Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 128: Newborn Child

(Twlya stands in the wide arch separating an apartment’s dining room from its front room, watching a memory of herself sit on the couch with a tiny baby in her arms. She and her partner are mindlessly watching a low-engagement show on the television as they sit. I approach Twyla from behind, standing beside her as she relives some of her earliest memories.)

Mom (Me): Good morning Twyla. I see you’ve started reviewing your memories.

Twyla (The Parent): Hi Daphne. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Mom: This is just after our kid was born, isn’t it? Those first few weeks before you had to go back to work.

Twyla: Yup. Those first few weeks were just my partner and I, trying to keep each other going as we learned to take care of our new child. We’d prepared as much as we could beforehand, so we understood the basics… And right after they’re born, taking care of a baby is pretty basic. But it’s one thing to know how to do it and another thing to actually do it, you know.

Mom: I remember. We’ve talked about that too… A couple of times, if memory serves.

Twyla: Yeah, I suppose that’s hardly news to your readers at this point. But it’s funny; no matter how many times we mention it, I don’t think it’s really possible for someone to understand what it means unless they’ve actually lived through it. Becoming a parent, I mean.

Mom: I think there’s some truth to that… It’s a good thing convincing people of it isn’t my goal.

Twyla (curious): What is your goal then?

Mom: To discuss how you feel about it.

Twyla (pensive): It’s… Kind of unreal, in retrospect. Here was this creature, this new human being. We were responsible for its health and its growth; for its whole life. It’s an awesome, surreal responsibility.

Mom: And how did shouldering that responsibility feel to you?

Twyla (distant): Honestly? I hardly felt anything at all. Those days were mostly a blur, to be frank. The thing about babies is that for the first several months, they don’t sleep on a regular schedule. They’re up for a few hours, then they sleep for a few hours, and then up again for a few hours, then asleep for a few, regardless of the time of day or night.

Mom (wistful): It’s kind of crazy to think that the day before birth you’re mostly following a normal sleep schedule. Then during the hospital stay you barely sleep at all, and suddenly you have to match your sleep to your baby’s sporadic sleep schedule as soon as you get home with your child.

Twyla: It’s such an abrupt change. I suppose everything about birth is an abrupt change… Your life is upended in an instant. So I barely remember anything from that time—my sleep-addled brain was just trying to make it through the day, two or three naps at a time.

Mom (smiling): I admit that makes it rather challenging to think about the nature of life.

Twyla (chuckling): Yeah. But there is one thing I remember from those days.

Mom: What’s that?

Twyla: How small my child was back then. It’s wild to imagine now that my kid’s old enough to be in school, but back then they were so tiny. I remember sitting on the couch holding them and their entire back fit into the palm of my hand.

Mom (tearful): That’s right… It really is surreal to think that was the case once. That was one of those times that the gravity of our situation really sunk in. This was a human being, a person like me, and they were tiny enough for me to support them one-handed.

Twyla: They didn’t stay that way for long.

Mom (laughing): No, they didn’t. Gosh, those were strange times.

(Twyla and I stand in silence for a bit, watching ourself look down at the tiny creature in her lap.)

Twyla: So how is this related to transition?

Mom (confused): I’m sorry?

Twyla: The last time we spoke you said parenting was similar to transition. So I’m asking how this experience of raising a newborn baby is similar to transition.

Mom: Oh! Like I mentioned before, they both consist of different experiences and stress different skills… So if you’re trying to draw a clear line between holding your child’s entire back in your hand and some element of transition, you’re going to be disappointed. But emotionally, the feeling of panic and exhaustion and trying to do your best despite everything is common to both experiences.

Twyla: I can’t imagine gender transition forced you to to sleep and wake on a two-to-four hour cycle…

Mom: It didn’t, but right after my egg cracked, my mind was rapidly adapting to the idea that I’m not a man. It turned out that a lot of my personality was built around that assumption, so once I removed it a lot more fell away then I was expecting.

Twyla: Hence the exhaustion?

Mom: Kind of, yeah. It was just one realization after another as ideas slotted into place alongside the new identity I’d just unlocked. Granted, a lot of what I felt was relief; my relationship with masculinity was best described as “fraught at best,” so each coping mechanism I shed left me with more energy than I started with.

Twyla (skeptical): That honestly sounds like the opposite of the total emotional drain that I went through after childbirth.

Mom: I mean, I felt totally unsure of the future, especially in those first few days after I hatched. I had no idea who I was going to be, and I thought my marriage was doomed. I was doing my best to live day by day and figure myself out enough to be present for my partner and child.

Twyla (considering): That… That feels familiar.

Mom: That feeling that a person can’t understand the experience without going through it themselves? Transition seems like that too.

Twyla (pensive): I suppose that’s why it was difficult for me to accept the comparison; your transition happened after my time.

Mom: I think that’s exactly it. I don’t know if this is relatable if you haven’t been through the experience… I have no idea how any of it reads to a cis audience.

Twyla: I couldn’t tell you, though I’m not sure it matters. You’re writing this for us, aren’t you?

Mom (content): I am, yes. On a related note, it’s kind of funny hearing you talk about emotional drain.

Twyla (curious): Why’s that? I think it describes my experience accurately.

Mom: It certainly does, no argument here… But you didn’t have that language back when our child was born. It would be years before you’d think of anything in those terms.

Twyla (surprised): Huh… That’s true, I don’t think I would have described my experience that way back then. But now I clearly recognize it for what it is.

Mom: I wonder if that’s because I’ve already talked through this with Lark back in Scene 13. It sounds like you benefit from some of the work that I’ve done with your sisters, even though you weren’t there for it.

Twyla: I guess that makes sense? We’re all you, after all… So if you’ve processed something already, the rest of us get a feel for it too.

(The two of us watch our past self in silence again for a few moments.)

Twyla: These days didn’t last long, did they?

Mom: They didn’t… But they felt like forever at the time.

Twyla: Yeah… Revisiting these memories kind of makes them forever, in a way.

Mom (wistful): They’ll last as long as we do, at least.

(The two continue watching in silence.)