Intro to Me
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?
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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
Comment by: ashanti
Sat., Nov. 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm EST
oh my! i just saw your blog and I cannot believe I got diagnosed just a day after you under similar circumstances!! I have gone on to have a beautiful baby girl who is negative and will be 5months tomorrow. There is definitely life after diagnosis. The storm clouds did pass and the sun rose again!! I now have a renewed passion and zest to live my very best life. thanks for sharing your story!!
Comment by: Vickie
Wed., Jul. 7, 2010 at 8:24 am EDT
Hi Brooke, Thank you for sharing your story, I wish I was so courageous like you to share mine. Best wishes .
Comment by: dase
Thu., Jul. 1, 2010 at 7:22 am EDT
Hang in there girl. How is your baby?
Comment by: Sherri Lewis
Tue., Jun. 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm EDT
I am moved by your story and your courage. I am all too familiar with it and I must say the story doesn't seem to change. A young beautiful woman not suspecting that this could happen to her. As an AIDS counselor in the 80's & 90's it was so frequent but then it was also deadly. Now there is hope, medication and a life beyond HIV. I know. I've been living with HIV for 25 years and healthy. God bless. Keep blogging and smiling! OXOX
Comment by: coco
Sat., Jun. 5, 2010 at 1:24 am EDT
dont worry brook i deal with stimga to
Comment by: MomofOne
Wed., Jun. 2, 2010 at 10:24 pm EDT
You are gorgeous and you and your baby will be just fine. I have a 2.5 year old (very planned pregnancy that was highly supported by my doctor, as a matter of fact, he continued to encourage me to have a child) and she was born healthy and negative. My husband and I found out my diagnosis less than a year into our marriage by my hospitalizion for AIDS related PCP in 1997. He is negative. We have celebrated our 14th year of marriage and getting ready to celebrate our 3rd year with our beautiful baby girl. You will be fine. I got up out of the hospital bed (was told to go home and get my affairs in order), got better, got educated (M.S.) and got it together but I must say you are stronger than I am as I don't disclose my status to most.
Good luck to you and your family!
Comment by: riya
Mon., May. 31, 2010 at 3:19 pm EDT
hi dear...i read about u...i dont feel u should be worried ..i am hiv positive from past one year..i agree sometimes we feel tensed but we hav so many other things to do in life that i dont have time to think so deeply...just make a strong bond with ur husband and feel urself normal..ake care
Comment by: Ovayo
Mon., May. 31, 2010 at 7:32 am EDT
Mine is just to say you do not owe anyone anything. You need to think about whether the kid would have loved to be open about the situation. But hey it is your life. There are more deseases out there that never even get mentioned. Hang in there, keep the courage and trust God with all your life. You will live longer.
Comment by: Rani Bushra
Sun., May. 30, 2010 at 11:34 am EDT
And thank you very much for sharing dear
Comment by: Rani Bushra
Sun., May. 30, 2010 at 11:32 am EDT
An eye opener, i am moved and motivated to double my efforts to serve people living with HIV&AIDS especially the women who need us more. God bless all who are committed to serve
Comment by: catguy
Fri., May. 28, 2010 at 11:36 am EDT
I have been poz for 10 years, on meds for 2. My partner of 34 yrs (neg) accepted my status without reservation or judgment. We are completing a journey with my mother and hospice that has taken 3 years. We have kept her in our home throughout. This is probably her last weekend on Earth. If you gather strength from a God, more power to you. But if you don't, believe me, you will find the strength within yourself, with the help of your husband, to have a wonderful, long life together and to deal with this "thing" in such a way that it does not rule your life. It's LIFE! Someone always is in a much worse place than us. As far as disclosure, I never felt a need to tell ANYone my status except on a need-to-know basis. I would no more tell someone my status than I would tell them that I have a toenail fungus on my right big toe. Good luck, you'll do fine.
Comment by: Melissa
Fri., May. 28, 2010 at 11:30 am EDT
Brooke, You are not alone and I hope that you find the right support for you. I am not positive but I work at YAP in Billings and have met them most wonderful and amazing people here. I am only here for another week but it saddens me to leave, so I have decided that I will do all in my power to be a volunteer to continue to connect and help those that come into the Yellowstone AIDS Project. I am glad that you are searching for support groups and that you need to find one that is right for you. If have known many of my friends (mostly males) that have the diagnosis and some have passed on, but many more with the new technology and medicine are here and plan to be here for a very long time. PLEASE continue to talk to your husband and share your feelings together it will help your relationship be honest and authentic. You are an amazing person for putting yourself out there and I hope you continue to be BRAVE and WONDERFUL. Many Blessing to you and your Family. Stay Open you are a beautiful Soul.
