After Birth

Book One: Into the World

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 107

Where it Stands

December 31, 2005 (And Beyond)

Being the last day before the new year, it seems as good a time as any to wrap things up.  It has been over two weeks since my last entry.  There have been a few reasons for this delay.  First of all, there are all the preparations for the holidays.  We were expecting Mary and the kids to come up and stay with us over Christmas.  I was to drive down to Burbank (about 400 miles from here) on the 21st and then join Mary, as I do every year, as her guest at her company’s Christmas party.  Then, day after the party, the kids would pile in the car with me and I’d take them up here by way of some of the more interesting gold rush towns along the way.  But plans changed.

After all the work we were doing to finish unloading boxes and get the place set for guests, my daughter called to say that Mary was back in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs, as had happened four years ago.  Back then, her blood pressure shot up to 220, she turned blue, and was rushed to intensive care by paramedics who responded to the call from her co-workers.  This time, it was far less serious.  She was able to drive to her doctor’s office, and then have our son take her to emergency, where she was admitted.

Unlike last time, the clots were not life threatening, and after a couple days in the hospital on anti-coagulants, she was released to home while they worked out a regimen for her medications.  During this time, she was trained and had to give herself injections in the abdomen.  Loads of fun, but she handled it with her usual stoic acceptance of things she cannot change.

In times past, when living closer, I would have automatically gone to be by her side, both in the hospital and after.  But this time, she and the kids assured me it was not nearly as serious as her earlier episode, and there was really no need for me to make the long drive down at that time.

As for the Christmas plans, for several days we were unsure as to whether or not she could still come up, and even whether she could attend her company’s party.  Eventually, the doctor’s determined that she could join in at the party, but must stay home from work and not travel until they arrived at the final dosages of her treatment.

Therefore, Teresa and I decided to take Christmas to them.  And, since we would be driving down together on Christmas Eve, it made no sense to make the earlier trip for the company party.  So, my daughter went instead, and we worked feverishly to finish buying and wrapping all the gifts for transport.

On the 24th, we drove down and spent Christmas Eve with our friends Bob and Shannon in Pine Mountain Club.  They always have such a warm and joyous home, and are two of my favorite people on earth.

That night, we shared an early turkey feast with them, then settled down for our long Winter’s nap on an inflatable mattress set up by the tree in the living room.  Bob, like me, is a kid at heart, so while Teresa fell asleep on the mattress and Shannon conked out on the floor, he and I stayed up late into the night watching classic Christmas programs on DVD.

Shannon, also a free spirit, was up at the crack of dawn, wanting to make coffee and open presents.  As exhausted as I was, it was so much fun to re-experience the childhood thrill of Christmas morning with a kindred soul.

pmc3.jpg (114704 bytes)Teresa wanted to sleep in a little longer, and Bob would not be dislodged from his cozy bed.  But, after about an hour, it was clear the sun would not be going down again, so Teresa joined Shannon and myself for coffee, and then all three of us descended on Bob’s room, boldly entered, and woke him up to shouts of, “Daddy, daddy, it’s Christmas!”  Good natured fellow he is, he just grinned from ear to ear, greeted us warmly, and got up to join in the fun.

It was a fine morning, and we all enjoyed the opening of presents, the sharing of our new toys, and a hearty breakfast for the road.

pmc4.jpg (178483 bytes)Before we left, we all went out to see the log house Bob is building up there, and spent some time skulking around the framework.  Then, it was time to leave and join the family for our Christmas festivities in Burbank, which is but an hour and a quarter’s drive away.  


pmc7.jpg (96609 bytes)There, again, we had a most pleasant time.  A multitude of presents under the tree, the joy of being with family again, the relief at seeing Mary so well after her recent ordeal, and a fine holiday dinner to boot.

All too soon, it was time to leave and return up highway 99 to our home in the Sierras – another eight hour drive the day after making the same journey down!

