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Shopping for Baby Clothes

I’ve been shopping for baby clothes! No, not for a grandchild. That’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future, but it’s almost as good. I am on the verge of becoming an adopted grandmother (if there is such a thing.)

Where to start? Okay: Annie. Annie sings in the same choir as I do. I don’t know much of her story. She has no children of her own, but she seems to attract strays. These past several weeks she has come to choir with a toddler belonging to a family she is currently sheltering. This past Thursday, Annie showed up with another baby all snuggled in her car seat. She (Annie) was on the verge of tears. “I can’t pick her up,” she sobbed. “I can’t let myself bond with her. I’ve got too much on my plate already. I can’t take care of this one, too.”

Jordan Lynne, that’s her name. She’s just a month old, and just as sweet a child as anyone could ever wish for. Mom is just sixteen. The night before, she had been kicked out of her home. Grandma declared that she couldn’t put up with any more of this (pardon me) “sh***,” she’d had it with “all this baby c*** all over the place.” She was fed up with “its” crying at all hours of the day and night. She’d “put up with it with [her] own two, and she wasn’t going through that again .” So at 10 o’clock at night, she handed Whitney the baby in her car seat and put her out in the street, telling her to “take ‘it’ and get the f*** out,” and not to come back. So there was Whitney, a child, herself, out on the street with the baby, It was raining.

It sounds like a scene out of Dickens, doesn’t it, written to break your heart. Well, it does. It did mine, anyway.

Happily, Whitney thought to call a friend, who happened to be Annie’s niece. And the niece called Annie. Next morning, twenty minutes before choir, the two girls (both exhausted) dropped the baby with Annie, and found a place on the couch or wherever, to fall asleep. Annie brought the little one to choir, still in her car seat. Mostly, she slept. She’s only a month old, after all, but she did wake up eventually. Several of the women, (not Annie,) took her in turns. There were two bottles of formula, so she was fed and changed, cuddled…and surrounded with love. At one point, I turned to my friend, Sylvia, who sings beside me and only half jokingly complained, “No one ever offers me the baby.” She laughed and said, “Well, you’ll just have to take her, then!”

I’m afraid I wasn’t much help with clean-up afterward, because that was exactly what I did. I had the baby, and I wasn’t about to give her up.

She woke up as I took her (from Sylvia), but she didn’t fuss. She was warm, and clean, and fed. She just wanted to look around. She smiled at me. I know, I know…babyies aren’t supposed to smile, but they do, and she did. Briefly, it’s true, but she did. Twice. Is there anything in the world that will melt your heart sooner than a baby’s smile? I can’t think of anything. Then she settled back down and went to sleep in my arms. Everyone was leaving, and I still had the baby. That was when Annie came up to me and asked if I could help. Would I be willing? Could I step up as sort of an adopted grandma…someone who would just “be there” if Whitney needed someone to talk to, or if she needed a break, (or a nap)…someone who had been through all this before, and who could just do the sorts of things that grandmas do? She looked at me and said, “You’ve bonded with her already, haven’t you?” I think there must have been tears in my eyes. I had to admit it was true. “Sometimes,” she said softly, “these gifts just come to us.”

And so they do.

I’ve spoken to Whitney a couple of times over the phone, but we haven’t met face to face yet. I wanted to invite her to join us for dinner on Mother’s Day…I’m sure no one in her family is going to celebrate in her honor, but I was already committed elsewhere, so I’ve invited the three of them, Whitney, Annie’s niece, and of course, Jordan, to dinner on Monday, instead. I’ll be calling her this afternoon to confirm.

And today I went shopping for baby clothes…a joy I never imagined would be mine.

This past week has been difficult for several of my close friends. My friend, Joy, has not been well, and has been in a lot of pain. (The doctor has prescribed morphine, so you can imagine how severe.) Another friend, lost her son to a sudden heart attack a year ago last Thursday, and she has had to deal with that sad anniversary on her own. And a third has just received the news that her cancer is back. So much pain around me, and I just ache, because I can’t do anything about it. At least being there for Jordan and her mom is something I can do.

