AFTER a night of strange dreams, I ambled sleepily into the bathroom to do my first business of the day. Looking down, I awoke quickly. There was blood in the potty, and on the T.P., and a few drops across the floor as well. Bright, arterial.
Back to bed, gingerly.
"How are we doing?" asked Beloved, half asleep.
"Umm, some blood, not sure where it's from. Bright, fresh color."
She sprang into action, making sure I had raised hips and no cloth rubbing in sore places. She checked me with a flashlight. "OK, it's not rectal." Meaning no fistula, we hoped. "I'm thinking clitoris. There's a new flap of skin come loose that's not looking happy."
I wouldn't be going in to work.
"Let's move me into my room, where there's a phone I can reach. I'll be making some calls."
"So will I. We need a doctor to look at you."
The next two days I spent sleeping, drinking fluids, reading, making trips to the potty, and sleeping — much like a flu victim. The bleeding had quickly reduced itself to spotting, and ultimately disappeared entirely, in time for the doctor's visit late Thursday afternoon.
The nurse greeted me with a warm thank-you for the roses.
Roses? Oh, roses.
I had forgotten them — sent just as we were leaving, as a thank you for all that this clinic had done for their very first transwoman. Everything my situation had thrown at them they had taken in professional stride, in this small-town hospital frequented by loggers and mill-hands and their families.
I was weighed (heavy, too many good restaurants in Miami) and BP'd (still high, 150/88) and shown into the examination room.
"Would your friend like to come in and be with you when the doctor is here?"
Friend. There was going to be a lot of this in even the best parts of our future — the use of euphemisms to cover the awkwardness of our now socially taboo marriage.
"Actually, my ‘friend’ and I have been married for twenty-nine years and we have grandchildren — but, yes, she's my best friend in all the world. Please, I think we'd both like that."
The doctor was the elderly, kindly gentleman who had passed me for surgery, three weeks before. As he gently arranged me in the stirrups he kept up a reassuring patter with Beloved, who was instantly smitten. She loves old people; so do I. A good thing; since we're both practically there already.
I could barely feel the solicitous probing and poking. "This is nice, dears, very nice. Ah, silk! Very good work. I don't see any serious necrosis, really. There's good blood supply to everything. No sign of infection."
Snip. "How many stitches are there?" Snip. Snip.
"Well, it's kind of a continuous running stitch, but you could say, oh, thirty-five, forty."
Snip, snick. Snip.
I could feel my body relaxing as the silken constraints fell away.
"There, you'll like that much better, I expect."
He chatted with Beloved about her work and her impressions of the town as I dressed. He took our hands by turns graciously, and to me he added: "Thank you for the red roses, my dear; everyone was quite excited to receive them."
"Well, you've all been so wonderful to me."
"We try to treat everyone the same; but not everyone remembers us with roses. It was very touching."
Back home, I found I was really quite exhausted, and began a round of sleeping, drinking, reading and sleeping that would last right through the weekend. No more blood appeared; but an indefinable soreness set in, which, while it did not interfere with sleep or dilations or going potty, did give me trouble with standing up straight.
Some of the touchiness was the oddest sort of thing you could imagine. As if it were in parts I knew I no longer had.
I discussed this with Beloved, who agreed that this was the ghost-limb effect known to those who have suddenly lost an arm or a leg — just in a different place.
We expect that this will fade away over time.
A friend, who is expecting to go through all this in the near future, wrote to me: "So, what's it like on the other side?"
A bit grey, actually.
This could be just recovery from surgery, or from the disappearance of a couple of small, round chemical factories. It's what I wanted, but still takes getting used to. I'm experiencing something like a low-grade post-partum depression, which I expect to get over in due course — in the meantime I have re-filled a prescription that my doctor had wisely scripted for me, over a year ago, for just this sort of thing, and it does help.
I'm quiet, reflective, and, interestingly enough, not feeling especially feminine. Perhaps the HRT hasn't caught up. I may or may not be able to re-establish the equilibrium I had before the surgery — some do, some don't. It's a risky business.
I'm not shocked by looking myself over. What I have seems to belong to me. Yet I don't feel celebratory or relieved, or even what most other girls tell me — "complete." What I feel is sore and weak, and worried that all this will interfere with doing my job till I get better.
I told her, in my reply, that I wouldn't want to be anyone else, but that I don't recommend Gender Identity Disorder. Certainly not as a hobby. If you have it, deal with it, but for those on the borderline, I would say: be damned sure.
It's like this: life is work.
Life plus GID is work plus work.
Add SRS, what you now have is work plus work plus work.
Like with everything else monumental, such as deciding to go cruising to Samoa, you'll take some of your problems with you and acquire new ones as you go. When you reach your goal, it may not mean much to anyone but you, and you may accumulate enough losses along the way to question your original scheme.
You might shipwreck.
Or you could turn in your tourist's visa and get a passport from your new country.
Maybe that's all the surgery is, a passport.
Honored by most.
In the eyes of some.
