The following story was submitted by a Clitoraid patient who wished us to publish it while keeping her identity private.
She is dedicating it to Dr. Adan Abdullahi of Nairobi, Kenya who offers clitoroplasty to FGM victims following Clitoraid's humanitarian mission in Kenya last Spring. During the two-week event, lead US surgeon, Dr. Marci Bowers trained several Kenyan doctors.
This is the story of my life and it is dedicated to the best surgeon in the whole world. I underwent Female Genital Mutilation at the age of ten and back then I was exhilarated by the rite because it marked my passage into womanhood. Later on, I came to learn that I was subjected to Type I FGM.I underwent the rite with a cousin of mine and there were lots of celebrations that were marked by singing, dancing and eating among other festivities. The circumcision occurred at around three in the morning. I tried to scream because of the sharp pain that I felt between my legs but my screams were in vain because they drowned in the ululations of the older women that were present to witness the ceremony. I bled so much till I thought that I was going to die because of over bleeding. The initiator tried to manage the heavy bleeding with some herbal remedies and it took two days for the heavy bleeding to subside. It took three weeks for us to recover from the initiation.
I joined high school at the age of fourteen and that is when reality dawned on me that the FGM had destroyed the most precious treasure of my womanhood. My best friend in high school came from a community that did not carry out FGM and one day she asked me whether I was circumcised and I denied it because I was not comfortable with discussions concerning FGM. Her question made me to feel inferior to the other girls that were not circumcised. Additionally, one of the stories that stood out for me in the Literature syllabus during my high school years was Saida Herzi’s short story “Against the pleasure principle”. In the short story, Hawa, a circumcised woman says that “When people found out where I was from…they pestered me with questions about female circumcision. To avoid their questions, I told them that I had not been circumcised and therefore, could not tell them anything about it .Evidently, Hawa was embarrassed in her life because of the FGM. This story made me to detest the practice of circumcision and I swore never to do it on my daughters once I became a parent. I surely could not understand why parents were subjecting their daughters to the act including the educated ones. Reading testimonies from various circumcised women in the short story made me to believe that I was not going to enjoy sex in my life because part of the clitoris had been cut.
I must confess that the short story made me to experience some sort of self-fulfillment prophecy in respect to sexual matters. I read the story many times and it shaped my beliefs concerning sex. To elaborate, Herzi writes that “She (Hawa) remembered the first time her husband made love to her, how horribly painful it had been. And it had continued to be painful for even after she got used to it. She knew that for most of the women in her society sex as something to be endured not enjoyed.” This part of the story demoralized me and it made me to believe that I did not have any chances of being sexually aroused. Even before I started being sexually active I and the mindset that I was never going to know how it feels to have pleasurable sensations in my life. I identified with Hawa and sympathized with her because I knew what she had gone through.
I made friends from various communities at the university and even after graduation and most of them asked me whether I had faced the cut because it is common knowledge that my community is notorious for the practice. I lied to all my friends that I did not go through it because I wanted to avoid their questions and sympathy as far as the rite was concerned. Nevertheless, I could not lie to myself because I knew that I was circumcised and I did not have the power of the capacity to reverse it .It was a scar that was indelible thus lying to my friends could not help it. The idea of being circumcised really bothered me after I become sexually active because at the back of my mind I kept thinking that I was missing something significant to live a sexually fulfilling life. I only got consolation after reading about the vaginal organism which for me was a perfect alternative since part of my clitoris had been mutilated.
Taking showers has always been a difficult moment in my life because during such times I spend a significant amount time looking at myself and it makes me wonder how I would have felt if my clitoris was still intact. Furthermore, through the years, I have consoled myself by reading testimonies of FGM victims that experience orgasm. At some point I read a blog about the part of the clitoris that lies beneath the skin that makes it possible for women to experience orgasm. So I felt comforted after reading the blog because I understood that after all, not all my clitoris was removed. I must admit that my consciousness concerning the FGM has affected my psychological wellbeing that is why I have never discussed it with my hubby. I was scared about talking about it with him because doing so, in my view, would be equivalent to admitting that I am an “incomplete woman”. It is painful memory that I tried to avoid by all means and pretend that it never happened in my life.
Just when I was convinced that I was going to live with the FGM scar for the rest of my life, I saw on national television that Dr. Marci Bowers, of Clitoraid, was conducting clitoral reconstructive surgeries in Nairobi for the first time at the Karen Hospital. This was the best news that I had heard in my entire life. It was the first time that I was hearing about the clitoroplasty .The news was brief so I searched on the internet to increase my understanding of the procedure that reverses FGM. The news caught my attention because I am very sensitive to FGM issues. I told myself that I was going to go through the procedure no matter what. I tried to make time so that I could book an appointment with Dr. Marci Bowers but I did not manage because of work commitments. I did not lose hope though because I was referred to Dr. Adan Abdullahi who offers the Clitoral Reconstruction Services at the Karen Hospital.
