Monday, April 23, 2018

FORWARD!

As is with all families who have a 12-grader, this time of year is one of chaos, deadlines, fretting about financial aid (unless you are very lucky), and looking back and anticipating the future.  Our family is no different.

Photo credits: Linda Bradley
Damian is a high school senior.  What a wild ride the last 4 years have been! If you had told me when he was in 9th grade of how different he would be by the time he graduated, there is no way I would have believed you.  Ninth grade was so stressful, so chaotic, so unhappy at times - and we had no idea why.  He was going through his journey alone then.  All I did was worry about how he would go to college.  How would he get in?  I didn't know that at the time I should have been worrying about him as a person, as a emotional being.  When Damian came out in 10th grade, so many questions were answered!

Tenth grade was all about transitioning.  And me coming around to fully accepting what was happening.  I admit I had a hard time.  I was sad and confused and worried...always worried.  Doesn't help a damn to worry but still I do it.  I can't help it.  I don't know how to stop.  Sometimes that can be debilitating.  But still I move on - FORWARD.

Anyway, so we started going to counseling, Damian by himself and us as a family.  I probably should have gone for myself too but I didn't.  I could probably still use some counseling.  Anyway, that really helped.  Hearing someone else tell me that I just need to get on board or risk losing my child was breathtaking.  The first time I heard that, it was like a punch to the gut.  Either get out of the way or get run over by the freight train.  No, that's not right...it was either get on board or get run over.

I got on board.


Once we made the transition in name and pronouns, and he started his T shots, it was like a dam had burst.  All this personality came rushing out!  This beautiful, smart, funny, sarcastic, OUTGOING, big personality came forward.  Smiles like I hadn't seen in years were flashing - laughter that I hadn't heard in years was ringing throughout the house.

Then we made the changes at school.  Went to his principal at the beginning of 11th grade and she was really supportive.  Changed the name (not officially at the time so only in the preferred name line) and told all his teachers.  For the most part, it was smooth.  There were a couple of teachers who didn't get the preferred name part and would use the old name during roll call.  But overall, it was smooth. Better than some horror stories that I have heard, that's for sure.

A huge turning point for us was our trip to Atlanta in November 2016 for a family wedding.  My extended family fully - FULLY - embraced Damian.  Again, so much better than other family stories I've heard.  That was a blessing and a big exhale for me and for Damian too.  That trip was one giant hug from start to finish.

I remember when we got home and we were just laying in bed tired from the plane ride and Damian said "I miss everyone".  It was reminiscent of when I would go to India for the summers when I was growing up.  Coming home was depressing because it was just so quiet.

Senior year was all about big changes and getting ready to go out into the world.  I'm very thankful that Damian is not trying to hide his transition.  He is out to the world.  And on September 8, 2017, he officially became Damian Blaine Bradfield.










After that, the next step was top surgery.  That happened in a whirlwind fashion as well.  We got insurance approval in mid-January 2018 and on February 11, 2018, it happened.  Damian's journey was all leading up to that moment and when he woke up from anesthesia, in a very quiet and groggy voice, he said, "I can't believe it finally happened."  Recovery was pretty smooth and quick.  And when he saw his chest the first time after unwrapping the bandages, we both shed tears.  He was just so happy.  Tears of joy.

Prom 2018
And now we're in the home stretch.  Couple of weeks ago, he went to Prom with a friend at another school.  He's going to his Prom and Grad Night soon.  He has been accepted to Woodbury University and plans to major in Animation and maybe minor in business or marketing.  He turned his grades around in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades, enough to earn a merit scholarships totalling $20,000 from Woodbury.  He's transferring enough credits from AP classes and community college to be ahead by a full semester of credits.

Photo credits: Linda Bradley
Photo credits: Linda Bradley

I am so incredibly humbled by this amazing journey that Damian has taken me on.  I've grown as a person in the last 4 years in ways I never could have imagined.  I thought our family was complete before - but we really were missing a part of it.  NOW, it is full and complete and I can't imagine not having him in our family.  

Photo credits: Linda Bradley