By Emma Pearson @emma_pear
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Videographer / director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: Emma Pearson, Ruby Coote
Editor: James Thorne
Nicci Triefenbach found out that her vaginal cavity was split in two – and that she had two uteruses, two cervix and two vaginal canals.
The rare condition, called uterus didelphus, affects just one per cent of women and left Nicci feeling like a ‘circus freak’.
Nicci, from St Louis, Missouri, said: “The hardest thing about the whole process is not feeling like a women. You feel like you’re insane, then there is the whole ‘why me?’ aspect.
“You feel isolated and abnormal - like a freak of nature.”
In her teens Nicci spent days at a time bed-ridden with cramps, and developed anemia because her ovaries were on two different menstrual cycles.
But it wasn’t until she was 20 that she discovered the cause of the problem during an examination with a gynecological specialist.
Nicci, now 32, said: “There was the opening, a normal labia and then it funnelled up and split off into a ‘Y’ with two different vaginal canals.
“At the end of the canals, there was two little donut areas where the cervixes were and that divided off into two separate uterine bodies.
“The condition affected my life pretty severely. Trying to explain it to partners before sex was embarrassing and I felt like some men only wanted to be with me because I was a novelty – they saw having sex with me as a challenge.”
But when she met her husband Andy, ten years ago, Nicci found the love and acceptance she was looking for.
Andy said: “Nicci is really strong. I commend her for being as strong as she was getting through all this.
“Granted I don’t have any vaginas but if I did, I don’t know if I could have done the same thing. I can only imagine how hard it was for her.”
Nicci was also diagnosed with endometriosis and, alongside the physical pain caused by the condition, she also suffered a lot of heartache.
She said: “I have had three miscarriages and it wasn’t possible for me to go further than 22 weeks.
“You get very desperate to have children and you just wonder ‘What am I doing wrong? Why am I going through this?'
“There were times when I thought about suicide but again with my support system it pulled me out."
Four months ago Nicci made the difficult decision to undergo a double hysterectomy.
She said: “Now I have had a hysterectomy and reconstruction, where they removed the vaginal septum.
"I now have a normal vagina with one vaginal opening, no cervix now obviously and no uteruses.”
And although the surgery has drastically improved her quality of life, Nicci and her husband Andy were devastated to give up on their hopes of having children.
Nicci said: “I’ve always wanted to be a mum and going ahead with the hysterectomy was a difficult decision to make but since the operation my quality of life has gotten so much better.
“I don’t think I could have even coped with the physical demands of looking after a child before but now I just have so much more energy – I basically have my life back.
“I want to adopt one day - hopefully soon. I was adopted myself and I’d love to give a home to a child who really needs it.”
And with the support of Andy, Nicci has learned to accept the condition and hopes to support other women who are experiencing similar struggles.
Nicci said: “For years I was ashamed but now I love my body for what it is capable of – rather than hating it for what it’s not.
“I want to get rid of the stigma surrounding conditions like this and I want other women to love themselves and love their bodies.
“I have decided to go public with this because there is so many women out there that have anomalies and have endometriosis, and don’t feel like they have anybody.
“You’re not alone and you’ve got to be strong. If you have two vaginas, two uteruses, two cervixes, you’re just different, you’re not a circus freak.”
To support Nicci, please visit her Go Fund Me page.