Ha, does that title grab your attention enough? I hope so, because this isn’t really a post I can share a million photos in, if you know what I mean. I believe now that the truths I will share with you are SO important to know, though.
If you haven’t read our marriage story, you may not know how utterly surprising this blog’s title is, coming from our relationship.
If you have read the post, you know Drew and I committed early on in dating to wait until our wedding night to sleep together, and we kept that commitment. It is something I have been proud of for years, and something that I have absolutely adored about our relationship.
When that is your truth, and you KNOW that YOU have never been unfaithful- yet a doctor is calling you and telling you that you have undeniably caught chlamydia, which is contracted 99.9% of the time via direct sexual contact- what would your first thought be?
Yep, mine too.
So, how does a marriage survive that?
Let’s start from the beginning.
During pregnancy, most doctors request that mothers receive a routine pap smear sometime during the second trimester if they have not had one recently. I didn’t think twice about their tests, and honestly didn’t even know that they were testing for STDs too. I have never once in my life worried about their tests, because I have only had one partner my entire life, as has my husband. So around two weeks later when I saw my OBGYN’s number ringing on my phone, I wondered if I had simply forgotten to schedule my next appointment with them.
Instead, I was greeted by a solemn request for a confirmation of my last name and birth date, and was asked if it was Emily they were speaking with. I agreed, and thereafter heard the words that blew my mind.
“Ma’am, we have received a positive test result for chlamydia. Because you are pregnant, I will need you to come in immediately to begin treatment. Please come in today and do not wait, as this can be dangerous for your baby. Do you have any questions?”
Um, hell yes I have questions.
Now, I am not a rude person to strangers, like… ever. Everybody has a job to do, and some jobs are worse than others. I imagine delivering test results like these really can’t be fun, especially when test results of this sort can carry so much emotional weight with them. But during this call, I didn’t care at all how I sounded, I just needed answers. Immediately, I interrupted and very firmly told the doctor that they had picked up the wrong chart. I believe I even rudely told them to not make a careless mistake like that. My doctor kindly reconfirmed my credentials, checked the system to make sure no mistakes had been made, and confirmed that this was indeed my certified test result.
At this point, I felt rage immediately begin to bubble up.
If I haven’t slept with anybody but my husband, and I have an STD, where the HELL did I get this from?
To be honest, I have never been well-versed on sexually transmitted diseases. I remembered the mind-burning photos from health class, but I didn’t even know which STD chlamydia was. I mean, we started dating at age 15/16, never slept with anybody before we married in our 20’s, and have obviously never saw anybody else since we married. There was no reason to worry about any sexually transmitted diseases, because there was no chance that one could be contracted between the two of us.
At least, until one apparently was.
The next four hours of that day are a complete blur, to be honest. I have never been filled with so much rage, humiliation, and contempt.
I immediately questioned my doctor if there was any way to contract such an infection outside of sexual intercourse. She confirmed that there was not.
I questioned her on what that meant for where I got it from. I was told that if I did not cheat on my husband, my husband, statistically, had to have cheated on me.
In that moment, my world shattered, but I still wasn’t convinced.
I rudely demanded that I be retested. My doctor agreed kindly, but told me I must still seek out treatment, because results for a retest would take weeks to come back with us being overseas, and to actually have the infection could be dangerous for our Ellie.
She told me that I needed to tell my husband, and that he should be tested too.
The hospital that we see also requires that all STDs be reported to public health, mostly for the safety of the base, and that we be consulted by a public health counselor in regards to safe sex practices.
I hung up the phone, threw it into my closet with force, and immediately burst into tears. Drew thought that I had just received a call from home telling me that a family or friend in the states had passed away, because I was sobbing so hard he couldn’t imagine what else could make me cry like that. A million thoughts were swirling around my head at that point, because I knew one of two things was true:
Either my test results were incorrect, or my husband, who I had promised to wait for almost ten years ago, had been with somebody else.
Let me tell you one thing right now. You need to find yourself a Drew. My husband is the most patient human I have ever met, and he is the most understanding human I have ever met. He’s sarcastic and often isn’t directly empathetic, and he is very direct and to the point, but when it comes to issues like these- the big issues- he is a rock. And that is exactly what I needed for those next two weeks while we waited for more results to come in.
So, I hung up the phone sobbing, and stomped into the living room where he was sitting. Before I ever told Drew that information that I had just received, I decided to approach it from a skeptical wife’s standpoint. I walked up to him, barely able to speak through tears, and asked him if he had cheated on me. I’ll never forget his look of confusion, and I actually heard him laugh at the question. He told me he had not, and asked me what in the world was going on.
I ignored him, and rudely asked him again. “Listen, I am freaking pregnant. I am carrying our daughter! This is a big deal! Have you cheated on me?”
He replied confused again, “No, Em. I haven’t cheated on you. Now what is going on?”
