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I wasn’t sure if I could call myself an author. Do authors feel the debilitating writer’s block I was experiencing?

Granted, I haven’t written stories in a long while. My muscles of creativity have atrophied somewhat. I would need time and practice to regain strength in them once more. 

And if I was honest with myself, I felt my heart rate pick up as I stared at the blank Word document in front of me. The sight of it void of the words that I was supposed to type terrified me. 

Maybe you’re not cut out for this, Bree. The condescending voice whispered coldly in my head.

You’ll never be good enough. Not good enough of an author, a mother, a wife, a career woman, a…

“Shut up.” I said out loud through gritted teeth. The whispering stopped. 

Then a baby’s cry broke through the silence. My son Sebastian demanded my attention.

I rose wearily from my seat in the study and padded softly into the nursery. Sebastian’s ruddy face was scrunched in an expression of annoyance that I would’ve found comically cute, if not for the high pitched wailing coming from his little gummy mouth. How does one so vulnerably tiny and helpless have a cry that projects and reverberates around the house? He must’ve got his vocal cords from his father.

“What do you need, Seb?” I sighed as I picked the baby up from his bassinet. He merely whimpered in reply. 

Need a diaper change? No, his nappy was empty, not smelly. 

Are you too hot? Too cold? In pain? 

Son, what do you want from me?

Oh, of course. I belatedly thought to myself as the baby started rooting and snuffling around my breasts. He wants to feed. 

My eyes closed for a split second when I settled into the nursery armchair with Seb suckling hungrily before I jerked awake and looked around startled. For a moment, the dread that haunts my nightmares, that in my tiredness I had loosened my arms and dropped the baby seized me. I looked down and Seb was still in my arms, quietly nursing. The subsequent relief and guilt was enough to make me cry.

Forget writing. I couldn’t even stay awake to care and bond with my son. My vision blurred intermittently as the tears rolled down my cheeks. 

No amount of scrolling through mom-related social media profiles, reading books, listening to podcasts or attending antenatal parenting classes could’ve prepared me for the sleepless nights, the endless feeding/crying/changing, the overwhelming exhaustion and sadness. How did my mother, my grandmother, all the mothers before me for that matter, survive this? Mom and Ama were both Superwoman in my life, while I just felt like a powerless Lois Lane now. I didn’t think I could be an author, but I certainly felt like I shouldn’t and couldn’t be a mother. 

It wasn’t merely writer’s block I faced. The imposter syndrome, the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty in my current roles and identity in life was enough to drive me mad. 

It was ridiculous that I felt worse for feeling bad and sad, because I thought that my life, with all its ups and downs, was reasonably good. 

I lived an ordinary, introverted life. Had a decent job that I enjoyed as a medical transcriptionist, typing up dictated letters. It offered excellent work-life balance through the flexibility to work from home (or anywhere, really) and pursue other interests. I could spend time with my family, volunteer as a church pianist, enjoy a bit of theatre and concerts...

And I met my husband James Yong at one of the symphony orchestra concerts. I actually attended in support of my aunt, who was the conductor that night. During the intermission, in typical nosy and bossy Asian aunty fashion, she dragged me over to introduce me to that “young, talented first violinist over there that Ah Yee thinks would be a good fit for you”. 

The rest was history. Thanks Ah Yee, I owe you one. 

James was much more outgoing than I was. I supposed he had to be, when traveling and meeting new people quite a fair bit for work. I tagged along sometimes, but was also content staying home and waiting for his return. We learned pretty early on that we had to communicate and be on the same team to maintain our marriage, especially since we were often apart due to concert tours. And generally, despite our differences and the disputes we had like any couple would, all was well. 

However, I certainly didn’t expect the surprisingly painful and difficult process of unexplained infertility and recurrent miscarriages when we were trying to conceive. We were close to giving up hope of having children when I found out I was pregnant with Sebastian. It was a rollercoaster of anxiety, fear, tentative hope and a shocked disbelief when Seb was finally put in my arms. James and I couldn’t have been more grateful for our little boy. 

Then the baby blues crept in. I’d been warned about it, but far out, was it supposed to last this long? I’ve lost track of the sleepless nights and secret tearful breakdowns. And it wasn’t as if I was alone. James has been nothing but supportive and loving, doing his fair share of diaper changes and house chores. Plus our moms had a rotation system of helping us out with meals and babysitting. I’ve tried to power through the day with positive vibes, yet they would fade away and leave me stuck in a cycle of loneliness and guilt for feeling lonely at all. 

