Today is Jessie’s eleventh birthday…but it many ways it is her first. Today marks not only the date that she was born in 2001, but, and perhaps more importantly, it is the first anniversary of the day that she turned to me after seeing this article in The Boston Globe http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/12/11/led-child-who-simply-knew/SsH1U9Pn9JKArTiumZdxaL/story.html and said, “You mean I am not the only one?” That day our world, and more importantly, George’s (nci) world would forever change.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Just days earlier, he had tearfully shared his weighty emotion that he had always wanted to be a girl and was gingerly teetering with having shared the information (none of us quite knowing what to do with it) when the article appeared on the front page catching his eye just before we were to go out for a celebratory breakfast with a newly minted double-digit aged boy. The remainder of the day (and for several weeks to come) was akin to the feeling I get when I take Sudafed: like I was speeding and moving in slow motion all at the same time which, as I am sure you can imagine, is a disconcerting and uncomfortable way to attempt to maneuver a day (or weeks). I knew, on some level, that the world I had known for ten years, the life of being a mom of two boys was never to be again. I can assure you now just how ill-prepared I was for the enormity of it all.
Sitting at the counter of the diner poised for a greasy breakfast, the only overt discussion on the subject was the offer to go to the Target down the street to purchase an article or two of girl clothing. Gulp. George vigorously shook his drooping head and said he did not want to…it was all just sinking in for him. (Oh, yeah, and for me, too.) I silently and secretly breathed a massive sigh of relief at his refusal and thought that perhaps we would stay in this particular limbo for the foreseeable future. I was right – if you consider his announcement at school the following morning (11 a.m to be precise) to be, in any way, a “foreseeable future”.
When my first child, Harrison, was born (gulp, eighteen years ago) my mother shared with me the directive of the child-rearing guru of her day, Dr. Spock, by quoting the famous (and comforting) opening line of his famous “Baby and Childcare Book”: You know more than you think you do. Having found success in repeating this mantra over and over (and over) in my head for the prior years of my parenting life, I was foolish enough to think (hope?)that those words would easily translate to my newest baby: my trans-girl. Yeah, that was something of a fail. Although not entirely.
Some of the transition came more naturally than you might think. Remember, George had been hoarding Barbies and reveling in mermaid fantasy life for so long that the progression from presenting as male to presenting as female was fairly easy…a relief, even. The toys were all in place and the American Girl dolls, once relegated to quiet play alone in the house, were suddenly fair game for full exposure. We need not pack away the Hot Wheels or Super Hero paraphernalia since we didn’t have any (other than those left over from Harrison’s early days). And the love of sewing and designing felt less troublesome to Jessie than it did to George. Cat, bag, out.
The clothing, however, was a little more difficult. While previously content (enough) to wear t-shirts and sweats or jeans, my new baby wanted to be swaddled in pinks, purples and yellows…the brighter the better. I was quickly (and slightly painfully) indoctrinated into the likes of Justice, Delia’s and the opposite side of the store at the likes of The Gap and Target. Having bought nothing but aforementioned t-shirts and sweats (with an occasional button down shirt for school pictures) I will admit to a quick rush of excitement in foraging through the (way cuter than boys’) girls’ clothing and actually purchasing something other than blue, grey or beige. I will likewise admit to feeling nauseated, anxious, uncomfortable and sweaty while doing so. And then I thought: What was I doing? How did we get here? Oh, dear G-d this is nuts and What are people going to think? Here I was with a new baby, but I couldn’t announce, or, frankly, bask in the joys of the beginning of a new life. It was just too frightening, overwhelming and incomprehensible.
I suppose I felt the way any new mother feels when it is clear that there is something amiss with her newborn. I suppose it was a normal way to feel. And I further suppose that, now that I have the benefit of a year’s hindsight, it was a little bit harder than I realized. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and off we went…without the luxury of a baby nurse, a move-in grandma or even a fancy new stroller.
So this year’s birthday yields not only a change in age, but a more solid footing and a greater comfort in the requested gifts, a child with ever-growing hair and a still fading memory of George. No one can tell me what the 12th, 13th, 14th and subsequent birthdays will look like (believe me, I’ve asked!), but, for now, Jessie is relishing in the acceptance of her (not so) new self and, as her mom, that makes me feel just that much better. Now to decide how many candles go on the cake…