Her back arched with force and knocked her head on the back of the couch. The only sound she made was a slight inhale of air through her mouth. She shakily lifted her hand to feel her head where it had collided. I casually looked over at her at the other end of the couch and she instinctively smiled and stuck her tongue out at me playfully. Always a brave face on that girl! Well, unless you come at her with a needle, and then all bets are off of course. My princess warrior reminds me every day what perseverance and strength look like.
I’ve learned a great deal from my girl. I’ve learned more than the typical clichés like, “Life is short.” No, it runs deeper than that. I’ve learned volumes from our life changing diagnosis and from the soul shaping sacrifices we have made. Please, I beg you, do not misunderstand me. You see, a woman stopped me just the other day at a restaurant I was eating at, “Did you adopt a black baby?”she asked with complete surprise. I am an expert at answering this question as I can’t even remember how many times I have been asked it. “Yes ma’am, we did,” I reply kindly and look away. She was elderly, and so I skipped my typical, “Why do you ask?” response. Still, I try to go back to engaging in conversation with my daughter and company, but she was still in awe of us. “Well, that’s mighty nice of you! Bless you sweet woman!” she continued. Here is where I always get a little frustrated and my daughter confused. To us, we are just any mother and daughter out for lunch.
Adoption is not a selfless act. It is a completely selfish thing to do. Hear me out here. I am the one that is gaining a miracle. I am the one who gets the privilege of years of giggles, laughter, love, and joy. I am not a hero. I am not a saint. Adoption is an act of love, not to become someone’s savior. That position was filled ages ago! Our sacrifice was not adopting our daughter. It was something entirely deeper than that.
Our sacrifices were that of opening our heart to feeling so full it could burst. Our sacrifice was loving with everything we have, despite knowing that our pain will be twice that of our love when we lose our terminally ill child. Our sacrifice is the hurt and hate we must endure from the words used as weapons against our beautiful girl. Whether those words are, “Look at that retard!” while we are eating ice cream at the zoo. The word weapon of choice uttered under the breath of an annoyed woman trying to get past us at the grocery store, “Damn *igger,”reveals not a sacrifice but a systemic social injustice that our daughter must endure. Our sacrifice is never being on the correct end of the argument. We are not African American, we are “just” raising one. The sacrifice is not being able to be vocal enough about the injustice without being told we don’t know what we are talking about. They aren’t entirely wrong or right. The sacrifice is in enduring every, “Where’s her real mom and dad?” asked in ignorance and invasive curiosity. The hate and verbal daggers have come in the sympathetic looks that are for show when we discuss what it means to be transgender or raising and loving our trans child. Speaking those heartfelt words and being vulnerable is a sacrifice of both safety and balance in our life. Then to have that sacrifice be used as a weapon by individuals who support false claims made about our transgender daughter and family. It’s embarrassing and infuriating that someone would call the Department of Human Resources or Child Protective Services for accepting, supporting, and loving our child. The inability to accept and lack of compassion have caused her to lose her right to a free public education. The sacrifice is in holding our tongues for her and our family’s safety, in patience to find affirming doctors and specialists, and in hours spent aching over unnecessary hurts she has had to experience.
With all of that, would we do it again? In an instant we would! Those sacrifices are actually opportunities dressed in disguise. They are disguised by being rolled in dog poo, then sprinkled with drops of boogers, and then vomited on. Yeah, it takes that much effort to look past the gross and stink factor of having to resign oneself to patiently and respectfully addressing them as they occur. While we know that not every time we speak will it be genuinely heard and taken to heart. If we never speak out, then we are guaranteed that misconceptions about what adoption is, how it feels to be black in America, to have a disability, and to have your gender identity mocked, feared, and hated. So, raising our voice and sharing our story has started as a whisper that is slowly growing into a roar.
A roar doesn’t have to be an “in your face” and claws outstretched interaction, but know that our parental instincts are capable of that. During our daughter’s social transition, we too were transitioning. We let our roar be over loud and defensive. Know that if you have a family member that is in the process, that they will need some grace, reassurance, and love. Our daughter is terminally ill. I will not get to see her learn to drive, graduate high school, go to college, get married, have children, and all of those rites of passage. Is there a small chance she may experience one or two of those? Yes. I hope with all I have, but the odds are so nominal. I wouldn’t even dare get my hopes up for that. Oh how I so wish though. Cherish your child, because you just don’t know if yours will either. You may not have the opportunity of foreshadowing.
So, my lessons are few but critical. Love your child unconditionally because they need you to be present in their life. You do not need to agree or become the world’s biggest advocate, but show your child you love and respect them by being empathetic and supportive of them. Don’t put conditions on that love! It’s not as hard as you think once you start! Please know your child’s value. Years of struggling to become a parent taught me that there are so many that would give anything to have a child. Their race, disability, or gender identity is not the end of the world, it’s the beginning of yours. The wounds of infertility run deep, and I am the luckiest woman in the world just to be a mother. I refuse to squander the precious time I have with her on trivial things such as pronouns and clothing. Get out there and experience the world with your child. Make miracles happen for them. The world beats us all down enough. Find ways of bringing a bit of magic back into their lives.