During my initial consultation, I could not bring myself to tell him that I am an FGM survivor and it was then that I realized that I was traumatized by this whole thing of being circumcised. I only managed to tell him “I underwent FGM and I want you to reconstruct my clitoris”. He conducted a physical examination and after completing he told me “sorry”. For me his “sorry” meant that I was going to be alright. I was relieved somehow because I knew that there was someone who understood me at that moment and my pain. Subsequently, we set the date for my surgery which took place three weeks after the consultation.
Prior to the surgery, I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions. I was scared about going under the knife because it was the first surgery in my life not to mention that I am scared of injections. I was so inquisitive and asked him a lot of questions before I made the final decision of going through with the procedure. He answered all my questions comprehensively and above all he was so patient with me because of my anxiety. I just want to say that Dr. Adan Abdullahi is the single most patient, professional, understanding, excellent and kindest doctor I have ever seen in my life.
He is the first person that I told my story about FGM and he lent me listening ear without judging me. He understood me just like I wanted to be understood.All that FGM survivors require is a doctor that will listen to them and give them the assurance that they will get better. Another thing that scared me are articles that cite opponents of clitoroplasty that dispute the effectiveness of the procedure. These arguments made me to think that the procedure would end up frustrating me even more. However, I conducted additional research on the internet about women that have reported improved sexual lives after the procedure. This research together with Dr. Adan’s responses convinced me that the Clitoral Reconstruction Surgery was a procedure to die for.
On the D-day, I did not take anything in the morning because the doctor reminded me that I was not supposed to take anything prior to the surgery. I work up six and was set for the procedure that was going to mark the greatest milestone in my life. The team that works alongside Dr. Adan is amazing and it made me to realize that there was no need to be ashamed about my condition. The nurses were supportive, understanding and they made sure that I was warm and comfortable because it was a chilly Saturday. The assistant surgeon prepared me psychologically about the entire procedure .Subsequently, the anesthetist carried out the anesthesia procedure that numbed the lower half of my body so that I could not feel any pain during the surgery. I have never felt at home like I felt on the day of my surgery and I had never seen such kindness in my life.
After the anesthesia, the doctor commenced the surgery. At the background some rhumba music was playing and the clock on the wall was ticking slowly. I was awake throughout the procedure and after about 45 minutes the doctor told me “I am done.” At that moment, it became clear that anything can happen in less one hour, even a reversal of FGM could happen without any pain. I was reborn on that day.The reconstruction surgery entailed removing the scar tissue associated with FGM and bringing the remaining clitoral forward. After the surgery, I felt a sense of relief and told myself that I had finally managed to see light at the end of the dark tunnel. I was moved to the ward where I recovered after two hours and went home. It gave me the closure that I need to overcome the emotional torture that I have experienced for many years in my life.
Throughout my recovery, the doctor supported me and he never stopped answering all my queries even after the surgery. I visited the doctor for reviews and he confirmed that my recovery was impressive. This support has been instrumental in changing my attitude and perspective about life. Today, I have recovered fully and I look forward to living a normal life just like the other uncircumcised women.
I just want to reach out to other women out there who could be traumatized as a result of FGM. Just know that there is hope after FGM thus you should not lose hope of being fulfilled in sexual matters because the Clitoral Reconstructive Surgery reverses the effects of FGM. More important, remember that the fact that FGM is reversible does not mean that we should stop campaigning against this inhumane act that strips off women their dignity and right to sexually fulfilling life .Please let us discourage parents from circumcising their daughters in secret because it is not worth it. It is time to let go this outdated tradition. Let us be at the forefront in preaching against this inhumane act in our communities because it is no longer relevant in the lives of women. Today, I can hold my head high because my dignity was restored.
I am complete again and I believe that the hands of surgeons that restore dignity in the lives of FGM survivors are blessed. I hope that someday, even the poorest FGM survivors will get the opportunity to go through this life changing procedure that I consider to be the most supreme invention in the world of the FGM survivors. When that day comes, FGM will be a thing of the past. Above all Clitoraid is the best organization that has happened for the FGM victims. All in all, the clitoroplasty has been a life-changing procedure in my whole life and am optimistic my dreams will come true.Work Cited: Herzi, Saida. "Against the pleasure principle."