Friday, May 25, 2012

What's next for our girl?

With one year of high school remaining, we must decide from where DJ will graduate.  None of us wants to see her return to the school in our small town.    The nearest private school may suffice, but there is still a fear that if word got out about her past, that she will branded once again.  She won't be just a girl, she'll be the "girl who used to be a guy" or the "transgender girl".  Enough already.

We're considering a boarding school that's about 75 miles away and will allow her to come home on the weekends, but we feel committed to having her in a family environment, if at all possible.  Therefore, we are seriously considering having DJ live with her aunt, Apple, over in Europe.  It will mean we will not see her but a handful of times over the course of nearly a year, but more importantly, it will also mean a completely fresh start for our girl.

Bulldog and I talked to her about the choices we can consider and the Apple Plan is looking pretty exciting to her.  We are asking that she give all choices serious thought over this long weekend and choose two schools, so that we can start the balls rolling on Plan A(pple) and Plan B.

My heart is so divided-just thinking of her leaving makes me miss her already, but I know that to let her go will be another gift to help her toward her future as, simply, a young woman.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Transgender child makes the front page of a major newspaper

Dear Readers,

Because I am technologically challenged, I am having difficulty embedding a video recapping a story that the Washington Post, THE major newspaper in the Washington D.C. area, ran on the FRONT page on Sunday with the title below:

Transgender at Five

Click on the link and you will be directed to the narrative from an interview between the author of the article, Petula Dvorak,  and the mother of the young boy about whom the article was written.  Maybe this is the beginning of the turning of the tide.  Let's hope so....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two weeks later

We filmed DJ from the moment we left our house until she got back in the car to go home.  We also took still photos.  On our return home, DJ got to work stringing together the short video segments and the photos, adding music and graphics and showed it to us this afternoon.  It was moving and made me just boo-hoo all over the place-especially at the end where she tacked on a message to Bulldog and me.

Then Bean and Saint came over to see how our girl was doing. Saint gave DJ multiple kisses and brought her a "People" magazine and they both brought her a giant bouquet of flowers. After that, we sat down to a home-cooked meal of spaghetti and meatballs.  We finished the night laughing over "Mythbusters" and then DJ headed off to bed.

Tomorrow marks the first day of dilating four times a day.  She didn't seem nearly as concerned about it when she turned in tonight like she did just a couple of days ago.  It's amazing what a day or two will bring to a person's outlook.  It's amazing what a mere two weeks can do for a person's expectations for the rest of her life.

Home again, home again

It's good to be home.  DJ did great on the ride home thanks to the blow up donut pillow.

The night before we left, we had dinner out at a hip little waterfront restaurant where ducks were congregating.  She was in a great mood-glad to be out and about and ready to move on with her life.

Interestingly, however, she is a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of dilating four times a day.  She thinks it will be difficult to manage in spite of already being used to doing it twice a day.  I tried to explain to her that anything new seems daunting but with repetition and practice, it will be less so fairly quickly. She looked dubious.  Truthfully, I think her age works against her in this regard.  To young people, the prospect of a few months' inconvenience seems like "forever."

The next morning, she picked up her spirometer- a device that encourages deep breathing and measures one's progress.  Initially, she was able to make it to the 1500 mark, while only occasionally hitting the 2200 mark.  That morning, however, she hit the 2200 mark each time she inhaled.

"It's so easy to do this now-just last week I could hardly ever do it and now I can get it to 2200 every time, so easily."

Of course, she didn't get the parallel....

"It will be like this for the dilating, as well.  The more you do it, the less stressful it will be and you'll be able to do other things while you dilate.  It won't seem difficult at all before you know it."

OK-that's a bit misleading: it's not as if she can go for a walk, or play the piano, but she could conceivably  read, text, use the computer, while she waits for the 20 minutes to pass.  And sure enough, the next day she chatted on the phone with me while she waited the obligatory 20 minutes.

"See?  You're multi-tasking already,"  I told her.

She still has to keep an ace bandage wrapped around her chest so she doesn't want to shop for bathing suits yet.  And today, she was a bit blue which is to be expected, according to the surgeon.  DJ started back on her hormones yesterday, so some minor mood swings are to be expected.  Yet, "Beverly Hills Ninja" is certainly making her perk up, heaven help me.

The next big decision is thinking about how to finish up her last year of high school.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  For today, and maybe even this week, we'll just enjoy being home again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celebrating an awaited event

Well, the milestones keep stacking up for DJ.  As any woman who has given birth, or who has had any kind of surgery south of the border, knows,  that first BM is a dreaded event.  Most often, however, we get all worked up for nothing.

I walked back in our room after getting a cup of coffee and DJ had a big-eyed look on her face.

"What's up Peanut?"

"I don't know, my stomach feels pretty weird."

"Weird how?  Painful weird?"

"Like I've got to go to the bathroom, but I don't think I'll be able to,"  she replied apprehensively.

"Go on and give it a try," I replied.

A few minutes later she exited the bathroom looking simultaneously sheepish and relieved.

