Navigating Life After Birth as a Trans Dad
As a transmasculine, non-binary birthing person, I thought a lot about what support — both day-to-day on a personal level and within the medical system — would be like during my pregnancy journey and birthing experience. Now, almost a year after the birth of my baby, Wilder Lea, I find myself wishing I had put as much focus on supporting myself during my first year postpartum as I did on my pregnancy journey.
A month after becoming ill with COVID-19 in March of 2020, I found out I was expecting my miracle baby, Wilder. Being amid a pandemic while also recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally, my support system was extremely limited and looked very different from what I had always imagined it would. This also meant attending all of my medical appointments and emergency room visits (a total of five during my pregnancy) alone — something that has continued into my postpartum journey.
Struggling to Self-Care Post-Pregnancy
I didn’t spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about what my postpartum experience would look like. And as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety all of their life, I wish I could have prepared myself with more education and support in my after-birth experience. Due to the pandemic, I didn’t have a postpartum doula or any in-home support after my parents left, which was exactly two weeks after Wilder was born.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely had people offering their services and support, but the severe anxiety I felt around the idea of someone else coming into my home was so profound that it prevented me from accessing it. This is something I continue to struggle with to this day.
I wholeheartedly believe that my career as a nanny, degree in child development, and experience as a family and household manager has allowed me to survive my first year of parenthood without in-person support.
It’s OK To Be a Different Parent Than You Imagined
Caring for other people’s babies has been very different than caring for my own — in ways that I didn’t quite expect. For example, I've helped many families sleep train their babies. Prior to giving birth, I had multiple cribs and a nursery decorated specially for Wilder. And wouldn’t you know, my baby has slept on my chest or in my arms every single night and nap of their life, aside from in the car. Not only that, but safely co-sleeping has become one of my absolute favorite parts of parenting.
My postpartum journey has already taught me how important flexibility is, as well as how important it is to try new things when something isn’t working. I had ideas and expectations around how I was going to parent and, in many ways, how I actually parent is totally different. And that’s OK!
Letting Go of the Pregnancy Glow
Pregnancy and giving birth was a spiritual experience that fostered more self-love than I had ever dreamed possible, especially as a trans person. There has been a great deal of grief in losing that magical connection I had with my body while pregnant.
Don’t get me wrong, I deeply love my body today, but we are still getting used to this new way of living in the world together.
Images of transmasculine postpartum (or pregnant) bodies are not as readily available as many other postpartum bodies. There aren't as many written experiences to help find connection, which is why I show up and share my joys and challenges as both a trans person, as well as a single, first-time parent during a pandemic.
Finding Love For an Ever-Changing and Healing Body
Now, I’m navigating my way through postpartum hormones, while also balancing beginning testosterone hormone replacement therapy for a second time since giving birth. Many trans birthing people who start hormones again after giving birth typically do so around three months postpartum.
As a recovering addict navigating early recovery — in addition to postpartum depression and anxiety — I decided to wait until I was six months postpartum before trying to go back on testosterone. What I quickly found was that it increased my anxiety, depression, and irritability while decreasing my patience, which — as a single parent living in the woods alone with no support — was a red flag.
After being back on hormones for a month, I was faced with a decision: did I want to feel more OK in my body and stay on hormones, or stop and feel more OK mentally and emotionally? I made the decision to stop hormones. Although I still experience a great deal of body dysphoria due to being off of them, I feel much better mentally, emotionally, and spiritually — allowing me to show up as the best parent possible.
I’ll try starting hormones again one day when I have more support in place, but until then I’m staying put in this body of mine and leaning into the love pregnancy taught me.
A Challenging (But Incredibly Rewarding) Adventure
I thought pregnancy and giving birth was going to be the hardest part of becoming a new parent, but I was wrong. This first year since giving birth has absolutely knocked me down, squished any ego left in me, picked me back up, brushed me off, and shown me more joy than I could have ever imagined.
I’ve done so many hard things in my life and becoming a parent is absolutely one of them. Becoming a parent has also been one of the most sacred, spiritual experiences I’ve ever embarked on.
This past year, even in the struggle, has been the brightest time of my life.