I am horrible with introductions. Whether it’s introducing myself or others, I’m lost! I’m definitely worse when it comes to making myself sound interesting. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty un-extraordinary…
I am a married, 30-year old, working, mother of 3 with one more on the way. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs (I did try pot when I was 17, TOTALLY scandalous!). My biggest vice is caffeine. I drive an SUV. I have two dogs. I’m allergic to cats, pollen, and penicillin. I have serious road rage. I spend way too much money eating out because I am too tired to cook most days.
Oh yeah, and I’m HIV positive.
When people find out about my status, many are shocked. I don’t fit the ‘stereotypes’. A brave few will ask how I became infected. I don’t know what they’re expecting. Maybe some scandalous secret. Drug use? A former life as a prostitute? Or maybe they want a sob story. Rape? Blood transfusion gone wrong? A stranger pricked me with a dirty needle?
Sorry. My infection story is as uninteresting as the rest of me. I was a 22-year old struggling, single mother, and then I met Prince Charming. He took me new places, introduced me to the city that is now my home. He was older, handsome, he seemed unattainable but thought that I was adorable. I was quickly smitten. Prince Charming had secrets. Secrets that my naïve 22-year old mind could not conceive of. I didn’t accept these secrets until about a year ago, three years after the relationship was long over with.
A year into the relationship with Prince Charming he applied for an inclusive insurance policy that would cover his house, vehicles, and life. Part of the application process was a blood test. I bet you can guess how that turned out. When he told me the news I was floored. I was scared. Things had been going downhill and part of me wanted to use this as the opportunity to run far, far away. At the same time, I felt that he needed me and how could I abandon him when he needed me.
To make a long story short, I stayed, three years passed and we broke up.
Right before Prince Charming and I said our final goodbyes I met Mr. Wonderful. I didn’t cheat on Prince Charming, but just talking to Mr. Wonderful made me realize just how bleak my future with Prince Charming really was. After Prince Charming was over, Mr. Wonderful and I went on our first date. Things happened fast. He was AMAZING!!!
After two months we discussed discontinuing condom usage. I hadn’t told him about Prince Charming being positive, which was wrong of me, but I guess I figured he’d run when I did. Plus I was careful with Prince Charming and was tested every 6 months. I went to Planned Parenthood to get on birth control. I went ahead and got all of the standard STD screenings as well.
About a week later I start getting calls from Planned Parenthood. They told me that my pap smear had come back irregular and they needed me to come in. I had a bad feeling. There was urgency in the lady’s voice when she called and I told her that I was really busy but would call her to set up a time to come in as soon as possible. I finally told her to just tell me. So she did. I was in the bathroom at work when I got the news that my HIV test had come back positive. It was November 26, 2007.
I met the lady from the clinic as soon as I could get out of work. We talked. I cried. She hugged me. She gave me a lot of information that I really didn’t process but she knew I wasn’t so she gave it to me in writing also. Afterwards I called my babysitter and asked her if there was any way she could keep the kids overnight. She agreed so I called Mr. Wonderful. He knew something was wrong by the tone of my voice I guess and he came over right away. I think telling him was one of the hardest things I had ever done. It might have actually been worse than the actual diagnosis. After just two months I already knew I loved him. He cried. I cried some more. He told me that he needed to think and he left.
I guess when I made arrangements for my kids to not be home that night I knew deep down what I might do. After Mr. Wonderful left I was sure. I was scared and I was alone and I was dying. I sat on my couch considering how I was going to do it when my phone started ringing. I considered not answering. Looking back, I am so glad that I did. It was Mr. Wonderful’s best friend, J.
When Mr. Wonderful left my apartment he went to J’s house and told him. They talked then he went home to tell his dad. J figured I’d be pretty down and decided to call. He saved my life that night. I don’t remember EVERYTHING he said, but he reminded me of everything that I still had to live for. He assured me that I wasn’t dying. He told me that he knew Mr. Wonderful well enough to know that he just needed time to process what he had been told but that he would be back. We talked for probably two hours. There have been some rough times with J since then, but no matter what happens I will always love him for what he did for me that night. I can never repay him for his kind words and friendship when I needed it most.
To condense this story down again, it’s been a little over four year since that night. Mr. Wonderful DID come back. I don’t know exactly why other than he is just an incredible human being. He has been by my side every moment since. We eventually moved in together and got married. He did the most amazing thing that a man can do, he adopted my three children. The thought of me getting sick and dying and not knowing what would happen to them if I did was such a heavy burden. Now I never have to worry because even if they lose their Mommy, they have a wonderful Daddy who loves them more than their sperm donor ever could have. Now we’re having a baby together.
Life is not perfect. I don’t believe in fairytales, but I do know that HIV was not the end of my life. In a lot of ways it was just the beginning.