One of the things I am noticing about myself, since I started living full-time is that more and more, I am giving myself permission. Permission especially, to love. I don’t know what is going on, but it feels almost as if the universe is taking care of me in return. I am being showered with gifts: kindnesses and coincidences, and love that I never thought to have, and from places I would never have imagined they could come. My counsellor once observed that, “Everyone needs someone to give their love to. In an unhappy relationship, you are denied that chance, because you know it will be unwelcome.” I hadn’t thought of that, before, but it’s true. We all need an opportunity to give, to love. Well, I am finding people to love, and I’m giving myself permission to love this child and her mother. Not that it matters, (it would be enough simply to give,) but I am learning that whenever I do this, love seems to be come back to me doubled and redoubled. I am mystified that it should be so, but grateful, all the same.

As Juliet observes, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea! The more I give, the more I have, for both are infinite!” A foolish lover, I have always thought her; but it turns out, wiser, far, than me.

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About Karen McLaughlin

Hi, I’m Karen, and welcome to my Cornbury blog. This blogging thing is a new adventure for me, but several of my friends have been urging me to keep one for awhile now. I’ll do my best. I hope you will be patient with me when I stumble, but mostly, I hope that this blog will help make this business of being trans a little less weird, maybe a little less scary. If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you, or someone you know, is dealing with the same issues that I have been. (Please note the past tense. I'm very proud of that.) I want to tell you that it’s going to be alright. You hear that? It’s going to be alright. I’m speaking from experience. So who am I to talk? Well, when I started all this, I was a pre-op trans woman in the middle of her RLE, her so-called “real life experience.” While I had lived (almost) full time for several years, in 2010 I finally decided to seek gender reassignment surgery. (Note: the accepted term for this among medical professionals is now gender confirmation surgery–an improvement, to my mind on all kinds of levels.) Whatever we call it, to qualify, one of the hoops that must be jumped is this RLE. That means living full time in female mode; no going back. Before I could apply for surgery, I was required to have lived as a woman for at least 12 months. The reasoning behind this is that by doing so, the applicant, me, in this case, would have a better idea what life would be like, should she decide to press forward. This meant finally coming out to my son and my elderly father, both of whom have been reluctantly supportive. I have been very blessed in this. Others have not been so lucky. Coming out is risky. Living full time is even riskier. A trans friend of mine once remarked, “Being out as trans means laying everything on the table. And you have no idea what you’re going to be allowed to keep.” You can literally lose everything: family, home, friends, colleagues, job, career, savings, pension, everything. I know people who have. But I have not, though I would be lying to say that this has been easy, or that there have not been strains, and deep, deep pain. Still, I have been blessed with an understanding, if not always totally supportive spouse, and with a family that has tried mightily to accept and come to terms with (in their eyes) the loss of a father and the emergence of this new person, Karen, who in her new hormonal adolescence, seems at times a stranger. (A nice one, though, I hope; one they can eventually come to love.) What I have discovered through all this, is that while the journey into Mordor is long and fraught with danger, it is filled with unexpected beauty and joy as well. Since coming out, (to everyone, family included,) I have been accepted, even loved, by people I never expected would be on my side, and in places I never expected (or thought) to go. In the past few months I have joined an all women’s Latin dance class, sung female tenor in a wonderful choir, learned basic silversmithing, (I make my own jewelry! How cool is that?), and surrounded myself with wonderful friends. I was supported by an amazing counsellor, (alas, recently retired), who connected me with a speech therapist who specializes in teaching feminine voice. (It has taken time, but it’s coming! I can hardly believe it!) And I have discovered that the future is not a road to be travelled, but a landscape to be constructed. The world I live in is one that I am building for myself, and you can do it, too. This one is a world filled with color, with love, and with joy, and for the first time in my life, I feel whole and totally alive. And the voice in my heart tells me, “This is soooo right! And about time, too!”

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