The year my son Leo came out as transgender, I noticed the grief and sadness I felt began to increase as Mother's Day approached. At first, I thought it was because it was my first Mother's Day with both children away from home. Having become a mother for the first time at the age of 20, caring for and raising my children was the focus of my whole adult life. When the day arrived, I realized it had nothing to do with my children and everything to do with me.
As mothers, we spend Mother's Day reflecting on how we became mothers. We think back on the births of our children and those early years of raising babies.
As mothers of transgender children, those memories don't match our current realities. Our children no longer have the names we gave them at birth or use the same pronouns. Their gender has changed, and our stories of their lives have changed somewhere along the way.
When our children came out as transgender, the configuration of our families changed. Many of us focused on how the composition of our children changed. Daughters became sons, sons became daughters, and daughters and sons became non-binary children.
And we have navigated and grieved these changes as we have adjusted to our children being transgender. We have learned how to talk about our children in new ways and, as a result, how to talk about our families.
What we may have yet to realize is that our roles as mothers have also changed.
When my son came out, I knew that I was no longer the mother of a daughter, even though I hadn't figured out yet that I had never actually been the mother of a daughter. What I didn't put together at that time was that I had left my identity as the mother of a son and daughter behind. I was now the mother of two sons (my oldest hadn't come out as non-binary yet). I knew that I had two sons, but being the mother of two sons wasn't something I identified with yet.
It wasn't until that first Mother's Day that it hit me that my identity as a mother had changed. Not only had my son's identity and my family's makeup changed, but who I was had also changed. In a year of overwhelming change and loss, one more thing piled onto my grief.
I didn't expect to feel grief for the mother I no longer was, but it hit me hard, and it's a grief that revisits every year on Mother's Day.
We can't change the memories of our children's births and the stories surrounding them. No matter what names our children use or gender they present to the world, their birth stories are carved into our hearts. Time doesn't erase the memories of the years before our children come out as transgender, and those memories revisit on days like our children's birthdays and Mother's Day.
It's okay to grieve the mother you thought you were.
There's no shame in being sad when you remember when your children were young or when you became a mother to your children. You may not always feel sad when you think back on those days, but there may be a part of your heart that always grieves the mother you once were.
Grief doesn't erase your joy for the child in front of you. In the same way, remembering the child you thought you had doesn't take away from celebrating who your child has become. You can be an amazing mother to your child while still feeling a sense of loss for the mother you once were. But remember, just like your child is the same person they have always been, you are still the same mother you have always been.
So make space for grief, but don't let it take over. To paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert, grief can come along for the ride, but it doesn't get to drive the car.
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