The Picture Wall
For years, her son kept a secret.
A big secret.
The bombshell, delivered shortly after he left for college, left author C.A. Gibbs questioning everything. What was real? Through fear, anxiety, faith, loss, and grief, Gibbs shares the bittersweet journey of discovering that her adult child isn’t—and maybe hasn’t ever been—the person she thought.
In The Picture Wall: One Woman’s Story of Being His Her Their Mother, Gibbs lifts the curtain on life as the parent of a child who lives outside societal norms and expectations.
From her earliest desire of wanting nothing more than to be a mother, to facing her own life and death medical diagnosis before it was safe to get pregnant, to the self-doubt and push-back from others when she expressed concern over her toddler’s development, Gibbs finally comes to terms with the fact that the picture-perfect life displayed in her scrapbooks and on her family picture wall wasn’t reality.
At least it wasn’t the full picture.
The Picture Wall: One Woman’s Story of Being His Her Their Mother takes us on an intimate and emotional journey as Gibbs comes to terms with what it really means to let go as a child grows up to live their own authentic life, on their own terms.
From author C.A. Gibbs
One Woman's Story
of Being His Her Their Mother
A dual story of awakening of the heart of a mother towards her transgendered child and of the child’s awakening to his, her, their fluidity of gender. Mrs. Gibbs portrayal of her enduring journey is raw, honest, and hopeful in the deepest sense of the heart.
Susy Sanders, PhD
Clinical Psychologist, Morning Bridge Center
Written with courage and honesty. Choosing to support her child’s best authentic life means letting go of the familiar and finding her way in all new terrain. Gibbs’ book can serve as a guiding light for mothers whose children live outside societal norms and expectations.
Unpacking Guilt: A Mother's Journey to Freedom
C.A. Gibbs' book is a story about her travels as a mother on an unexpected path. It is a tale of acceptance, celebration and loving our children just the way they are.
Sneak Peak at the Table of Contents
Section I: His Mother
Section II: Her Mother
Section III: Their Mother
Brief Excerpt from Chapter 4: Toughen Up Buttercup
The days exhausted me, but I dreaded the nights. Nighttime was a ghoul overshadowing my existence. The baby who couldn't sleep or self-comfort grew into a toddler who would scream from night terrors. For years, Dave and I snatched sleep in increments of a few hours, in between the sudden and violent high-pitched screaming from the next room. The challenge was to calm our overwhelmed and confused child without stroking his head, rubbing his back, or rocking him back to sleep. My instinctive maternal strategies caused my child more discomfort.
Matthew’s response to pain was uniform. All injuries elicited the same screaming response. One evening, while we were at Dave’s church-league softball practice, I heard Matthew screaming and turned to see two older kids escorting him to the bleachers where I sat. I climbed down to the bottom row to meet them. Unable to speak through the screams, Matthew held up his hand. I checked for the mortal injury. There was no blood, all the fingers could bend, everything was moving, and there were no scratches. Nothing visible at all. I pressed Matthew’s hand between mine, wiped his face, gave his hand a kiss, and sent him off to play. He left, still wailing loud enough for those in the next town to hear. Other parents were watching me with their mouths hanging open. One mother voiced the question I imagined was on all their minds. “Do you think he might be really hurting?”
Heavy sigh, deep breath. I dug further to find a calm, monotone voice and put it out there for the collective. “His reaction is the same for a hangnail as for a broken finger.” Not only did I seem like the worst mother in the world for behaving as if I didn't care that my child was in so much pain that he might need emergency services, but I wasn't even cuddling him to calm him down. What these other parents didn’t know was that if I had tried to cuddle him, his reaction would only have escalated.
Copyright @2020 C.A. Gibbs
Available NOW in eBook, paperback
Our children are supposed to be loved unconditionally, but what does that really mean? In her book, The Picture Wall, C. A. Gibbs pursues the concept with each step she takes with her autistic son who later became her transgender nonbinary adult.
Her gut level honesty is both haunting and breathtaking.
A story of deep commitment, and great courage. It illustrates the depth of character required to survive revolutionary change and come out the other side with new appreciation for the complexities of life.
It is an enlightening and meaningful read.
Author C.A. Gibbs
C.A. Gibbs is the author of the memoir, The Picture Wall: One Woman’s Story of Being His, Her, Their Mother.
Ms. Gibbs is the proud mother of two adult children. Motherhood, for her, has been defined by the autism, transgenderism, and mental illness experienced by her oldest child.
Ms. Gibbs is also a writer, transcriptionist, former elementary school teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and proud dog-mom to a rambunctious golden retriever. She and her husband are enjoying their empty nest, joyfully celebrating those times when the kids come home and fill the house with noise and laughter.
While Ms. Gibbs takes her work seriously, she relaxes when she camps, plays board games, visits with friends over coffee, and gets to binge-watch crime dramas.
Listen to the interview on the Inspired Woman podcast where Gibbs talks about her experience and her book, The Picture Wall.
Check out this article written by Gibbs and published on the popular parenting website Grown and Flown.
Read this blog about the surprising impact of her writing process.
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