'Mum, the doctor thinks it's herpes.' What happened when my teenage daughter told me she had herpes.

My phone pinged with a new message, "Mum, the doctor thinks it’s herpes and she did this really painful test on me and now I have to wait for the results and take medication."

My response, "Oh, okay, do you want me to pick you up?"

My internal thought process: Genital herpes? At 18 years old? How can this be? She broke up with her boyfriend nine months ago? Is that how long it takes herpes to manifest?

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Oh. She’s had sex since then. With someone else.

I know I don’t have a right to know about her private life, but I’m a bit shocked.

Oh, she had casual sex. I thought they taught her about this at school? I should be more sex positive! But I AM sex positive.

With other people’s kids. My daughter is precious. I only ate organic meat during pregnancy. I put sunscreen on her perfect skin. I drove her everywhere. I bought her the right sneakers for the right sport. I spoke openly about the world.

And now she’s independent, and some callous jerk has infected her. My perfect, precious child.

Is it my fault? Should I have withheld showing her the condom on a banana a few years ago? Did I inadvertently normalise casual sex?

When I was a teenager, Dolly Magazine ran articles debating whether girls should wait until marriage before having sex. Why has this been replaced by boys who expect oral sex upon meeting?

This parenting gig is too hard. I’m going to lock her up forever to keep her safe. But she’s so sensible. And she’s studying health science, for God’s sake. Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed to put her on the pill at 17. I bet she didn’t use a condom. Why would you use a condom if you’re on the pill? But her period was so painful. She needed the pill.


I realise that our relationship is at a crossroads. If she even suspects my horrible, blaming, slut-shaming thoughts, she will never forgive me. She trusts me and doesn’t need my stigma. I need to be kind. Even though I feel angry and ashamed.

Why am I ashamed? I guess I was okay with sexual activity when it was with the delightful boyfriend.

Of course, her father is characteristically calm and kind.

Typical. But she didn’t come out of his body!

Why didn’t she use a condom? She knows better. I always used one when I was young! Well, actually, now I think about it, not for the entire act, only at the end, to prevent pregnancy.

I’m such a hypocrite.

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I do a Google Search. "You can catch genital herpes even when you use a condom. One in eight adults have genital herpes, and it’s mostly asymptomatic. You can spread it even when you don’t have symptoms."

So he probably wasn’t a callous jerk... he didn’t know either.

She comes home, and she's in tears. It hurts to pee; it hurts to sit down; it hurts to walk. Without warning, she shows me a picture of her genitals. I am aghast at what I see. No wonder she’s in so much pain.

We wait for the lab results, and she is really sick for three days. Fever, burning, dizziness, joint pain. There is no treatment or cure, only anti-virals to minimise the spread. She takes time off work, time off uni. She can’t sit or walk.

I wash her clothes separately. I make her food and together we wait.

The lab results come in.

My baby has genital herpes. It’s bad luck. But it wasn’t her fault or the boy’s fault.

How can you prevent transmission of an asymptomatic infection?

It could have been me, it could have been you.

But I really hope it doesn’t happen to your child...

Find out the facts about herpes here.

Feature Image: Getty.