MRKH STRONG: Olivia’s Journey

1 in 5000This blog has been brewing in my brain for quite some time now. My fingertips have been itching to write it, and yet grasping onto all of feelings and memories and ideas that are swirling around in my head and putting them all into words has proved to be more of a challenge than I expected. Maybe it’s because I’ve become comfortable with who I am, so my MRKH doesn’t take up as many thoughts as it used to. Maybe I’ve been busy trying to finish strong in my last quarter of biology and organic chemistry classes before switching my major to English. Or maybe I’ve just been trying not to think about it. Regardless, I’m currently parked comfortably in the window seat at my favorite coffee shop in Isla Vista (Coffee Collab, duh) with a latte to my right and a cool breeze coming in from the left. And I’m thinking, really thinking about it.

I imagine that I have a similar diagnosis story to many other girls and women affected by MRKH. When I was 13 I began having really bad stomach pains, which increased in intensity every month. Eventually, my mom took me to urgent care for an ultrasound. I vividly remember the radiologist squinting at the screen, saying he’d be right back, then returning 10 minutes later with another doctor, and then another. Rinse and repeat at various radiology centers over a span of months; Ultrasound after ultrasound, MRI after MRI. All the while, I had no idea what was going on inside my own body. In January of 2012, I had an abdominal laparoscopy, which removed the cyst that was causing me pain, and also confirmed that I was born without a uterus, cervix, and vagina.

I remember the dark hopelessness that engulfed me when I was diagnosed. I was only 14 – just a kid myself. In no way was I equipped to grasp the gravity of my infertility and how it would affect my life, let alone come to terms with it. For many years I grappled with countless questions; How will I create a family of my own? How am I going to have sex if I don’t have a vagina? How will my future partner react when I tell them about my MRKH? Will my future partner still want to be with me once they find out that I can’t have kids? Am I still a woman, if I can’t do the one thing I thought women were “supposed to” do? When will this stop hurting my heart so badly?

Luckily, my mom came across the Beautiful You MRKH team (You know who you are –I love you guys). When I met them at Boston Children’s Hospital for my first MRKH conference, it changed my life. They spent hours talking through my experience with me, offering advice, solace, and hope for the future. They were catalysts that sparked a crucial shift in my perception of my “infertile” self. They helped me make many important realizations; My anatomy doesn’t change my identity – I am still a woman, and a strong, resilient, empathetic one, at that. I can still have a family, though it may look a different than what I originally planned. A good partner will be able to talk openly, and honestly with me about my diagnoses, and will accept me as I am. And anyone who doesn’t accept me isn’t worth time, energy, or affection (and this goes WAY beyond MRKH).

There are some things in life that might make you feel like you’re going through hell. Sometimes, that’s how my MRKH made me feel. But at the same time, I wouldn’t change a thing about myself or my experience. Being diagnosed definitely sparked an identity shift within me – the kind of thing that strips away bits of your life that you thought defined you. But at the same time, it exposes your core attributes; your strength, your passion, your will to carry on, overcome, and rebuild yourself. And, just like a muscle, when you rebuild yourself after you’ve been broken down, you’ll grow back stronger and more equipped for the future.

Well, this is my story thus far. It’s far from finished, but I’ve finished my coffee, so that’s all for now.  Thank you for listening (or, reading, I suppose)! I hope, whether or not you are affected by MRKH, you can learn something from my experiences. That’s the whole point of sharing your story, right?

Best, Olivia