About two years after we had our first child, I became pregnant for a second time. I lost that baby. After a devastating year-long battle with infertility, I became pregnant for a third time (with Eli). I was elated and overjoyed, my nausea and fatigue no match for the amount of gratitude I felt for this life growing inside of me.
Four months later, we received word that my husband would require open heart surgery, a cardiac bypass graft to repair a complete blockage of his left aorta descending, or as its more commonly known, the widow maker.
As the surgery date loomed, I feared the future. I feared being left alone to raise our two children alone. I feared that the stress I was under would hurt my baby. But despite my fear, the surgery date arrived. As I felt my baby tumble and hiccup and kick, my husband had his chest sawed open, was hooked up to a machine that pumped blood through his veins and was attached to a venthilator that pushed air through his lungs.
His recovery was neither smooth nor speedy. But recover he did.
During this time, a dear friend of mine also learned she was pregnant. Together our tummies grew. We shared maternity clothes. We planned for playdates. The future was bright.
And then Eli arrived, perfect in every way. Healthy. Chubby. Alert. He slept, he ate, he snuggled. I fell desperately in love.
A couple of months later, we celebrated as my friend birthed her baby boy. Tragically, he was born with an unforeseen brain hemorrhage. He was brought home on hospice and died almost a month later in his mother’s arms.
I spent many nights during his time at home by my friend’s side, holding my friend, holding her dying baby. And then I’d come home and hold my healthy baby. I’d cry, my teardrops falling into his hair, until I was breathless, wondering why her? How did I get to keep my baby, but she didn’t get to keep hers?
What’s the point of all these sad stories? It’s simple.
After being in such close proximity to tragedy, I now understand that having a beautiful, healthy child (and a wonderful, healthy husband) isn’t an absolute. If the winds of chance had blown a different direction, that could’ve been me burying my baby. Or my husband. I lose my breath thinking about how easily that could’ve been me.
So now, many years later, I find myself raising a transgender child. He has the physical make up of a boy, but the emotional make up of a girl. He smiles all the time. He is beautiful. And perfect. And his father and I love every single feminine feature that he possesses. Fiercely.
My son wants to wear a skirt? He likes to take ballet and play with Barbies? Fine by me. I get to kiss him and hold him and tuck him in every night. And truly, that is all that matters
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!