“‘Well mom and dad, are you ready to find out if you’re having a boy or a girl?’
I could hardly contain my excitement as the ultrasound technician moved the wand around on my swollen belly. In addition to me and my husband, we had also invited my mother and his mother into the ultrasound appointment. It was November of 2008 and I was right at 20 weeks pregnant. We had been married just a little over 3 years; we were both 24 and we had planned this pregnancy down to the minute. Having suffered from three miscarriages already, my pregnancy was considered ‘high risk’, and each morning since I’d found out I was pregnant – after months of taking progesterone, timing out my cycles, reading all of the books, etc – I was terrified that I would start bleeding again and lose this baby too. However, I’d made it to the halfway mark, and my reward was getting to find out if this little miracle baby I was carrying was a boy or a girl. I’d miscarried too early with the other pregnancies to ever find out the gender.
The baby was not shy at letting the world know that he was most definitely a boy. It didn’t take long for him to flip around in my stomach a few times before the technician said, ‘There it is mom and dad! You’ve definitely got a boy!’ I could see the pride on my husband’s face; a boy to carry on the family name. Both my mother and mother-in law were excited too. This baby would be the first grandson on my husband’s side of the family, and the first grandchild on my side. When I called and told my dad, I swear I could hear him smiling through the phone. He had always wanted a boy, but instead, he ended up with three little girls, the oldest one being me. He was finally going to get that boy he’d always dreamed up. He immediately talked about all of the fishing trips they would take together and how he’d have him riding a Harley in no time. I was excited too of course – I honestly didn’t have a preference for a boy or a girl. I just wanted a healthy baby.
Samuel Thomas Hanchett was born the afternoon of April 21, 2009. He weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces and was 21 inches long. Despite the pregnancy being very rough (one of my kidneys shut down when I was about 25 weeks pregnant and I had to have emergency surgery to have a stint put in, and then–during the last few weeks of the pregnancy–I developed dangerously high blood pressure and was put on bed rest), the birth itself went very smoothly. When he came out, and I saw his face for the first time, I can’t even explain how amazing it was. I know that every parent describes seeing their baby for the first time as ‘love at first sight’, and that’s probably totally cheesy and cliche…until it happens to you. He was perfectly perfect. He had a head full of dark hair and bright blue eyes, just like his daddy. I couldn’t get enough of him.
We were only in the hospital for two days and then we got to bring Sam home to the nursery that I had so painstakingly decorated, and everything was blissfully perfect…
Okay, that last statement is a complete lie. Sam wouldn’t stop crying. I think I called the nurse’s station at the hospital AT LEAST 10 times the first night we were home with him. I tried everything to soothe him…and it wasn’t long before I realized that this whole momming thing wasn’t going to be as easy and perfect as I had dreamed it was going to be my entire life. You see, I’m a planner. Type A to a fault…one of my good friends actually referred to me as ‘Type A Plus.’ I was used to perfection…I was good at pretty much everything I set my mind to. It didn’t take long for me to realize that for the first time in my life, this was a challenge I wasn’t really prepared for. From the get-go, Sam was a strong willed person and I had met my match. It was when I became a mother that I finally realized I really didn’t have control over much of anything. Despite my near obsessive Type A Plus personality, this was not a challenge that I could just check off boxes and get done. I couldn’t study for this; there wasn’t a way to ‘ace’ parenting. For the first time in my life, I just had to try to ‘go with the flow’…and I was absolutely terrified.
However, over time, my husband and I got the whole first-time parenting thing down. We figured out how to survive on very little sleep and ridiculous amounts of caffeine. We were both working full time and raising this tiny human. Before we knew it, Sam was a year old! He was so smart…he was speaking in short sentences by his first birthday. He wasn’t yet walking by his first birthday, but that could have been because I carried him EVERYWHERE. By the time he was about 14 months old, he was running all over the place. It wasn’t long before he was getting into everything and he was definitely a ‘mama’s boy’. Sure, he thought my husband was pretty cool, but I was WAAAAAAAY cooler. Of course, I had already known this fact about myself for quite some time, but it was nice to finally get some recognition from someone else about my awesomeness, even if it was from a person who still pooped his pants.
