Emrich Doesn’t Shy Away From Reality

Hannah Gire, Contributing Reporter

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Jayden Emrich seems like a normal teenage girl on the outside, but she has something unique about her on the inside, a man-made vagina. While some people might shy away from talking about this very private abnormality, Emrich is refreshingly open about her condition. She says her condition is just something she was born with and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Emrich didn’t even know she was born this way until she started going through puberty. When she was 14, she says she was getting concerned that she was not developing like other girls her age and she hadn’t yet got her period. She went to her doctor and they ran some tests and found out she has Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome. This is an abnormality that is not genetic and it affects every 1 in 5,000 women. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), MRKH Syndrome is a rare disorder that affects women and is characterized by the failure of the uterus and the vagina to develop properly in women who have normal ovarian function and normal external genitalia. Jayden was born without a uterus or a vagina, which means she will never be able to conceive a child. Most girls experience periods and cramps, and have dreams about having their own child one day. Jayden has not, and never will experience any of these things.

“It really hasn’t affected me much yet, but thinking about the future scares me and I know later in life this will suck,” says Emrich.

Because the syndrome is so rare, Jayden’s mom found information through the internet and in chat rooms and support groups online.

On July 26th, 2016, Jayden had a procedure to create a man-made vagina. Her surgery took place in Atlanta, Georgia because MRKH is so rare and no doctors knew how to handle it in Iowa or anywhere nearby. She had to travel to Georgia to get the surgery because only a few doctors in the United States perform the procedure. To create the man-made vagina, the doctor took the lining of her stomach, called the peritoneum, and brought that down between her bladder and rectum and tied it off at the top so the vagina had a stopping point. Then the doctors cut an incision where the vagina should have been and connected the tissue they pulled down to the outside so the opening would be functional. Emrich was in the hospital for only 24 hours but the doctors came to her hotel for three days after the surgery to make sure everything was healing correctly.

“This procedure made me feel normal,” said Emrich. “It made me feel more comfortable about relationships with boys and being around other girls.”

Unfortunately, this procedure was not covered by the Emrich’s health insurance because it was not considered a health issue, but a cosmetic problem. All together, the medical bills were around $50,000 and this is not counting the money spent on transportation.

“My mom looked at all cases where people tried to fight this ruling and no one had won. We didn’t want to start pursuing a case that we would most likely lose.”

“Sometimes I feel bad that my parents had to pay for all of that, but it’s worth it in the end because now I feel normal.”

Jayden says she does not pity herself for the fact that she cannot have children of her own but instead she says she looks at the positive side of being able to adopt or get a surrogate to carry her child.

“I was only sad I couldn’t have kids for a little while but then I realized that there are so many other ways to have children and I shouldn’t let this control my life.”

Usually, people would keep this private and feel insecure about such a condition, but Jayden is the exact opposite. She is open about everything and if anyone has questions, she says she will answer them.

“I was born with this and I can’t do anything about it, so why try to hide it?”