After the sex, I got a Urinary Tract Infection. I was uncomfortable, in pain, and I couldn’t sleep. It’s been two weeks, and I still haven’t slept much.
Now I get a call from the doctor’s office, and it turns out I have herpes.
I want to die.
Instead, I am sitting at work in tears.
He says he didn’t know he had it. We used a condom, but he performed oral sex on me. That’s the only way this could have happened.
I like him. At least, I think I do. He’s sweet and nice and he’s been treating me the way I wish my ex-husband had.
Do I still?
I don’t know. I feel like I can’t know.
Tears are rolling down my cheeks.
He’s out of the state for work for the next week. He sent me a text message a bit ago. I told him to fuck off. He called me. I told him the culture came back positive, but I couldn’t say what it was positive for out loud. I’m at work. I’m embarrassed.
Forty-five years ago, I came into this world after the expected length of time with all 10 fingers and all 10 toes. New-baby plump, pink, and hollering out my displeasure at being squeezed out of my warm, comfy spot. I was the fourth child in my family; the first two girls were fine, the third did not survive past his premature birth.
The fifth, my brother, arrived some three and a half years after I did, hale and hearty.
I was born broken.
Only no one could see it: it was on the inside. Within hours it became apparent something was wrong. I was not keeping formula down, I couldn’t tolerate my mother’s breast milk, formula, formula substitutes of any kind. I did not have a single bowel movement.
Tests were run, x-rays were taken.
Turns out I had the congenital defect, “Hirschsprung’s Disease.” A major part of my intestine, to put it simply, did not have nerves and therefore didn’t work.
When I was two weeks old I had my first surgery. Between a third and a half of my large intestine was removed and a colostomy was performed. There are a multitude of photos of me with both a diaper applied the standard way and one wrapped around my tummy over the colostomy opening. My mother became very adept at doing massive amounts of laundry. This is before the era of disposable diapers.
Over the course of the next several months, I had multiple abdominal surgeries.
At the ripe old age of 7 months, it was time to put me “back together.” They operated on me once again and did a re-anastomosis. A re-anastomosis is a surgery that re-connects the remaining colon to the portion of the colon near the rectum. A re-anastomosis was performed so that the colostomy can be closed and I could begin to have regular bowel movements.
My first memory is from when I was seven months old. I have shared this memory with my mother, with whom I haven’t really talked much about things other than the above. I remember lying in a crib, my legs spread and ankles tied to the crib bars, and my wrists tied as well. I remember laying there just looking at my mother through the bars of the crib.
Not upset, not crying, just looking at her.
She’s told me that this exact moment did, in fact, take place. That I was calm and accepting of whatever happened. She explained that I had to be kept perfectly still after the re-anastomosis surgery because, back then, they had to apply clamps to the “seam” where the intestine was put back together. These clamps were inserted through the anus and could NOT be removed or dislodged or the seam would come apart. The clamps would fall off when the seam was sufficiently sealed and the tissue was not as swollen anymore.
Thankfully, this is no longer a necessary part of re-anastomosis surgery.
For a few years after this, I would continue to have follow up surgeries for scar repair, another infection and incisional hernia. And it took years – well into elementary school (which is another story) – for me to learn how to control my bowels.
I don’t know what it’s like to not have a roadmap of scars on my belly. For one surgery they even opened me from the back, putting the incision in the crack of my bum. This is just my reality.
I’ve had additional surgeries, mostly related to the massive amount of scar tissue from my surgeries as I was an infant. I ended up having a complete hysterectomy (I was only 24 years old – I’m honestly still dealing with that loss).
But I’m alive. My parents told me the doctors said it’d be a miracle if I lived past 10 years of age. They didn’t tell me this until after I was well past 10 years old… and now I’m 45. I guess it all worked.
To top it all off, I was born in southern New Mexico to a dirt farmer and his wife in the 60’s. Imagine the empty rattling when one shook the coffers. My family reached out to the March of Dimes, and they were wonderful to us. There wasn’t a children’s hospital in southern New Mexico so all these surgeries and medical care took place at the nearest one – in Denver, CO! The March of Dimes covered many costs for my mother and I to fly back and forth, the costs at the hospital and the surgeries.
Thankfully, my level of Hirschsprung’s was a fairly mild one. I was lucky. Most babies with this disease have much more severe issues and more extensive damage/surgical needs.
Some babies with Hirschsprung’s even face mortality at birth or soon after.
I’m still broken in other ways, but in this, I am a survivor.
I have waited a long time to write this. High school, college, my first job, my first apartment.
Your firstborn is finally an adult.
We’ve addressed the issues before. Usually at the kitchen table, or as you stand in my doorway while I cry in my bedroom. I have yelled. I have called you assholes, terrible parents.
I blamed you for fucking me up.
You did fuck me up.
I am an adult now, so it isn’t your job to parent me any more. To teach me acceptance of self. To tell me I am beautiful; perfect the way I am. To tell me I deserve only the best. To tell me that guy who broke my heart is crazy for letting me get away. To tell me I am a catch. A good person. A talented artist. A fountain of possibility. A woman with an amazing life ahead of her.
