30 Dec 2011

The First Pregnant Man

I just finished reading Thomas Beatie's Labour of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy. I read most of it overnight because my poor little guy was nursing constantly due to a cold. The book is not terribly well-written but I was curious to hear about the social and media aspects of his pregnancy. The main question I've come away with is this: why did Beatie and his wife have such a rough time while my family has been met almost entirely with understanding and generosity?
Portrait of Beatie, his wife, and their child
Beatie with his wife and child: a happy family.

One possible answer is that Beatie was a trail blazer for us. Although I'm sure other trans guys have gone through pregnancy and birth before, Beatie was the first to go public with it. He appeared on Oprah at around the same time that I announced my own intention to transition to my family, friends and colleagues. Maybe everyone we've come into contact with had already heard of Beatie and so felt a little more comfortable with the idea of a pregnant transgender guy. Possibly, but I doubt that this explains all of it.

Beatie lives in a small town and we live in a small city. This might help us I suppose. Is Canada just far more tolerant than the US in general? Do our health care providers get better LGBT training? For one thing, we didn't require any medical assistance to get pregnant while Beatie did. But still, my family doctor's reaction to our pregnancy was simple: "well, it's very natural to want to have a family. Make sure you take folic acid. See you later alligator." Our midwives prioritized us because they thought the continuity of care they could provide would be helpful.

Beatie says in his book that he went public with his story because it would have been impossible for a guy to hide a pregnancy. Well, we did. Kind of. Friends and family and colleagues knew because we told them. Our neighbours didn't have a clue until we introduced them to our two week old baby. I don't think strangers ever really gave me a second glance. Or if they did they were too polite to ever say anything. I wore somewhat baggy sweaters and that took care of things.

I was deeply saddened to read about how Beatie was denied medical care on numerous occasions, laughed at by nurses, and rejected by members of his family and community. I don't know why exactly my family has been so lucky but I am incredibly grateful for the sheer joy expressed by our baby's grandparents, the squeals of delight offered by our next door neighbours when they finally found out, the oodles of gifts flung at us from friends and even casual acquaintances, and of course the thousands of ounces of breast milk donated to our baby by close to twenty generous women. Happy New Year everyone.

14 Dec 2011

A Gay Man's Guide to Breastfeeding: If I Can Do It, So Can You!

Note: This is about as far from medical advice as you can get.

Step One: Plan a home birth. If this is not possible for you, choose a nearby field preferably with tall, sweet-smelling grass. If you are more woodsy-minded, a small stand of trees will also do nicely.

Step Two: Gawk at people who are breastfeeding successfully. DO NOT politely avert your eyes at the sight of a bare human nipple, but instead, stare at it. Observe how the baby latches on.

Step Three: Birth on your own time, with privacy. Ask someone who has breastfed a child for at least one year to be on-call and ready to help you within an hour of the birth. DO call this person if you experience any difficulty latching your baby, or even if you are just not quite sure!

Step Four: Immediately after the birth, DO stay with your baby. DO NOT weigh or bathe your baby. BREASTFEED your baby.

Step Five: Breastfeed.

Step Six: Breastfeed.

Step Seven: Breastfeed.

Step Eight: Breastfeed.

Step Nine: Breastfeed.

Step Ten: If after all this breastfeeding, you still don't have enough milk, get some donated breast milk from a friend or through Human Milk 4 Human Babies.

Step Eleven: Keep breastfeeding. Use a supplemental nursing system if you need to.