"There was no way you were going to have a hard time after the assault we've mounted against slow moving intestines between the juice, the fruit, the nuts, the raisins, and the stool softeners," I practically bragged.

DJ kind of giggled in relief.

She's actually remarkably spry this morning.  She has another "check-up" tomorrow morning and if all goes well, she will be allowed to have a meal at a restaurant.  That will require sitting up in a chair. I sure hope the air filled donut pillow arrives in time.  For anyone considering "bottom" surgery-I strongly recommend it.

DJ is supposed to be wearing button up shirts-and she owns ZERO.  I went to KMart to grab a few inexpensive shirts knowing she would never wear them again.  I tried and tried to find something she might actually approve of.  She turned up her nose at all of them. She just isn't a button-up shirt gal.  If her fashion snobbery is returning, I elect to take that as another good sign that she's on the road to full recovery.  Now, if only she were allowed to lay on her side she would be so happy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We both needed fixing

Mother's Day was a rough day.  DJ had some fairly significant swelling that, frankly, frightened me.  Ordinarily, I'm pretty calm when the $hit hits the fan and it's not as if I freaked out, but I know I gave off waves of concern and fear, which upset DJ.  Then, as I tried to distance myself from feeling terrible about frightening her, Bulldog decided to point out not just once, but twice, that I had frightened her. We called the doctor and at first she seemed to think we had not followed her instructions and she seemed to chastise me.  And when I returned to DJ, I swear she looked at me as if she had lost faith in me.

I was in a complete tailspin.

What happened was fixable.  The last day in the hospital, after capping DJ's catheter, I helped her to the restroom and the section of catheter, which was supposed to be taped to her abdomen, flopped down and she felt a slight tug.  The doctor thinks she may have had some slow bleeding into her tissue over the next day.  She saw DJ yesterday and was able to drain the blood from beneath the surface of the skin which made a world of difference to DJ's comfort and reduced the swelling dramatically.  She also removed the packing and the ace bandage to DJ's chest to look at her new breasts, which also are healing well.

The doctor and the physician's assistant that are treating DJ are great.  Before we saw them that morning, I had called the doctor three additional times on Mother's Day.  I felt embarrassed about interrupting her on her day off and she must have sensed my frazzled state because after the third call, as we were hanging up, I heard her say, "You're a good mom."  She fixed me, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pain, pain, go away, come again another day

DJ was a bit restless last night.  She kept feeling like she couldn't get a deep breath.  Admittedly, I'm scared to death of her having a blood clot from being so immobile, but in my gut, she was not presenting as a person with that issue.  I think it's gas.

Poor girl.  Her belly is fairly bloated from it, not that she cares about that.  Nor does she have any compunction about needing to pass the gas, with a proper "excuse me" and a giggle each time, but last night it was irritating her.  I think her innards are preparing to finally act normally again, if you know what I mean.  She was on a liquid diet from last Saturday until Wednesday.  She's been eating solid food for three days, but it's only been the last two days that she has eaten full meals.  My guess is that her intestines are a bit slow moving between being at rest for a number of days and having medications that encouraged them to not do a damn thing for that long, as well.  I have a feeling today is going to be the day that DJ is dreading.

She's pretty tender down there and does not relish sneezing or coughing or anything similar that will increase pressure in her nether regions.  I remember that feeling well-

The day after I gave birth to Goodwrench, I was quite sore.  He was in distress right before being born and so they "snipped" me pretty hurriedly (it totally sucked because the numbing meds had not kicked in at all-they were in a hurry) and stitched me up.  The next morning, I took a shower and as I rinsed my face, I inadvertently swallowed some water the wrong way and coughed forcefully just   one   time.  Then, I attempted to just sort of clear my throat so it went something like this:  COUGH, ahem ahem ahem.  The pressure in my nether regions did NOT feel good so it made me dread my first bowel movement.

I imagine DJ's discomfort can be multiplied considerably, nonetheless I shared with her that I, too, was on stool softeners and those things are aptly named, thank goodness.  No work or pressure was required to have the dreaded first bowel movement.

This morning, she feels as if her skin is tight and pinched where her stitches are.  It sucks, but that is a good sign that she's healing.  On the other hand though, it hurts like hell so I don't think she's interested in hearing about "good signs".  In fact, this is the worst we've seen her.  She hasn't had pain meds since she went to sleep last night over 8 hours ago and now they won't kick in nearly fast enough.  I wish there was something I could do, but it's a waiting game for the meds to kick in.  I don't think anything is wrong but it still makes me feel helpless watching her deal with it.  Yes, I knew it wouldn't be easy some days, but again, that doesn't prepare you for seeing your kid concentrating on getting through the next few minutes while she waits for her pain meds to start working.

It's been about 30 minutes and she's less edgy...I think they're working.  Hang in there kid.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Second stop on the journey

We are settled in at our next stop on this journey.  Unfortunately, between Bulldog having difficulty with the GPS and then the GPS sending him on the circuitous route, DJ ended up sitting in the car for nearly two hours for what should have been a 45 minute drive.  Her eyes were enormous which is her way of showing she is in pain.