We arrived near home earlier than we expected.  While on the way, we got a call from Teresa’s ex-fiance, and our joint good friend, Alan, who had made his usual vacation arrangements to spend a week with us around the holidays.

The original plan had been for me to drive the family up here, then take Mary and the kids to Sacramento airport early the morning of the 26th.  So, Alan made reservations for the 24th and 25th on the Delta King riverboat in Sacramento, anticipating that we pick him up to stay at our place right after dropping off the gang.  But, since we drove down for Christmas instead, we were going to arrive home, then get up early yet again, and have to drive into Sacramento for a special trip to get him.

After his phone call telling us he was all set to be picked up the next morning, Teresa suggested we call him back and see if he wanted to cut short his final night on the boat and have us swoop him up on the way home, which passed right by him.  He readily agreed, as his bed was listing to port in the heavy rainstorm, so we pulled off the freeway, groped our way through Old Town Sacramento, then gathered our Alan and returned, finally, to our high Sierra mountain town.

a2.jpg (191283 bytes)The following week, alas, poor Alan, was one continuous rainstorm.  In fact, it was the most concentrated period of rain in Northern California in 8 years!  So, we spent most of our time around the house watching television, yet still managed to make a brief excursion up to the Big Trees (giant Sequoias) during a respite from the storm, and Alan and I also hit the movie theater today in Placerville to catch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before it left the screens.

a1.jpg (120581 bytes)Afterward, we strolled around historic Old Town Placerville and enjoyed a hot chocolate while poking in and out of the few stores that were still open on New Year’s Eve in the late afternoon.

I’m continuing this entry on the 4th of January, having started it the day before the New Year.  I wanted to keep the date in the 2005s because the link to “What’s New” on my personal web page jumps to the current year listings of new work published, which includes my diary.

As you’ll see shortly, I’ve kind of run out of gender issues to explore at this point in my life.  The whole angst thing with Teresa’s FFS and my own resultant issues took a path over the last few weeks that pretty much resolved the lot.  I’ll explain that whole progression in a moment, but you see the reason for finishing this up in 2005 is that since I’m out of that realm of consideration, probably for quite a while, I’d like my home page to reflect that “What’s New” no longer includes gender related stuff.

You know, there are a million other things in which I’m interested and involved, though they have pretty much been background material while gender took center stage for the last 17 years.  And although I may diverge from my audience, it really is time in my life (I’m almost 53 now) to put that topic aside and see what life is like without that subject glaring in my mind’s eye all the time.

So, beginning with my next entry, the first one for 2006, you’ll likely not see much, if any, mention of gender, though I suppose it would be hard to imagine that after almost two decades of complete and total focus, that area of consideration could easily vanish completely from my ramblings.

Still and all, here is the wrap up of what was going on gender-wise during the same time described above in non-gender issue terms.

After I made my last entry in my video journal touting the Holy Grail of gender, I had a falling out with myself.  It wasn’t a bad row, but I did fall back to some degree from my previous enthusiasm.

Nonetheless, I decided to wait for a while before describing what I was experiencing, as there was so much going on in my life it was hard to tell what was gender driven, and what was not.

melanie3.jpg (80251 bytes)In short, there were a couple of days when I would get depressed by looking at how beautiful Teresa was, and then examining my own countenance with a jaundiced eye.  I sometimes felt as if I would never feel like anything but a transsexual and could never achieve the physical state I had so desired all my life.  But mostly, the days were pleasantly spent in preparations for the holidays.

Now, Teresa has been on injectable hormones for some time.  She had started with pills when she was transitioning at 18, then switched to injections about 8 years later on the recommendation of some friends.  She found that she both felt better emotionally and also experienced superior physical results, including increased libido.

She went back on pills when she journeyed to Alaska, and was just getting back on injections when I met her almost ten years ago.  I used to drive her down to Hollywood for her shot one every week (or two) as schedule and money permitted.

