I was walking along a beautiful beach hand-in-hand with my new husband (yes, remember when you did those things? Back in the past life? ) when I informed him of something that I had been meaning to but just didn't get around to, what with the busy schedule of falling in love and tying the knot etc. ' Oh, by the way, I don't want to have kids. Hope you are okay with that.'
After giving the idea his full consideration (over a period of one second) he shrugged, 'That's okay. I understand', a bit too quickly for my comfort, but I let it go, relieved we were now on the same page.
The subject didn't arise for the next four years that we spent with what now seems like a preposterous luxury and guilt-free abandonment. Grocery shopping without shopping lists, in non-German-owned retail outlets, patronizing quirky cafes unattached to parking lots, starting and finishing conversations, sporting a knowledge of ongoing movies and generally enjoying autonomy in matters such as how much to sleep or when to use the bathroom.
Kids were never my thing. I had no experience of looking after them, I didn't (want to?) understand them, they seemed superfluous to most occasions. They certainly added to the noise pollution. I ran a mile from the mere prospect of their company. I also grew up in a certain populous Asian city where there seemed a bit too many of them. Surely I could do my bit and not add to the numbers?
All was going to plan until the year I turned 30. It happened so insidiously, I'm not entirely convinced there was no brain-altering invasion by unidentified parasites or more plausibly an extra-terrestrial conspiracy. I was travelling on a bus and found myself unable to take my eyes off a pair of toddler twins. What was wrong with me? If there was ever a vision of hypnotizing heart-warming life-affirming cuteness this was it. They babbled and giggled in slow motion and glowed in other-worldly soft focus while the rest of the bus disappeared from my view. Just then, one of the twins stared right back at me to convey the unmistakable message, 'It is now time'. The solar system ground to a halt just long enough to accommodate this unprecedented incident.
Shortly after, I noticed two school kids laughing and chasing each other while their mothers chatted excitedly, oblivious to worldly cares. Everywhere I looked there were happy children frolicking in the utopia of their perfect world. So all the snotty noses, wails and smelly nappies I had heard about were only rumours then. What a fool I had been. I walked home and for the first time took in a neighbour's yard. The sight of plastic swings under an apple tree gave me a warm fuzzy lonesome feeling.
The brainwashing had been swift, comprehensive and complete.
There was no rational thought process to follow, no advise to seek, no time to think it over and certainly nothing to discuss. I wanted a baby of my own and I wanted one now. In fact, wanting was sort of an understatement. I needed one so much there was nothing else in the universe worth giving a thought to ever again.
No pressure, husband. This time, without the walk or the beach, I informed him that a change of heart, as subtle as a lightning bolt had occurred in me.
So, it is now two kids later, and with lenses de-mystified and rationality reclaimed I can confirm at least this, the snotty noses and smelly nappies are, in fact, real but cliche alert, so are the utopian moments of a perfect world.
Since I'm open-minded, I can see how some people might call this abduction of brain cells by alien parasites, 'hormones'. I will even allow for Richard Dawkins's theory of 'Selfish Gene' as some explanation into the mystery of this theatre with an invisible director.
The philosopher Khalil Gibran's verdict 'Your children are not your children, they are Life's longing for itself' comes even closer with its allusion to something intangible and powerful.
But busy mums have no time to theorize, they can only live in the permanent incredulity of what has happened. I didn't decide to be a mum. The decision was made for me, in spite of me. Wherever you are, little twins. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.