One of Sam’s favorite things to watch me do each morning was put on my makeup as I got ready for work. It didn’t take long before he was trying to reach for the brushes. I thought this was adorable, so I bought an extra fluffy brush just for him and I would let him rub it all over his face in the morning while I was putting on my makeup. Then, by the time Sam was two, he had discovered the amazing world of dress up at his childcare center. While the other little boys would spend their time playing with trucks and building with blocks, Sam spent all of his time with little girls in the dress up corner of the classroom–he loved to wear hats, feather boas, and carry a purse. He got so obsessed with carrying a purse that I gave him one of my old ones and he took it with him everywhere. Of course, he had all of his most important items in it…his binkies, a sippy cup, a few toys, a tube of bubble gum flavored Lip Gloss, and his makeup brush.
Everyone thought that it was ‘so cute’ that toddler Sam loved playing with makeup and dressing up. Anytime we went out to breakfast on the weekends, Sam would spend time putting on his collection of plastic necklaces, a scarf or two he’d borrowed from me, some lip gloss, and then his purse. The kid never left home without his purse. No one never batted an eye. I didn’t think anything of it. I’ve always been a very open minded and accepting person. If my toddler wants to carry a purse, why not? He’s not hurting anyone, and it helps to keep him occupied! He still loved ‘boy’ things too of course. Halloweens were spent dressing up as superheroes and we had entire baskets full of trucks and balls spread out all over our house.
Sam was just a few months shy of 3 years old when his baby brother Cooper was born. By that point, I was practically a boy mom veteran’ and Cooper’s pregnancy, birth, and trip home from the hospital were a lot easier than Sam’s had been. He was thrilled about having a baby brother and we were happy to have completed our little family. I was a little bummed about not getting a girl, but I was also just thankful to have given birth to two healthy and beautiful babies.
As Sam got older, he actually became more interested in toys, activities, and clothes that would traditionally be labeled as for ‘girls’ than ‘boys’. While other 4-year-old boys were asking for action figures and toy guns for Christmas and birthdays, Sam was asking for Barbie Dolls and Easy Bake Ovens. Now, this is probably a good time to give you just a little peek into my background: I was raised by a single mom who is probably one of the most liberal and open-minded people who has ever come out of Oklahoma. The first babysitter I can every remember having was a very butch lesbian named Donna who lived with her ‘friend’ Patty. When my sisters and I would go to visit her, we would ask where Donna’s husband was. My mom simply told us, ‘Donna doesn’t have a husband. She and Patty are in love and that’s why they live together’. I never thought that this was weird or gross. It just was what it was. This was how my mom raised us: to love and respect everyone and to not only accept people’s unique differences, but to honor and celebrate them.
My husband, on the other hand, was raised by a father who was a Southern Baptist Preacher and a mother who stayed at home to take care of him and his three brothers. He was homeschooled for a large part of his childhood and raised up in the church…he enlisted in the Air Force right after he turned 18 and is still serving in the Air National Guard to this day. To say we are from completely different worlds would be quite an understatement. So, while I was all for Sam carrying around purses, owning 40 different tubes of lip gloss, and playing with Barbie dolls, my husband was having a much harder time dealing with his oldest son having an affinity for all things pink and sparkly. His family–his father especially–also seemed to struggle with it a bit. We had to ask Sam to leave his purses and makeup in the car when we would go to visit them.
By the time that Sam had reached Pre-K, there was no denying that he was truly one fabulous little guy, and some people (some of our family members included) didn’t think it was ‘so cute’ anymore. By this point, Sam had converted the toy tool box in our playroom into his own personal jewelry stand…he would spend HOURS organizing all of his plastic makeup kits, jewelry, and purses. He had a giant Barbie house and one of his favorite things to do was wash and style the hair on all of his Barbies and jazz up their outfits. While he didn’t own any ‘girl’s clothes’ that he wore daily, he loved to dress up in his cousin’s dresses, skirts, hats, and shoes (he has two female cousins who are both only 4 months younger than him).