They capped her catheter yesterday so now she can relieve herself when necessary through a shortened catheter.  The nurse was instructing me on the care of her incisions which consists primarily of observation at this point, and I must say that the work the surgeon has done is remarkable!!  Only 5 days after her surgery, she is also recognizably "female" south of the border, if you know what I mean.  I am amazed at what modern surgery can accomplish, when one is in the hands of an excellent surgeon, of course.

DJ's mood is a slight bit lower today because she is tired from being physically uncomfortable and dealing with pain.  She rates her pain at a 3 on a scale of 10, so while it is not terribly acute, it is a chronic, low level pain which can certainly wear a person down.  But she slept all night and ate well this morning.

We brought her out on the patio where there is a chaise lounge that reclines perfectly.  It's a beautiful day and she has her i-pod going.  The laptop is just too heavy across her middle right now but our neighbors from Canada, one of whom also is post-op, has a very cool contraption that elevates the laptop to viewing height without putting any pressure on the body.  It's pretty nifty and I wish we had one but DJ doesn't seem too worse for the wear for not having internet capability.

Bulldog scheduled a massage for me tomorrow for Mother's Day.  I am looking forward to it immensely.  I just wish DJ could experience the same physical relief.  But I have to be patient because this is going so much better than I thought it would be at this point in the game.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moving right along

DJ has made great progress today:  she walked around the unit today, ate solid food for the first time since last Friday night, and had her drains removed.

She is feeling a bit antsy today because her energy is returning, she's on very little pain medication and she is finding it increasingly difficult to be still, but she's hanging in there.  She's working her way through the "Harry Potter" movies but still can't do any drawing because the head of her bead is only raised to 15 degrees so she is still essentially flat on her back.

On removing the drains, the physician's assistant also removed some of the tape holding the dressings in place and it's remarkable how good she looks already with very little bruising. Tomorrow they will cap her urinary catheter so that the urine will collect in the urinary bladder like it should and then when she needs to relieve herself,  she will empty the catheter into the toilet.  This process is important to "retrain" the bladder to recognize when it is full.  Then the catheter is removed next week and DJ will have to learn to hover over public restroom toilet seats, if she hasn't already mastered that skill.

Maybe the intricacies and details of this kind are not interesting to my readers-if that is the case, please accept my apologies.  But I think there are some that might be curious about the process if they are considering it themselves.

What has been most bothersome to DJ is that the inside of her nose felt dry and uncomfortable today...that's pretty much been "it" for her complaints.  This is nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be thus far.  Yeah, easy for me to say, I know.  But I thought she would be having a harder time, physically.  Being young and healthy helps, I'm sure.  Not smoking is a MUST.  Not that DJ would be caught dead with a cigarette, but smoking is so hard on the healing process that DJ's surgeon reserves the right to perform nicotine tests to be sure her patients are compliant with this policy.

Tomorrow, in the late afternoon, we check out and head to the accommodations closer to the surgeon's office where DJ will check in twice more before going home.  The hospital staff has been great, but we're looking forward to a less hospital-like environment and DJ's looking forward to being able to be a  bit more upright.

Gay Marriage

DJ is napping so I am on a tirade about the current news:

Can we please stop arguing about the Gay Marriage issue?  Can politicians please stop calling this a "state's rights" issue?  Does anyone else remember another time when barring people from civil rights was called a "state's rights" issue?  Hello-the same argument was used to defend slavery, if memory serves.

The Constitution clearly states that States "may not abridge the rights and privileges" of its citizens.  Why does no one mention this?  Why?  Why? Why?

Having a job is a right, some say a privilege-gay people can't be denied that.  Voting is a right-they can't be denied that.  Owning property is a privilege, they can't be denied that.  HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT? (legally speaking, although it happens all the time.)

And please DO NOT play the religion card.  The "this country was founded by Christian men" argument is lame and full of holes and I caution you to do your homework:

James Madison fought for and was successful at making certain there was verbiage in the Constitution to separate Church and State and why?  Because even back then there were Christian groups who disagreed with each other on what was moral and immoral, on what met with Church teachings or not, on what constituted Christian ideals, or not.  The founders of this country left a CHRISTIAN country because of religious persecution for God's sake!! (no pun intended.) The last thing they wanted was another form of government that was controlled by any one person's, or any one party's, view of what was religiously acceptable.  This is why they separated Church and State and why it remains separate to this day, much to the chagrin of many on the very far right.

Let the churches decide who they will allow to marry in their religion but the states do not have a Constitutional basis for denying liberties or privilege to any of its citizens.  As far as the government is concerned, marriage is a contract between two consenting adults who wish to join their lives, both personal and economic.  This contract allows them to take part in the same rights and privileges that others can enjoy such as tax relief, rights to pass on property or to inherit property, rights to collect life insurance, and rights to own property together.  We allow it for straight people-not everyone is married in a church and this is why we have justices of the peace- for those who want the legal rights of marriage without the religious strings attached.  Why is it different for gay people?  There is a constitutional basis for them to share in the same rights as everyone else so why are we skirting the issue? Why will not someone publicly point this out?  Because our government is being held hostage by those who want to foist their religious views on the rest of us.  If you're active in your church, that is where your strongly held beliefs about marriage can be exercised-you can bar homosexuals from marrying in any number of churches.  I suggest you bring your strongly held beliefs there where you are "safe" from government intervention.

