He was one of the groomsmen at my best friend’s wedding. We somehow found ourselves alone in a car headed towards Ipoh (the groom’s hometown) for the evening ceremony. And the rest, as they say, was history. What I love most about him is that he’s constantly open to what I have to say; he’s more than happy to be challenged in debates and meaningful conversations. To him, both sides have to pull their weight in a relationship – there are no predefined roles for either gender. When the topic of marriage rolled about, we both agreed that we were on the right track. Unfortunately, when it came to the subject of children, the woman who had never been afraid to voice her thoughts and opinions suddenly felt a pinch of fear. He appeared to adore children and whenever he described our future together, tiny tots were always included. I knew it was selfish of me, but I was afraid of losing him – I had heard too many stories about children being the deal-breaker in relationships. And so, I reasoned with myself that I would be happy to have one with him when the time came.
Married life and doubts
Our newlywed bliss lasted for a total of three months before I found myself bombarded with the dreaded question: “When will we be seeing babies?” Each time the issue popped up, I would smile politely and reply that we were still waiting for the right time. Behind closed doors, the guilt began creeping up because I still hadn’t warmed to the idea of raising another life. I felt as if I was lacking a maternal instinct – despite people’s best efforts in convincing me that it would come naturally. Too often, I’ve heard about the overflowing of love a mother first feels when cradling her newborn, but imagining that moment always left me feeling hollow and empty. As crass as it sounds, I measure my love by the lengths I would go to sacrifice for another and deep down, I knew that I would be reluctant to do so for any child – even my own. And if I knew I wasn’t going to be a good mother, I wasn’t going to be one at all.
A pregnancy scare
A year down the road, there was no escaping it any longer. In the midst of our intimacy, he asked if we should stop using contraceptives and start trying. My heart shrank and it pains me to admit that I agreed quietly. I will never forget the huge smile that broke across his face. The next morning, I rushed to get myself the morning-after pill. I hadn’t slept a wink all night – paranoid and anxious that it was too late. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy as all the stress and worry eventually delayed my period. After a week of fretting and dreading what seemed like an ominous future to me, I had never felt so much relief when my pregnancy kit showed a negative result. If I had had any doubts before, I knew without a shadow of a doubt now that I definitely did not want children.
The downward spiral
The onslaught of guilt after was horrific. I barely allowed my husband to touch me in bed and I could see it slowly forming cracks in our marriage. I knew he could see through me whenever I told him I was tired or had to work late at night. But each time he asked me what was going on, I would brush it aside brusquely. I felt ashamed and despicable, but was too much of a coward to face the problem head on.
One night, our turmoil finally reached boiling point – I came home to find him sitting on our couch. Before I could say anything, he told me curtly that unless I came clean to him, he was ready to walk out of marriage. “I can’t live like this anymore,” he pleaded, and my heart broke. Neither could I. That night, everything finally tumbled out – the fears, doubts, and guilt. I was relieved that I no longer had to keep this secret but I quaked and sobbed, thinking that this was it, this was the end.