Creative writing had meanwhile taken a backseat all this time. I had hoped to return to it, but would always be sidetracked by circumstances or lack of energy and motivation. I thought I could get back to it while on maternity leave and provide some purpose into the mundaneness I was facing. But maybe I was too idealistic about that idea. 

Yeah, I’m a mess and a failure. I thought to myself as I stared at Seb, milk-drunk and dozing off. 

I heard footsteps and James appeared in the doorway, black cockroach-winged musician’s coat slung on his shoulder and white shirt wrinkled and slightly unbuttoned after a long orchestra concert. An expression that looked like pain or concern flickered in his face as we gazed at each other across the room. 

I tip-toed towards the bassinet and slowly lowered my sleeping son in it for the night. He stirred fitfully but for once he didn’t awaken or start bawling. Then I realise that I was the one sniffling. 

James had appeared by my side and wordlessly pulled me into a hug as the sniffling turned into sobbing. He held me close as I buried my face in his chest, tears and snot drenching his starchy white shirt. 

“Mom, you’re good enough.” James murmured in my ear. I tried to shake my head but he just hugged me even tighter before pulling back to look me in the eye. 

“Listen, Bree: I know you’ve been crying when no one’s looking. You’re doing so much as a new mom for Seb. It’s not been easy, even with everyone else pitching in whenever we can. But,” James hesitated and when he continued, his voice was thick with emotion. 

“You gotta give yourself some credit and compassion, Bree. It hurts to see you put yourself under so much pressure and...I just want you to know that you are enough. I love you and I’m so proud of you.” 

James wiped my tear-stained cheek before embracing me again. “You probably don’t feel the best or believe what I say right now. But I know that we’ll get through this together.” 

“It feels like it won’t -- I won’t -- get better.” 

“It will. You will. We just need a bit more time and help.”

It took some time for me to feel like my normal self again. As someone so shy and fiercely stubborn, I had to learn to ask for help and counsel. To my surprise, people were genuinely supportive and loving. I couldn’t be more grateful for James, my doctor, our extended family and friends for helping me through that period of postnatal depression.

Of course, some days were harder to get through than others. So I started writing again, with much encouragement from James and after some trial and error in finding a mom-friendly writing schedule. It was a cathartic release during the bad days, and also a reminder to myself of the good ones too. Life went on, but at least we had our little family together. 

I’ve been writing our story in a collection of short stories. And I hoped that one day I’d be able to share all of them too. 

Epilogue

“After all this, when Seb’s a bit older, what are your thoughts about getting a dog?” James asked one night while burping Sebastian after a feed. 

“I don’t mind a dog. I prefer a cat from the shelter though.” 

“Why not both?” 

I smiled for the first time in what seemed like forever. “That would be the next plot of our story. But first, let’s get a hang of this parenting gig first, before we add any more members to the family.” 

Sebastian cooed in response. 

James gently cradled our son and kissed my forehead. “Sounds like a plan.”

(Yes, we eventually did get a dog named Sibelius and a cat called Brahms. You can find stories about all their Siberian Husky/tabby cat adventures here: 

Broken Bridges Restored - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/41/submissions/16499/

Out Of The Box - https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/43/submissions/18357/)

June 19, 2020 10:49

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6 comments

Khizra Aslam
06:35 Jun 25, 2020

I was envisioning every detail in my head.. a good one ..❤

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Sze Ning Chuah
07:59 Jun 27, 2020

Thank you for the compliment, Khizra. Feel free to check out more stories about James and Bree's family in the links provided :)

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Tvisha Yerra
16:17 Aug 21, 2020

I love how you connect all of your stories! But they're still amazing stand-alones! :)

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Sze Ning Chuah
08:51 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you for your kind words Tvisha!

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Grace M'mbone
19:55 Jul 20, 2020

Sze-ning you are a brilliant writer. The title caught my eye,it screamed for my attention and appealed to me. Great story. Please keep writing. It would be an honour if you took a look at just one story of mine. Once again, brilliant work.

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Sze Ning Chuah
11:35 Jul 25, 2020

Hi Grace, thank you for your kind words of encouragement! Looking forward to reading your stories too.

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