And no, my believing in gay rights is not foisting my religious views on those who don't agree with it.  If you believe that then you also believe that those who dislike African Americans are being "forced" to live with them or accept them, and that those who think women don't belong in the work world are having women's liberation foisted on them.  You can think what you want, you can own a business and bar women and black people from it, but don't expect to get one red cent from any form of government because you can't discriminate and get government funds.

So yes, you have the right to discriminate in your house, and in your business, as long as you don't expect the government in any form (otherwise known as the citizens of this country) to subsidize you in ANY way-no government sponsored loans for your business, no grants, etc.  So go ahead, keep your home as you like it-bar gay people from it, or women, or foreigners-your home is your castle and you don't have to share.  But this country is OUR country damn it all and you may get away with ripping people off from getting their fair share of rights and privileges for now, but you won't get your way forever.  Women will not leave the workforce, African Americans will not ride in the back of the bus, "foreigners" will not stop emigrating here, Gay people will not be shamed into silence.

But there are still plenty of countries in the world that will allow the religion to rule the country and I'm pretty sure they don't allow gays to marry either.  Yes, some of these places are so "pro-marriage" they'll allow one person to have multiple spouses.  Perhaps a person who feels strongly could emigrate there.  Saudi Arabia comes to mind, as does Iraq and Pakistan.  What's that?  You wouldn't want to live there because you would not be able to enjoy the freedoms you have here?  Oh, but it's ok to deny someone else THEIR freedoms?  Sounds like you need your own world-I think there's a religion out there that promises that too, perhaps you should look into it.  I'm pretty sure it's Christian as well.

Day 4 begins

Bulldog has been pulling the night shift with DJ.  I sleep during the night and relieve him during the day.  We usually spend a number of hours together with DJ and then he grabs sleep through the afternoon and returns in the evening.

I walked in this morning and DJ was awake and looking slightly exasperated.  She is tired of being on her back and is feeling fidgety this morning.  We all take that as a positive sign, but that might mean I'll have to be on my very best and patient behavior today.

A woman came by to see DJ yesterday. She had her surgery some 5 or 6 years ago.  She was able to share insight with DJ that I simply do not have. And she was so damn genuine and frank-I loved her.  She, like so many folks who are born in the wrong body, has lost many friends and members of her family in being true to herself.  It's gutwrenching to hear.  And she made DJ feel like a million bucks when she complimented her on how beautiful she is.

I believe today is DJ's last full day in the hospital.  She stood up twice yesterday and is supposed to walk two times today, as well.  If all goes well, then tomorrow she'll be discharged, and we'll head over to the accommodations that are closer to her surgeon's office where we will stay until her surgeon says she's ready to travel home.  

Bulldog's sister out west sent some beautiful flowers yesterday.  This woman is easily the most "hip" of all of Bulldog's siblings and he has seven of them. Don't get me wrong-Bulldog's family is fabulous and each of his siblings has his or her own wonderful quality, but this sister is particularly cool, and all of the clan knows it.  She is recovering from breast cancer and is scheduled for reconstructive surgery to get her new "rack" this summer.  She and DJ can swap notes on the experience.

And today is Goodwrench's birthday.  Yesterday when we spoke, he said he was looking forward to seeing DJ's "transformation" which I thought was particularly wonderful.  Romeo has been seemingly nonplussed assuming DJ will be just fine, and it turns out he was right (knock on wood).  More later after her first walk.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Emotional multi-tasking

I hope The Godfather does not mind my sharing this, but I think it's important.

He has been going through a similar process that Bulldog has experienced.  He called us a week before the surgery to plan to stay with us during DJ's convalescence and then again a few days before we left. During the second call he became quite tearful:

"I feel as if I'm losing someone," he tearfully explained.

I told him how Bulldog had gone through this same experience.  I think The Godfather was feeling guilty about this feeling when quite frankly, he shouldn't.  It is what it is.  Acceptance of one thing almost always means letting go of something else-it's a natural part of life.

I cannot possibly be a happily married woman unless I'm willing to let go of being a happily single woman.  It wasn't easy and I missed that way of life, but I wanted this other way of life more, and so I let go of the latter to have the former.  Maybe I am oversimplifying here, but perhaps it really is that simple.

We adapt to new circumstances all the time and we are able to do that because we learn to let go of the "former" aspects of our lives so we can embrace what is coming next.  We do it with our relationships with people who have passed on, with people who are no longer a good fit in our lives, and with people who are not exactly who we thought they were.  Missing other people does not mean we love those in front of us less.