So I told him absolutely everything that was told to me on the phone. Drew ONLY once, later on that day, as we were waiting to receive treatment, “well, you didn’t cheat either right?” When I told him I had absolutely not, he never asked me again. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my husband, who is an incredibly trusting, level-headed, and calm individual. But during that first 6 hours after this diagnosis, I shot every question and accusation I could conjure from any depth of doubt I had stored over the last 10 years.
And in response, I cannot remember a time in our almost 10 years of dating and marriage that I can remember Drew being more patient with me, but man, am I thankful for his response to the chaos. He held me in our living room while Henry stared at me, utterly confused as to why his mom was wailing. Drew even kept laughing at my anger over the weeks, because he knew the entire ordeal was a huge mistake. I of course, tried to feel this way, but was only overwhelmed with dread when it came to the entire subject.
By the time I had collected my thoughts after the call, I decided to march straight into the medical center and demand retesting. I walked to the lab before checking in anywhere else, and demanded that I be retested BEFORE ever accepting treatment, because I wanted to know if my test results were correct. If they weren’t, I wanted the ability to wipe the whole ordeal from my record. It was suggested that Drew receive treatment as well. He was not even referred for testing before being offered treatment on the precedent that he would undeniably have the infection too, obviously because he is my husband. But he demanded a test from the doctor as well before ever agreeing to take treatment.
We were both counseled by public health on how to not contract STDs, (ironic, in hindsight, right?) were told that a false positive was extremely unlikely, and were made to ingest our treatment in front of our doctors so that they could record that treatment was taken.
I remember sitting in front of a nurse, who looked upon me with pity as I sat crying with my toddler son on my lap, drinking the antibiotic that was to “cure my chlamydia.” She was as kind as she could be, and I can’t blame her for looking at me the way that she did. After all, if my husband had cheated, and I had contracted the STD in this way, it would be an INCREDIBLY emotional moment for a pregnant woman to endure as she sat in an office accepting treatment.
She asked me if there was anything she could do for me, and I tearily replied “no, thanks.”
I remember sitting in every office that day, embarrassed beyond belief, and absolutely filled with rage as doctor after doctor told me that it was incredibly unlikely that I had been misdiagnosed. I was told by doctor after doctor and article after article that there was no chance that chlamydia could be contracted in any way other than sexual intercourse, and that if I truly had not cheated, there was only one explanation for how I had received the diagnosis: and it was not the explanation I was wearily reaching for.
And as infuriating as that is in hindsight, I suppose this is a normalcy today. These are the things that these doctors see on a daily basis, and honestly, to have a married couple come in for an STD diagnosis and treatment, stating that they had both absolutely not slept with anybody else in their entire life and marriage would be a situation what was… well… somewhat laughable.
Nevertheless, I held out hope that my retest would provide me peace and clarity in the situation, while reading every medical journal in the world that undeniably told me that it would not.
We were both sent home after receiving treatment. They told us that the certified retest results for both of us would be back in around 14 days. Unfortunately, being stationed overseas, many tests have to be sent stateside for reading, meaning many tests take a LONG time to return.
This meant that the next two weeks of my life were absolute hell, to be honest.
I’ll never forget the countdown. I had determined exactly how long my first results took to return, so I was pretty positive of the day that I would receive the call with my new retest results. My heart raced the entire day, and I’m guessing my blood pressure was pretty sky-high. Drew, on the other hand, put everything behind him the same day that we accepted treatment. He took my harassment for the following two weeks, he took my random outbursts of anger and tears at the situation, and he took my accusations- even if I said them passive-aggressive-jokingly.
And when I received the call that my retest came back clearly negative for chlamydia, he simply said “Well yeah it did.” And when his retest came back clearly negative he simply said, “Well yeah it did.”
So, yes friends. I never had an STD. Drew never had an STD.
WE WERE DIAGNOSED WITH AN STD, AND WE NEVER HAD AN STD.
To this day I have no idea if my results got mixed up with someone else’s on paper, or if my specimen got swapped with someone who truly did have chlamydia, or if it was simply a skewed test (which can actually happen, albeit somewhat rarely, during pregnancy.)
All I know, is I was told I had an STD, when I have never had an STD.
Do you see the depth of that statement?
Had I decided not to demand a retest; had I taken the advice of every single doctor that day; had I chose not to believe my husband over a diagnosis… said diagnosis could have ended our marriage. I could have accepted the words coming out of the mouths of those with letters behind their names, because they are those that we trust to tell us the truth about our bodies. I could have walked away from my marriage months before birthing our sweet Ellie, believing that I had been wronged by a man who has stood by my side through so much. Don’t get me wrong, I trust in the knowledge and expertise of doctors. I trust that the doctors that oversaw my care were doing all that they could to correctly diagnose and treat me. I trust that the doctors I saw (and still see) are good people, with no intentions to ever hurt us. But unfortunately, doctors are not always correct, and that is one of the hardest parts of living in a fallen world.