You weren’t there for me when I was bullied in middle school and high school. You wrote it off as “being a kid” or “well, that’s high school,” but I was a kid. I was in high school. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have your hindsight.
When I found the note in the garbage during science class, the one that was written about me by two girls in the class, you weren’t the ones who held me and told me it would be okay.
You didn’t acknowledge the pain that I felt when I read those words – ‘she’s such a stupid bitch. I wish she’d just like jump off a cliff.’
You told me they were being stupid and childish. You told me to brush it off.
You found the suicide note that I penned at 11 years old. You were going through my stuff. I was so mad at you. You sent me to therapy, and we never spoke of it again.
When I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, you didn’t help me shoulder the burden. You didn’t cry with me. You didn’t buy any books on the topic. You didn’t do the Walk for Mental Health charity 5k that I KNOW happened several years ago.
Why didn’t you do that?
When I overdosed in college and you came to pick me up, you silently drove me home to your house, two hours away, where I stayed the entire weekend to “get away from everything.” On Sunday night, you asked if I was okay.
I’m okay. Two days ago I tried to kill myself, again, but you know, sure, okay, I’m fine.
And then you put me on a bus back to school.
And we never spoke of that weekend again.
I stayed in therapy.
When I gained all of that weight, because of the PCOS, and I was sad, miserable, and feeling less than worthy of anything, you bribed me with a new car to lose 20 lbs. You didn’t tell me I was pretty. You didn’t tell me size was just a number. You didn’t tell me to go out and have fun with my friends, to not care about what I looked like, to know that it was the inside the counted the most.
You told me you’d buy me a car, and when I starved myself for two months, you handed me the keys.
You never told me it would get better.
But then there was your second child.
I know now that parents have favorites. Do you love all three of us? Of course you do. If something were to happen to any one of us, would it break you? I would hope. But when all three of your kids stand in front of you, you know who your favorite is.
He is your favorite child.
He grew up bubbly, fun, surrounded by friends. Smart, adorable, well-behaved. Charming.
I hated him from the beginning. Remember the time I spilled hot soup on him when he was three? Remember the time I yanked a huge chunk of hair out of his head when he was seven?
I was, undoubtedly, your angry child.
But somewhere along the path of growing up, he became my favorite too. When you guys didn’t care about my broken heart, he did.
When I needed help with stats, he always knew the answers.
When I was in my darkest moments, fearing the end, I remembered that while I idolized him more than he looked up to me, I had a little brother to take care of.
He encouraged me when you didn’t. He took me seriously when you brushed me off. He laughed at my jokes. He asked to spend time with me. He got to know me beyond being his sister and your daughter.
All the while, he shined. Confident, secure, compassionate; he encompassed everything you’d look for in another human being. He made for great company.
He is gay.
You didn’t bribe him to change. You didn’t encourage him to shy away from his friends because he was getting used to his new skin. You just didn’t.
He was still beautiful. He was still talented. He was still smart. No matter what he “was” – he was still your son. My brother. And you loved him for exactly who he was, exactly who he is, just as you did before, just as you always will.
The acceptance was instant. It was non-negotiable.
He was surrounded by your love – the same love I lacked when it came to my yearning for your acceptance. Your non-negotiable support.
I resented you. I resented him.
In the wake of the recent suicides within the LBGQT community, I am so thankful that my little brother was one of the few who was enveloped in love and support from the very beginning.
That he became so much more that could define him other than his orientation.
That his life was so filled with possibility, he never wanted it to end.
You did not grace me with an abundance of love at the times I needed it the most. Perhaps it was because I was your first – your oldest – your first “go” at all things parenting. Perhaps you had no idea what to do, so you chose to do nothing. I know that as a child, I was different. I had different needs. As an adult, I can understand that. And I can empathize.
But thank you for being exactly the type of parents my little brother needed.
If you had been different, if things had been different…well, I don’t know how to even write the words that follow. I can’t write them.
All I know is that I am grateful for him – the one person that in my darkest hour will tell me, “Caroline…it gets better.”
It’s estimated that between 5-10% of the female population is affected in some way by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
This is her infertility story.
I’m a lesbian. Ordinarily that isn’t super-important, but I’m at the point that I want kids, so it becomes very important.
Once people find out that I’m gay and want kids, I get asked, “So you’re planning to adopt, right?” There seems to be a socially-held expectation that being gay means you must adopt. Once, someone told me that adopting was “my social responsibility.”
However, my response is always, no, I want to carry my child. I want to experience pregnancy, with all its ups and downs. I want to feel my child grow. It’s my experience, and no one should try and take that away.
While I was never big into kids, I’ve dreamed about being pregnant since I was a teenager. I always vaguely knew it was something I had to do at some point.
Then, about two years ago, suddenly a switch flipped and it was all I could think about. I started reading about it, talking about it, doing everything I could to get near it.
