So, when one turns into a first-time parent, the world is transfigured, converting into a cocoon that holds but you and your infant; a mother now, you’ve split into two and three; your world is illumined. And then you decide to have a second kid and grow the family. You are no longer flying blind. You know what to expect and are a lot smarter and better-equipped. It’s all quite wonderful.
A myriad unanswered questions float in and out of my being; questions about parenting, about maternal ties, families- but not one person has the ability to satisfy me with words. I reckon it’s life alone that brings forth answers as we move from one stage to the next. I am receiving answers as I live on.
Raising two kids was supremely satisfying with all its ups and downs, till parenting our second born turned into a nightmare and I began to question my sanity. The blessing (and there’s always one) was that only one of them put us through the wringer. The older one managed to stay the course, continually impressing upon us, in no uncertain terms, that all wasn’t lost.
So, we had a daughter and a son. Later, in their teen years, our son decided he was a daughter too. I’ve shared my story of mothering a transgender girl on various platforms. Long story short, after we were convinced that our son was keen to transition, the two-year cycle of hormonal intake, which precedes the reassignment surgery, commenced. All good. Life continued but not without ripples.
I sit and write this introspective piece quietly from my Bangkok apartment, in my study.
It isn’t about the journey with my transgender child; it isn’t about the hell that broke loose when this child gambled away hard-earned money or cost us a fortune in rehabilitation (one of the most exclusive and expensive ones in India called LAND) or yet another fortune to gain admission in a private university in Bangkok.
This piece of writing emerges from a place that most women are aware, exists, but are loathe to acknowledge; that becoming a mother does not and should not shred your being and break you; to the contrary, it adds shades to an already beautiful person; that while motherhood is forever, so are you in your entirety- being a mother is not all you are. Society tells us to care for our child come what may, even if the child is destroying your sanity, manipulating your emotions and asking you to fill up all your spaces with him/her only.; I bare my soul in order to connect with other mothers/women. The eternal route to motherhood is not a diamond-encrusted one, it’s a hard one, and can get thorny and make you bleed. And, we are made to withstand any onslaught that motherhood inevitably throws our way.
So, this essay is not about our trans child’s journey, or ours with her; been there already in a no-holds-barred essay published in Third Lane Magazine entitled – My Voyage Out to Hell and Back with Therapy (https://thirdlanemag.com/en/my-voyage-out-to-hell-and-back-with-therapy-kamalini-natesan/).
This piece is about my efforts and results thereof, to survive and emerge victorious from the grips of an overpowering and intense maternal bond with my second born. I wish for every mother to grasp that it’s possible to survive the trauma a child can put you through; that it’s absolutely and entirely achievable to re-coach, rediscover and re-harness the person you once wished to become and sculpt her out from within the mother you chose to become.
Yes, therapy was the straw that I clutched at first, flying blindly into the unknown and blank future; till I gradually began to understand that I was not just my child’s mother, but also Kamalini- a creative and joyous entity, someone who had a lot yet to give and receive from the world out there.
I have learnt to let go. I re-taught myself to believe in the intrinsic power of positivity; rather than give in to every nightmare I suffered.
I am not a failure as a mother- or even as an entity. My child’s errant being needn’t define me and my life. I made my mind up, not without difficulty, to not allow that to make me a shadow of myself.
I’ve seen it happen to many other mothers who are ridden with guilt and are made to swallow poison via words and mean jibes, because their kid/s turned out to be monsters or druggies, or worse still, criminals. It’s terrifying, and it slays one’s very wish to survive. I wasn’t about to kill myself, but the thought crossed my mind more than once. The overwhelming pain of longing to save your child, and the helplessness are heavy crosses to bear.
Today, after working every single day on my psyche for over two long years, I am beginning to breathe free. Our kid decided to leave our Bangkok home and head back to India because she wanted no responsibility of studying to complete college, and wanted the easy way out: money from us to live a life of leisure and freedom. She now lives in Goa, and we mutually decided to go our separate ways- with no scope for understanding or a realization that she must earn respect by correct action. It was an alien concept although the elder sister, father and mother continually set the example.
We were not about to fund a life of drugs and ease.
She cursed us, wrote threatening messages, and used every possible trick in the book to get to me, especially me, the weakest link: a vulnerable and weak, therefore an easy prey to manipulate, the mother!
With help, the pattern got easier to detect; when she says she’s changed, it was in order to manipulate me alone. I absorbed, adapted and moved on in time. It was a laborious process that never let up. The moment my guards were down, she would move in. My nightmares were always about her being hurt, or raped. What I learnt was that the most pain was being caused by her to herself. I bled for her. I wept and cried out to the Powers that be to help salvage her soul.
But I chose to not remain a helpless mother. I began to take charge of my own life by seeking help from a CBT Therapist (cognitive-behavioral therapist).
My love for my child remains steadfast, and my prayers, just as fervent- that she may find her true self, and learn to love herself first and foremost. Once that happens, the rest of her life will lead her to blossom in her own right.
In the meantime, I published my first novel- Naked Beneath the Midnight Sun. I signed a contract for my second book (short stories on the theme of desire) that my accomplished literary agent ~ The Book Bakers ~ (Suhail Mathur) acquired for me with a major Indian Publishing House, Om Books International.
I continue to sing, dance and teach French as well.
I undertook the practice of mindfulness and revel at all the beauty that surrounds me. I travel. I write regularly and my life is full of hope and a song in my heart, chanting the mantra that says – you are not responsible for another’s behavioral pattern even if it be your child.
You can only set an example with your conduct, but the work of transformation and self-belief has to be the individual’s responsibility.
Our second born turns 25 this August- an adult in full bloom.
I leave her to decide who she wishes to live as- a beautiful, well-nurtured, talented being who is extremely intelligent- or someone who wishes to live off others.
I take responsibility for my own joys and sorrows.
I began by flying blind, but someone held my hand and helped me switch on my internal guide and I survived and hope to thrive.
The accompanying poem is a remembrance from this mother’s heart dedicated to all mothers.
The poem is a remembrance from this mother’s heart dedicated to all mothers.