A few years after we got together and once we moved up to Pine Mountain Club, it was both too costly and too inconvenient for her to continue the shots, so she switched back to pills.

Some months before her FFS, she finally came back to the injections and, experiencing the same positive effects, suggested to me, from time to time, that I might like to try them myself.

Well, I had suffered a horrible experience emotionally with the injections I had when first starting out (as documented earlier in this diary) and found myself screaming at the top of my lungs, through tears, in the back yard in the middle of the night where Mary and I used to live.  The experience was so awful, I went right off the shots and have been on pills ever since.

A couple years ago, I started to worry about all the negative news coming out about the health risks of estrogens.  So, I gradually decreased my dose, figuring I was close to menopausal age anyway, and eventually went off them altogether for several months.

What I discovered was that my hair thinned out and the hairline started to recede.  My skin became rougher and my facial featured became more harsh.  I lost my “look” that I had enjoyed for so many years.  And, I started getting soft-clocked.  So, I went back on a modest dose of estrogen, and stuck with that.

Some of the problems were lessened, but none were resolved.  Still and all, I figured I was on the right dose because of an interesting correlation I had discovered years ago between the effects of estrogen and coffee on my system.

Seems that coffee tends to counteract estrogen, at least in me.  For example, if I raise or lower my dose of estrogen, about three days later I get leg cramps, especially at night.  If I keep the dose constant and drink a lot of coffee, I get the same leg cramps.  And if I stop the coffee and go “cold turkey” then three days later the leg cramps hit.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but it occurred to me that either the coffee was interfering with the performance of the estrogen, or at least it was a good indicator if I had enough estrogen in my system.

When I had large doses of estrogen, I could drink coffee with abandon, but on marginal doses, the coffee would trigger the cramps as surely as if I had lowered the dose.  So I worked out a ratio of how much coffee I could drink on certain doses of estrogen, and then I’d limit myself to that, trying to make sure I had enough estrogen to both do the intended job and allow the occasional cup of Java.

This went on for some time, but even at what seemed the optimal level of estrogen, my features changed toward the masculine and my body adjusted in that direction as well.

And then there were the emotional issues.  It seemed that if I got to the point of cramps, I’d enter a PMS phase, whether it be caused by not enough estrogen or by too much coffee!  I still can’t explain the relationship between the two chemicals compounds, but I’m absolutely convinced that one exists.  Oh, and this held true for both regular and decafe coffee, by the way.

Now I also had an effect on a few occasions in my life where my vision went bad, all the way to double vision and tunnel vision, unable to focus.  And at the same time, I had so little energy I couldn’t raise my arms and had to lay in bed for up to three days.  I’d also break out in an itchy rash on my legs, and my skin would dry out something horrible.  At its worst, I’d have trouble breathing and irregular heartbeats where I’d skip every third beat for a couple days.  Ended up in the hospital once for tests.

I kept trying to figure out what brought this on.  For a while, I thought it might be shingles, or perhaps the result of having had mono in my 30’s.  Back in the day, I thought it might be progesterone that was the cause, so I stopped taking progesterone pills early in transition and never went back.  One result was that I never developed much of an ass, and that I got really tiny nipples – kind of like “Barbie Doll” boobs.  That certainly made me feel a bit less of a woman.

When these symptoms came back later, I decided it was coffee, but never went back on the progesterone for fear I might be wrong and would risk my life.  At times, I suspected it might be dehydration that was causing all the problems, since you lose two cups of water for every cup of coffee you drink, and I would often go several days without drinking anything except coffee.

I used to drink gallons of water as a kid, but once I got on coffee in my twenties, that stopped.

So, I tried upping my water intake, and it seemed to have a positive effect on some of the symptoms, but not all, so I just let it slack.

Well, Teresa, recognizing the benefits she had found, encouraged me from time to time to try injections, but that bad experience and the fact the injections included progesterone made me shy away and decline.

I began to wonder, however, if perhaps some of my emotional swings, and even maybe the depth of my despair, though on the proper compass heading, were over-exaggerated by an improper hormone balance in my brain.

