This is Part One in a series written by women and mothers from all different walks of life. In this series I hope to reach women and mamas who might be feeling alone and lost. I hope you find encouragement from these courageous women who have open heartedly shared their experiences as a beacon of love for the rest of us wading the uncertain waters of motherhood. In this article Kassia shares her experience and thoughts about raising and supporting her child through transition.
Kassia takes it from here:
By Kassia Finn (@kassann)
Sex Educator, Licensed Massage Therapist, Bodyworker, CranioSacral Therapist, Massage Therapy Instructor
My earliest memories included wanting to be a mom. I knew I wanted to experience all the highs and lows of motherhood. I didn’t know what I wanted to DO when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to BE a mom. Because of this deep rooted desire I quickly got pregnant after getting married at 25. That pregnancy wasn’t easy, but it was so so loved. I loved every part of it. The kicks and wiggles, the stretching and growing. Even the sickness, the aches, the pains, the pokes and the pricks. I developed preeclampsia and was put on bed rest at 29 weeks. Weeks in bed at home turned into a long week on hospital bed rest waiting for those tiny lungs to be strong enough to work outside the womb. My sweet tiny 6.3 pound 35 week old baby was whisked away before I could have any snuggles. Not long after I was told they had called lifeflight to take my baby to the NICU. Fast forward 5 days to the day I got to finally hold my long wished for baby. They had just taken the vent tube out and handed this tiny fragile baby to me, winding alarm cords and IV’s out of the way. I swore then and there that I would do my damndest to make the rest of this baby’s childhood easier than the first 5 days of life had been. 5 days later we got to go home! It was the longest 10 days of my life. After that rocky start I thought we could do anything! And I was right.
When that sweet baby was about three I got another surprise. The baby I thought was female told me he was male. Bomb dropped. Thankfully I had enough early childhood education to know that gender sets in at about age three to four. I also knew this was a common time for kids to play around with gender. So I just rolled with it. And spent hours and hours researching gender in kids. The big take away from the hours online was that a non supportive home is almost a sure way to have a depressed kid who tries and likely succeeds at suicide before they turn 18. Easy. Be supportive and kids survives to adulthood. Ok. I can do that. (The stats are staggering. For more info visit The Trevor Project.)
I never forced any gender norms. Clothes were never a fight unless things were itchy. All dresses were itchy. So were tights. And shirts. And anything with ruffles. Hmmm. Interesting. Also same. I’m not an overly girly girl so this wasn’t a big deal. Sweats and superhero tee shirts it was. Maybe I have a ‘tom boy’ (a term I’ve come to hate as there are no positive terms for feminine boys).
Around the same time that every thing girly turned itchy this kid told me “when I grow up to have a penis...”. Clearly this kid doesn’t see themselves growing up to look like me, their mom. I did lots more learning. But the most powerful teacher has been my intuition. As soon as he said that I knew he was not the daughter I thought he had been. He socially transitioned at age 4 or so. Meaning he stopped wearing ‘girl style’ clothes and looked like a boy all day everyday. A few years later he chose a name and we did all the legal things needed for him to be on paper the kid we saw in person. Before he changed his name he was a quiet and anxious kid on the playground. Only wanted to play with me or his little sister. Never tried to make friends or play with other kids. After his hair was cut, name changed, and clothes always ‘boy style’ he was suddenly the most outgoing kid! Playing and making friends everywhere we went. Introducing himself to strangers using his new REAL name. It was literally an overnight change. It absolutely solidified that we were doing the right thing. Honoring who he is was what he needed to come out of his shell. What I assumed were typical kid tantrums were actually frustration because he wasn’t getting to be himself. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to be seen as someone you aren’t by everyone in your life. Once I honored his true self he felt heard and known. What a gift it is to be seen for who you truly are! There were still plenty of fits, but they made sense for the situation and weren’t nearly as frequent.
It was hard to put some of the baby pictures away, the Christmas ornaments that have his dead name (dead name refers to his birth name which is not nor was it ever truly his name), baptism keepsakes, first birthday dress and the like have all been safely stashed away. Not likely to ever see the light of day again. But they are there if he ever wants them. If he doesn’t that’s ok. I’m not stuck on his past. I love who he is becoming and loving him now means letting go of the past. I spent intentional time remembering vivid parts of his birth and babyhood and using his name and gender to help retrain my memories. He was never a girl. Even if we thought he was for a while. He never really was. His brain has always been his brain. Not hers. HIS. I’m not sure souls have gender, but if they do his is male. All the way. So in order to honor his whole being I must honor his gender from birth onward.
I have tried to always parent from the place of “do the least harm”. What can I do now that will do the least harm later. Setting them up to succeed. Yes, my kids have boundaries and consequences and expectations, but none of those around who they are. Just their behavior. I want to know what the motivation behind a behavior is before looking at the discipline needed. More often than not it totally changes how I approach the issue. Keeping my intuition in the conversation always. Asking myself what the longterm game is? What do I want them to remember from this? Making sure to slow my reaction to give time to ask these questions helps me not be punitive when a listening ear is really what they need. And an even more important person to take time to treat kindly is yourself. Slowing down and honoring the child inside is important. How would I talk to a child in this situation? When I’m being overly hard on myself for any reason (and as a woman/mother in this day and age that happens too often) I try to remember to speak to myself as kindly as I speak to a child. There can be a lot of repair done through parenting. I can be the parent I needed at their age. Be the adult I wish I had to talk to. I can not only do that for myself, but for my kids too. What would have helped me when I was beyond frustrated with x, y, or z? How would I want to be treated? I can rest easy knowing that I parented through my child’s transition the way I would have wanted to be parented. I know I did my very best for my child. That makes all the sleepless nights reading scary stats and stories worth it. That’s a really good feeling.