But now that you're here, you've got some new wisdom; you're a voyager. You'll find that most people cannot relate to your journey and may even dislike hearing about it. You carry your ocean with you, and it's a big ocean; you can't give it to anyone "back home."
I told her, in closing: "In the end, what you do is get over the surgery, clean yourself up, and you go back to work, dear."
And if that's all we do, we were among the lucky ones.
"Look what I found," said Beloved.
"'Boyfriend'! Where was he?"
"In one of the suitcases all the time."
Meanwhile, my own dilators have arrived. "Boyfriend" was a loaner; he's the smallest size. I have to mail him back to Florida.
The new batch is ... impressive.
They already have names: Alberto, Bertrand, Carlo, D'Artagnan, Eduardo, Ferdinand, and Georges.
Ferdinand and Georges are ... huge. No way can I ever imagine myself using them ... I can't imagine anyone using them.
But I'm up to "Bertrand" now on a regular basis and have had some limited success with "Carlo."
This activity takes up twenty minutes of my mornings, the same with my early evenings, and again before bedtime. Followed by a salt sitz bath and cleansing with the disinfectant solution.
Needless to say, I have read a lot of books lately. Not much else you can do at these times.
I have a patch of tissue, in a very sensitive place, that didn't make it and it will have to slough off.
Presumably the capillary that bled a couple of weeks ago was its feeder and separated during the long flight from Charlotte to San Francisco. Too bad; but that's water over the dam.
Otherwise, things seem okay. I mean, Bertrand is actually kind of, umm, entertaining, and I had heard so many pain stories about dilating!
I had been hoping, by this time, to begin putzing about in the greenhouse. I have flats out there that I planted just before we left. Some of them didn't do anything and need replanting; the others did too well and need thinning.
But the weather has been relentlessly cold and wet, with snow on all the hills around, and I get home from work tired and needing to dilate and so I just wind up in bed, reading. I'm gaining weight, too, especially on weekends, waiting for my life to reboot.
Sometimes I sit in the dining room watching the bird feeder. We're getting doves, Oregon juncos, chickadees, blushing sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, purple finches, and white-crowned sparrows.
Occasionally they scatter and a Douglas squirrel lands, spread-eagled, in the middle of the feeder, which is the roof of our wellhouse. I tap the window and the squirrel flies off into the nearest tree, which is far enough away that I'm impressed with the aerobatics.
This morning, I went into the ladies' room and found myself in a stall with a broken door latch. Someone might accidentally walk in on me.
I didn't move to another one. For once there was nothing to worry about.
The little bit of blood that turned up the day after we got home may have been the supply to the lower third of a Sensitive and Important Area. That third died — turned white. There was also a road-kill odor that I could detect whenever I went to the ladies' room.
I went to the doctor and she agreed the damage was too extensive to ignore. "You might slough that off, but I think I'll send you to the wound clinic."
She looked me in the eye. "How are you doing? Sorry I missed you right at the end there, but you seem to have done well with my colleague."
"Yes ... in fact, he was so sweet when he was taking out the stitches that I think Beloved kinda fell in love with him."
She laughed. "He has that effect. Very intuitive; takes time to get more of a sense of who you are and takes that into account. But you: you're good? Happy?"
"Very much so."
"You look it, too. You're looking really good, honey, and I like the new hairdo."
"I don't like that your blood pressure is back up. What did we have you on before?"
"An ACE blocker. I'm thinking the Spironolactone masked the situation and now that I'm not on it, the BP jumped back."
"I think so, too. Let's put you back on that, just for the blood pressure, and come and see me in three weeks."
She paused a moment. "You know, you have taught me a lot. Next time I have someone like you, I won't be so much at a loss as I was when you told me. Thank you."
At the Wound Clinic I met a new doctor whom I liked right away. She found my situation interesting, and asked about the surgery in a tactful manner. We discussed inversion, which tissues were used to create what, and what my expectations might be.
She got me up into the stirrups, brought over a spot lamp, and looked about.
"Yes, this needs to go. I'm guessing there are no nerve endings left alive in the white stuff. I'd like to just excise it right now, with your permission."
"You definitely have my permission!"
There was, as she had predicted, no pain.
"In case you were wondering, dear, you do absolutely look like a girl down here. Really nice work."
I made a mental note to pass that on to Dr. Reed.
"Now, here," she said, "Is what I want you to do. This stuff here is a gauze strip soaked in petroleum jelly. I'm cutting off a strip with these little scissors, a little under two and a half inches long by under half an inch high. See? And then take one end of it and hold it here" ... applying it to the Sensitive and Important Area ... "and wrap it all the way round, like a turban. Got that?"
"Wow, that feels way better already."
"Right. Wounds want to heal. They like dark, moist conditions for that, so we're getting this away from not just abrasion but drying air as well. Put a mini panty-liner in your panties to hold that in place, and you shouldn't have to change it more than about three times a day."