Since I had recently come to the belief that I had always been of female mind and the body was wrong, rather than the other way around as I had often felt, then perhaps my life-long angst was not so much due to a life terrible, but to a biochemical imbalance.  And maybe, just maybe, the solution was not to be found in changing my features, my lifestyle, or sampling Prozac, but in simply achieving the right levels of estrogen and progesterone.

And so, though my dour mood was largely held in abeyance as the holidays approached, I came to accept Teresa’s offer to try injections again.  So, a little over two weeks ago, I switched over to the shot and not only got a higher dose of estrogen, but also my first “taste” of progesterone in something like fourteen years.

I decided to clear my mind from expectations, and neither try to see certain results or minimize others.  I thought I felt the first effects within hours of the initial injection.  It seemed that my breasts got warm and felt fuller.

The following day, I went into a pretty deep depression, and I was disturbed that I should respond in such a manner, which seemed to indicate I was not truly a woman of mind at all.

But on the second day, my mood improved to the point that I found it impossible to feel depressed at all!  This mood held, and even when I chose to intentionally consider the issues most painful to me in order to see the result under this new dose and mix, I found I simply could not make myself cry, no matter how I tried!

In short, the whole bottom end of my emotional range became truncated, leaving me to feel anything from neutral to elation.  Now, the heights of my positive feelings were not diminished (as often happens with anti-depressant drugs, or so I am told since I have never dared try them – especially since a friend told me that Zoloft wiped out much of their childhood memories!) but rather, it just cut off the negative emotions.

But did it really?  Or was it simply that this was the balance of hormones my brain has been starved for, and with the life I have had, I never would have felt as negatively if only I had been properly hormonally balanced?  Important distinction – does this new dose prevent negative emotions, or just rebalance my assessment so that things do not seem as negative, yet still allow me the full range of negative feelings if the situation really warranted them?

I do not yet have the answer to that question, as no true downers have occurred to me since I began this new approach.  When, someday, I do suffer a truly devastating experience, perhaps I will be sure.  But, I suspect I can still be sad and sour, if the occasion appropriately triggered such feelings, but no longer from simply messing up my own mind from the inside.

After one week, I had come to feel so much better about myself and the results of my lip surgery.  And, I was almost immediately quite content with Teresa’s new look.  It no longer caused me any pain whatsoever, but in fact, I found it quite attractive and sexy.

What a change!  Emotionally, I was suddenly riding a train instead of a roller coaster!

At the end of that week, Teresa had run out of progesterone, so I needed to content myself with estrogen only.  A few days later, about ten days since the original progesterone injection, my mood fell again like a stone.  I lay on the bed debilitated by depression, and cried several times, trying to hide it from Teresa, but not wholly succeeding.

For most of that second week, it was back on the roller coaster, and while Alan was here, it was hard for me to keep anything resembling an even emotional keel.

Fortunately, Teresa was resupplied, and Sunday night (today is Wednesday) I had my progesterone level replenished.  Once again, the day after, and half of the next, I had a minor depression, but then the hormone kicked in fully, and again I am normal of mental timber in a way I never have been before!

I write today feeling good about life, positive about both my self and my physical manifestation.  It seems that higher estrogen and a reasonable dose of progesterone are what is required by my brain to see life more as it is, and less as a never ending disaster in progress.

And the physical effects?  I finally have nipples.  Yep, as crude as it is to say, I always wanted those little stand-out bumps that rise up when cold or excited.  I’m sure there is more growth to experience in that area, but I can tell you that already I have easily noticeable improvement.

And, my face has changed, already!   I had read a message that had been on Teresa’s computer as she scanned her boards, and the gist was that a long-term post-op like myself had also gone off hormones for the same reason and hadn’t realized how much it had masculinized her face until she decided to go back on and saw immediate results in under two weeks.

