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A DES (Diethylstilbestrol) Daughter shares her memories and dreams

Regular Contributor

A DES (Diethylstilbestrol) Daughter shares her memories and dreams


Slide9.JPGHalfway through the night, I was awakened by my dream.  “At my door stood Pat Cody, arguably the driving force that gave birth to DES activism. She taught me how to be a DES activist.  She told me she was dying. Heart problem. She said she was tired.  I showed her to the guest bedroom, pulling the curtains to darken the space. Then I told her to stay as long as she liked.”


By 6 am, I was dressed and ready for my day.  My grandchildren would be arriving in a few minutes.  My grandson, with his blond hair, dark eyes, and smile that melts my heart, would come in first. We would share our ritual hugs and kisses, and my admission of how much I’d missed him.  My toddler granddaughter, a brunette with huge hazel eyes and a shy smile, would emerge shortly, carried by her father.  She would put her arms out to me, and I would scoop her up, and the ritual hugs and kisses would begin again.  My days with them are my best days. DES deformed my uterus, it killed 3 potential human beings, it made my life a living hell for a long time, but I did not let it kill my dream of being a mother.


A few hours later, my granddaughter was toddling behind me as I carried her bottle. It was nap time.  As I sat snuggling her in my arms in my darkened bedroom, soft music playing to help lull her to sleep, a decades old memory flooded my consciousness.


“A young woman, no more than 24, lying on her back, knees bent up, a pillow under her hips. It was a twenty-minute necessity to lie there, lest gravity take even a single sperm farther from its intended target.  On the night stand lay a thermometer.  A special thermometer called a basal body temperature thermometer, which measured the lowest body temperature of the night.  It had to be taken immediately upon awakening; no bathroom trip, no conversation, no sip of water.  Beneath it was a paper printed with a graph, dots connected to dots. Literally a lifeline.  If the graph spiked at the end of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy was likely.  If not, the cycle would begin again. A new graph would take the place of the old, a new date filled in. It was a ritual I would perform for every day for several years, punctuated by disastrous pregnancies. I have those charts still, although I have not looked at them for many years.”


Why would these dark thoughts visit me on this day?  I am in my 60’s now.  My son, adopted as an infant, will be 40 on his next birthday.  He lifted me out of my grief, and made me a mother, and now a grandmother.  A Phoenix risking from the ashes.


Yet deep in the recesses of my mind dwells that young woman, still in pain, still suffering.  My peace is shattered, when I least expect it, and I am sent careening back to that dark time.  And I felt sad, realizing that once people are broken in certain ways, they can never be fixed.








Karen M. Fernandes
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