This transgender dad is the nursing parent to children he never saw coming until he fell in love.
My family includes 2 dads, 5 nursing kids—two human and three of the goat variety—and two does. I am a transgender dad, and I’m the nursing parent to my children, ages 4.5 years and 11 months. For me, personally, breastfeeding is a gender-neutral activity. At the time that I transitioned, I didn’t think I’d ever have kids. I was truly uncomfortable in my body and couldn’t fathom caring for someone else in such a complete and all-consuming way. However, after I had been taking testosterone for a while and had male chest contouring surgery, I began to feel at ease with myself. I met a wonderful person who I could imagine being a great parent. I suddenly had room in my heart for raising little ones.
I stopped taking testosterone and became pregnant about 5 months later. That was five years ago—I’ve since had two home births. I learned how to nurse using a supplementer because I didn’t have a full milk supply due to my previous surgery. I make a small amount of milk, and am fortunate to have many generous people who have donated human milk to my babies. My first child received donor milk until he was about 17 months old, after which point we switched to using cow’s milk, and eventually water, in the supplementer. He still nurses, but rarely—perhaps once a week or so.
I learn a lot from connecting with other breastfeeding parents through La Leche League and other groups. I also learn from watching my goats and their nurslings. When the goat kids were first born, I saw how important smell was to establishing the nursing relationship. Each doe licked and smelled her newborns over and over, every time they nursed. I could also see how stressful it was for them to be separated from one another, even for a minute. Soon after Pinky gave birth, I wanted to move her and her baby to a private, clean stall in order for them to have some time on their own (Pinky is at the bottom of my goats’ social order, frequently getting picked on and chased away from hay feeders). Pinky would not come with me, so I picked up her baby and moved it to the new stall. Pinky immediately started screaming, but didn’t follow her baby yet. I had to lead her into the other stall, even though she had watched me take her baby there. When she arrived, she sniffed her newborn with immense relief, and nursed it again.
I love how breastfeeding keeps me in close contact with my 11-month-old baby throughout the day (and night—well, sometimes I don’t love that part, but I manage). Just like my goats do, I get high on that amazing baby smell. As I hold her, I can tell from how her body feels if she is getting tired or hungry. The goats don’t know or care that they are female goats. They nurse because their kids smell awesome and it feels like the right thing to do. My baby doesn’t comprehend at this age that I am transgender, but she knows she gets nourishment and comfort at my chest.
This is #1000families post number 150. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.