I kid you not, the changes are staggering!  I have stopped getting any soft clockings at all.  Even the lip surgery didn’t completely do that.  And what’s more, clerks in stores, especially female ones, are making eye contact as they never have in all my life, and having ongoing conversations with me in pleasant gossip as I have always seen other women do, but have never been a party to.

There is complete acceptance there as who I know I am on the inside.

Teresa tells me I act differently too.  She says I am even more feminine in my manner than I was before, and that I exude a very pleasant aura of friendly confidence – something I’ve never had.  And though I can’t see it in myself, I’ll take her work for it.

If this is the short term effect, what will happen when the skin regenerates in twenty one days?  Already many of my facial wrinkles have vanished due to increased collagen production, and the remaining ones are clearly lessened.  Also, my hair feels thicker.  Imagination, or could it be due to a build up of activity in the follicles that makes the hairs more resilient at the base when I run my fingers through them?

The rash I have when drinking too much coffee has diminished to almost nothing and should be completely gone in a couple more days.  The skin on the back of my hands, which had become like parchment, is soft to the touch again, and feels “padded.”  In fact, the whole body has rearranged short term fat so that I have a modest but growing tush, and a layer of subcutaneous fat everywhere.

In short, even in just two weeks, the estrogen has feminized my body and face, and the progesterone has enhanced secondary sexual characteristics (including libido) and balanced my emotional mental baseline.

Do you think I’ll ever go off them no matter the risk?

Teresa is right in commenting that she has to keep me on this stuff.  Not only is my life happier and my problems of being soft-read resolved, but her life with me has improved dramatically, as I am now a much more pleasant person to life with.

That says a lot for her love that she could have patience with me throughout these years, and especially through this traumatic journey of FFS, and remain committed to me without any expectation the situation would ever improve.  And then to find that all of these issues are put to rest by simply switching from pills to injections – well, let us simply say the relationship (which was always solid, though threatened) has now become unalterably secure.

And so I’ll close now with these final thoughts:

At first, I was thrilled with Dr. O’s work on my lip, as the length had obviously been shortened.  But, due to the swelling, there wasn’t much lip curl, and the upper lip was just a thin line.

Due to my emotional state from my original hormone dose, I became increasingly depressed, especially seeing Teresa look better and better every day.  But as the weeks went by from my own surgery (four weeks as of yesterday), the swelling went down and the results became better and better.  And my assessment that I didn’t get what I was looking for turned out to be simple impatience on my part, and not reflective of the wonderful surgery he performed.

In addition, my negative mood was driven further down from the starvation of my brain for the proper hormone balance.  So, when these weeks have passed and the lip largely healed, and the hormones are rightly in place, I am simply ecstatic with the way it has all turned out.

I don’t know if coffee affects anyone else the same way.  I don’t know if hormones affect anyone else the same way.  But I suspect, for most, based on the experiences I have had, it might be worth looking into.

Injections, for me, don’t work pre-op due to the war between them and the existing testosterone which totally break you up inside.  But after SRS, they seem to be absolutely essential.  In fact, I should have had SRS and injections from the onset of puberty.

What would life have been for me if I had?  I often muse on that now, imagining past scenarios that never happened, but might have.  And on the injections, I rather daydream pleasantly through them instead of spiraling into dismay and a sense of loss as I often had before.

I’m sure the positive effects will continue to expand and grow from months to come.  But I won’t be reporting about that here.

I have had my surgery, which struck to the heart of my sense of identity on my face, and Dr. O has made it fully female in my assessment.  I have altered the hormone balance in my body and brain, and my look has become more female, and my mind now functions properly.  I have been given a gift in my relationship with Teresa, to not only enjoy her wonderfully sensual new look, but the intensity of our emotional connection minus the despondencies of the past.

There are no currently remaining gender issues to explore for me; no gender related problems unresolved.

So I will leave the topic here, at the end of 2005, and will embark upon the new year with a new appreciation for life, and a new ability to participate in it.

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