September 13, 2014

Since When is the ‘V’ Word so Easy to Say? ~ Ally Hensley


Since when did the word vagina roll off of my tongue as easily as the word bread?

When did the topic of vaginas become as routine as talking about long term deposits and yoga schedules?

This bashful moment has seemingly passed for me and it would appear that my flinch factor to all things gynecological has dissipated. I am now desensitized and immersed in one of the most sensitively discussed (and idealized) locations on earth—the vagina.

By avoiding vulgarity and speaking in absolute honesty, I may somehow inch us closer to the much needed discussion and awareness of an incredibly unique condition, known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH), (not MKR, the Australian cooking show as some assumed upon reading my story).

I by no means minimize the complexity and need for a china glove approach—however the reality for a woman in this ‘position’ can be brutal and harrowing, so, this is my attempt at cleverly discussing who I am whilst respecting those diagnosed and opening up about the white elephant in the room.

The “born with no uterus” bit is fairly easy to say.

It is a not a comfortable reality for any women born without one, however with the uterus homes newly conceived life, therefore, perhaps reflecting the beauty of conception and birth…so it may be a relatively innocent omission.

The ‘no cervix’ bit is merely (and literally) an extension of the former; it rarely even makes the final script.

It’s when trying to explain the ‘no vagina’ fact that the other person looks increasingly embarrassed and confused. Their heads tilt, and their eyes squint as though attempting to calculate a complex mathematical sum. My face usually warms up and I rush to say “it’s really okay, I mean, I am okay with it, it’s totally fine, I am just, you know …I better go”.

I am proud of what I have achieved through my acceptance and I say this with empathy and not assumption, but everyone must wonder, when I say the word dilation—what really does it entail?

Well, I can try to explain. The hospital sends you home with a kind of ‘DIY Vagina Kit.’

Consisting of usually three dilators of varying sizes (small to large-ish), a woman will spend thirty minutes morning and night, with a white knuckled grip inserting a dilator internally to eventually mould a vagina. Some women have surgery, some have botched surgery, but ultimately she will be sent home with a pink zipped-up purse which will be homed in a small, usually inconspicuous hiding spot.

This hugely awful activity can take anywhere between four days to one year to see the ‘finished product.’ Some have external ‘assistance’ in the form of a partner, but most don’t even contemplate the prospect of a partner.

Parents uncomfortably inquire about ‘your progress’ in the knowledge of what is going on behind your bedroom door and friends just simply do not know what to say. I really don’t blame them. But finding sanctity in one’s body- to fall in love and offering your body for love, can feel futile and mechanical.

“Don’t just offer it up to anyone, you worked hard for what you have got!” said a wise woman who assists these young women through their initial first days of treatment.

But who really is a woman with MRKH?

She is a woman when born with this condition, discovers her demise when she fails to receive her first period.

She may have attempted intercourse unsuccessfully.

She may have been the age of four years old having a routine procedure for a kidney infection.

She may have been a woman whose doctor referred her for vaginal reconstruction unbeknownst that her uterus failed to form.

She may have been a woman who entered into an arranged marriage, where her husband left after two years when a son was not conceived.

She may be a teenager who spends thirty minutes a day dilating whilst her family gather round the television set pretending that she isn’t.

She may have played with her doll’s house visualising her family in years to come.

She has picked out her child’s name and how she would raise her daughter observed by proud grandparents.

She may have been crying in silence whilst her sister announced her fourth pregnancy.

She may have lost her marriage.

She may have sold her house to ­find the money to one day make dreams come true.

She may have sat stunned when her house didn’t sell.

She may always be hopeful and she will always have MRKH.

My day would no longer be a normal day if I didn’t discuss vaginas at least once. But truly—without this reality I would never have found and connected with the lonely souls of those seeking peace with the body they were born with.

I hold mountains of respect to those who have found it.

Therefore, this word is my staple.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Lexie Lannom at Flickr 



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sal Apr 1, 2015 5:17am

Thank you for writing for writing so beautifully and articulacy. I have struggled with my MRKH diagnosis and I'm now in my late 30's and STILL cannot speak about it. The shame and guilt that I have and continue to face is exhausting. I am thankful that people like YOU can own it and speak on behalf of people like me, like us.

DanielleChoosingHope Sep 18, 2014 5:33pm

Thank you for bravely sharing about your condition. I live with a chronic illness that most people have never heard about too, and educating them can be a long process. I appreciate your willingness to educate the world about your condition and decrease stigma about invisible illness.

MrsTeePot Sep 18, 2014 9:57am

Wonderfully written, I cannot imagine how hard it must be to live with this condition, especially when there is essentially no understanding of it. Kudos for raising awareness and doing it so amazingly!

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Ally Hensley

My name is Ally. I love to write, I love to practice yoga and I love to love. I fall in love in the first 5 minutes and fall out of it after 5 years from the last glance. I am a founder of The Sisters for Love, MKRH Foundation which the first and only official foundation in Australia raising support and awareness of a condition which effects 1 in 5000 women called MRKH (named after the founding physicians). I find peace on the yoga mat and speaking to the good women in my life. I find hope in words and the faith that my definition of perfection is the now. And Saturday afternoon naps, these must always remain in my life!