Missing JD does not mean The Godfather doesn't absolutely adore DJ.  Adoring DJ doesn't mean that those of us who loved JD must stop remembering that person.  We are not "cheating" on DJ when we remember some of JD's antics.  JD, who was doing a remarkable job of being DJ's alter ego, was a great guy even if he wasn't totally "real" but there were aspects of JD's personality that are still an integral part of the person that is DJ.

It's so hard to explain how it happens, but it does.  We don't get to be surrounded by all the people we love during the entirety of our lives.  We all know this.  We have to let some of them go and it's painful.  Learning to love new people can feel disloyal, but it's not.  It's not like we get one bucket o' love to last us our whole lives-love multiplies like rabbits when we're not looking.

You're allowed to feel the loss-it's ok.  But don't let it stop you from loving this fine person that's standing right in front of you.  This is the 21st century-all of us know how to multitask. I almost forgot the most important part of what The Godfather said.  After saying he felt like he was losing someone, he added:

"But I want to support her."

THAT is how we emotionally multitask.

A plea to the parents of a transgender child

Dear Parents,

If your child, whether she or he is a minor or an adult, is considering sexual reassignment surgery, I strongly urge you to support your child.  Let me rephrase and be more accurate:  I implore you to support your child.

If your child has gone through the advised steps of working with professionals and has been living as the gender with which she identifies,  you do not need to fear that this surgery will be a "mistake" that cannot be undone.  And if your child is an adult, this is ultimately her decision for which you cannot be held responsible anyhow.

But if you are misguidedly thinking that this surgery is "elective" and that your child is "choosing" something that is not necessary, you are completely and totally misinformed.  ALL surgery, technically, is elective.  We choose surgery to save our health and our lives and your transgender child is no different.  Your child's emotional and psychological health and possibly his or her actual life may depend on this surgery.  Will you willingly withhold your love and support when your child needs it the most?

Can you possibly put out of your mind that your child's surgery involves removing something and instead focus on what is being restored?  Your child's peace of mind, greater ease and comfort in her or his own body, the ability to live as normally as possible as the gender your child actually is inside-don't you want these things for your child?

It's not so hard-just think of it as any typical surgery.  Leave the room when dressings are inspected, and come back again to help him or her sip water, to help keep your child comfortable, and to hold her hand, or his hand, when she needs to remember that she is not alone.  Are you willing to let your child stay in a hospital room with no one there to let her know she's loved?  Can you honestly sit back and say to yourself, "Well, she brought this on herself", knowing that your child will wake up in a strange room, alone?

There are people who have gone through this process alone.  They have managed to overcome adversity without the support of their loved ones but if you asked them, I am sure they would tell you they wished for something different.

Being a parent has always been and will always be about giving.  It is often a thankless job-or so it seems on the surface.  But the peace of mind I am GETTING by being here with my child as she changes her body to match her identity is something I never counted on.  It was always about giving my daughter support, but the feeling of "rightness" is so pervasive that I feel like I am benefitting as well.

Most organized religions tell us we are to serve each other and that is doubly so when it comes to our children.  "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me" is how one infamous Jewish carpenter put it.  If you cannot put aside your fear of "sin" and "immorality" or your fear of loss, then support your child for that reason alone-because we were instructed to do so.

This gesture, if you can make it for the sake of your child, is its own leap of faith. Take your child's hand, close your eyes and for the sake of your child, please, just do it-leap madly and wildly.  I promise you will both land safely on the other side, together.  After that, you'll figure out the rest of your relationship together, one day at a time.

Dawning of day 3

DJ has a bit of a loose cough this morning which Bulldog and I found a bit disconcerting.  Breathing deeply on that spirometer is hugely important. While a certain amount of mucous and loose coughing is to be expected, especially after being intubated, it's also a breeding ground for bacteria, particularly for those who are not able or allowed to move or sit upright.

Her fever is down, thankfully.  The physician's assistant just came by and said DJ's incisions look great AND (drum roll please) DJ will actually be allowed to stand up today!!!  She also is allowed to do some soft talking but is to avoid whispering which is apparently tougher on the vocal chords.

DJ would be thrilled to know that I am sharing another milestone for her:  she has passed gas.  HURRAY!! Why is this important?  Because it means her bowels are remembering how to work again after being on a liquid diet and being under the influence of narcotics for days.

She is an exceedingly patient patient.  Very little seems to annoy her and she is not at all anxious, which makes much of this process easier for both Bulldog and me.  I don't think either of us would be anywhere near as cooperative patients were we to be in her shoes.  We're thankful to have the resources of time and savings and understanding bosses to be able to fully participate in this process with her.  And without the loving support of family, friends and cyber friends, I'm not sure where we'd be....Thanks folks.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 2 is done

DJ was running a fever of 102 later this afternoon.  It's back down to normal with the help of Tylenol.  Her pain is now being managed with Vicodin which is a step down from the morphine she was on yesterday.

Disc Jockey informed DJ of an audio recording meant for relaxation purposes before and after surgery.  DJ is all about finding homeopathic methods to deal with health issues and she has found it enormously helpful. After watching Harry Potter she has now settled down with her relaxation tape and will likely sleep soon.

