Time and time again, I’ve grown up hearing that my teenage years are supposed to be the best years of my life. It just so happens that they were also the years in which most of my “differences” manifested. Like many teenagers in my generation, I play host to a small group of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and ADD. They, while being in no way easy to deal with, were not the worst of what I discovered late in my adolescence.
Growing up in a family where all but one member was a woman, I knew it was only a matter of time before I got my period. Every summer when I went to sleep-away camp, my mother would send me with a box of Kotex and reassurances that it would “happen any day now”, and that it was better to play it safe.
It was supposed to “happen any day now” for much longer than it should have.
It started out with joking—my anxiety tends to hide behind the guise of humor—about how something might be wrong with me. I would say to my mother, “Maybe I just don’t have a uterus!” and we would brush it off and laugh; part of it had to do with how we believed the doctors would have noticed any missing organs when I was born. But eventually, I couldn’t take it any longer. After a battery of tests and referrals, I got an MRI that confirmed what I had desperately hoped wasn’t true: I had, in fact, been born without a uterus.
It was a 1-in-5000 disorder called MRKH, or mullerian agenesis. In addition to a lack of a womb, I was born with most of my internal reproductive system missing in action. The one thing that happened to be fine were my ovaries. Still, without a uterus, the eggs had nowhere to go during the space of time in which I would have had my period. My ovaries still produced estrogen, so hormonally, I was just like any other biological woman. This is why my condition went unnoticed for as long as it did—if I hadn’t been maturing normally, we might have known sooner.
Ever since I was young, I had dreamed of being a mother. I would often ask my mom what it was like when she was pregnant with me, and I knew I wanted two children of my own when I grew up. I never even imagined that I would be robbed of the ability to carry my own children. I know it’s a little harsh, but that’s how I felt—robbed. I would cry on and off for days after my diagnosis. At my worst moments, I wondered if I even could be considered a “real woman”, since I didn’t have a uterus.
I searched for information about MRKH online, tried to get in contact with other people like me. Again and again, I would receive the same answer on how to cope: make peace with the idea of adoption. It was the last thing I wanted to hear.
But this all happened over a year ago, and I have had time to “make peace”. I know, now that I am in a more rational state of mind, that it is ridiculous to consider that the absence of a uterus made me less of a woman; there are plenty of trans women who I am sure feel similar to how I did. I know that since my eggs are healthy, I could have a surrogate deliver my children. That way, I wouldn’t have to “deal with the morning sickness, weight gain and varicose veins”—don’t get me wrong, I would gladly take all of that and more. And in the meantime, as I really am still too young to consider having children anyway, I hold onto the hope that the successful trials of uterus transplants in places like Sweden become more commonplace.
Still, I feel it’s hard to talk to people about my MRKH. If I tell any girls my age, they will talk about how “lucky” I am, since I don’t have to deal with the physical effects of a period. I would claim it all in a heartbeat if it meant I could carry my own children, but at our age, I can’t truly expect them to understand.
That’s not to say I haven’t found empathy; in some of the times where I have opened up, I have found other girls who are as taken with the idea of motherhood as I am, and I truly cherish their empathy. My mother, who has stayed close by my side throughout the whole cycle of grief, has been just as reliable and steadfast in her support.
A year has not been quite enough time to finish mourning my loss, but I am learning that there are ways to move on. Even if I choose to hide my difference, and I may not feel reason to flaunt it, I know it is nothing to be ashamed of. I am not alone, and maybe that can be enough.