My name is Ally. I am no longer ‘anonymous 31, Australia’.
My name is Ally and I was born with, live with and at times, contend with MRKH. Wow. I guess that wasn’t so hard. I have ’outed’ myself beyond my closest friends and relatives and thrown myself head first into a wonderful community of ‘sisters’ just like me. I am inching myself into the unknown; to explore MRKH and the journey it has taken me on. This journey at times has been fairly okay, non-confronting and generally absent from day to day life but there have been moments, where quite frankly, it has been rubbish. I didn’t sign up for this but as there is no ‘return and exchange policy’ on the bodies we have been given, I have done the remarkable thing and well, accepted it.
I should probably add; I am in fact an English girl living in Australia. I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed in the United Kingdom and treated in the Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital London; however I have since left the UK and living, a not-so glamorous, but comfortable life in Sydney, Australia.
I was 16 when I was growing impatient that I had not received my first period. That would be such an odd thing for most women to hear. How can you possibly look forward to having a period? I hear they are uncomfortable, painful, unhygienic and even a bit taboo! They create their own category of slang, such as ‘the curse’, ‘the blob’, where girls in circles declare “I’m on”. That is my least favourite by the way. But at the time, I just stood there, waiting and dreading, and waiting and wanting and nope, no period arrived.
Before taking my high school exams, still blissfully unaware and believing I was a ‘late starter’, my mum and I thought it best to prepare for this period. The exam that day I believe was GCSE mathematics (GCSE is the UK’s equivalent to high school exams). Now, I can quite comfortably admit that I hate maths and it didn’t think much more of me but in comparison, multiple equations and algebra was to be the easiest part of this day. There is my seemingly helpful mother, dragging out of this cardboard box at the back of her bedroom cupboard, a padded, thick, slightly sling-like sanitary towel. It was huge. It was ugly and it was huge and I had to wear it. How times have changed (I hope), since 1997. Turns out I failed my maths exam and as we all know, the period never did come.
I don’t recall being frightened or fearful. I don’t even recall thinking I was different. At that age we have two different mindsets, the immediate and the ‘dream like state’ of what life will be like when we are a ‘proper grown-up’. I do however; remember going to my local GP with my mum and having a terrible and grossly invasive prod from the old man doctor who had seen me overcome tonsillitis and ear aches but not this. He immediately looked concerned and referred me to a specialist. And so, that was it. Life was to change forever.
Change is indeed inevitable and usually a healthy part of evolving as a person, but try telling that to a sixteen year old who is already trying to adjust to adult life and all the feelings that come with it. For me, a useful form of guidance, aside from the immensely uncomfortable conversations with my mum on what I can only determine was her stab at the ‘birds and the bees’ talk, were the wonderful and trashy teen magazines on offer. And of course, I was very fond of Judy Blume novels, ‘aka’ the best novels for translating the ‘frequently asked questions’ on being a teenage girl. It goes without saying, my mum is actually my angel and I couldn’t do life without her.
This information was my artillery for dealing with boys, and periods, and the ‘first time’ and all the exciting yet terrifying obstacles of growing up. However, after diagnosis, literally everything I thought I knew (and learnt from the delightful Ms Judy Blume), would become irrelevant, harrowing, and combative. In reflection, I was grief stricken and about to embark on a self-destructive path which I can imagine was awful to witness and I suspect, partly responsible for who I am today.
This may make you giggle. Before I actually got diagnosed, like many teenagers I tampered with the idea of taking ownership of my body and what did I do on a rainy Saturday afternoon with a pocket full of my own wages? That’s correct, I got a tattoo. Soon to be three; not all on the same day but in fairly quick succession which doesn’t make it any better! What was I thinking?! I will save some specific stories for a later blog with regards to my relationship between rebellion and parents, but I do want to mention an amazing irony in the midst of what was a very sad stage in my life. I decided to get a cherub tattoo on my left hip. This cherub is cute and colourful and totally unnecessary. And although I loved it, my mum was mortified. Her words, which ring clear to me to this day were, “what on earth is that going to look like when you get pregnant”. Well, it actually looks pretty good and unscathed mores to the pity. But humour aside, this is just a prime example of the natural dialogue between mother and daughter.
As a nearly 32 year old woman, which has its own woes (some real and some pretty ridiculous), I have found some comfort and acceptance in who and what I am. And in fact, the reactions of those around me when I hesitantly announce “I have something called MRKH”, is met with admiration, compassion and a fair bit of intrigue. However now, after nearly 15 years, I am confident enough to satisfy this intrigue and offer some explanation as to what makes me quite different from the rest. That’s why WORLD, I am breaking my silence. I am ‘coming out’ not to only who reads this, but more importantly, me. I am simply becoming Ally.