- Sixteen-year-old Bailee Marie Gattis from Tishomingo in Mississippi, USA, went to the doctor's when she was 15 because she was experiencing primary amenorrhea, the absence of menstrual bleeding.
- She was misdiagnosed and told that she was merely a "late bloomer" when in fact, she was born without a womb.
- Her mental journey took a knock, but now she is embracing her condition and has met other advocates all over the world.
Sixteen-year-old Bailee Marie Gattis from Tishomingo in Mississippi, USA, went to the doctor's when she was 15 because she was experiencing primary amenorrhea, the absence of menstrual bleeding. Bailee also noticed a shortened vaginal canal, which she kept a secret from her mum.
What she thought would be a doctor's visit to explain why her menstrual cycle had not started made her discover something she didn't know about her body.
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At that time, she was misdiagnosed and told that she was merely a "late bloomer". She was advised to return when she was 16.
When Bailee's primary amenorrhea persisted beyond 16, she underwent an ultrasound, a CT scan, and an MRI. After further blood tests confirmed that Bailee was biologically female and was not hermaphroditic, she was diagnosed with a rare disorder called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. People with MRKH have 'regular' genitalia on the outside but may have an underdeveloped or absent uterus or vagina.
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"From there, I underwent one ultrasound, CT scan, and MRIs. The first ultrasound showed a small unknown softshell structure that was, at the time, thought to be a rudimentary uterus. My primary doctor highly suggested MRKH. She referred me to a gynaecologist who ordered my second MRI and a karyotyping blood test. The blood testing was to be able to confirm my female genes allowing the doctor to diagnose me with MRKH officially," Bailey shared.
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Bailee was immediately referred to a specialist doctor, who began vagina dilation treatment immediately. Vaginal dilation treatment often involves inserting an instrument into the vagina to stretch it, and it can be extremely painful for those living with MRKH.
"I returned three months later to keep track of my progress. During the second visit, the gynaecologist informed me that I was doing amazing and instructed me to return six months later. But as excited as I was to begin dilating, it was one of the most mentally draining things I’ve ever done," she says.
She was prescribed antidepressants as she struggled to cope with the news and the new regime.
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"My mental journey with this was a very bumpy road," Bailee says. She started thinking about what her life would be like, and struggled with the thought of not ever falling pregnant. "My diagnosis made me feel like I would never have a family. I began doing more activities to keep my mind off it and just act like it wasn't happening. I got a puppy, was always out with my friends, and was always hiding my condition. This was the worst thing to do. [But] Once I began to embrace my MRKH and became public with it, a whole new world opened up for me," she shares.
"People have told me, 'You're so lucky you can't have kids. I never want them'. 'You're so lucky you don't have a period'. 'Ugh, I wish I couldn't get pregnant'. We are NOT 'lucky' we don't have a period. We are not lucky that we can [experience] intercourse without a pregnancy scare. These are the most common negative comments I've received," she says.
In the future, she is hoping to go the surrogacy route. "I would love to also adopt if financially possible because here in the US, so many babies need a home. I feel that God made me unable to have my own so that I can mother those who need help," she says.
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Bailee became active in the online MRKH community, which aims to raise awareness and banish the stigma surrounding MRKH and similar conditions. "I joined a support group, which introduced me to Vics Lane and her amazing advocacy foundation with TK Kennedy.
"I am incredibly grateful for both of them and all they have done and continue to do for MRKH warriors."