People always asked us why we didn’t have any kids. No one ever thought to ask if we'd consummated our marriage or not.
I was born and raised in a joint family in Karachi, the largest metropolis of Pakistan. The eldest of several siblings, I'd always been an extrovert, so much so that what happened with me later in life became the talk of the town. People would say to my parents, "Your eldest child is barren, woh tou bara bolti thi (she was quite outspoken)."
I was 18 when I signed my nikkah papers. Ours was a love marriage and I couldn't wait to begin life with my husband. But my rukhsati(the formal 'giving away' of the bride by her parents) didn't occur until two years later in 2008. At the age of 20, I could finally say that I was married to the love of my life.
We were happy together; we laughed, talked and spent all our time together. My husband, who was 25 at the time, was employed in the UAE. A month after our wedding, he went back to work, leaving me behind, a virgin.
Few families openly talk about sex in Pakistan and my mother is no different. So I didn't get the 'talk' before getting married and had no idea how 'it' happens.
It didn't help that when I was younger, a tutor tried to molest me and my siblings. I believe that experience created subconscious fears about sex in my mind. My husband knew this and never pressured me to get intimate with him.
When we tried having sex on our wedding night, I couldn't bear the pain and my husband stopped.
We tried again multiple times but weren't successful. I felt like, in its true meaning, our marriage had yet to start.
But we were a happy couple and for him, sex wasn’t everything.
He returned to the UAE but came back some months later. Again, nothing happened.
About two years passed and our marriage remained unconsummated. My husband was well settled, I've always been a happy-go-lucky person and from the outside everything seemed 'normal' between us. Soon enough, tongues began to wag at home: "Why aren't you having kids?"... "What's wrong?"... "What do you do in your room all day?!"
And so we started a long phase of visiting hospitals and trying all sorts of medications.
Someone in my husband's family had a tilted uterus due to which it was said she couldn’t have kids (this isn't scientifically true); my in-laws thought I had a similar condition. We got that checked first.
The doctor said everything was fine. My physical history was perfect, my periods were always on-the-clock. But I couldn't bring myself to share the real issue with her: we hadn't done the deed yet, so how could we have kids?
When I finally managed to tell one doctor that I couldn't have sex, I could only say that we couldn't do it because it's painful. She checked the ultrasound and said everything is perfect, “you are just scared”.
This was the standard response from the many gynaecologists I visited. When I described my pain to them, they would carry out tests and conclude that nothing was wrong.
"You're scared... that's the reason you can’t do it. Loosen up!" they said.
I was told to use lubricants. Another doctor said I might have swelling and gave me medicines for that. One doctor advised me to apply a local anaesthetic Xylocaine (used in endoscopy to numb the area).
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