The Picture Wall:
One Woman's Story of Being His Her Their Mother
- by C.A. Gibbs
Motherhood, for Charlotte, has been defined by the autism, gender dysphoria, and mental illness experienced by her oldest child.
In The Picture Wall, she takes us on an intimate and emotional journey as she discovers what it really means to let go as a child grows up to live life on their own terms.
First Place Winner
BookFest Book Awards (Spring 2022)
Non-Fiction > Relationships > LGBTQ+
Second Place Winner
BookFest Book Awards (Spring 2022)
Non-Fiction > Relationships > Family
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.
What to Expect
Section I: His Mother
An Hour an Ounce
Toughen Up Buttercup
A Serious Calling
Unhappy Boy, Unhappy Man
Section II: Her Mother
New Phase of Life
Keith the Counsellor
Angry With God
Cute Shoes & a Great Purse
Campaign of Pretense
The Wall Comes Down
What Was Real?
Section III: Their Mother
Degree of Being
A Mother Worries
The Matthew Project
The Picture Wall
In The Picture Wall (excerpt)
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.
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"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."
“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."
“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.”
“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. "
“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.”
I want to thank Ms. Gibbs for writing this book. As a mother of a transgender daughter, my fears and feelings are following almost the same path as hers as I navigate this life change. I feel so much better knowing I am not alone with some of the emotions I feel as a mother. Thank you SO much for being brave enough to share this story!