Comment by: GZ
Fri., May. 28, 2010 at 10:14 am EDT
You say that your doctor asked your husband to accompany you to her empty medical office when she first gave you your HIV diagnosis? Not cool at all on the doc's part. Your HIV status is your personal business until YOU decide WHEN and HOW to disclose it to someone else. With the situation you described, the doctor gave you no choice but to disclose to your husband immediately or create a very clever lie while you were still reeling with the news of your own diagnosis. In New York State, your doctor's actions would be considered somewhere between unethical and illegal. For all your doctor knew, your husband might not be the father of your baby, or he might have become violent with you after you two left her office together. Just not a great strategy.
Comment by: ndungu
Fri., May. 28, 2010 at 3:09 am EDT
I understand what you are going through and am sure that it has not been an easy ride. Testing HIV positive when you're just newly married is really challenging and it was an anti climax event for both of you due to the high hopes you had. You are a strong lady. Take heart and realize that you are not alone. Hang in there no matter how tough it seems. HIV infection is a life changing event and not a life ending event. God will give you the fortitude and grace to soldier on.
Comment by: emmah
Fri., May. 28, 2010 at 2:20 am EDT
You are not alone....i was attending atenatal clinics when my doc told me of my Hiv status On the 15th May 2010....Am 26 yrs i dont know y but i did not cry...she assured me that the baby will be ok he's a boy too.I have not told anyone and sometimes i forget that i am positive....GOD gives me the hope of taking each day as it comes for now am not under any medication will be discussing THE PMTCT with my doc in a months time.No one will live in this world for ever and so many people are dying of other causes and not HIV so take each day at a time am not afraid of death but i do hope that with the medication that we have my boy will be ok and i will live to see his first smile and first day in school....I do know i will live for many many more years to come!!!
Comment by: jone of ark
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 10:20 pm EDT
hi, i just wanted to say that i think your really strong to be so open and accepting about this so soon. i have had a strikingly similar introduction to HIV. i have only just come out the other end of the initial whirlwind, thank you for posting your experience. take care
Comment by: Jimmy
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm EDT
Welcome to the other side of prejudice, discrimination and bigotry. Oh right, you already know, you're a woman! ;) Speaking for myself, the best way going forward was to become more involved. You have already made a giant step in that direction by starting this blog. I hope you keep it up. Personally, I had to realize that other peoples ignorance is not about me. It's simply their stuff. If you find a way to inform others by getting out there and telling the truth about your situation, HIV will empower your life. It will, if you let it. And, remember how blessed you are to have a supportive family. They love you. Be well.
Comment by: Morenike
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm EDT
Thank you for sharing your story. Too often, people categorize this condition, which leads people to assume that they are not at risk. We all need to shake off the complacency. I wish you and your husband well as you anticipate the birth of your child, and look forward to reading more of your blog postings.
Comment by: segabriel
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 4:35 pm EDT
Hi Brooke, I read your blog and wish to commend you on your strength. It is not common for someone newly diagnosed to be so open so soon.
This is the attitude we need to combat Stigma and Discrimination.
I hope all is well and wish you a healthy delivery. Motherhood is a great thing so do enjoy.
Comment by: paul
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm EDT
Yes, the stigma. I was diagnosed pos. July 1988. Talk about stigma. Only my wife and I were aware that I was + and it has remained that way since.
I live and work in the hetero world of the South.
It is just easier to not say anything. I am and have always been healthy so it has been easy for my wife and I to keep it to ourselves.
