Baby Blues, times two.

August 3, 2010 at 7:34 pm (My Story.)

This past weekend I attended my friend’s stag and doe. Lots of people were there and the conversations all were steered towards marriage and babies. Having been with my partner for almost four and a half years, naturally lots of people were wondering when we are to get hitched and start reproducing. It is so funny to see their faces drop when you say well maybe we are not planning on having children and maybe we are not prepared financially and otherwise to get married. The response is so predictable – it is always the same: “Oh…I see. Well, good for you.” Anyways, my friend was beaming as family and friends gathered around her to congratulate her. She had been holding her three month old cousin when she suddenly passed him onto me to go attend to some kitchen crisis. Suddenly, I found myself holding this baby and bouncing him around on my hip as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He cooed away quite happily, looking around him as if fascinated by the all the frantic comings and goings. Holding him gave me that elated feeling but at the same time, the pit of my stomach lurched with sadness as I wondered: “Will this ever be me?” It was only for a fleeting moment but still the thought was there…

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Testing friendship.

July 12, 2010 at 1:04 am (My Story.)

The process of accepting and embracing MRKH has been a difficult road, beginning with reaching out to others who have felt as I have. It has taken me years of pain to come to this place but now that I am here I feel much better about my diagnosis. Recently, I decided that the next step was to share my experience with a very good friend of mine. I felt that it was time to acknowledge MRKH as part of my life and therefore a part of me. It was a decision that I did not take lightly but as this friend has been part of my life (I am sure that she does not know how much of an impact her friendship has had on my life over the years) for over a decade, this was something I have wanted to do for a while.

Sharing MRKH with someone who has not experienced it themselves, was very difficult. It was a painful for me to share but cathartic at the same time. It was almost like putting all the cards out on the table – being vulnerable – all over again. Sort of like saying: “Hello meet the real me.” Not that I held onto this because I wanted to hurt anyone but I mean, what do you do with all of this information? As I have said before, I was clueless for years and years. So, it got buried somewhere deep down until I was ready to face it. Head on. It was funny how when I told her I almost felt like I was confessing to something. At the same time that I felt fearful, I felt liberated. She was great about it, supportive and curious. I do not think that I explained it in the best way possible but how do you say that after all of these years, I have kept something like this from you? She was stunned that I kept it from her for all of these years – I hope she understands why now. I was fearful that it would change our friendship or how she saw me. But some friends – the right ones – are like family. No matter what, she will always be the sister that I never had.

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Body Talk.

May 12, 2010 at 10:53 pm (My Story.)

In hindsight, I think that MRKH had a major impact on my body image. Given that I was in the midst of highschool when diagnosed, I think that this had an enhanced effect on me. With people always watching and judging how you look, who you hang out with and date (or not date) etc. etc., it is not surprising that I experienced feelings of vulnerability while also being very critical of myself and my body. I think we all have these feelings, especially at that age when we are still figuring out who we are and what we want to be. Adding MRKH to the mix just really reinforced these feelings. I became scared that somehow someone would find out my “dirty secret”; that they would see I was a “freak” and not like all the other girls.  I became obsessed with maintaining the image of “perfection.” I worked hard and got good grades. I was dedicated to working out which I felt would give me the body to be envied by others. I dressed in clothes that showed off my assets in the hope that if I was noticed, I would feel better about myself. It worked. Every time I got a comment from the guys, I would feel amazing, not realizing that I was selling myself short. I did not realize that I was better than that. I liked the attention. I felt like the ultimate woman. I thought that if I kept up appearances on the outside that it would calm the turmoil and confusion on the inside. Turmoil that I pushed to the very corners of my mind. It was like I swallowed the news but ignored it. I would “forget” temporarily. Sometimes I would feel great, like I was just as good, if not better, than every other girl. Other times, I would feel the complete opposite, like “who was I kidding?” But I never gave up on myself, it felt worthwhile to maintain this image of perfection. It was enough to conceal the cracks so no one would see how broken I was on the inside…not even me.

