I was born without a womb – but I’m no less of a woman
Doctors made me an internal vagina so I could have sex
When I was 16, I was being convinced that I was just a “late bloomer” having never had a period. I knew I wasn’t just eating too many bananas, or worrying too much. Something was wrong.
I was sat in a white sterile room, awaiting an ultrasound scan of my lower abdomen. The doctor held up a ‘normal’ scan next to mine and highlighted an indigo fuzz, then brashly announced “there’s nothing there” whilst pointing at my scan.
In the short space of about 20 minutes, I was told some pretty life changing things.
Affecting one in 500,000, and formally known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (MRKH), I was born without a womb.
I’d never have a period. I’d never give birth to my own child. If I wanted to have sex, I would have to undergo invasive long-term treatment.
The room went very silent, as if I’d become momentarily deaf. The words I’d just heard somehow sunk in – I’d never really expected something to actually be wrong. My body reacted for me and I remember crying and nodding a lot. Finally, as a farewell gift, the doctor added: “At this point, we assume you have a normal female chromosome pattern,” glancing at my breasts, “but we will run some tests to confirm this.” Great, so I’m half human, half empty space, and they’re not even 100 per cent sure I’m a girl.
I felt indescribably disgusting. I was unable to do the two things my body was biologically created to do: have sex and recreate. I felt unwomanly and unworthy.
I felt like I was grieving the loss of someone or something I’d never known. There were days that summer, and many days after, when all I wanted was to curl up into a ball under my duvet and let my seemingly genderless, infertile body fester in sadness. Although my friends and family were, and still are, incredibly supportive, nothing any of them said could dull the pain I felt or make me feel normal.
Fast forward one pretty miserable year and along came L, who to me was like early mornings and moonshine. He couldn’t put a foot wrong, and when I finally felt able to trust him with the secret that was chewing up my insides, he guarded it like it was his own. For the first time since I was 12, I felt like a woman – loved not for what I had or didn’t have, but for who I was.
Fast forward another year and it’s the summer after my A-Levels. Having asked me out on my 18th birthday, we’d been dating for a year and waiting, sexless, for me to have my treatment so that I could lose my virginity. Even though the sexual tension was palpable and frankly unbearable at times, we found ways round it, and my boyfriend was as patient as a saint.
The summer months came around and finally I had an internal vagina created for me. The treatment was painful and traumatic and not very nice at all, but fuck, it was worth it.
L was going to university in Paris, so we’d strategically planned my momentous week’s visit in the city of love. You can’t know how embarrassing saying goodbye to my family was with everyone knowing why I had been in hospital and why I was going to Paris.
However, this almost helped. After having countless awkward conversations, losing my virginity sort of lost its taboo.
Finally I get to L’s front door in Paris and after five minutes of small talk the excitement and a year’s worth of waiting gets too much and we sort of end up stumbling to the bedroom in under 10 minutes of arrival.
Six years of pain and frustration, happiness and relief flood out. It was perfect because it wasn’t perfect. It hurt and it was awkward and I didn’t know what I was doing and it was probably shit, but it was sex for the first time with someone I loved more than words can describe, and that was enough.
However, I have only very recently realised, a year later, that losing your virginity doesn’t fix everything, that the most valuable treatment I can give my body, is in fact, value.
It has taken me months of thought, ineffable sadness and countless tears to finally reach the conclusion that I am actually worth something, a lot in fact. There may be a proportion of my internal makeup missing, and I may not be able to do things other women can. I may have to masturbate and dilate my vagina with a horrible medical plastic dildo so that I can have sex and endure days of total despair, but those small moguls are certainly conquerable and I am not my body; my body is a part of me, it does not define me.
Becoming a woman doesn’t happen overnight. If in your mind you are born a girl, you will grow to be a woman through experience. It is not a biological process, it is not losing your virginity, nor is it one that can be calculated or defined. It is a staggeringly gorgeous uphill battle from chaos toward a balanced state of contentment, self-belief, self-love and empowerment.