My husband is HIV negative, and has been for the last 18 years. We made our son the old fashioned way -- with pure love. My desire to parent at 33 years old was overshadowed by my diagnosis. I AM a woman living with AIDS.
Being the only positive person in my house has its drawbacks, but they are nothing compared to all the love and support received from family and friends.
The hardest part of my pregnancy wasn't carrying my baby or watching my body swell to accommodate this precious life growing inside of me. The hardest part of the pregnancy was the stigma and discrimination we felt as a family seeking medical care to ensure the health of our unborn child.
We encountered five doctors in search of quality prenatal care. What was supposed to be a joyful time in our lives turned into a search for caring and compassionate medical staff that would support our decision to have a baby. I can still hear the words the last physician said to my husband: "Why would you want to bring a baby into this world to die a painful death?" We were devastated and defeated.
Finally, after sitting in front of four different doctors, we found a team of docs that supported us from 10 weeks of pregnancy until today. We became a part of the ACTG 076 perinatal study. In 1995, my son was born and given AZT for the first six weeks of his life. We held our breath as we waited for word from the CDC as to his HIV status, got the news that his first PCR test was inconclusive, and finally received the letter stating he was HIV negative.
Teaching my mother-in-law and other family members how to administer the daily dosage of AZT only brought home the reality of my own HIV status. It was during the pregnancy that the AIDS diagnosis was given by my doctor. Every day I spent praying to the GOD of my understanding to please let me stay healthy enough to enjoy his first year of life.
One year turned into two, two into five and five into 10. Today I am living with AIDS. I have had some really bad days along the way; but the joy is in my son's beautiful smiling face that gives me the courage to continue to fight every day.
So here we are, 17 years later. My husband and son remain negative and I continue to advocate for women like myself to be present and accounted for every day.
Comment by: Rasheeta Chandler
Mon., Jul. 2, 2012 at 12:35 pm EDT
I teach a HIV course at University of South Florida & my students have to respond to a blogger post on www.thebody.com. Your response to her e-mail would be greatly appreciated.
Dear Rusti Miller-Hill,
I would first like to begin by saying I am in absolute love with your nickname, even though it is in no way reflective of the person you seem to be. You were not rusty in your fight to bring your son into the world and you have not been rusty in your endeavors to encourage HIV positive women to remain strong in their battle.
While reading your blog my heart was pained. To hear you say that the doctor formed the words, "Why would you want to bring a baby into this world to die a painful death?" was ignorant and sickening. I am so glad that your faith in a higher being led you to seek other opinions. I could not imagine how scary it would be to await the results of your newborn child’s HIV status. As a young lady all I have imagined my entire life is what Lamaze class me and my husband would attend or how long I could wear heels while being pregnant. I cannot image how I would feel to carry my firstborn for nine months solely worrying about whether or not he would live through his first year of life. My question to you is what would you have done if he would have been positive? Did the doctors explain the pain he would go through if he lived with HIV as a baby? And my last question is if he would have been found positive would you advocate for other HIV women to take the risk of giving birth with proper prenatal care?
I challenge you to continue to be encouraged in the man above who holds your strength in the palm of his hands. For it is my strong belief that He never puts more on us than we can bear, and he chose you to bear this burden for a reason, so continue to do so well. Thank you for sharing your story and opening up to the world in such a humble manner.
With Warm Regards,
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: RUSTI
Thu., Aug. 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm EDT
Thank you so much for responding to my blog. I have often wondered that myself. In preparation for that possibility I spoke to my friends who themselves were raising positive children and began building networks of support to get us through. But. I believe my faith was strongerin bringing a healthy baby into this world. You see I have been a mother since I was fifteen years old so I had already developed a thick skin for stigma and discrimination. I was the first teen in my neighborhood to have a baby out of wedlock. This was just another one of those things . I will continue to be an advocate because as I have said before HIV should not negate my ability to parent a child or children. My son will be 18 in January and I would have not traded my experience as being his mother for anything in this world. I stop praying for one more year of good health and learned to live healthy with HIV. Today I am a grandmother of 2 , my oldest daughter is 35 years old and my biggest support . You can see our story in full by viewing Rusti's Story. An HIV odyssey .. I hope I have answered your questions but please feel free to comment again if I have not. Take care amd remember we are women before and after HIV.
Comment by: Jeannie Wraight
Mon., Jun. 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm EDT
Thank God we've come a long way medically since your son was born. We still have far to go though when it comes to public opinion. I recently saw a post on Facebook that 'discussed' women with HIV getting pregnant and I couldn't believe how ignorant and mean some of the comments were. I've seen my HIV positive friends go through hell as well, with cruel comments from people. The chances of transmission are so low if the mother and baby are given ARV's but for many people out there it's somehow a moral issue not a medical one.
I'm so happy you and your son and husband are all healthy. Best of luck to you always.
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