A Whole New Chest

15 Apr

I am in Florida and my son just had top surgery this past Thursday! Whoa! That is a mouthful and a mindful! When I shed my first tears just over a year ago upon his declaration of being Trans,  I never pictured this week! “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” is a catch phrase that easily comes to mind.

Let’s go back a few months:  In January, I was checking in with my son via a weekly phone call from my California perch to him out of state. When I inquired about his health, I heard the familiar accounting of back pain stemming from his binding. By this point, he had been binding for about 2 years. As he described his discomfort, I pictured those illustrations of the effects from corseting in the 1800’s. Oy! He explained that he was worried about the coming summer months when this would become even more complicated. In wet and chilly winter months, he could wear a looser sports bra, baggy shirt and hoodie. Even with this “uniform” he was experiencing ongoing pain. But, as warmer weather was approaching, his hormonal transition was developing, and by the time summer would arrive, he would have the voice, facial features, and whatnot to be consistently “read” as male in public.  He needed the chest to match for logistical reasons, like being able to access public restrooms.  Not binding due to pain felt unsafe to him and like he couldn’t express his gender accurately; binding full-time would render my son hopelessly locked in pain and unable to live the daily life he loves: pursuing a career as a midwife, working as a doula, and most importantly, helping raise three amazing children with his partner (she has twin seven year old girls) and his best friend since high school (she has a 19 month old son). When I relayed my anguish over my son’s pain to my husband that night, he declared that we needed to support top surgery right away! My husband is my son’s step-father, so for me, this was an AMAZINGLY generous and supportive desire on his part! He declared the top surgery what it is: a necessary medical intervention and one that is a quality of life issue! When we told our son, he said, “You don’t need to do this!” But we insisted. Our son set out to do his research: to find the most qualified surgeon.

At this juncture, neither my husband nor I knew of anyone who had experienced top surgery- from either the parent perspective, or as a FTM individual. Out of nowhere, a friend inquired if my son was considering surgery because her friend’s son had just undergone one and achieved a great result (What?! You have ANOTHER friend that is a “trans-mom”?!!). Because God or the Universe works this way, Teri came into my life! Teri was open and honest. She shared her personal struggle with her son’s transition. She shared how she rose up to overcome her own questions to support the truth for him. Teri described in detail her trip to Florida for his surgery and the positive experience they had recently shared. I will be forever – indebted to Teri for her open heart and generosity!

Fast forward to this past week. As it turned out, my son chose the same doctor as Teri’s son had: Dr. Charles Garramone of Fort Lauderdale, FLA. (http://www.drgarramone.com/transgenderflorida/). My son and his partner flew in to meet me for a pre-op appointment on Wednesday. In the waiting room were guys from literally all over the world: Germany, Australia, and Virginia. Dr. Garramone has a fabulous and supportive staff and he is, himself,  a gem: warm, patient, and respectful. No wonder he is scheduled to perform 50 surgeries next month alone! After answering all of our questions, and with pre-op directions in hand, we were on our way! The next day, we were picked up at our hotel by the surgery center’s car service. The surgery itself was only a ninety minute procedure. Dr. Garramone, the anesthesiologist and the entire surgery center staff were super supportive of this crazy and very emotional mom!

Now it is day four and my son is doing well! Ironically, similar to the  back pain from binding, he is currently in pain because of his tight post surgical dressings. There are a couple of drains his partner and I have been emptying- but that has been very minimal. The dressings and stitches are removed tomorrow! While he can’t raise his arms or lift more than 5 pounds for SIX weeks (imagine puppet hands bent at the elbows held along your sides)…the worst is behind him! Soon enough, the scars will fade, and most importantly, my son will don any type of shirt with confidence- PAIN-FREE!

I am so grateful for witnessing this chapter in my son’s transition.

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7 Responses to “A Whole New Chest”

  1. Eli April 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! I might send my mom to this blog–I’m newly out as trans to her, and while she is supportive, I don’t think she completely understands what it is she is supporting. 😉

    -Eli

    • transmom May 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. Eli! May I suggest you send her my most recent blog about my fears? Maybe it will resonate and give her some hope that understanding is part of the process? I will try to address that “understanding” part of the journey in future pieces!! Thanks for that insight!

      • Eli May 19, 2012 at 12:40 am #

        I’ll send it tomorrow, thanks!

        -E

  2. Klv May 17, 2012 at 2:11 am #

    Awesome to hear you’re so supportive.

    • transmom May 18, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      Thanks so much for reading!!!

  3. sheryl October 3, 2015 at 3:42 am #

    I am brand new to this whole experience. My 24 year old daughter is transitioning in spite of my need to understand and process. I get it and am tying to be supportive, but I need to process and digest everything. I never saw this coming until about a year ago. In hindsight, and after reading your post, I am now wondering if her misshapen chest (pectus excavatum) is actually due to binding of a sort during puberty. She wore sports bras and would rarely get sized/wear bras that actually fit. Maybe this was a first, not so obvious sign? She had never had a misshapen ribcage as a child. It showed up at puberty. Hmmmmmmm….. just thinking and processing out loud.

    • transmom October 4, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

      Hi Sheryl! That is an interesting question- I’m sure a physician would have an opinion on that! It IS tough to find yourself struggling with something you never anticipated worrying about…and of course, because HE’s (might as well practice whenever you can !) been dealing with this since puberty, he’s wanting to find peace and security in himself- to be one’s authentic self is so critical to our well-being!! Please let him know you are trying to catch your head up with your heart- everyone has their own process and you are working on yours because you love him!! Keep up the great work, Sheryl!

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