"Here's some sterile gauze, here's the scissors, this" ... handing me a foil packet ... "is the cream I want you to use. My husband," she smiled, "is a Cajun, and the pharmacist who invented this stuff is a Cajun. He's trying to rebuild his factory after the hurricane...so that's it! I'll see you in one week."
I hit the street already walking more comfortably than at any time since the surgery. I took inventory. Sun: shining. Trees: swaying. Birds: singing. Girl: gonna be okay.
We've finally got in a patch of really decent weather. Beloved has taken over the mowing during my convalescence.
"I feel great. I could mow the lawn." I bounced around the living room for emphasis.
"Dr. Reed said no heavy lifting. And stop that."
I froze in mid-pirouette.
She doesn't have enough shoulder — a touch of arthritis — for giving a lawnmower a cold start, but enlisted me to crank the infernal thing, then shooed me away.
"Go play! Take a walk or something."
But I'm not that comfortable walking along our semi-country roads by myself. Everyone here does these walks in pants, except me; in pants I feel self-conscious because they create mixed gender signals on my angular body, and in a dress I feel vulnerable alone.
I can only walk so far at a time, too — though this is improving. Yesterday, at work, I wore a step counter, and the count for the whole day was over 6,000. Who says librarians sit still all day? But serious hiking is beyond me yet — things rub up against each other that haven't sufficient protection this early in their little lives.
I thought I might sun myself a bit, so I ran into the house for my swimsuit, a black one-piece of elastic fabric.
Ahh! That's how I've always wanted to look ...
A little late in life (sigh). But better late than never.
I hadn't been in the chaise lounge very long when I became aware of tension in the air. Beloved's not used to lawnmowers, and I'm not used to lounging while someone else does the grunt work. I felt an urge to kibitz, and she could feel me feeling that urge.
So I went down to the garage and got out my little kayak.
Because this boat weighs less than twenty pounds, it's safer for me to handle, just now, than the lawnmower. I can pop it into the back of the station wagon and there's no need to lift it overhead for a tie-down.
I stopped at the local country store for a new fishing license. The lady behind the counter, from whom I have made purchases for over twenty years, couldn't quite place me as I've only been in the store as a woman a very few times.
"You've had a license in Oregon before?"
"Yes, for decades."
She typed from my driver's license into the Fish and Game computer.
"Oh, look at that!" She turned the monitor so I could see the record.
There, in the field marked "sex," was the word "male."
She laughed. I joined in, though a bit apprehensively.
"Sometimes they just hit the wrong button. Lemme fix that for ya." Click.
It was that easy, for once.
"Need any steelhead tags?"
"No, I don't like to bother the wild fish, I just catch stockers."
"Oh, a girl who knows her fish! Okay, here ya go, and good luck!"
At the reservoir, I found there was a regatta in progress. High school and junior high rowing teams were competing in heats of four boats, each with its own motorboat in attendance, and an official boat watched over all. Orange floats were posted at intervals across the water.
I stopped by the park keeper's house.
"Is it okay to go out? Looks like the water's been pre-empted."
"Nahh, it's okay. You know how to stay out of trouble anyhow."
"Why, thank you, sir. Would you like to take Little Eva out for a spin?"
"Heh, heh heh, maybe when the water warms up. If I’d roll that thing over now, I'd have me a heart attack. You go and have fun, now."
''K. Bye!" I waved to Mrs. Park Keeper over his shoulder, sitting on the front porch, knitting. She waved back.
I saw there was some wind, but not too much chop, and plenty of sun. Settled into my seat and pushed off with the paddle blade.
I did drop a line in the water, from habit more than anything. This first day I had a few bites but, thoroughly distracted, didn't set hook in time, and so mostly just paddled. In the sitting position, legs extended, I could tell that my recently rearranged bits were under no strain at all, though I didn't feel like paddling hard — a leisurely stroke was called for. I putzed up to the dam, seeking smooth water in the massive concrete structure's wind shadow, watching an osprey hovering in the faster air above the floodgate crane.
Drifting back toward the boat basin, I ate lunch and played around in the heavy wakes of speedboats.
Some things were notably different than before. I had been a dedicated kayak fisherman in the bygone era and, by carrying a spare empty bottle with me for umm, elimination purposes, could stay on the water for over four hours at a time. Now, as a kayaking woman, I find things are just a bit more ... technical. Within a couple of hours I had to head in and run for the ladies' room at the boat basin.
While I was thus occupied, a shore-fishing family had stopped to admire Little Eva, drawn up on the beach.
"That's a cute little canoe-thingy you got there, ma'am," said the father as I walked up. His daughter, a beautiful wind-tousled blonde of about nine, leaned against him, rod in hand.
"How did you folks do today?" I asked.
"Oh, we got two. Two little ones, just big enough to keep," he replied.
"Bet you caught them both, didn't you, dear?" I asked the girl, with a conspiratorial smile.
She looked up at him, as if checking his ego, and, reassured, nodded to me with a twinkle in her eye.
We all laughed.
It's ... nice to come home.