First Son

Many of you know that I would go to the ends of the earth for my kids. If you’ve been following Call Him Hunter, you also know that my youngest is transgender. What you don’t know is that Hunter is not my first son.

Twenty-baby handthree years ago (and a few months), in April of 1994, I gave birth to my first child. The birth was unexpected. I was only 29 weeks along and had only been to one childbirth class. It took a long time to get pregnant and we felt it was nothing short of a miracle when I finally conceived. So, when I woke up in the middle of the night cramping and bleeding, I knew something was very wrong.

We raced to the hospital in the dark of night, me shivering, my husband speeding on the empty road. Of course, we had called the doctor, who called the hospital. They were waiting for us.

For some reason, it took several hours to determine what was happening to me. When my doctor arrived, he grabbed one end of the bed and said, “we’re having a baby.” To say I was frightened would be an understatement. This baby was not ready for life outside the womb. And we were not ready for a baby – yet.

Our preemie weighed in at 1 lb, 8 oz – not much bigger than a loaf of bread. He was on life support and it would be days before I could hold him. This was the beginning of our journey; the beginning of learning what it meant to fight for my child. I didn’t know how fierce I could be or how much strength I had. The next seven months tested me more than anything before. Perhaps some other time I will share the details. The heart wrenching story of fighting to bring my son home; the battle to believe he would be ok; the anger and questioning – “why me.”

For now, what I will tell you is that my beautiful, most wanted, endlessly loved, first son, was a fighter. His little body with underdeveloped lungs and the less than perfect technology were not a match for what he needed to sustain life.

Twenty-three years ago today, we said good-bye to our first born, our first son, our baby boy. Twenty-three years ago I didn’t know if I would ever have another child, let alone the opportunity to parent a son.

For me, now, there is some interesting irony that our youngest, assigned female at birth (AFAB), would come out as a transgender male…that I would once again, be a parent to a son. I know there are many out there who mourn the loss of the child whom you knew pre-transition. I never felt that way. I didn’t or couldn’t equate my son’s transition from female to male (FtM) as the loss of a child. I knew that loss; nothing compares.

When I first heard the words, “I’d rather have a live son than a dead daughter,” I grabbed onto them and held them close. I knew the statistics were grim. Many trans youth were attempting suicide. If I had anything to do with it, my child would be supported, accepted and loved; I was going to do my part to ensure his safety and place in the world.

To all those parents who are experiencing a sense of loss once your child comes out, I hope you can find it in your heart to pass through those emotions swiftly and with minimal pain. Embrace this amazing human being you are raising. They are brave and unique and have much to offer the world.

I would love to hear from those of you who successfully moved past the sadness as your child has transitioned. What can you offer to others?


For some resources on regarding having a transgender child, visit standwithtrans.org.

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Fighting for my child’s life … every day!

transgender allyI am continually left speechless by the situations I encounter on a regular basis. As a parent, I will never understand or identify with other parents who are able to turn away from their own children.

Doesn’t being a parent mean that you will love, support and nurture from conception until? Isn’t the very definition of parent synonymous with advocacy and guidance?

More than 20 years ago I gave birth to my first child at 29 weeks. Weighing in at a mere pound and a half, my sweet, precious angel was a fighter. From his first breath to his last, he fought to be here. I, as his mother, fought for his life; as his advocate, I fought every minute of every day. He needed me. How else would he get the medical intervention that he needed if I didn’t speak up?

There is section of Jewish teachings, called “Pirkei Avot.” This is loosely translated as “ethics of the fathers.” One of the best known questions posed by Rabbinical leader Hillel, is, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?” The last sentence should logically read who am I? But as Professor Louis Kaplan taught: “If you are only for yourself, you cease to be a real human being, and you become no longer a who, but a what.”

This is very powerful. As human beings, we should always be looking out for others. As parents, we have an obligation to look out for our children. What are we, if we cannot practice this basic tenet?

Regardless of what you believe, whether you are motivated by faith, guided by some spiritual beliefs or unsure of where religious teachings fit within your life, what sets us apart as humans is the ability to feel compassion and empathy.

What kind of parent turns away from their child? What kind of parent doesn’t fight with every fiber of their being to protect their child? What kind of parent closes the door on the most privileged relationship afforded by god?

I am angry. I am sad. I am shocked. I just don’t get it.

Why are transgender children left with no one to tuck them in? Why are they homeless looking for a roof over their head? Why are they killing themselves? Last week, three separate news stories reported the suicides of transgender teenagers. BABIES.

If you are reading this, please think about how you can be an ally to a transgender teen.

The trans* kids in your community need us. They need to know that people out there love them and accept them for who they are. They need to feel validated as people, as human beings. Isn’t that what we all need?

I am fighting for my son every minute of every day because I cannot imagine not loving him enough to want to be his advocate. So, I do what I do for all the Hunters out there.

Won’t you join me?

Beyond Grateful

gratitudeAs we wind down the year, many of us take the time to reflect, take stock and in general, look in the rearview mirror. It is so easy to let all of the daily crap beat us down. Some days I don’t even realize that I am not standing up straight; it’s not until I stop and look in the mirror that I notice the hunched shoulders and defeated appearance. I have to remind myself to STAND UP STRAIGHT. Isn’t that what our mothers always told us?

I had no idea that life could be so complicated. I have to admit that there are some days when the thought of putting dinner on the table is just too much to navigate. Those are the times I am relieved that my son is not much of an eater. I could give him a bowl of cereal and a scrambled egg for dinner and he would be just fine. Of course most days I am stressing over the fact that he is too skinny. Our daily routine includes the question, “Did you eat (lunch) today?”

I worry about my business. I worry about paying our bills. I worry about everyone’s well-being. I worry about Hunter’s future. I worry about his school work. I worry about his mental health. I worry about my daughter on a big college campus without a support network. I worry about my dog getting loose and dashing in front of a car. I worry about my husband’s night vision while driving. I worry about solving a client’s marketing challenge. I worry about the fact that I am not exercising. I worry about the extra pounds I’ve managed to accumulate.

STOP IT.

We all have worries. I am not special, by any means.

What I can tell you, however, is that I am beyond grateful. I have a hard-working, loyal husband who is home with us every night and is here every morning when I wake up. I have a smart, funny, beautiful daughter who lights up my life whenever I am with her. My son is kind and caring and brave. He knows who he is and is learning how to go after what he wants. We have a dog that snuggles and plays and provides endless entertainment and love.

It’s been a year since we’ve been asked by our son to “call him Hunter…” A year of finding doctors and therapists and resources. A year of learning and growth and setbacks. We’ve taken baby steps forward. We’ve struggled with the outcomes of poor choices.

Through it all, we’ve stuck together as a family. We survived a tough year. I am looking ahead but not without appreciating where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. I am grateful.