Throughout my pregnancy, I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl–I wanted to be surprised. When my baby was delivered, the doctor yelled, “It’s a girl!” A daughter–what I’d hoped for! Although I would have loved a son equally, in all honesty I’d hoped for a daughter. I thought long and hard about her name, wanting something significant, and chose Olivia, which means peace, and Rose, because I had a passion for roses. Olivia Rose.
What do I do with that name now?
My sister made a beautiful painting to commemorate Olivia’s birth–a watercolor of a quilt. Each square symbolizes something unique about me or Olivia or her father. For Olivia, one square has a dove with an olive branch, another square has tiny roses. For us all, there’s a square for Michigan, another with acorns for her birth month. And in the center are Olivia’s full name, birth date, and weight.
What do I do with this painting now?
In our family room, rows of pictures line the window ledges. In one, Olivia and I are at a restaurant. A friend caught us with our foreheads together, both laughing heartily. Olivia has her hand to her mouth, as if there were a secret between us. Her long, curly hair is pulled back, and she’s wearing a flowery blue dress. I look on down the row of pictures: Olivia in a tutu, Olivia and her sister wearing matching dresses….
What do I do with these pictures now?
Eli has been going by “Eli” for the past four years. “Olivia” feels foreign on my tongue now, and some days I don’t even register “Olivia” as anyone I know. But when Eli talks about legally changing his name, literally wiping out any trace of Olivia, a deep sadness fills my heart.
What do I do with the birth certificate then?
I have been with my child every step of the way exploring his gender. I have found him help. I have driven him to countless appointments. I have stood unwavering as he faltered and then regained his grounding. I have researched–for myself, for him–transgender issues, transitioning, and supportive places. When he had his top surgery, I nursed him through his recovery, changing his bandages, helping him bathe.
But where in all this is space for me to mourn the girl I birthed? How do I keep my “daughter’s” memories while also welcoming a “son”?
Bloomfield Hill, Michigan