baby

Tina was told her baby died after birth. 29 years later, she got an email: “You’re my mum.”

For 29 years, Tina Bejarano grieved the loss of her baby girl.

Bejarano, from California, was just 17 years old when she gave birth. Her mother told her she couldn’t keep the baby, and the baby was taken away from her. The next day, her mother delivered some terrible news.

“She comes back to tell me, ‘The baby died 15 minutes after it was born. It never made it. It was sick,’” Bejarano told KMPH-TV.

Every year after that, Bejarano would celebrate her baby’s birthday. She married Eric Gardere and they had five children together. Even though he wasn’t the baby’s father, Gardere would celebrate the birthday every year along with Bejarano.

“It was a hard time every year,” Bejarano says.

loss of baby girl
Bejarano was just 17 years old when she gave birth. Image: KMPH-TV.

"She would go into major depression for about a week or two," Gardere adds.

But the baby hadn’t died 15 minutes after birth. At five days old, the baby had been adopted by a loving Mormon family and had grown up in Las Vegas. That baby, Kristin Cooke, is now 29, and has a blog, The Trans Dad, and a story of his own to tell.

On his blog, Cooke talks about being raised female, but always being “one of the guys”.

“When I was eight I remember telling my mum, ‘I think God messed up. He gave me a boy’s brain instead of a girl’s brain.’ That’s my earliest memory of feeling different.

“My mum was always supportive of me wanting to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs and only wanting to wear stuff from the boys’ section.”

Cooke came out as a lesbian at the age of 16.

“After coming out, all the people I knew as my close friends disowned me because being a lesbian is a sin. My mum, on the other hand, was very supportive and understanding.”

In 2010, Cooke met Ashley. Three years later, they married. Cooke had been wondering if he was trans, and so had his mother.

But it wasn’t until after the wedding that Cooke came out as a trans man.

It wasn’t an easy process.

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“Ashley had to mourn the loss of her wife to be able to truly love her husband. My parents had to mourn the loss of their daughter to gain a son.”

Meanwhile, back in California, Bejarano’s daughter convinced her to do a DNA test last year, to learn more about her heritage.

As a result of that test, Cooke, by now living in New Jersey, found out that Bejarano was his birth mother.

“I was very nervous to contact initially,” he tells Mamamia. “I knew if I didn’t send that message I would regret it.”

Bejarano remembers the wording of the message: "I think we need to talk, it says we're related, and it says you're my mum."

It wasn’t long before Cooke received a reply.

“It was actually her husband Eric who messaged me back first and said, ‘I’m married to your mum,’ and we all got in touch that way,” he explains.

Cooke tells Mamamia he did wonder how Bejarano would react to his transition.

“But from the beginning she was very respectful,” he says. “She’s never misgendered me.”

loss of baby girl
Cooke (right) with his partner and child now. Image: Supplied.

Bejarano told KMPH-TV that she didn’t care.

“I don't care if he's in transition. I don't care if he hasn't transitioned. I don't care. That's my kid."

Cooke says in the beginning, “all the emotions were everywhere”.

“My parents who raised me will always be my parents, but knowing more about my bio parents being so loving and open made it easy to embrace a whole new family.”

Cooke is a father himself. In March this year, his wife gave birth to Scarlet Rae. He sends photos of himself with Scarlet to Bejarano and Gardere almost every day. Cooke is planning to bring his family to see his biological parents next month.

“I’m grateful my daughter will have a whole added family,” he says. “We are blessed to be surrounded by so much love and support by all our families.”

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