As I type this, my 25-month-old is napping on my chest. I can feel his warm breath on my shoulder. I know, I know – he’s over two years old (!), but I still really enjoy holding him during naps. It’s my dirty little secret.
I’m Canadian, I’m gay, I’m transgender, I’m an animal-lover, but two years ago, I became my boy’s Dadda, and that trumps everything. Every cell in my body identifies as Dadda.
I was assigned the gender of female at birth, but transitioned to male about five years ago by taking testosterone and having male chest contouring surgery. Why do I say ‘assigned’, you ask? Others decided for me that I was female, based on my external genitalia. More correctly, I have never actually been female. I didn’t magically transition from a female person to a male person – rather, I used medical therapies to allow others to see the guy I’ve always been. After taking those steps, I felt much more comfortable with myself. My body started to match my felt gender more closely. What was casual dating with my partner quickly became serious. We got married and started talking about having a family, something neither of us had ever thought we would do.
We realized that the simplest way for us to have kids would be for me to carry our baby. Between us, we had all the necessary baby-making ‘parts’. My doctor said that I only needed to halt my hormone therapy in preparation. We conceived about four months later.
Parenting for Our Child
During the pregnancy, we read about parenting styles and decided that attachment parenting would be the best fit for us. We assumed that we would bottle-feed because of my previous surgery until a friend of mine loaned me Diana West’s book, Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Reduction Surgery. I wasn’t sure how much of the information would actually apply to me, since female-to-male top surgery is distinct from breast reduction surgery. However, after reading that book, I started to consider breastfeeding as a possibility. Around 20 weeks’ gestation, I realized that I could hand express colostrum – evidence that at least some of my milk ducts had not been permanently severed during my surgery. I became utterly determined to do my best, and to give our baby whatever drops of milk I could.
Birth Our Way
Our child was born at home, under the supervision of licensed midwives. I really appreciated the privacy of a home birth. I ended up making some milk, but not enough for a full supply. We received donated breast milk from a number of very generous, kind-hearted women. I used an ‘at-breast’ (in my case, at-chest!) supplementer so that I could give our baby all of his feedings at my chest. Using the device allows him to get whatever milk I am able to make at the same time as the supplement.
Sharing Our Story
A few weeks after our son’s birth, my partner and I were driving around the suburbs at 10pm to pick up donor milk, when we had the same thought: we were on an amazing journey that should some day be shared with others. I started taking notes that evening, and a few months later began writing a book and blogging about my personal experiences with transgender parenting, breastfeeding, and milk sharing. Other transgender birthing parents who noticed my work started to contact me, and I realized that there are a LOT more of us out there than most people imagine. I created a group on Facebook called Birthing and Breastfeeding Transmen and Allies when my son was 15 months old. It now has almost 400 members from countries all over the world. I am humbled to be part of this amazing, supportive community!
Trevor MacDonald lives in Winnipeg, Canada, with his partner, toddler, cat and puppy. He is currently a stay-at-home dad, and has an honours BA in political science from the University of British Columbia. He writes about his queer breastfeeding adventures on his blog at www.milkjunkies.net.