Intro to Me
By Brooke Davidoff
May 20, 2010
I am a straight woman. I have never tried IV drugs. I've only slept with guys who were my friends, thinking that would save me somehow from the dirty outside world. Apparently I was wrong. It doesn't matter who you sleep with or what they look like. Every time you hook up with someone condom-less, it's like playing Russian roulette.
It was January 8, 2010, and I was 11 weeks pregnant with my first child when I got the phone call to come in and go over my lab results. Hundreds of options whirled inside my mind about WHAT I had to go back in for.
"Can you bring your husband with you?" Her words echoed in my mind as I picked him up and returned to my OBGYN for the 2nd time that week.
We joked the whole drive there, wondering what box I checked wrong for a test I had failed. We just got married in November and found out I was pregnant less than 3 weeks later. The doctor informed us that I was pregnant at our wedding. So the baby had more than its share of alcohol before I had any idea there was a baby.
I had recently read that pregnant women are not allowed to change cat litter boxes. Prior to reading that I had changed 2 litter boxes at least every other day.
We pulled into the dark empty parking lot, gave each other a hug and began our walk to the door. We walked hand in hand, knowing it was something like that. I had marked NO on the form under recreational drug use. I didn't think it was a big deal, not like I smoke regularly or anything.
The doctor's office was closed and we were the only non-medical personnel in the office. I was brought into an examination room and my husband was seated in the waiting room. I was quickly told I would be taken care of and had the arm of a nurse around my shoulders. "WEIRD," I thought.
I was sat down. Handed a wad of tissues right off the bat. My doctor came in and began to inform me: I am HIV Positive.
I sat, frozen in an office full of strangers, listening to words I knew were NOT for ME. I'm not sick. Have not really been sick for years from what I could remember. I had Mono over 3 years ago, since then nada. HIV? Really?
My husband of 2 whole whopping months was brought into the room, and I had the doctor inform him of my diagnosis. We stared at one another as if we had been told I'm having a cow or something.
I didn't cry. He didn't cry. We looked at each other in disbelief. I had actually joked about HIV on the drive there. Sarcastically. Ironic? My friends in high school and college used to joke when anyone was sick that they "Had the HIV," something I've heard and repeated lightly for YEARS. Never ever realizing the reality that it was in fact REAL and people did get it.
I think we were both in shock and more afraid that we were going to have to tell people and what they would say or how they would react. Sad you are told something this horrifying, this life changing and are instantly AFRAID to tell the people who are your support system.
I was told I was not going to die. I didn't need an abortion. I did not need to look into adoption, she said that I will live long enough to be this child's mother. Okay WOW. Newly married, newly pregnant, and newly HIV positive. Talk about putting your relationship to the test right out of the starting gate. We didn't have a honeymoon phase in our relationship. We had just finished mailing out our wedding THANK YOU cards and were quickly thrown into baby and HIV research.
The first thing I noticed was the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Every doctor you see, every support group you find tells you how you don't have to tell people. My HIV doctor informed me on my first visit with him that sometimes people react violently, and I should make sure I had a support system when telling people face to face. This baffled me. You tell someone that YOU have an incurable disease, and they react with violence? Good to know.
I immediately put myself in this HOLE, hiding from incoming calls from EVERYONE. One of my best friends, who is more like my other brother since I have known him since I was about ten, is a gay man who also is HIV positive. He was the one I went to the night I was diagnosed. He was the only one besides my husband that I went to for weeks.
WHY? Why do we think we need to do this alone? Why are we embarrassed or fearful of what others are going to say, or think, when we tell them?
Voice of ONE
Brooke was diagnosed HIV positive in January 2010 -- two months married and 11 weeks pregnant with her first baby -- and has already begun to educate others about HIV. She lives in Seattle, and her poetry has been featured on TheBody.com. Her son was born on July 15, 2010.
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