Yesterday was my youngest child’s birthday.
Twenty-one years ago I gave birth at home with the assistance of a midwife, my friend Charlotte, and my dear friend Peggy.
Two of my three other children were present. Wesley was the eldest child in the room with my oldest being away at my ex’s at that time.
My pregnancy was monitored by an OBGYN on a monthly basis, too. Although he had concerns about my refusal to do the usual hospital delivery, having given birth to three others without complication who were healthy somewhat allayed his fears.
I gave birth to a 7 lb 3 oz girl and I named her Sandy Bailey Meadows. She was not well when she finally made her entrance, and I could tell right away she could not breathe normally. Without many words all of us descended the stairs in my old house and took her straight to the hospital. There she received treatment to resuscitate her and she was placed in neonatal
Intensive care for nearly two weeks.
After we could bring her home, the first year was difficult as she had breathing and allergy problems and did not sleep but about 2-3 hours at a time, and that was on a good night. Insomnia became my norm.
Eventually, she became a model of health. Sandy was my most exuberant child.
She was precocious, mischievous, creative and loving. I had three children before her, approximately at ages 10, 6 and 5 when she was born, but she challenged me at every turn. As I have always been a person who needed physical space, and my other three children seemed to inherit this need, Sandy wanted nothing more than to be able to touch me or be right next to one of us at all times. Wesley handled this pretty well, Robin not so much. When my oldest came to stay, Sandy had someone else willing to indulge her hugs and kisses.
A couple of years ago Sandy called me to talk. In a couple of months she would be graduating from high school. She wanted to let me know she legally changed her name to Noah Ray Meadows and would definitely be identifying as male from now on.
It wasn’t a complete shock. I knew my child was in some throes of confusion and struggle with body image, sexual orientation and identity. I wasn’t aware as to the extent. That was my fault as I had not been as attentive a mother as I should have been.
My oldest child, Zach, had also been born as a girl to me. We named her Amanda Margaret Renee Lee. When “Mandi” was 10 she told me she was gay. I was okay, a little shaken up but really okay. Ten years later she told me she was going to start the process to transgender, female to male, and came to me first because, “I know you will be the most understanding and I need your support when I tell everyone else.”
This was a more difficult development but I did support my child and went to the therapist with her, and when it was time, helped get the first prescription of testosterone and witnessed when “Mandi” became Zach.
He also enlisted my help with choosing a male name. When I told him I just knew he was going to be a boy when I was pregnant, I had chosen the name Zachary. It’s Old Testament and after all, we were a Jewish family as I had converted when pregnant to make sure our child could be born into the faith as tradition holds, since it is passed down through the mother.
So my “new” son honored me by not only involving me in the process and being patient while I wrapped my head around it, he also allowed me to name him. Again.
As for Noah, I will admit I had an extremely difficult time accepting his choice to trans female to male. After all, I already “lost” one daughter and gained another son. Why me? Why two of my kids? I’m only guessing here, but fifty percent seems high odds.
So I fumbled through that transition. Noah (rightfully so) feels I didn’t support him as I did Zach.
I guess I felt like I was a boxer in that last round in the ring. I was tired and sore but dammit, I was winning the match—until I got knocked out just before the bell.
Today, I want everyone to know it is my son Noah’s 21st birthday, and I am proud to be his mom.
Though unrequited, I love him tremendously. His estrangement from me will not make me love him less, it only grieves me to know I cannot call him, especially on this day, and hear his voice or get one of those fantastic hugs he was always so generous to give. My arms ache to hold him, and my heart aches without him.
Happy Birthday, son. May this year be your most magical year yet.
Kim D. Bailey, a Pushcart Prize Nominee, writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, and a weekly column for FIVE:2:ONE. She is currently writing a third novel. She’s published in several online literary journals and print magazines. Kim lives in her hometown of Chattanooga, TN. To connect follow at www.kimbaileydeal.net and on Twitter @kimbaileydeal