How I wish I could take the pain away.
My daughter hates a certain part of her body. She wishes it wasn’t there. I get that. And I wish it wasn’t true.
As a former anorexic I have my own battle scars I struggle with and try to hide away. I look in the mirror some days and I don’t recognize myself. I just see that familiar little demon who begs me to run away with him and indulge in that part of me that craves the hollow nothingness. Even after all these years, my reflection is something I continually and lovingly work on.
It isn’t the same for Hope. As much as she tries to make peace with having boy parts, she knows this body isn’t hers. Her private areas are a constant reminder of the ways she falls short of being a girl, the person she knows herself to be. Her body is a threat in a way, a constant source of panic. Will this secret show despite all of her efforts and expose her birth gender today? Will someone find out?
In a way, I guess I should be an expert in overcoming this type of self loathing, this body hatred. A champion over the dark side of wishing you were something else… but I am not. Yes, I am the healthiest I have been since I was 14; however, that doesn’t mean I am over it. I doubt my ability to coach others in the ways to fully accept their body when I am still in a constant conversation with my own.
Last night Hope and I talked about the way she is trying to hide that part of herself she dislikes and she just sat and listened. No fidgeting. No looking away. She just stared at me with these big, beautiful, loving eyes that tore my heart into pieces. Fully present, she just took it all in. I danced around the subject, trying so hard to not infuse the shame that paralyzed me for years. How do I explain hiding and embracing your body at the same time?
Now sitting here waiting for school to end I can only think of wrapping my arms around her and telling her she is perfect just the way she is. But tell me how that helps a child that fears what her body may become? A few weeks ago she flew into my room in a panic, speaking so fast that I couldn’t understand. Once she calmed herself, she tearfully asked if she will have to shave her face someday. I told her that we had time, but her eyes gave me the look as if her life depended on it. “I never want to look like Dad. Never.”, she pleaded in front of me, her body shaking as if she were standing in the freezing cold naked, “Mom, I want to look like you, like a woman. Please help me. I don’t want to shave my face.” I sobbed as I held that scared child and assured her that there are things we could do to help. She needn’t worry. It would all be okay.
And still, I sit here trying to think of all the ways to make it okay. Is it enough to wrap my arms around her and tell her that I am here every single step of the way? Will that calm her fears as she stares in the mirror? I would move heaven and earth to find the words to ease her fears and calm her heart, but I find myself still searching.
I’ll start with the hug.
Afterwards, while I sat in my room alone, I wept until exhaustion.