Highschool was a tough time for me. Even now it is hard to talk about. I was critical of every blemish. My hair had to be perfect and my clothes had to be bright and appropriately inappropriate. I used clothes to make me feel better about myself. Sometimes I still feel that little person inside of me, afraid of what others think of me. I think my outlook was get them before they get you. I kept everyone at arms length while also secretly hoping they would reach back and not give up on me. Maybe then I would feel worthwhile. I had a good group of friends. They never knew any of this but they always understood me, within reason. We were all insecure but what I think I always felt that I was the most insecure. In some ways, I hoped to blend in and in others, I hoped to stand out. The girls never liked this but the guys loved it. I, however, was caught on the fence.

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Family Matters.

May 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm (My Story.)

I thought maybe I would focus a little on how my family reacted to my diagnosis.

As I have mentioned in the past, my mother was a huge source of support for me after my diagnosis. Not only did life for me change but for her life would change also. There was a huge shift in what we took for granted to be part of my future (ie. the conception of children the conventional way). While I told myself that I did not want kids, the reality of knowing that that choice was no longer there, tore me apart.  She was wonderful though. Even though I chose not to speak about it often, I always knew she would be there for me if/when I needed to discuss it. I often avoided these conversations though, only because they were often emotional and draining for both of us. My Mum’s biggest concern was always what would happen when I met someone and she was always fearful of how he would react. I think she very much wanted to protect me from all of that but life has a way of pushing us out into the world eventually. I always knew that my mother blamed herself for me being born the way I was. It was like an unspoken knowledge, whether or not she acknowledged it.The thought of this has always saddened me because I have always known that it was through no fault of her own. These were the odds.

My father tried his best to be supportive after my diagnosis but he (like many Dads) had trouble with these more sensitive issues and I was never comfortable discussing this issue with him. However, I knew he was there for me if I ever needed him but we just never did discuss it.  After my diagnosis, we had a slightly awkward meal in a restaurant to discuss how my “doctors appointment” was. After I hastily told him that “it was fine.” He seemed unable to reach out and so we resumed a different topic of conversation much to my relief. The only thing I asked was if he could conceal the truth from my grandmother. I wanted to protect her and myself from what would ensue if she knew. Let me speak plainly. My grandmother had an old-fashioned mentality characteristic of her generation. Women were to marry and bear children. I knew that if she was aware of the truth that it would devastate her and affirm for me that I was “defective.” Let us just say that I wanted to avoid this situation. Unfortunately, my grandmother did find out and I think was saddened although we never spoke of it directly. She passed away a few years ago so I will never really have the chance to know what she truly felt or thought.

My younger brother (my only sibling) was the only one who was kept in the dark. I feared that he would reject me and I was afraid we would lose the closeness that we had always shared. My Mum encouraged me for some time to tell him, just in case in the future he might experience difficulties when he decides to conceive. I chose to wait until I felt that both he and I were ready. In other words, when I came to terms with it and when he was mature enough to handle the news. It was a relief to be able to tell him. I did not go into details but I did tell him that if he ever had any questions or wanted to talk that I was always here for him. He is a bit like my Dad in the sense that he does not deal well with sensitive topics. He shrugged and his body language told me that he was uncomfortable so I left it at that. Like I have mentioned in the past, our relationship has remained the same. Although he has not approached me with any questions, I hope that some time in the future he will feel comfortable enough to come to me.

Ladies, I guess my purpose in writing this is to emphasize the importance of support. It does not have to be family but a strong support network can get you through those dark times. If ever you feel alone, always remember that there are others out there just like you…

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The Importance of Being Open.

April 21, 2010 at 11:52 am (My Story.)

In all relationships, but especially intimate ones, I think it is vital to feel that trust in place to be able to express what you truly feel. It is important to feel that you can open the floodgates and tell him/her that thing that occupies the deepest corners of your mind and yet not fear for the judgement that might ensue. I think it crucial not just in romantic relationships but in family as well. Family can be your greatest support in times of need. As they say, “blood is thicker than water.” While as you all know I have shared my MRKH with few (namely my parents and my boyfriend), I recently decided to tell my brother (who I am very close to) about my MRKH. I had delayed telling him until I felt he would be able to handle it. When I did finally summon up the courage to tell him, he did not say much. His silence was a little disconcerting but I told him that if there was any questions he wanted to ask,  he should feel free to approach me. It has now been about a month and a half since I told him and I do not think it has changed his opinion of me. We still interact as we did before but I think him knowing has made me more at ease. While I know he is not comfortable discussing these things, I know if I ever were to have a problem he would be there to support me.

