I don’t just “believe” in love at first sight. I know it exists. And I know it lasts, too. I remember the doctor handing me our daughter moments after she was born. “It’s a girl,” she said. I’m not proud of this, but I’ll confess to it, anyway. There was a momentary flicker of disappointment, but it lasted only a moment…not even a second. I know because it takes about a second to say “one thousand.” The flicker didn’t last that long. I remember feeling the warmth of her body in my arms and realizing that this just felt so right. I remember looking down at her face, her lips, (Heart-shaped!) her eyelashes, (They curled!) and at her fingers, perfect even to the tiny fingernails. Who could imagine falling in love with fingernails? But I did. And it took less than a second.
I wasn’t prepared for the sensation of falling in love with a child, this child, my child. I felt as if my stomach had opened up, and a river of love gushed forth. It was an actual physical sensation, and it took my breath away. It was, and remains, one of the most astonishing and amazing moments of my life.
What does all this have to do with being trans? I’m not sure, but my wife tells me the nurses in maternity remarked that I was “the most smitten father” they’d ever seen. I wonder if my reaction was different from that of other fathers. Not to say that other fathers didn’t love their babies. Clearly they did, and do. But apparently my reaction was so obviously different that the nurses…more than one…noticed and remarked on it.
More than anything, I wanted to hold her in my arms. I wanted to look at the wonder of her face. I wanted to feel her fingers curl around mine. I’m sure all this is normal, but for me, the desire was so intense, it was overwhelming.
Later on, I remember taking her outside to look up at the stars. I did that often. It seemed important. Her birth filled me with an overwhelming sense of my own mortality…and hers. So precious a life…and so fragile. (She had to see the stars tonight. We might not be here to see them tomorrow.) At night, I would go into her room when she lay asleep and simply watch. (Yes, she is breathing. All is well.) Our lives seemed almost as one. It felt like her body was a part of mine. More than once, I can recall standing under a dark blue evening sky, looking up with her at the glowing heavens, and telling myself over and over again, as if I needed convincing, (actually, I did,) “Her body is not your body, and her life is not yours. She is close to you now, but she has a life and a destiny entirely her own.”
When it became apparent that her mother couldn’t breast feed her…she tried, believe me…I was the one who got up at the first cry in the night. Her mother could sleep through the crying. I could not. I couldn’t stand to hear her in distress. I was the one who heated the formula. I was the one who fed her, burped her, changed her, and tucked her back into bed. The worst were the months of colic we went through. She would start to eat, then the pain would hit. She would draw up her tiny legs, arch her back and scream, sometimes for hours, as I rocked her in the darkness. (We must have put a thousand miles on that rocking chair, together.) I remember wishing I could breast feed her. I knew that the breast milk would be better for her than the formula. I knew it wouldn’t have caused her pain. I felt (unfairly) that I could be a better mother to her than her own, if only I could unbutton, hold her to my breast and feed and comfort her.
It seems incredible, looking back, that I didn’t recognize at the time that I was transsexual. In fact, I was convinced I was “something else.” Just what that “something else” might have been, I didn’t know, but I’d been told that “real” transsexuals knew who they were in early childhood. Well, my childhood was pretty normal. And all through it, I was determinedly male. It wasn’t until I was around 11 or 12 that the wheels started falling off the bus. I’d never heard of late onset transexuality. I didn’t recognize the signs.
But I did recognize that I felt something more than a father’s love, though not what that fact might mean: a mother’s love, that I did know. It was absolute…love at first sight.