So, you’ve just been diagnosed with a problem with a name so long they had to make it into an acronym. You’re in shock because the doctors thought your lack of periods were “probably nothing to worry about” and it turns out they were wrong. You barely understand what the doctor is telling you but there’s one sentence that has stuck and that you’re now hearing in surround-sound, charging through your brain: you can’t have children.
These are just a few things you have to get to grips with in the first couple of moments after finding out you have MRKH and they’re hard to comprehend. So hard. Then, once you’ve had time to wipe the snot off your sleeve from all the ugly crying you’ve done (or was that just me?), your doctor will bombard you with more information about your rare syndrome and, while you try desperately to listen to him/her, that same sentence is tearing down the insides of your skull like a wrecking ball: you can’t have children.
Sound familiar? My story is no different from yours and it sucks. Or does it? Most of us are diagnosed with MRKH around the age of 16 when we haven’t made any decisions on whether or not we actually want children in the future. It just seems like awful news to be told you can’t conceive because, let’s be honest, that’s what everyone else believes. But is it? Here are what I believe to be some of the upsides to having MRKH:
No pregnancy scares
Ok, so not being able to have kids is a stark fact you have to deal with but how many people’s lives and/or relationships have been ruined, or at least put under immense strain, from unwanted pregnancies? People who are anti-abortion believe that terminating a pregnancy is tantamount to murder, and in some countries abortion is still completely illegal. It may not be you who is anti-abortion but if you have a partner or close family member who is, this could lead to a lot of issues when it comes to deciding whether you’re going to keep the baby.
Or perhaps you love the idea of having children but the pregnancy has come at a terrible time in your life. Maybe you’re halfway through a degree, or your career is just taking off, and you know that having a child would stop your progress in its tracks. And the money. Oh, the money! Most people can’t afford to have a child at the best of times, let alone if they are earning minimum wage. Having a child at this stage could jeopardise your living situation and even land you on/under the poverty line.
As an MRKH woman, we don’t have to worry about having to make these tough decisions. If we decide we want to have children, there are many avenues open to us that don’t include unwelcome surprises and potential family traumas.
For most MRKH women there are two options: surrogacy or adoption. The former means you can still be the biological mother of your children, and the latter gives you the opportunity to give a deserving kid a second chance at life. And the best part? You get to decide if/when this happens.
No periods! The amount of women that have been left picking their jaws off the floor when I tell them I’ve never had a period is endless. “What, never?”, “you’re joking” and “you’re so lucky” are some of my favourite responses to this, but occasionally you may get someone who throws out the flippant question “are you sure you’re even a woman?”. This one is not so amusing and stings the first couple of times you hear it. But don’t ever question it – not for one moment. You are 100% woman. I was a tom-boy growing up; I played football; bit my nails (unfortunately, I still do that), kept up with “the lads” when they were skulling pints and can count the amount of times I’ve worn a dress on one hand. And I’m all woman. Not only because I identify as a woman, but because I have the 46XX chromosome pattern that makes us women from birth. So there….science says I’m a woman too!
So don’t worry if that mean little question ever comes your way. Let it wash over you. I believe that nine times out of ten the person who made it has no idea it could be hurtful to you. They think they’re being funny, not spiteful.
It’s questions like that one that keep us so connected to the idea of periods and what they mean to us as women. On one hand, the menstrual cycle is a huge part of a woman’s life and, for a lot of women, their identity. It comes with many rights of passage that MRKH women will never experience: bonding with other girls your age who have started getting their periods too; the instant friendships formed by women in public toilets across the world by asking for and giving out “spare tampons”; the entire stand-up routines of some comedians who talk about periods, cramps and how their boyfriends “don’t understand”. Periods have defined women for eons, but in an age where gender and sexual identity are being discussed openly and people are being more honest about themselves, we are no longer “not women” if we don’t menstruate.
Aside from missing out on these potential bonding episodes with other women, what exactly are us MRKH women upset about? We don’t have to pay for sanitary products; we don’t have to worry about being “on” if we want to have sex with our partner; we can wear white shorts whenever we please! We can also completely bypass all the mini-horrors that our friends go through every month: cramps, headaches, migraines, backache, fatigue, skin outbreaks, rashes, nausea….I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be member of that club any more.
So, to sum up, MRKH is a weird one. Hard to handle, confusing, frustrating, difficult and full of uncertainty, but is it truly awful? In my opinion, No. It has lots of positives and I hope this post has highlighted just a couple of them.
Everything I’ve written is from what I have personally experienced in the 20 years since I was diagnosed and my opinions will differ from other MRKH women’s. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is different, but doesn’t have to be done on your own. We’re all in this together…..all in white shorts.
By Alyx Tzamantanis