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Love at First Sight

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.

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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