One day, Sam’s Pre-K teacher sent a note home explaining that the classroom was going to be having a ‘Spa Day’ at the end of the week and there was a spot on the note to check whether or not you approved for your little girl’s to have their nails painted. There was another spot to check whether or not you approved to have your child’s face painted as well. Sam was JAZZED to have his nails painted. He had been begging me to do it for awhile and while I had agreed to paint his toenails a few times before that, I hadn’t really ever painted his fingernails. So, I checked the box granting permission for him to have his nails painted.
The next day, when I arrived to pick Sam up from his Pre-K classroom, he was distraught. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me, ‘I gave my teacher the note that you sent back with me, but she told me that only the little girls can have their nails painted…not the boys.’
And that’s the first time I can remember advocating on behalf of my son and his fabulousness. I arrived at his school early the next morning, marched up to his teacher, and said, ‘Excuse me–did you tell Sam that only the little girls can have their nails painted?’ She said, ‘Well…yes.’ I said, ‘And why is that?’, to which she replied, ‘Well, little boys don’t wear fingernail polish,’ to which I quickly responded with, ‘Well, THIS one does.’
You had better believe I made it a point to go to the school the day of the Spa Day and I watched as my little boy’s face lit up while he had his nails painted. He was the only boy in the class who had them done, and by the end of the day he had peeled most of the cheap pink polish off, but he was so absolutely happy with it that we began painting them on a regular basis. He was becoming self-conscious by this point though, so he’d always ask me to paint them on a Friday night and he’d take the polish off on Sunday night before heading back to his Pre-K class on Monday morning. At his Pre-K graduation ceremony, they made a slideshow of all of the children’s responses as to what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of the boys had answered with fireman, policeman, astronaut, or teacher. Sam, however, proudly stated that he wanted to be a ‘jewelry maker’. When asked why, he said, ‘So I can make my mama pretty jewelry’. I’m not really an emotional person, but I bawled like a baby when I heard that response.
Flash forward to just a few years later. Sam turned 10 this past April and is preparing to go into the 5th grade. He is a straight A student. He’s popular and liked by pretty much everyone. He has been active in his local Boy Scout troop (which my husband has helped to lead) since he was around five. And…he happens to identify as gender non-binary, although he still prefers to use ‘he/him’ pronouns. My sweet little ‘miracle baby’ who would carry around purses full of Lipsmackers lip gloss asked for an Ipsy Glam Bag monthly subscription from Santa last year for Christmas (we have since upgraded to the Glam Blag Plus, thank you very much). He spends all of the money he earns from doing chores, tooth fairy money, money he receives for holidays, etc., on makeup. He spends hours watching makeup tutorials online. He puts on a little bit of makeup each morning before he goes to school and he does his ‘full face’ on the weekends before we head out to go grocery shopping, see a movie, or just if we’re staying at home.
Additionally, he doesn’t really shop in the ‘boys’ clothing section at stores anymore….he feels more comfortable wearing the colorful clothes that you would typically find in the ‘girls’ section. He still doesn’t leave home without some kind of purse…except, now instead of filling it up with things like Lipsmacker lip gloss, he’s moved onto brands like Tarte, Urban Decay, and Morphe.
People have been asking me for years if Sam is gay or transgender. My response has always been, ‘Sam is a child…and if I have anything to do with it, he’ll be a happy one.’ We spend a lot of time in our house talking about concepts like what all of the letters in the acronym ‘LGBTQ+’ mean, gay marriage, asking people what their preferred pronouns, gender as a fluid construct, the history of the Pride movement and why it’s so important today, etc. I don’t just talk to Sam about these things, I talk to his now 7-year-old brother Cooper about them, too. I know how important it is to teach ALL children–not just the fabulous ones–about respecting and loving ALL people, and the importance of educating them now so that when they do grow up and begin dating, they’ll never have to ‘come out of the closet’ because they were welcome in the room the whole time. My children know that in this house, we believe in all for love, and love for all. And THAT, friends, is truly all that matters in the end.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shannon Hanchett of Norman, Oklahoma. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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