We continue to record her throughout the day.  Earlier today, she motioned to me to pick up the camera and she wrote this on the dry erase board:

I used to hate my body.  Now I am at peace with it.

Every time I repeat that phrase in my head, I feel more at peace myself. 

Bulldog has left the hospital long enough to get a shower before he pulls the night shift with her.  Neither of us wants to leave her alone yet since she still can't talk and she sometimes loses track of the nurse call button.  While the head of her bed was raised 15 degrees today, she still needs helps with drinking fluids and using the spirometer-the device meant to encourage deep breathing and blunt the likelihood of getting pneumonia.

I think she's allowed to start talking tomorrow and I believe she stands tomorrow too, but no walking.  We want to give that new vagina a chance to stay where it's supposed to stay, after all!

Thanks for the support.  We love hearing from you.

Why I married Bulldog

Bulldog adopted the three children I brought from my first marriage.  From the very first, he loved them without reservation.  He is just that kind of man.

Yet, I was at the edges of child-bearing years and when we didn't conceive the old fashioned way within a year of our marriage, I asked him if he wanted to consider going high tech to have a baby together.  I didn't want him to feel as if he had missed out on some aspects of parenting: the pregnancy, the birth, the diapers, cutting teeth, sleepless nights, and the cute chubby faces that called for "dada" and "mama."

Bulldog came into our lives when Goodwrench was 9, Romeo was 7 and DJ, whom we knew then as JD, was 3.  For years, the kids called Bulldog by his given name and while they referred to him in the third person as their Dad, they did not call him Dad to his face, or to me. That is until DJ came out and she decided that if we could make the switch to calling her DJ, she could make the switch to calling Bulldog "Dad" and her brothers have followed suit, for the most part.

Bulldog never pushed them in this respect, but I know being called "Dad" was something he yearned for, nonetheless.  And it took years of marriage and being a family before he didn't feel like an outsider in the family, a thought which pains me to this day.

Now, we are both beyond wanting or needing an infant that we made together.  We have been building this family for ten years and are completely immersed in it.  I will always wonder what it might have been like to go through the experience of having a baby together with him, but thanks to his perspective, that yearning has lessened considerably in its intensity.

Bulldog and I are sitting on the opposite sides of DJ's hospital bed, facing her in profile, and each other directly.  DJ is snoozing.  Bulldog said this to me just now:

You know how you used to wonder if I was missing out on having a baby?  I was thinking about this last night and I feel like I know what's it like to have a baby now.  I'm here at the hospital and waiting and I'm thinking about bringing her home and taking care of her.  (He continued, with tears in his eyes) I feel like I know what it's like to have a baby.

This is why I married Bulldog.

Judging a book by its cover

Found this in my draft file -I wrote it the day after DJ's gender confirmation surgery but forgot to publish it…we had a lot going on, needless to say. Might be worth a look see for those persons living in the USA and looking for a good surgeon.  I can share details privately if you're interested.  If so, simply comment in the box below and include an email address and we can correspond.

The Author

DJ's surgery took place in a SMALL community hospital in the northeastern United States.  Bulldog and I are hospital snobs, in a way.  Both of our professional lives have encompassed being familiar with the capabilities of hospitals, or the BIG DOGS of hospitals, the Level 1 Trauma Centers.

I used to fly on an air medical helicopter where it was our "norm" to pick up patients from small community hospitals and transport them to the fancy-pants trauma centers that had advanced services 24/7 to include surgeons, CT scan and MCI capability around the clock.  Part of the air medical transport culture is to "look down" on the small community hospitals.  After all, if they were "all that" they wouldn't need larger hospitals with their own helicopters to swoop in and take the patients from the small town hospital to the big- time hospital.

I have been schooled today.  One should never judge: a book by its cover, people on first impressions, or, apparently, hospitals based on their locale and appearance.

To get to this hospital, one travels past the outskirts of a major city and then heads into relative suburbia/small town-ness.  This small town has very few hotels, a Wal-Mart (of course) a few diners and some fast food establishments like Dunkin' Donuts and McDonalds.  On pulling into the hospital parking lot the morning of the surgery, I noted that the parking lot was practically deserted with no traffic coming into or leaving the hospital.  The hospital appeared to have been built in the 1950s or 1960s both on the outside and the inside.  The waiting room did not have Wi-fi and I'm pretty sure the chairs were as old as I am because the springs were shot, much like my own springs.

Do not be fooled by impressions:  the surgery that takes place here is cutting edge and the staff has been wonderful.  DJ's surgeon was a surgeon for NASA and is increasingly well known in the USA, if not the world, for her surgical finesse, yet she practices her craft (I would call it "art" actually) in this nondescript hospital.  What a perfect way to fly under the radar, I've decided.  Here, we get the best of both worlds:  the best and most progressive surgical techniques coupled with one of the best attributes of a small town- genuine caring and compassion.

The monitoring and patient care equipment is all current, it's just the facade of the place that is faded.  Has my life with my daughter taught me nothing about judging someone or something by its appearance?

