My First Steps with My Wife and Her Gender Affirmation Surgery
Some days my world is so crazy that my wife and I talk at each other between going to work, running out to meetings, performing tasks, or running errands. So a few weeks ago while I was making dinner and my she was running in and out of the kitchen giving me updates on the phone calls she was making, she came in and said, "I got an intake appointment for my surgery." That statement made me stop in my tracks. "What, really?" I said. I could not believe it. Since she had decided that she wanted gender affirmation surgery, her thought was that for one reason or another, it would never happen for her. Our insurance does not cover it, taking time off work would be impossible, or some other major catastrophe would occur. But now here it is, starring me in the face. She asks if I would go with her and I said "of course."
Before I go any further, I would like clear up some things after my last article. My wife has not left me to be with a man. I was simply writing about a friend's struggle and a huge fear for a lot of partners out there. Then secondly, I would like to explain why I use the word affirmation and not reassignment for surgery. My wife was born a female; she was just born with some of the wrong parts. She is not changing or reassigning her gender. She is reaffirming who she has always been. Some surgeons like Marci Bowers have adapted this new language, and they now call it affirmation surgery instead of reassignment surgery. I must say I like it better as well; however, the acronym GAS leaves a little to be desired.
"IT SEEMS LIKE MY WIFE HAS WAITED SO LONG FOR THIS DAY TO COME."
It seems like my wife has waited so long for this day to come. So with a smile on her face from ear to ear she gives me this news. My heart was happy for her. With the doctor's office an hour and a half, we decided that taking the train would be the best way to go. We plan to meet in the city, as this was the week she had to work out there. Sunday night arrives, and the weatherman is on the TV talking about our area getting a nor'easter the day of her appointment. I am an admitted snow-weenie. I hate driving in the snow! I am petrified, and it sends my anxiety through the roof. So we alter the plan so that I can travel with her and she takes the day off. That makes me feel so much better.
That morning my alarm goes off, and it scares the heck out of me. It feels like someone kicked me in the head to wake me, and I can't breathe. I collect my thoughts and get myself showered and ready to go. By the time I was dressed, I figured out that the reason I still could not breathe because I was feeling extremely anxious. I had never felt anxiety quite like this before. Our first appointment was for one o'clock. When we had left the house the snow was tolerable, but I still felt like I could not catch my breath. We waited for what seemed like half an hour out in the cold for the train. I'm pretty sure it was only ten minutes, but the combination of the freezing cold and the fact that I couldn't breathe made it seem so much longer. During the whole train ride I tried to shake the anxiety out of me. I brought up different subjects to talk about that I thought would take my mind off it, but at the same time I was trying to figure out why I felt like I was being chased by a monster.
By the time we made it to the city the snow was nasty. We took the subway in order to avoid getting totally drenched. We signed in and waited. I again checked my purse to make sure the letter from her therapist survived and tried to talk myself out of the way I was feeling. I tried to focus and take deeper breaths. Counting five seconds to inhale and five seconds to exhale. I felt better while I was concentrating on deepening my breathing, but the anxiety was still with me. We had a total of three appointments and after that there was blood work to do. We had to see the program director, the social worker, the psychiatrist. I felt as though the barrage of questions they asked her was a test and if she didn't answer them correctly they could deny her from getting surgery.
"SINCE THAT DAY, I HAVE TRIED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT ALL THAT ANXIETY WAS REALLY ABOUT."
It was during our meeting with the social worker when I noticed that I was feeling better. I have to say, it felt good to take a deep breath again. She was explaining the after care and recovery to me so I took out a pad and started writing notes, as my memory has abandoned me long ago. Since that day, I have tried to figure out what all that anxiety was really about. Is it because I don't want her to have this surgery? Is it the fear of yet another big change in our marriage? Or can it be that I am just scared of what this might do to our intimacy? When I think about it, I am honestly super-excited for my wife to feel one hundred percent herself, but I think what frightens me the most is the actual surgery. The thought of her out cold and in the hands of a flawed human being is flipping the brain inside my head.
This surgery was so far away, and now it is here. Of course, we still have some hoops to jump through. The letter from her therapist was not acceptable and needed to be rewritten. She needs to get yet another letter from her endocrinologist, and of course we need to fight with the insurance company. But, this can happen as soon as this summer. That means I need to figure out what I am going to do with myself during the four to six hours she will be under anesthesia. I need to figure out how I am going to deal with watching the person I love the most in so much pain, and I need to find a way to deal with the anxiety that tried to kill me. We have survived so much together, and I think what guides us always is our unconditional love for one another. I hope it can get us through this next major change in our lives as well. Wish me luck.