A STAY at home mother believes her youngest child’s disability of Global Developmental Delay (GDD) has been a blessing in disguise that enabled her to put her innate designing talent to good use in trying times.
Wan Nor Adilah Wan Zamry, 31, now an accomplished designer and entrepreneur in her own right, has been creating her own line since 2019, focusing mainly on flowers and nature, to stand her family in good stead.
The mother of two made a big sacrifice by giving up an executive post to look after her children, especially her special needs three-year-old daughter Nur Aisya Ayra Muhammad Afifi Azham. Her first-born is six-year-old Muhammad Aisy Afif Muhammad Afifi Azham.
Adilah, originally from Pekan Melor, Kelantan, but now living in Kuching, is dedicating her thriving designing business to her little girl and she is happy to share what her experience means to her – the silver lining that lit a path of hope through those cloudy times.
In April 2017, Adilah delivered Nur Aisya. The next day, the infant was warded in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) due to jaundice. Later, the doctors found she had a heart problem and referred her to the National Heart Institute (IJN), Kuala Lumpur for monitoring.
At that very moment, Adilah, thinking she was unable to prevent her child from suffering and feeling vulnerable, asked herself repeatedly, “What have I done to you?”
She said her heart just bled, time and time again – it was just so painful.
“This isn’t what I wanted motherhood to be, but as a Muslim, I ought to have patience, trust, and faith in my Creator. It was a challenge and I learned to accept it with an open mind and heart.”
According to Adilah, they have been sending Nur Aisya for regular check-ups. As she grew, a certain gap in her development became noticeable as per the development milestones of other children.
“When she was six months old, a paediatrician diagnosed her with GDD. As the doctor advised, the delay in development would be short term for some people and could be overcome with additional support or therapy.
“From a previous medical check-up, the doctor found her cerebellum to be smaller compared to kids at her age. She still has a gap in her development, especially in gross motor skills. Still learning to walk, she is now progressing to crawling, climbing, and standing on her own.”
Nur Aisya’s treatment and progress started with therapies at rehabilitation centres, supplemented by exercises at home.
At that time Adilah was still working and needed to take half-day leave twice a week to bring her little girl to the therapy centre. As Nur Aisya’s progress at that time was not significant, Adilah decided to take one-year unpaid leave in 2019 to focus on her daughter’s development.
Nur Aisya is now referred to the Penrissen Camp Community-based Rehabilitation Centre (PPDK) for therapy since her family moved to Kuching in June 2019.
Adilah said for now they are trying a holistic approach to provide the environment and support for Nur Aisya to achieve the development milestones.
“She needs to be continuously monitored as she tends to fall when she stands. In terms of cognitive capability, she has shown impressive progress because of frequent learning-through-play sessions at home and outdoors.
“She has also shown a lot of progress in speech development and she understands and responds positively while communicating with us.
Deciding to quit her job as an executive officer in Petronas LNG Sdn Bhd was not easy but Adilah said she did it for the sake of her children, especially Nur Aisya who needs special care.
After talking to her husband, Major Muhammad Afifi Azham and weighing all the possibilities, Adilah decided to resign from the oil and gas company and take on a new phase in her life as a full-time mother, housewife, and a designer.
“It was so different venturing into something I never thought I would be doing,” she recalled.
Art and design have always been Adliah’s interests since young. She remembers spending hours drawing flowers and buildings.
After SPM, she applied and received offers for courses in architecture and interior design. She also received an offer from Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) to pursue an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) course.
At that time, she had passed the interview and qualified for the Petronas Education Sponsorship Programme – it was like a dream come true.
“So I decided to pursue an ICT course in UTP, hoping I would have more opportunities for a better career. Even though it was challenging, the things I learned in university were beneficial in setting up and running my business.”
In 2011, Adilah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in ICT from UTP and two months later, applied for a position in IT company, IBM, as a banking application analyst, and was accepted.
Two years later, she successfully applied for a position as an executive officer in Petronas LNG, attached to Fleet Management Department, in charge of fleet costs and contract management. After a five-year stint, she decided to resign to look after her children. That decision also kindled her natural talent for designing.
Adilah started her platform Popsiclearts in April 2019.
With a laptop and some art equipment and technological knowledge, she began her designing career – with some research on the Internet.
If she wants to promote a theme related to blooming flowers, she will grab some overview of the floral structure, composition and colours, then translate them into a watercolour painting or digital illustration, using an iPad.
Sometimes, she gets inspiration from certain places or gardens or it can be anywhere through observation.
Normally, she will draw and paint individual parts such as petals, buds and leaves to have more freedom to compose the flower arrangements in the photo editor later.
Once she completes the painting, she will scan it as a high-resolution image to be edited in photo editor programmes – Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustration. Then, designs are produced for application to mockup designs.
She said at Popsiclearts, the merchandise was personalised as a value-added service so that customers could buy them as gifts for their families and friends.
Creating beautiful things
Every week, Adilah will produce new designs for customers and sate her passion for creating beautiful things.
After finishing the full design illustration, Adilah will contact the factory in Peninsular Malaysia to get some ideas for the patterns of her designs.
“If agreeable, the factory will reproduce my ideas on designated items and the whole process will be repeated for other designs.
“Among the orders based on my designs are personalised pouch bags, a range of shawls and scarves, merchandises, and Home & Living items like mugs, throw pillows and wall decorations,” she said.
The items are sold and distributed online, and for this, Adilah has set up an online business website.
“These are the things I produce from the designs, using watercolour paints and digital illustrations using an iPad.
“For me, it isn’t just business but also therapy to create beautiful things from the things that inspire me. Every design I produce has its own stories and I hope to spread love and positivity through them. I promote the products via Facebook, Instagram and advertisements to introduce the brand to the market,” she added.
According to Adilah, feedback from customers is very encouraging so far. Besides its website, she also uses social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
She has also collaborated with other local online platforms such as kami-kita.com, kiahraya.com to market her products, and recently Popsiclearts worked with an NGO – Helping Hands Penan – to market their exclusive hand-woven Penan bags.
“What inspired me to collaborate with this NGO is its goal to empower Penan women and help the Penan community have a better life. Funds raised from sales of the Penan bags are channelled back to the community through various projects primarily to support the education of Penan children,” she said.
Adilah hopes to promote her designing business internationally through Popsiclearts – by running creative workshops and providing design services for apparel, merchandise and other potential products.
Her first design called ‘Blooming Aisya’ was dedicated to Nur Aisya.
“Raising a child with special needs is challenging but it comes with its blessings and rewards. My children have taught me more about the purpose of living. We are incapable of fully understanding how the Almighty Creator handles our affairs and continuous prayers go a long way towards helping us better understand His plans for us.”
The best success can come after the greatest disappointment and from adversity can emerge a blessing that leads to a new and successful path. For Adilah, her daughter’s condition prompted her to make some tough decisions. She kept the faith and the ordeal has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I truly believe my special daughter will be doing great in the future. Insya Allah,” she said.