB corridor.

Shortly after, a good friend gifted Jessica with a hoya plant; it bears clusters of porcelain-like flowers. 

It was the start of a passion that would bring peace – and more to Jessica.

“Bud blasting” reminded Jessica of her pregnancies that couldn’t be carried to term. 

“I was excited when the hoya started budding. But before it could bloom, the buds dropped. I was devastated,” she said.

This “bud blasting” happened more than once. It reminded Jessica of her pregnancies that couldn’t be carried to term. 

Jessica consulted online forums on how to nurse her plant that had been infested with mealy bugs back to health.

After four months, buds appeared.

“I was not hopeful and expected them to blast again.

Theos Eden

The first hoya Jessica received; pictured when it was sickly in 2019 (left) and healthy and in full-bloom in 2020.

Then one day she smelled a fragrance.

A flower had opened. It was beautiful.

“Seeing it, I jumped up and down with joy,” she said.

Free at last

Jessica got a satisfaction from caring for the plants, rehabilitating dying ones, and growing the next generation from seeds or cuttings.

“As the plants and injured birds were healing, I was healing,” she said. 

She started praying over the seemingly “hopeless” cases. 

Theos Eden

A hoya known as Shooting Stars kept budding and dropping its peduncles (stalks bearing flower clusters; top left). Jessica prayed over it as she nursed it back to health. “After a couple of weeks, it regrew three peduncles quicker than normal.”

She prayed over a pigeon that had been nearly decapitated by a cat.

“It also had a broken wing, and the vet said it would never fly again.”

But the pigeon recovered and flew away.

“Even the vet was amazed.”

The pigeon that the vet said would never fly again. “It was badly mauled by a cat and underwent emergency surgery. We prayed over Pudgy every night. After a few months, it regained its strength and flew away.”

Answers to her seemingly small prayers reignited her trust in God, and prayer became a regular part of her life again.

She told God: “God, You are real.” 

Jessica also felt God tell her: “The journey of motherhood is not different from what I’ve been showing you.”

She had found purpose in her life, and purpose in her role in His creation. 

Theos Eden

As Jessica found joy in nurturing the birds and plants back to health, she started re-introducing colours back into her all-black wardrobe of mourning. She also started praying, reading the Bible and becoming more involved in church again.

She also saw a parallel between gardening and how God had been caring for her.

“When a plant is dying, you’ve got to slowly make the adjustments … Cannot just ‘boom’ and change it.” 

“When a plant is dying, you uproot it, change the planting medium and move it to another location. You’ve got to slowly make the adjustments in a calculated way or the plant will die. Cannot just ‘boom’ and change it. 

“It dawned on me that during the miscarriages, God had always been there for me, holding me and letting me rest. He did not forsake me.

“Looking back, I see God’s hand in showing me my giftings, surrounding me with friends and people who love me,” said Jessica (left), pictured with a friend.

It reminded her of the poem “Footprints in the Sand“, which ends with: My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

“This breakthrough lifted the deadweight in my heart.” 

One year into planting, Jessica knew she was free; she no longer yearned to get pregnant. About a year later, she knew she was restored from the effects of abuse and betrayal. 

“My deep-seated anger and pain towards those who had hurt me was replaced with love. I was no longer a victim. God had protected me. My perspective had changed.” 

The Eden effect

As Jessica’s love for hoyas bloomed, her HDB corridor garden grew into a jungle that blocked out the sunlight. Within a year, she had to rent a small garden plot in a nursery in Seletar to house her collection of more than 600 varieties of hoyas.

Theos' Eden

Theos’ Eden has arguably the largest personal collection of hoyas in Singapore, and a growing number of episcias, begonias and aroids.

Shortly after Covid social distancing restrictions were relaxed, visitors to her garden plot started asking to buy the plants she had propagated. Her “guardian angel mentor” who taught her all about plants separately made the same suggestion.

It was an answer to her prayer for an extra source of funds to support humanitarian and mission work. At that time, there was dire need of financial aid to sponsor Covid test kits and face masks in more remote countries.

Theos Eden

Jessica sells her exotic plants at events such as planters’ markets and donates her proceeds to animal welfare (like Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better), humanitarian aid and Christian mission work. Visits to Theos’ Eden are by appointment only.

After weeks of prayer, she named her garden plot Theos’ Eden

“It came to me that God was using all these plants in my healing process – and I could share Jesus’ love with others.

“Many people ask why I chose this name; it creates an opening for me to share that ‘Theos; (pronounced “thee-oss”) is Greek for ‘God’ and ‘Eden’ refers to the perfect garden.” 

“It allows me to share my story while respecting their faiths and beliefs.”

Jessica also opens her garden plot on an ad hoc basis to visitors who want to help her with the planting or who just want to soak in the peace.

Theos' Eden

Jessica’s plants flourish and grow large with minimal care. Brian and Jessica attribute it to God’s hand in multiplying her efforts to bless others. Jessica is currently in the process of setting up a community garden.

“Usually they plant in silence. But as they benefit from the therapeutic effects of seeing the plants they’ve nurtured grow, they often open up about their struggles.”

Often they are struggles that Jessica herself has been through.

“I listen. And when they ask how I overcame mine, I have been able to share with them that God is real”.

Jessica’s rescued Serama dwarf chickens who live at the plant nursery include Peanut (right), who was once on the edge of death, and Muffin who had ovarian issues. They are pictured on a visit to the vet.

Jessica also encourages pastors to bring youths with challenges to learn how to tend to plants and eventually “see God from a very different perspective”. 

“I always let the Lord bring people to the garden.”

Theos’ Eden includes plants that were deemed “unique or a challenge to get” – that somehow Jessica was able to procure. They flourish and grow large with minimal care.

The couple attribute it to what they call “the Eden effect” – God’s hand in multiplying Jessica’s efforts to bless others.

“It is not my work. Everything is God’s growth,” said Jessica.

If you find wild animals in need of help …

Contact the following 24/7 hotlines for assistance:

NParks Animal Response Centre, Tel: 1800-476-1600

ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline, Tel: 9783-7782 

Click here to join our Telegram family for more stories like Jessica’s.

Read of how Brian got a new lease on life after his lungs failed:

A new breath of life: How Brian was healed of a lung condition that almost killed him


She’s a 66-year-old fashion model … who was once “a caged bird with no voice”

“Homelessness and poverty – I experienced them all”: Counsellor who was once abused

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