"It's exactly the same, but different" is how I describe raising a trans daughter as opposed to one assigned female at birth.
I was reminded of this at the dollar store a couple of days ago, as I excitedly strolled down the aisle filled with feminine things. You know, the girly stuff: the nail polish and the lotions and the hairbands. I threw a bunch of estrogen happy stuff into the cart to put under the tree this year.
It was so fun! So great! I was having a blast. I passed the berry-scented shampoo and the cuticle oil and the cotton swabs...
And that's when I came across the pregnancy tests.
BAM. Instant punch to the heart. Tears clouded my vision. I quickly composed myself and kept walking.
Every now and then, I'm reminded that, barring a major medical advancement, my daughter - my only daughter - will never be able to carry and deliver a baby. She'll never get the positive pregnancy test, or feel the baby kick from the inside, or experience the exhilaration of having just given birth to another human being. And I won't share in those experiences with her because she won't ever have them.
I know she's not alone in this. I know. Many women deal with infertility. I had secondary infertility and it was balls. Besides, not all women choose to have children. But there's something about never having the choice or the hope or the dream of biological babies for my child that hurts. I hurt for her.
That's how it's exactly the same, but different.
I hurt because of the atypical-ness of it all. I feel like the Universe was all, "here, have three boys!" and I said, "Great! Thanks! Boys rule! But no girl? I kind of thought I would have at least one of those." And The Universe said, "Nope. You get what you get. Enjoy!" and I said, "That's cool. I will enjoy!" and I settled into my life with three boys. I was okay with not having a daughter.
And then, a few years later, The Universe came back and was all, "Oops. Listen, there's been a bit of a mix-up. It turns out you do have a daughter! Congrats! But your daughter will need a lot of help to become the person she needs to be, both emotionally and medically. It's not going to be an easy road. Hope you're ready."
And I am ready. I am. Except when I see the damn pregnancy tests and ovulation prediction kits. Except when I think about the complexities and safety of her upcoming dating life and know I'll be waiting up and worried until she comes home. Until I think about her eventual re-entry into school, and how she's going to navigate the haters and, even worse, the parents who will refuse to get why she'll be using the girls' washroom and locker room. Except when I see the cute little holiday dresses and think of the lost years - the sad, uncomfortable years - and wish we had all known sooner.
It's the exactly same, but different.
And yet, most of the time I think I feel a lot like any other mom tasked with raising a daughter. I think of how I can help her confidence grow - because she's going to need a lot of it. I think about how I compliment her ("you're so smart!" escapes my lips more than "you're so pretty!" but I also want her to know how beautiful she is) I talk to her about friendships and relationships and what to look for in both. I teach her to value and honour her voice and her body.
I sit back and admire the quiet fierceness she carries inside of her. She's intelligent, witty, and knows what she wants. She doesn't put up with bullshit.
And when she brings up parenting, she makes my heart glow. She speaks excitedly about how there are so many children out there who need homes. Foster children. Orphaned children. Her future children. "There are so many ways to become a parent, mom," she tells me. "I might not be able to have my own babies, but I will be a mom someday."
My thoughts of pregnancy tests and ovulation prediction kits fade away when she smiles. Because the important thing is she's smiling. She's happy. She has a plan for her life. She wants to become an oncologist. She wants a family. And while her plans may change as she gets older, I know her determination won't. That kid is going to achieve absolutely everything she sets her mind to. This is a child who will leave her mark in the world.
She's exactly the same, but different. Wonderfully different.