And one day, my partner and I decided to start trying.
My partner and I have tried to get pregnant for a year and a half. We tried to get her pregnant because her cycle was regular. Since I cycled irregularly, and we didn’t know what it would take to get me regular enough to become pregnant, it seemed the easy choice. We started tracking her cycle, found a donor, went through a contractual process that took months, and finally started trying.
Every month we’d try, watch her symptoms, get excited, take the test… and it would be negative. Twice we got hopeful. But eighteen months and two miscarriages later, we’re back at square one.
During those eighteen months, I ran through every emotion imaginable. The worst of which was the jealousy; jealousy that I wasn’t able to carry our child. I consoled myself by saying I’d carry number two. However, by the end, we both felt defeated, deflated, and devastated. I also felt a fierce determination; a determination that I wanted this so badly, I’d do anything I needed to do.
After 18 months of failure to get pregnant, I decided to see an endocrinologist. I’ve always had a really irregular cycle, so I knew something was wrong. However, it took me a long time to be ready to face the possibilities of what that might mean.
After meeting with the endocrinologist, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. PCOS has major fertility implications – PCOS means that I don’t ovulate. No ovulation = no baby.
I’ve started a treatment regime including medication and weight loss, that so far has been unsuccessful in booting my system – no easy task. Next month I start an ovulation drug that will allow me to ovulate regularly.
All of a sudden, this got very, very real. My coping strategy involves researching the hell out of my options. I’ve been sensitive to my options for a while, because, by now, we’re up $2,000 in to plane tickets, doctor visits, and everything associated with a bootleg-approach to getting pregnant.
We tried working directly with our donor. We had him tested for fertility. We got ourselves prepped. It costs a lot of money. Starting our adventure with the endo and getting my cycle regulated meant we had to consider some options.
My options are to start fertility drugs.
Once I do this, I can try either a home insemination, or an Intrauterine Insemination, or IUI. This whole TTC thing gets complicated, overwhelming and expensive really quickly. My understanding is that IUI, in which a tube is placed in my uterus to flush sperm in to the area as I ovulate, is my best option.
Of course I know how baby-making works, but damn.
I hate that it has to be so clinical. I hate that there is always someone else in my bedroom. I hate that this can’t just be mine. I hate that I can’t be surprise. I hate that we will pay an $800 price tag for an 18% chance of success. It’s just not fair.
Despite all of this, I’m optimistic. Still looking forward to the future. I know it will happen, and I can’t wait until it does.
As long as there is that tiny pinprick of light, I’ll keep the sputtering flame of hope alive.
I’ve decided to have an abortion. It was a very difficult decision, but I know it is right for my partner and me and he is fully supportive. We have a 6-month old, we are completely financially strapped, and having a baby was so out of the question for us right now that I actually had an appointment to get an IUD inserted 6 days after I peed on the stick.
The decision is made, the procedure is rather straightforward, and I’m not worried at all… until the moment I have to leave the clinic after my abortion.
I’m most afraid of how I will cope emotionally after the all is said and done. I’m sure I’m doing the right thing for our situation, and us but I don’t handle emotional stress well.
My first pregnancy was plagued with severe antenatal depression and I worry how that will play in.
For all of you going through infertility treatments and struggling with all the emotions that go along with that, I’m so very sorry and I don’t mean to be insensitive.
Have any of you been in this situation?
How do you handle the inevitable emotional fallout after an abortion?
Did you regret it?
Because, oh my goodness, I’m so scared I’m going to regret it. Choosing abortion is, in part, choosing the path that will be the least psychologically damaging for me in the long run. But I’m still so scared.
I’ve been commiserating with my little sister about the assholery of our uteri.
We may not be biologically related, but we have both had our histories of hysterical tissue issues. Mine are rooted a bit higher, in my ovaries with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Hers, a bit lower in whatever was left of her cervix after multiple surgeries to remove cancerous bits, with fibroid growths to really get a party started.
I started menopause about a year and a half ago, with missed periods here and there, and she’s being chemically induced into menopause to bitch-slap her uterus into better behavior.
My uterus, not to be outdone by hers, has decided to head for the nearest exit. The technical term for this is prolapse. I think my sister correctly called it when she told my uterus to fuck off and quit being an asshole. Being more muscle than brain, my uterus simply flipped her off and continues it’s exit strategy, crawling out of my vagina.
I thought I was going to have a nice and easy peri-menopause, progressing without hiccup into full menopause, thus creating a permanent détente to my chronic battles with PCOS.
Up until this, I wasn’t having nearly the issues my mother had. In fact, by my current age, my mother was completely done with menopause, although hot flashes were a thing for her for quite some time. When I first started skipping periods, sometimes for up to three cycles, I went to my gynecologist, who gave me some brochures, tested my thyroid (all my doctors are convince there’s a thing going on with my thyroid, despite ever so many tests proving to the contrary) and told me that this was all very typical for a woman my age.