It came up again today, which doesn’t happen very often. Someone asked me how I could possibly be H-IV negative when I’d had a baby with a man who was H-IV positive.
I began to stutter. The fear is never completely gone, it’s always there, at least the memory of it.
Such a crazy time it was, pregnant at 25 by a guy with this new disease I’d barely heard of but knew could kill me. A disease I couldn’t talk about because people would run, shun, shy away, freak out, even those in the medical profession. I had to keep it to myself and make life and death decisions and still go to work every day even though it felt like my world was ending.
I chose to keep the baby. I chose to stay with the man. I wasn’t brave, more like fearless. I didn’t know enough to make informed decisions.
I was tested once, twice, three times, four, sure my luck was eventually going to run out. But it didn’t happen that way.
* * * * *
Now I know the chance of transferring the H-IV infection through a single episode of heterosexual unprotected sex is 1 to 2 women in 1,000. I know that I probably saved my own life by saying no the one and only time it really counted, when I refused to have anal sex, bluntly, loudly, definitively.
Say it loud, say it proud, don’t touch my ass.
I saved my kid’s life, too.
When I think of what other women went through, those who found themselves positive, discovered their children were positive, I could dry heave with sorrow and terror.
* * * * *
I kept this secret for so many years. It didn’t even seem like a choice.
I’ve had some difficult things to get through, like every human being on the planet, but man have I been blessed. I won the lottery of life. The good by far outweighs the bad.
I would lose 1,000 parents rather than a child. I would take a million fucked up mothers over finding out my baby was going to die from AIDS. There is no comparison.
Some of the things that happened were scary and humiliating and sad. But in the end I walked away with the most wonderful bouncing baby boy, who never gave me a moment of trouble, who has lived a charmed life as if protected by angels.
I have no doubt they are his father and his uncle, funny, bright, charismatic, beautiful men who made the simple mistake of putting needles in their arms to dull life’s pain, to catch what was once a random irresponsible high and became a life sentence.
They were behind me during his graduation from graduate school. I swear I heard them laughing like excited boys, saying “Look at him! You did good, Bub.”
It was all so worth it. I need to remember all the ways in which I have been the luckiest bitch on the planet and forget the rest.