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The Black Hole.

March 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm (My Story.)

I’m going to backtrack a little in my story. Sometimes it can be hard to recall memories that you buried deep, so aspects of my diagnosis that I tried to forget are now what I will reveal to you. The following is the story of how I found out.

I remember being 15, scared and confused. Before being diagnosed with anything, I was sent for an ultrasound to see what was going on down there. I had drank a lot of liquids so the image would be clearer. I was dying to pee but I had to wait. She applied the gel and proceeded to scan me. The monitor was turned away from me. I was scared but curious to see what she saw so I watched her expression change from neutral to confused. I asked her what it was she saw but she did not answer me right away. She could not seem to peel her eyes away from the monitor. I asked her to turn it so I could see too. I was panicking, thinking something really must be wrong. She turned the monitor and a giant black hole stared back at me. It was like it was confirming how I felt. Empty.  I asked her again to tell me what she saw. She told me she could not tell me and that she had to get another opinion. She left me on that table, like some kind of lab rat. Alone, confused and most of all, scared. I continued to stare at the image of a black hole in the monitor, trying to make sense of it. But it just stared right back with a big, fat nothing.

After what seemed like an hour (but what was probably something more like five minutes), she returned with a man in a white coat. She turned the monitor away from me again and they spoke in hushed voices, whispering to each other. One shook their head while the other spoke, both intrigued and confused (it seemed). I continued to try and read their expressions but it was all in vain, they would give nothing away. The man left shortly thereafter and again, I asked her what this all meant. She only replied (coldly) that the results would be sent to my family doctor (who had referred me) and that it was my doctor’s job to tell me what was going on. I was close to tears: Was I going to die? Was I a freak? What the hell was going on and why wouldn’t anyone tell me? It was my body after all!

I later got a response from my doctor who told me I either had parts missing or I had a grossly underdeveloped uterus. I prayed that I was just underdeveloped but you all know how this part of the story ends. My experience in that room was awful. The silence is what killed me. I can remember thinking back, after my diagnosis, how ironic it was that expectant mothers are usually overjoyed to see a new life growing inside them and how I had gone to find out that I myself would never feel that new life inside me.

Fig 1: This image shows the absence of uterus in an MRKH woman (No, this is not me!).

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March 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm (My Story.)

As I mentioned in my previous entry, there are some pretty crucial details I skimmed over in terms of how my relationship with B evolved. This entry will be devoted to the turning point of our relationship: when I told him my deepest secret.

It was almost two years into our relationship. By this point I had met B’s family, who were large, loving and close. I knew that he valued this and that one day he would want to start a family of his own. Ive always thought that he would be a great Dad (he’s great with kids and is now almost finished teachers college so he’ll be a fully fledged teacher after April). It is this knowledge that I think hurt me the most because I knew that (if we stayed together for the long-term) this is something I could not give him. I had the additional burden of knowing that if I told him I would have to let him go if he couldn’t handle it. That made it  harder. Being as he is an only child in his immediate family, I also thought about how unfair it is for me to deprive his parents of their only chance at having biological grandchildren. These are the thoughts that were running through my head (and still sometimes do). What if he thinks I’m a freak? What if he resents me for having left it for so long to tell him? Will he understand?

We had been walking home and somehow the conversation started. How he wanted to have kids and how happy it would make his family etc. etc. I asked him (as I had a few times before): “What if we can’t have kids? Would you be okay with adoption?” He kept looking at me like he knew something was up. By this point we had been together for a while. He had noticed that I hadnt been getting my period very early in our relationship (when you live in such close quarters, it can be hard to hide these things). Initially, I told him it was because I was irregular and, when he remained unconvinced, I told him that I had chosen to get the birth control shot. I’ve never been sure if he believed me or not. Anyways, to get back to our original conversation, B replied that he would be okay with adoption but would rather have children that would be biologically ours. I had half expected that answer and shrugged it off. I tried to hide my disappointment but he knew something was bothering me. I tried once again to shrug it off and change the subject but he was persistent. Like I said, he could read me really well. Eventually, we walked by our local pub (The Royal Oak).  We ducked in there and B continued to ask me if everything was okay. I remember thinking to myself that now would be as good a time as any. It was never going to get easier. If anything the longer I waited the harder it would be for both of us. So essentially, I blurted it out over beer and tears.

