Welcome to our new series, The Divorce Diaries. In this third instalment we speak to a Kiwi woman made a horrifying discovery just six months ago. For one year, she and her husband had been trying for a baby.- a decision they’d made together – yet, unbeknownst to her, nearly two decades earlier, her husband had a vasectomy. If you’ve missed our first two instalments of The Divorce Diaries, you can read about the rise of divorces since lockdown last year; a woman who discovered her husband’s affair during lockdown; another whose husband ended up with her Pilates instructor – plus, we find out if divorces are contagious and during which life stages divorces most often happen.
Ashley* had always had a motto in life – ‘what will be, will be’. She was a fervent believer in karma and destiny – perhaps ever since her aunt presented her with a Magic 8 Ball for her seventh birthday.
She spent her twenties travelling the world, hopping from one place to the next on a whim, picking up temp jobs or working in bars to cover her costs. But as her 30th birthday loomed, she felt the urge to come home – two friends were getting married and it seemed as though everyone was beginning to settle down. She was beginning to feel like if she didn’t make a move soon herself, she might miss the boat.
On the eve of her 30th birthday her best friend booked them in for a session with a psychic. She examined Ashley’s hands, then closed her eyes and said she could see two little pink gumboots by a door – but it was all very faint. “If you want to have the option of a daughter, it’s there for you, but I’m not sure if you take this option,” she told her. “What about a husband?” Ashley asked. “Oh, I see that!” smiled the psychic.
And a year later, Matthew came into her life – or rather, she walked right into his when she delivered a report to his desk on one of her temping assignments. They’d kept in touch, and six months later he emailed to see if she wanted to apply for a permanent job at the company – but by this point she’d already landed a dream job. “How about I shout you a coffee to congratulate you on your new position then?” he wrote back. The coffee turned into lunch and drinks and then plans to meet the next night for dinner. By the end of the year Matthew had proposed on the beach during a romantic holiday.
“I remember – vividly – the morning after he asked me [to marry him], we had this OTT room service breakfast in bed, with Champagne,” tells Ashley. “We spent three hours talking about the future – what places we’d travel to, where we’d live, what we’d do. He asked me about kids and I said, ‘if it happens, it happens – I’ll leave that up to fate, but I would be happy either way’.”
Four years of marriage later, Ashley felt that attitude shifting. After watching her friends have babies, she started longing for one of her own and told Matthew she’d changed her mind – it was something she really wanted. She wanted those little pink gumboots by the door.
“I immediately regretted using those exact words that ‘I’d changed my mind’, though, because it’s what Matthew pounced on,” Ashley says. “Because it was more like I’d never been sure either way, but now I knew. I was surprised he was so shocked and that he was clearly angry about it. He said that we’d mapped out a life without children, which I didn’t think we had. He kept talking about the travel bucket list we had and how that would never be possible with kids. I disagreed.”
They argued for a few weeks, until Matthew came home one day and said, “Let’s give it a go”. Ashley was thrilled and relieved, and the first six months of trying were fun.
But then life began revolving around ovulation tests, naturopath appointments and trying every tea and tonic she could get her hands on.
“I’d always assumed it would just happen for me when I wanted it,” admits Ashley. “I had a doctor’s appointment and had tests and they couldn’t find anything wrong. My doctor said it often takes couples a full year to conceive so to try to put the worry aside until then.”
When a full year of trying had passed, Ashley booked in to see her doctor again and he referred her to a specialist – they’d run some more tests, but it was definitely time to get her husband tested too.
And that’s when it all began to unravel.
“I thought Matthew would be onboard and I booked an appointment for us both, but instead he exploded. He said if it wasn’t happening it just wasn’t to be and we should let it go. We had a massive fight.”
Ashley couldn’t believe they were still on such different pages. But then, three weeks later – the night before their appointment – Matthew dropped a bombshell.
During his first marriage, his former wife didn’t want children and so in his mid-twenties, Matthew had a vasectomy.
“It felt like he was speaking another language,” she tells. “I couldn’t understand what he was saying. We had been trying for a baby for a full year, with him knowing full well that it was impossible.”
In the weeks that followed, Matthew tried to explain himself – he reasoned that Ashley seemed to so quickly decide she wanted a baby, that she may just as quickly decide she didn’t want one. And he figured her, ‘if it’s meant to be, it’ll be’ attitude would mean that she’d hand it over to the universe and not be too disappointed when it didn’t happen.
“It was unbelievable,” she sighs. “He wasn’t leaving it up to fate – he had already predetermined it!”
Ashley says, six months later, she still feels in shock. “I went from being someone with the fairytale life, trying for a baby with my husband – now I’m back to square one.”
But she has been determined to move on with her life and end her marriage as quickly as possible. After that first, shocking conversation with Matthew, her first call was to her sister – a lawyer in Australia. “Although, honestly, I felt like calling the police first. It felt like a crime had happened.”
She’s now working with a therapist to get her head around the massive betrayal. “I keep thinking back over our relationship. Often I think about the first night I slept with him, because I remember telling him that I was on the pill. If I hadn’t have offered up that information, would we have talked about contraception, or the fact we didn’t need any? I know it’s not my doing, but I can’t help but go over every part of our relationship and question things.”
She says it’s incredibly hard to not let the bitterness and resentment overwhelm her. “I was trying everything, and he knew it,” she says. “I started meditating, going to reiki, acupuncture, I did cleanses, changed my diet, took up yoga. I always thought it [not falling pregnant] was my body betraying me. I never thought of the possibility that it was something wrong on his end. I gave myself a hard time, I directed all that anger at my body – when the whole time that should have been towards him.”
Ashley is now booked in on one of the first flights out to Australia, where she’s looking forward to spending a month with her sister. “It’s been so hard only being able to see her on Zoom and talk over the phone, I can’t wait to hug her.”
There’s also a chance the trip may end up being even longer. “I love my friends here, but it’s so hard watching them all go about the life I used to have. Everything here reminds me of what happened, so I’m going to see how it is staying over there and maybe I will make it more permanent. A fresh start may be just what I need.”
THE DIVORCE DIARIES
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*Names in this story have been changed for anonymity.