Comment by: ANNIE
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 3:30 pm EDT
BROOKE, DONT BE AFRAID. THESE ARE ONLY PEOPLE WHO THEY THEMSELVES HAVE SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET. TELL WHOM YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO BUT THE OTHERS NEEDNT KNOW, NOT NOW ANYWAYS & MAYBE NEVER. I LIVED 20YRS NOT TELLING ANYONE.TILL THE LAST 3 YRS I THEN TOLD 4 PEOPLE I TRUST. YOU NEED TO WEIGH IT OUT. THE ONES WHO ARE CLOSEST AND THAT YOU NEED TO TELL THEN DO IT. AND LIVE YOUR LIFE. THERE IS NO GUARENTEE THAT YOUR BABY WILL BE POSITIVE. AND IF HE/SHE IS AFTER 6MONTHS YOU GET THEM TESTED AGAIN CAUSE THEY HAVE A NEW IMMUNE SYSTEM. DONT WORRY BOUT OTHERS. PEOPLE LIKE TO MAKE YOU FEEL INTIMITATED BUT THEY HAVE SECRETS TOO EVERYONE OF THEM SO IF ANY KNOW & CONDEMM YOU ITS THEMSELVES THEY CONDEM. YOU SEE PEOPLE LIKE TO PROJECT WHAT THEY FEEL BOUT THEMSELVES ONTO OTHERS. YOU, YOUR HUSBAND AND THE BABY , THATS WHO SHOULD MATTER. NO ONE ELSE. THIS IS YOUR FAMILY NOW.IT WOULDNT HURT EITHER TO GET TO KNOW GOD. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE HERE. TALK WITH HIM ESPECIALLY MARY, HIS MOTHER. YOU WILL BE SURPRISED AT THE WONDERS THIS WILL DO FOR YOU. MAY GOD BLESS YOU. I PRAY THAT YOU AT LEAST DO THIS.RELAX, IM ALIVE AFTER 20 YRS IN GOOD HEALTH. I SMOKED DID DRUGS, I AM NOW A SISTER OF GOD, WHO WOULD OF THOUGHT , ALL I DID WAS TALK TO GOD AND HIS MOTHER. SEE THIS IS WHAT I MEAN. THE ONDERS. DONT LET OTHERS THROW STONES, THEY DONT DESERVE TO, THEY ARE THE SAME AS YOU AND ME, NO BETTER. WE ALL ARE.REMEMBER TOO THAT WHO YOU TELL NEED TO HAVE YOUR CHILDS INTEREST AT HEART. THAT CHILD WILL HAVE TO GROW UP IN YOUR SHADOW. THIS IS WHY I TOLD NO ONE BECAUSE I DIDNT WANT THEM TO SUFFER ANYTHING CAUSE OF ME. SO THINK WHO YOU TELL AND WHY AND WHEN. GOD BLESS!
Comment by: OneContentLady
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm EDT
You're right...why are we so embarrassed or fearful of what others are going to say or think. 3 years now my spouse and I have lived with HIV. He has never told anyone. I have told 4 people. His sister, my two best friends (finally this year) and my Pastor's wife. I still worry about telling my family one day. But for now, we are just dealing with it as it comes. So well that 3 weeks ago we separated. The diagnoses has a lot to do with the reasons why. But I just pray you and her spouse will support one another and encourage one another. Talk it out and try to keep open communication.
Comment by: James
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm EDT
YOU ARE NOT ALONE; I'M PRAYING FOR DIVINE HEALING FOR YOU & THE FAMILY...
Comment by: Faye
Thu., May. 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm EDT
I think you are very brave. I would be terrified beyond comprehension. Never give up, God is always with you.
Comment by: Chanuka
Mon., May. 24, 2010 at 2:24 am EDT
Amazing keep on gal that is so encouraging for esp young gals
Comment by: carlos
Sun., May. 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm EDT
The only thing that i can say is try to get close to God, He is the only one that can give us strength and hope to a better life. enjoy every moment.... and i'm not saying go out and do all the crazy's things that you can, but enjoy your family and your pregnancy and get close to God. Im also hiv + but with a hope to be in this world for many.. many.. many... more years.
Comment by: justin
Sun., May. 23, 2010 at 10:43 am EDT
Hello,Brooke!The virus is not a death sentence.Maybe you will feel sick more often than before,but everyone will in the life,it is natrual for us to get sick,treating as if it were a common flu.A second is as precious as your whole life now,so do not wasting your life by upset yourself,learn to enjoy it instead!
Comment by: Kyle
Sat., May. 22, 2010 at 10:34 am EDT
I am brookes brother in law and she is the strongest woman I have ever met. I love her, I am so happy for her and my brother. She is an inspiration to all that she touches. I am not HIV pos but her ordeal has made me reevaluate my actions and lifestyle. I am definitly more educated on the subject than I once was. Anyway, I hope everybody out there in cyber land keep an eye on brookes post and keep responding!!
