Today, we begin the Taboo series. It is a collection of real-life stories that have been ‘fictionalized’ to protect the people’s identity. It is like nothing I have ever done before. These stories are not related or directly connected. I will share them as often as they come. I am grateful to all those who have told me their stories. I salute your bravery and I hope that this will be as enlightening for the Kenikodjo family as it has been for me. By talking about these things that we keep hidden, people will realize that they are not alone. By facing our struggles, we are paralyzing our pain.
It is my hope that these stories will start conversations about the way forward. Please share your thoughts on social media with the hashtag #OurTaboo. It might help to tag me when it comes to Facebook. If you have a story or condition to highlight, please send me an email via firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Happy reading!
That jolted her back to reality. She had gone off again- for the third time in one meeting.
She looked down at her fingers. They were usually painted red by Constance, the lady in the yellow and green kiosk down the street. Today they were not painted and she had taken to chewing them while she worried. She did a lot of that these days, especially when she was thinking about it.
She had always had irregular periods. When she was younger, it was amusing to listen to the girls complain about cramps, bloated stomachs, heavy flow, mood swings and heavy flow.
‘Adriana, you are so lucky. You menstruate like 4 times a year. No stress, no worries, nothing.’
‘I know right. Imagine if I was sleeping around. I would have been popping out babies like fireworks.’
God must have laughed too. Or the devil. Or whoever or whatever was responsible for this intruder in her body.
‘Look at me. I am 36 and I don’t even know how to fix this. My body keeps changing. I have a beard and hair on my chest. My voice keeps deepening. My hair keeps falling out. My weight keeps fluctuating. I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror. And I can’t give my husband babies. He won’t look at me. He won’t touch me. I am not the woman he married. I feel like killing myself. Like just disappearing. I just-‘
The tears choked up the rest of the rant.
Egya had become used to this- to being her vent board. It started by accident. He had noticed that she had become quiet and withdrawn. Her skin had also gotten darker. He asked her if everything was alright with her, when he met her at the door of the office kitchen. She nodded and said she was okay. He would have let it go if he had not caught the glint of tears in her eyes.
He asked again and added, ‘You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but you definitely don’t have to lie.’
He had not bargained for what he heard next.
‘I have a condition known as PCOS- polycystic ovarian syndrome. I don’t know where it came from and I didn’t know I had it until three years ago. I have more androgen than your regular girl and my ovaries are swollen. I know-I had also not heard about it until the day the doctor said it. That was the day my life ended. I walked into the hospital holding my husband’s hand, eager to figure out why we had not been successful in conceiving. I walked out, pretty sure that Rodney felt like I had betrayed him.’
‘Why would he think that?’
‘Because I never told him about the irregular periods. But who talks to her boyfriend or husband about periods? I thought men found that type of thing disgusting.’
‘Not when it has to do with them having children.’
‘Egya, I don’t know what to do. I feel trapped in this body. Rodney feels trapped in the marriage. He won’t get a divorce and he won’t cheat- which means he can’t have a child unless I die. There is nothing that man wants more than to be a father. And I can’t give him that. And I keep getting fat. I stress eat and everyone asks me if I am with child.’
‘Wow…I don’t know what to say. Have you been put on medication?’
‘Yes, with loads of side effects. The pimples, the oily face, the rashes, they are all because of the medicine. The thing is it doesn’t fix anything. There is almost no change. I just keep getting uglier by the day, but if I don’t try, I will never know. Jesus Christ! I know I should not swear-my mother wouldn’t approve- but I don’t know what else to do.’
To be honest, Egya didn’t know what else to tell her either. He felt sorry for both of them- Adriana and Rodney. There is no preparing you for something like this.
She peeped in his study but there was nobody there. She could not smell him either.
Her phone buzzed.
‘I will sleep in the office. Don’t wait up.’
He was avoiding her. Or it. Or both.
It was just her tonight. Just her and the body that had betrayed her without notice.
She paused when she passed in front of the room that was supposed to be the nursery for the twin boys- Derek and Drake.
‘What kind of dadaba names are these? Why can’t we call them Panyin and Kakra?’, she asked.
‘You can call them whatever you want to, but the birth certificates will have Derek and Drake on them.’
This wasn’t fair.
Not at all.
It was going to be a cold and lonely night. She was starting to get used to those kinds of nights.
Thank you for reading! Don’t keep it to yourself. Please share your thoughts with the hashtag #OurTaboo.
Author’s note: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has no known cause. Irregular menstrual cycles, excess androgen and enlarged ovaries are some of the things a doctor will look out for when diagnosing a patient with the condition. There is no known cure but the effect of the symptoms can be decreased by medication.