One plucky girl

It's hours until dawn, and I cannot sleep.  Not because anything is wrong, I am simply wide awake.  I woke minutes before DJ's medication pump went off because it needed to be changed out, which is likely a good thing since waking to an alarm might have made me jumpy.  When the medication alarm went off, it did wake DJ and she merely looked at me, as if to say, "What is that?"  She then gave me one of her many "thumbs up" signs to let me know she was ok.

DJ had a tracheal shave and is under doctor's orders that she may not speak for two days.  She also had breast augmentation and neovaginoplasty.  She is to lie flat on her back for the next couple of days, as well.  One of her first communications to us, after her initial non-verbal "thumbs up" was to write a note that said,

"Lying on my back sucks."

The top of her chest and her groin are covered in ice packs, but the room is 77 degrees F, so she is actually quite comfortable.  Her surgeon also directed that she is to wear these cuffs around her lower legs that fill with air periodically to keep the circulation flowing well to her lower extremities. Being immobile for a number of days can lead to deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot, in the lower legs.  DJ reports that they are "comfy".

Her actual first communication was to give me a hand signal for me to videotape her on my first entering her hospital room.  She wants to record this journey, as do I, but I am feeling like the worst kind of paparazzi when filming in the lobby, as she's having blood drawn, in pre-op, where almost no one but her is actually excited to go under the knife and again as she is lying with icepacks covering her chest and groin.

Bulldog was going to pull the first night shift with DJ until he fell asleep with his headset on and didn't hear or see DJ's attempt at communicating.  He and I were each snoozing in a reclining chair in her room and my "mommy radar" woke me to see her hand waving to get our attention.  Bulldog was clueless and I had to keep my disapproval in check especially when it happened again when his back was turned.

"But I didn't see her because my back was turned," was his reply when I explained why I would stay the first night with her.

"You gotta have eyes in the back of your head then, honey."

I'm going to be sexist here:  mom's are more hyper aware.  You know how when a woman will hesitate for a moment before picking up something hugely heavy and in that moment, her husband will brusquely push past and take care of it for her?  This is the wifely equivalent of that scenario.  We've got ESP and 20/20 vision in the eyes in the backs of our heads.

It took a short while to get DJ's pain at something akin to "somewhat comfortable" but that's to be expected and she was never in agony, thank goodness.  Her surgeon came by again last night before heading home-this was after a 14 hour day, which goes to show what kind of doctor and person she is.

Everyone is in pretty good spirits:  Bulldog was making more of his goofball jokes, and DJ wrote another note to me, "make him stop" which she held out with a smirk.  But we'll see how today goes-on the one hand, I'm sure she'll feel even better, which makes me think she'll be a bit frustrated at having to be on her back for another 24 hours.  She'll likely get over it quickly.  That DJ is one plucky girl.

Monday, May 7, 2012

In recovery

DJ came through the surgery like a champ! We will see her within the hour and give a better update later. Thanks for the good wishes and prayers (a.k.a. LOVE) and I will be in touch later today with more info.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Merry Christmas

DJ is such a good sport.  She has been drinking her meals now for two days. Today has been nothing but clear liquids and in recent hours, a drink meant to stimulate her innards so that they expel all their contents very soon.

"I feel some rumbling going on," she said, with a self-conscious giggle.

We reviewed the changes that will be forthcoming and how that will change how she cares for herself.  She's a big girl-she's got this.

We've been doing nothing but watching movies and waiting for the laxatives to do their thing for a couple of hours now.  It's kind of nice to have nothing better to do (although I did just finish up a few hours of work).

DJ says she's a little nervous but not scared.  It's certainly normal to feel scared, but that doesn't mean I WANT her to feel scared, and I'm glad she doesn't, at this point.

"This is like waiting for Christmas", DJ reported to Flying Pig this morning.

"Well, then, Merry Christmas!!", Flying Pig replied.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

No more close calls please

Romeo and Juliet were on their way to our place this afternoon when they very nearly lost the entire front left wheel of the car.  Hopefully, that will be it for any pre-surgery mishaps because both of them were extremely lucky they were not hurt;  they were traveling on a highway at 55 mph when they heard a sound of metal wrenching and Romeo nearly lost control of the car.  He pulled off the highway and found the wheel turned forty five degrees away from the body of the car.  It seems the mechanics who worked on the brakes last month did not replace ANY of the lugnuts-I think the tow and subsequent repair will be on the house.

Since Juliet's parents are very generous and supportive people, they are picking the two of them up and loaning them their car so the two of them can make it here to see DJ before we leave.

DJ started the morning with a relaxing facial-too bad Bulldog and I can't get one too because we need some relaxation!!  We both are wound up pretty tight today making sure everything is taken care of here at home.

Goodwrench and Gellar were here last night to see DJ and all us girls got pedicures.  DJ is not supposed to have nail polish on her fingers so as not to interfere with monitoring her blood oxygen level during surgery, but her toes are not off limits for grooming.  Pampering is the name of the game whenever possible this week.