Comment by: Green Trees
Sat., May. 22, 2010 at 8:37 am EDT
Great Post! Can't begin to imagine what you're going through. Good Luck to you. Keep blogging.
Comment by: dave
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm EDT
Admire your courage and forthright manner in which you have disclosed! Unfortunately, there is such a stigma associated with this HIV status. I have only disclosed to my partner and my MD. I wonder is this veil of secrecy due to being shamed based? I don't know. I wish I could be more open with this diagnosis, but I just can't. Good luck to you; you are inspriring.
Comment by: eileen
(long beach CA)
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm EDT
I am Brooke's Mom and i am so proud of her for going "public". She is an awesome young newly married woman, about to become a mother and now HIV Pos. When she told me I began to cry very quietly. I was as shocked as she was. I am over the shock now and we have new "shocks" to deal with in our family. Brooke's dad was in a very horrific motorcycle accident just about two weeks ago and did not survive. She is now dealing with the loss of her wonderful wonderful father, and the future grandfather of her little baby boy. She is holding up well but is so sad and still unbelieving. She needs positive support right now.
Comment by: Naina
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm EDT
Thanks for sharing your story, Brooke! Hang in there. Many of us have been through the shock of a diagnosis. I am amazed and impressed that you are already talking about it openly. I coordinate the U.S. Positive Women's Network, a national membership body of women living with HIV working together to achieve policy and culture change; address stigma, and inform better services for women. Feel free to check us out and sign up for our email list at www.pwn-usa.org or email me directly: pwn (at) womenhiv.org if you want to be in the loop! Not sure where you are located but we can connect you with other poz women around the U.S. if you want. One love.
Comment by: Tree Alexander
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 11:06 am EDT
GREAT INTRO... Welcome aboard. Keep writing and trust you can do what you set your mind to!! ttyl
Comment by: Kristi
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 9:36 am EDT
Thank you for writing this. It's important that stories from all facets of the HIV spectrum are told. I can't wait for your next post and best wishes to your family!
Comment by: Evan
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 8:28 am EDT
Loved your post.
Comment by: Evan
Fri., May. 21, 2010 at 8:27 am EDT
Well, Ive just found out Im positive, too. It was March 26th, my mothers birthday, what a day, hum? Ironic? You tell. So far so good, my tests are gonna be ready in 2 weeks, lets see whats gonna happen. Anyway Im writing to tell you that our situations seem to be quite similar... Ive been married for almost 10 years, Im a proud gay man, independent etc... the only 2 people who know about my pos status are my partner (of course!) and my best friend (a hot straight 30 year old lady)... in short, your husband and your best gay friend saved you... Im the gay here, and my partner and a straight girl saved me... detail: my best friend is not pos, but she acts like one to stand for me. Hope you get my rusty English.
Comment by: Miriam Martin
Thu., May. 20, 2010 at 7:37 pm EDT
Brooke, thank you so much for sharing this story and for your decision to start blogging. I hope sharing your experiences will help keep you strong in the coming months, as you get used to living positive and being a mom. I wish you all the best!
I work for Positive Women's Network (www.pwn.bc.ca), an organization that supports women living with HIV just across the border from you in BC, Canada. We will definitely be reading your blog and sharing your posts on Twitter.
Comment by: Lynda
Thu., May. 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm EDT
Brooke, you are awesome. I am working in the area of HIV & AIDS. And yes, anyone of us can contract it at any time, gay, straight, sex worker, IV drug user etc. Unfortunately the issue of stigma and discrimination is the biggest barrier to reversing the spread of HIV. And with people like your good self, coming out and simply talking about what you are going through, we can get one step closer to getting rid of the stigma and discrimination, it is totally pointless. HIV is a chronic illness, nothing else... Check out www.livingfoodsinstitute.com for managing HIV with diet for as long as you can....Brenda has done great work with positive patients. KEEP WRITING! CANNOT WAIT FOR NEXT INSTALLMENT. Best wishes to you, your husband and your baby to be :)
Comment by: Anon
Thu., May. 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm EDT
Wow... I can't even begin to imagine all that you're going through at this moment in your life. Sending you a cyber hug!
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