Strong Lungs and a Mighty Heart
It’s not every day someone can say they gave birth to one of their heroes. But I did, 15 years ago today.
On November 13, 2002, I became a mom for the second time.
The labour was long – not as long as my first by nearly a day, but long enough that I still wince when I remember those 27 hours, half of them augmented by contraction-inducing medicine and none of them dulled by an epidural, so that I could still move around because the baby wasn’t budging. (I don’t necessarily recommend my birth plan.)
We had been trying for five years to have a second baby. Doctors, specialists, a diagnosis of PCOS, tears, frustration, nearly giving up. We had had a couple of heartbreaking losses in those years, when I had managed to get pregnant at all. I honestly never thought we’d see this moment again. To be pregnant this time, to carry, to birth, was miraculous in a way I had never fully realized. I both appreciated and feared it in a way I hadn’t with our first. I now knew what could go wrong.
I was exhausted by the time they took the baby out by c-section. The cord was wrapped tightly around its torso in what seemed like a reluctance to budge from the warmth of my womb (a sign of things to come; just replace “womb” with “bed” and that is the following 15 years. I was screaming that day and sometimes I still am.)
When this miraculous 10-pound infant finally came into the world, with cheeks for days and blue eyes as striking as a cold winter sky, the doctors looked between the legs and said, “Congratulations! It’s a boy!”
They were wrong, of course. We know that now. But that’s okay – we all were. How could we have known? Every person in her life made an assumption of gender until the day she could tell us we were mistaken. She did just that, at eleven years old, and none of us have looked back since.
That is how my daughter, Alexis, made her way into the world. With a cry for air followed by a cry for help a few years later. She has both strong lungs and a mighty heart. She was born and then, in a way, reborn, shedding an ill-fitting identity to become a better self. A new name, new pronouns, and a new light in her sky blue eyes we had never seen before. She has moved mountains to be who she is, and has guided many of us through the pass she created so we could become our better selves, too.
And today is that mighty girl’s birthday, which has me reminiscing about all she’s done (and not done, like clean her room this week.)
How do I properly thank the kid who let me be a parent to the person she was meant to be?
How do I fully acknowledge the significance of her courage, and how it created space for her other mom to come out and transition, too?
How do I state the impact she’s had on me as a parent, a partner, and a once-closeted-but-yay-I-totally-don’t-have-to-do-that-anymore-because-hey-it-turns-out-I-have-a-wife lesbian?
I don’t know. I’m a writer, and I just don’t know. I tried to come up with some good birthday words to put in a card, but nothing is descriptive enough – nor strong enough – for that.
So instead, she got a hug, some gifts, and a cake.
Alexis, you have changed my world in so many ways: in the way I parent, the way I live, and the way I love. You gave me a whole new life, and all I gave you was a hoodie with thumb holes and some earbuds you can put on to ignore me trying to wake you up in the morning. (Do other people nag their heroes? Asking for a friend.)
The further we go down this path, the bigger your smile gets and the bigger my heart gets. And every so often, I still look over at you and think, “Wow. I have a daughter. Who knew?”
You knew. And now we know. Thanks for keeping us in the loop.
Happy 15th birthday, sweetheart. We love you.
And because putting earbuds on doesn’t cancel out my words on a screen, don’t forget to clean your room tomorrow.