I started to get a little "strange" earlier today with worrying about things that are out of my control and Bulldog set me straight;  truthfully, I am a bit anxious about the reality of the possible dangers of surgery so I am trying NOT to dwell on that because I can feel myself starting to crack at the seams when I do.

Mimi and Bean, as well as Bean's spouse, who we will call Saint, as she has lived with and loved Bean for over a decade, were here last night, as was Barbie and Sister Chromatid, and other neighbors and friends, to wish DJ well and to help her celebrate her birthday.  She will be saving her gift cards for post-surgery shopping, about which she is excited, to say the least.  A long-awaited bikini is at the top of her list.

We're almost there....

Friday, May 4, 2012

Birthday celebration for our girl

DJ is currently working on her last tutoring lesson, here at home, before we leave, very soon, for her gender confirmation surgery.  She finished her research paper and is presently doing some kind of word play/association with her tutor, a local schoolteacher who works specifically with kids like DJ who have medical issues that keep them home.  We will call this fabulous woman Dynamo because she has that kind of personality.  She has become quite important to DJ this past year, and to us, as well.

I finished up everything I can possibly finish up at work.  Yet, I still feel like I've forgotten something, in spite of countless lists.

Bulldog will be home shortly as he ties up loose ends at work, as well.  We have a notary public coming over this afternoon so we can finish our refinance on our home mortgage before we leave.  Talk about coming in  under the wire....

We will celebrate DJ's 17th birthday today.  Per the birthday girl's request, in lieu of cake, we will be having birthday trifle.  She just isn't ready for cake yet, which is perfectly fine.  We'll have some family and friends over tonight for a wicked game of Pictionary and Bulldog, DJ and I will finally be able to relax in the last days at home before we start our journey, both on the road, and figuratively, toward DJ's future.

Then, for a delayed birthday present, when she's all healed up, we will treat her to a session with a wonderful local photographer to have her portrait, complete with curvier figure, taken.  Happy Birthday Young Woman :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Legacy keepers

We were skyping with Apple and her husband and children the other day.  There is nothing cuter in the whole world than listening to children from the UK talking, especially with the dialect they have where consonants are enunciated crisply.

Anyway,  Apple recounted an interesting story from when DJ was very little.  Back then, of course, we knew her as JD.  JD's dad and I had been separated for six weeks when he committed suicide.  Of course, the entire thing was awful.  But Apple explained that she was talking with JD and asked "him" something to the effect of where JD thought his dad was.  JD answered, in true 3 year verbiage,

"He's with Godzilla;  he'll be ok."

Apple went on to explain how she has revisited that memory countless times and realized that that child's reaction was so utterly female.  That she remembers looking in the face of that child and seeing what she now realizes is that inherent female quality of acceptance and resilience that even young girls will manifest.

And I know what she is talking about.  It's just something I know as the mother of my children, somehow.  Now, I don't ordinarily believe in assigning traits by gender, unless done cautiously and judiciously.  But we all know that there are different energies each gender radiates, regardless of their exterior or interior plumbing.  We can't define it, but we feel it from each other.

Goodwrench and Romeo were little boys who cried occasionally, as all children will.  Goodwrench was a screamer, and Romeo was a quiet crier.  But when DJ cried, there was something so.....soulful about it.  DJ didn't cry for the same reasons Goodwrench or Romeo did.  They "tended" to cry over frustration or anger, or fear.  DJ cried over sadness or disappointment.  I don't know what I'm trying to say....but I knew  she was different from her brothers and I never thought "different/bad" just "different/good" and for as long as any of us can remember, everyone, Bulldog included, said JD was my "favorite".

I love all my children the same, but DJ (formerly known as JD) and I were kindred spirits.  I just didn't know why.  I had so many moments with DJ that were similar in nature to what Apple described that I don't remember having with DJ's brothers.  The moments I shared with them were equally as wonderful, but decidedly different.  For instance, they both wanted to marry me.  (When Goodwrench was about 3, he performed a little wedding ceremony for he and I. Romeo argued with his dad that I was "his".) DJ never did.

I still remember my 8 months pregnant self, weeping on finding out that the sonogram revealed the parts of a "boy."  I was so SURE she was a girl.  I truly believed that God didn't think I was fit to raise a girl.  (I was young and still brainwashed....)  I yearned for a daughter-truly.  But I loved all my children regardless of their parts, so I put the yearning aside and reveled in the three kids I had.

I still can't believe how lucky I am to have a daughter-and not just any daughter.  I'm so lucky that DJ is  my daughter.  What she has done for this family, how she has changed it for the better, just by being her authentic self, cannot be adequately explained, but I'll try.

Both Bulldog and Goodwrench are decidedly more tender around her and perhaps because of her.  Romeo continues to pal around with her, when they are together, the way he always has which is equally as wonderful.  I cannot even begin to describe how she has changed me.  Read the book "The Red Tent" and hear how Dinah describes her mother and the nature of their bond and it will describe my feelings more accurately.

In this world, where male conquest is what is recorded in the history books, female legacy is left to the keeping of the daughters.  I see my future through DJ-does that make sense?