I told him I have a condition called MRKH which meant that I couldn’t physically bear a child. It meant that I had never had a period. It meant that I had to dilate in order to be able to have a vagina that would accomodate a penis. I told him that I knew how much having children meant and that if he wanted to walk away I would understand.  I told him that I had battled with this secret for ages that that I was now at my most vulnerable. He was very quiet and his expression was soft. He didn’t speak until I had finished. He had held my hand, even though my entire body was shaking. It was almost like telling another person just made it all the more real. He told me that he understood and that, no, he was not going to walk away. MRKH hadn’t changed the way he thought about me and that he loved me for telling him. He told me it wasnt a big deal and we argued a bit because I knew it was.

Our conversation lasted a while but at the end of it I felt tired. Almost like expelling those words had somehow had a physical effect on me. He didn’t change but I felt different. Somehow letting my guard down meant that I could be me. No more lies, no more secrets, no more fear. Just me. Plain and simple.

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My first.

March 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm (My Story.)

I needed some time to reflect my last diary entry. I did skip some pretty crucial parts to give you an overview of my relationship. I will now be going back and start filling in some of those gaps…

I had hoped when I first started dating that I would never have to tell anyone about my secret. There were even times where I had repressed my knowledge of it so deep that even I forgot about it…temporarily. As I have mentioned, I did date before B but not seriously. As soon as things got too hot, I would leave. I was too afraid of sex. I was fascinated by it but I also avoided it for fear that it would give me away. This had to change when I started dating B.

I had explained to him that I was a virgin and he was perfectly willing to let me set the pace. He was understanding and always encouraged a dialogue so that he would know where I was mentally and emotionally. This attracted me to him even more and it got to the point where, more than ever, I wanted to do it. We had started dating in early March and (as I mentioned before) we both lived in residence. He met my roommate and heard my troubles and offered that I stay at his place. I was reluctant at first (because I didn’t want to infringe on his space) but then agreed. From then on, I basically moved in with him. It wasn’t intentional by any means but we loved being together. When we weren’t in class, we would do things together…go to the market (the Byward market), or the mall or wherever. It didn’t matter to me where we went or what we did. It was amazing just being together! (If you don’t mind my getting a little more intimate I’ll keep going.)

Originally, I had told B that I wanted to move slow. He was totally cool with that. But contrary to what I had said and what I thought I felt, I was okay with fooling around. We did just about everything, except intercourse (I don’t like saying “sex” because all of the other stuff is part of sex). In other words, we found ways around actually going “all the way.” Part of me was ready but psychologically, I was still afraid. B sensed that and never pushed me. As well, I knew that there were only two months left before he would go back to Toronto and I would go back home for the summer. Add to this the fact that he had already got a six week summer contract up in Northen Ontario as a treeplanter where he would be out of any communication range. It was a true test of our relationship. I think my logic here was that I didnt want to get too attached. Little did I know that I already was. My point is that we decided to wait until the end of the summer.   So we waited  six months (in total).

So finally, what was it like? It wasn’t too bad. A little clumsy at first but then it was really good. But I was still scared. In hindsight, I don’t know that that was ever going to go away. At first, I was worried that things weren’t going to fit and that he would know right away that something wasn’t quite right (haha I think I might have even said something along the lines of that to him). I was also worried that I wouldn’t know what I was doing and that it would be bad for him (he had much more experience when it came to sex). I was worried about being inadequate. I think I had inflated the image of how the first time should be so much that I created some crazy expectations beforehand. But eventually, I relaxed and it got better and better for both of us.  I bled a bit after but I think that was just from a little stretching. Otherwise, I was fine and almost relieved to know that things seemed  normal. I just needed that affirmation…

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Trial and Error.

February 23, 2010 at 6:23 pm (My Story.)

