The Picture Wall

For years, her son kept a secret.

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

The Picture Wall book cover

Picture Wall

One Woman’s Story

of Being His Her Their Mother


Sneak Peak at the Table of Contents

Section I: His Mother

  • Someday Baby
  • Premature Joy
  • An Hour an Ounce
  • Toughen Up Buttercup
  • A Serious Calling
  • Spilled Milk
  • Family Historian
  • Unhappy Boy, Unhappy Man

Section II: Her Mother

  • New Phase of Life
  • The News
  • Taco Soup
  • Modus Operandi
  • Thanksgiving
  • Keith the Counsellor
  • Angry With God
  • Nightmare
  • Musical Chairs
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Cute Shoes & a Great Purse
  • Campaign of Pretense
  • The Wall Comes Down
  • What Was Real?
  • Discrimi-Nation

Section III: Their Mother

  • Hello Empathy
  • Degree of Being
  • Gender X
  • A Mother Worries
  • The Matthew Project
  • The Picture Wall


3D Picture Wall Book Cover

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

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