All of this mess went down almost a year ago to the date. I have told very few people outside of my close friend group and my immediate family. Honestly, for months now, I have still been morbidly embarrassed by the entire fiasco. I am not proud to admit that I have called medical records and chewed out the attendants when they wouldn’t wipe the entire thing from my record. I have checked my online results time and time again to make sure they they were properly documented with the correct notations of the positive being a “false positive.” I have told every doctor who views my lab results during current appointments that they were INCORRECT, because I have been so mortified by the entire emotional memory. But I am sharing today, because in hindsight, a few truths were SO important during those moments. And I believe it is undeniably important for you to know these truths, too.
1. You are entitled to a second opinion, and you are entitled to retesting.
In anything. In everything. Whether a doctor tells you you have cancer, or that your husband has cheated and you have contracted an STD from it. If something doesn’t add up, you are forever within your right to say “Bye, Felicia.” Ask for a retest. Seek out a new doctor. Go to a completely different medical facility. Do whatever you can to feel that your results are correct, while communicating your concerns with your healthcare team. Because as my mom has told me for years, all doctors are PRACTICING medicine. No doctor is 100% perfect 100% of the time, and no lab is perfect in the slightest. This is just a simple truth of life, and it is nobody’s fault.
2. Test results are often mixed up, labeled incorrectly, lost, or otherwise falsely positive/negative.
Seriously, do the research on it. Not just from WebMD. Read medical journals. Read statistics. Read information from the CDC.
Anyone and everyone you speak to in person will tell you, “Oh, that crap doesn’t happen. Test results are test results. Yep. You have an STD from your scumbag husband.” But statistically, this happens WAY more often than you would expect.
And in addition, watch your lab tests be labeled. Confirm your name, date of birth, and label on everything you provide to a medical facility. If you do your due diligence in making sure your results are labeled as your results, you cut out at least one possibility of getting a false result.
3. A diagnosis should not immediately come before the trust you have built for years with your spouse, especially not before talking things through with them.
In hindsight, I am still ashamed of how much more trust Drew had in me than I had in him. Thankfully, we have built a marriage based on open communication, full trust, and thankfully, he is one of the best men I have ever met, and loved me so well through it all. Go into all aspects of your marriage with this mindset. If you married your best friend, your partner in life, and your biggest cheerleader, remember that during the chaos.
4. It should always be okay to tell your spouse how you feel.
This is something that was fundamentally important to us making it through those weeks. I could sit down, look at Drew, and say, “Babe, I believe in my head that you did not cheat on me, but my heart is absolutely bursting with sorrow that you did.” And he understood that that was a valid way to feel during the fiasco, and he loved me through it.
5. Good people exist & good marriages exist.
The hardest part by far in this entire process, was the fact that I could tell nobody. For those weeks, I cried at home or only to my closest friends. I reached out only to those who personally KNEW my marriage. Because I knew if I reached out to anybody else for advice or encouragement, the immediate response would be one of anger and pity for my side of things, and I would undeniably hear “Wow, Emily, I am so sorry… but your husband cheated while you are pregnant, and you should leave him.”
The world will tell you that there is nothing true left, that commitments do not matter anymore, and that these situations happen daily. While they are not necessarily wrong, and this stuff does happen daily… they are wrong. Good marriages exist. People who value commitment over everything else exist. Faithful marriages exist. And above all else, in a world where this is very often not always true, marriages can be rebuilt. I still have a statement that I cling to years ago, that I believe is SO crucial to know in today’s world.
No, not “everything happens for a reason.” Rather,
Anything can be redeemed.
I will tell you this: That two weeks of chaos… SUCKED. There has not been a time in our marriage that I felt lower, that I felt more depressed, or that I was more sure that terrifying times were ahead. It was emotional and exhausting and I cried my tear ducts dry so many times over those weeks. But if it taught me anything, it taught me that good men exist. It taught me that my husband is so incredibly kind. It taught me that marriages can make it through anything. And ultimately it taught me that the commitment that we made, means something to each of us.
And let me tell you something in hindsight. If you are unmarried, find yourself a spouse who will stand with you through those moments, even if they are crying right beside you. Find somebody who will accept your anger, your tears, and your understandable doubts, and realize that this is the exact things that God does for us.
Find yourself a spouse who values the commitment they made to you over the words a doctor is spewing at them as they accept treatment for what you were supposedly diagnosed with. Find yourself a person who knows what real commitment means.
Because when you are sitting at home for two weeks, staring at a phone, willing with your whole heart for it to ring in order for there to be a “I’ve made a terrible mistake with your results” call… a feeling of infatuation, of romantic love, or of chemical attraction is absolutely NOT what you are clinging to.
But, do believe in your spouse. Honor your commitment. Through better or through worse, give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them forgiveness. Give them the grace that Drew has given me daily since I walked down the aisle to him. Because if there is ever a time that you practice “for better or for worse,” it is during the moments that you are sitting on a cold, paper covered bench, drinking a bitter and pasty mixture to “cure your chlamydia,” as your husband sits 4-5 rooms down, doing the exact same. You will come out of those moments with an appreciation for the person you married, and with the realization that a Christ-honoring commitment will be hard, it will be messy, and it will be so beautiful, and so worth the chaos.