I continued to feel that I was pushing the envelope…sometimes risking too much before realizing that I had to be careful. I would often wonder whether I was living my life to the full or just playing it safe. Most of the time, my desire to normality would over take and I would risk myself…usually physically. But I would always guard myself mentally and emotionally not only when it came to guys but also with friends.To this day, even my best friend of almost 12 years still does not know about my condition…

Admist the chaos, a friend of mine introduced me to a guy. He was cute, friendly and kind. Something about him immediately just drew me to him…almost like he knew me even before I had said anything. This was an unusual situation. We were nearing the end of our first year in university and looking for a house to rent for next year. I was set to live with my friend (E), her friend (J) and B. I didnt know B very well but I felt that we would get along pretty well. We decided to get to know each other. He would come over and we would talk. It wasn’t awkward at all. He had such a calming presence that in my own turmoil I began to spew everything. All my fears and all my worries (I did not include any talk of MRKH at this point). I had had a tough year. Being used to being an honour roll student, my grades had taken a bit of a hit. I was very stressed out. I had a roommate who would bring strangers back to our room and have sex with them while I was there. We did not get along. I hated the program I was in (Health Sciences). I missed home, my friends and my Mum like crazy. I thought I was in love with some jackass who turned out to be the typical 18 year old boy who thought with his dick. I wasn’t eating properly and lost 10 lbs as a result (for a 5’2 frame that can be quite a bit). I just was not myself…I was so confused and a complete mess.  But for the first time, I felt at ease…like B actually cared about me.

For the next week or more, we spent a lot of time together, just talking about everything. Personal or not. One day, we were talking and he finally asked me if I had gone skating on the Rideau Canal yet (f you aren’t from Ottawa, the Rideau Canal is famous for skating in the winter and it stretches quite far). I dont know how to skate very well so I had not (I did have my skates with me though) so he took me out on the ice. It was romantic. We talked about our families and our lives. He held me up as I tried to skate but never in that whole time did he try it on. He treated me like a person, like someone worth listening to…someone worth something. It was refreshing. Anyways, I remember laughing a lot…I mean I hadnt laughed like that in a long time. It felt really good. We bought beavertails (just in case, you’re not familiar with what a beavertail is, its a delicious pastry. If you ever get a chance to try one, go for it) and sat and talked some more. By this point, since I was not a frequent skater my skates had rubbed my heels raw so I was in some pain. We had skated all the way to Carleton University from the University of Ottawa so I was ready to take the skates off and put my boots back one for the way home. So we stopped in a hut and changed footwear. On the way back, I grabbed B’s hand. He thought nothing of it at the time. But later that night when we got back to residence, he told me it was his 19th birthday. I was touched that he decided to spend it with me rather than go to the bar and get drunk. I felt really close to him in that moment. Anyways, before parting ways, we had our first kiss…it was clumsy but I wouldnt change it for the world.

Four years later and we are still together…just as happy as that first meeting…

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Crowding Fears

February 20, 2010 at 5:15 pm (My Story.)

Since my diagnosis, I felt an overwhelming desire to feel “normal”…or as normal as possible. I used to carry a couple of my Mum’s tampons or pads in my bag…just in case my other friends would ask me if I had one. I did this from age 12 onward. While my friends would be complaining about menstrual symptoms, I would also feign the symptoms. I dont think they ever caught on but it was enough that I knew the truth. However, I did it often enough that it became second nature. When it came to dilating, I was committed, like 100%. I felt weird and uncomfortable doing it but I did it anyways. I secretly hoped that if I did everything the doctor told me that no one would ever notice the difference.

When I left home to go to university, I was excited and nervous about the excessive freedom I had. Right from elementary school, I had wanted to date and boys were the topic of every conversation with my friends. This didnt change much throughout highschool. So when I got to university age, I dove right in. I just felt like I wanted to push the envelope…see how far I could go. Ive never had trouble attracting attention but my lack of experience and the knowledge of my condition meant I wasnt as confident as I should have been.  So I had this constant internal battle. I secretly wanted that assurance that I was normal. But at the same time, what if I went through with it and they noticed? What if it didnt work? I was living in residence, so the fear that rumours would fly meant I had to be careful. Close quarters also meant that I could never continue my dilation therapy (but by then I had reached a relatively normal vaginal length).  Despite this I pushed the envelope alright…

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