Inducing Lactation but Not Giving Birth
In a transgender relationship, both Chris and Amy carried babies for their families. Amy shares her journey of inducing lactation and the experience of motherhood both as the birthing and non-birthing partner.
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TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR PARTNER: TTC TO PRESENT
My name is Amy and my husband’s name is Chris. We met while working together about 10 years ago. We got engaged about 2 years after we started dating and moved to start our life together from Kentucky to Ohio.
Chris and I struggled with infertility and after about 5 failed IUIs decided to switch to Chris and see if he had better luck (Chris was born female ). After 5 more failed IUIs and a miscarriage, Chris became pregnant with our first child, Hayden. I induced lactation in order to share in the nursing bonds with Hayden.
When Hayden was about a year old we decided we should start trying for a second because we knew it could be a long road. I desperately wanted to carry a baby so I was going to give it another try. We got pregnant with Milo on our first IUI.
Hayden is now almost 5 and Milo is 3. We feel like our family is complete and feel so blessed to have been given these two little amazing beings.
WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM PRIOR TO YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE?
I didn’t know much about postpartum before Hayden was born. I had heard of it but mostly in the negative ways we all hear about postpartum.
Our experience was unique in that I experienced postpartum from a non-carrying and carrying parents perspective. We don’t talk much about the non-carrying parents perspective but it’s definitely one to consider.
Back then, I was one of those “We will never…” pre-parents that everyone knows and loves. You know the person who thinks that getting pregnant, birthing a baby, raising a child will be like a scene from a picture-perfect movie?
Due to this fact, I really didn’t prepare or give postpartum much thought because everything was going to be rosy!
FOR YOUR FIRST CHILD, YOUR PARTNER BIRTHED- HOW WAS HE REGARDED BY OTHERS THROUGH THE CONCEPTION THROUGH POSTPARTUM TIME?
It was tricky for Chris because he struggled with a lot of issues with his own body and he was pre-transition at this point (so not always presenting as male and he wasn’t on any hormones at the time).
Navigating the fertility clinic was rough. There are not currently a lot of doctors who understand trans men giving birth.
We were lucky enough to pair up with some amazing midwives who while they were not well versed in the trans community. They were amazing and super willing to learn. Between them and the help of a doula, we were really treated amazingly.
The hospital we birthed at was incredible and they followed our directives in the birth plan explicitly (pronouns, how he wanted to be addressed, assuring the desired level of privacy he requested during checks).
Chris has always taken a male role in things so I do know that through our first pregnancy people often forgot he was pregnant.
FOR YOUR FIRST CHILD, YOU INDUCED LACTATION TO BREASTFEED. DID YOU NOTICE HORMONAL CHANGES AND EXPERIENCE ANY POSTPARTUM SYMPTOMS IN THAT WAY?
Yes! Part of the inducing lactation process is tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant (through the use of medication). This can definitely affect your hormones and then when you start pumping that kicks up hormones in your body as well.
There are so many emotions that you experience through infertility and then the massive emotions and responsibility that comes with preparing for a baby and parenthood. You add those things on top of the medical process of inducing lactation and it’s very difficult (but amazing at the same time).
When Hayden was born I had so many emotions that just come with being new parents. Navigating it was much harder than I imagined. I think this was because of the hormonal changes.
Related: Online Pumping Course (This can help you to induce lactation)
WHAT SURPRISED THE BOTH OF YOU THROUGH YOUR DIFFERENT POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCES?
We had very different birthing experiences and pregnancies. For Chris, there was a lot of emotions surrounding his own body and transformation when Hay was born. He has always said when she was born he knew he had to continue his transition because he couldn’t ask her to be who she was as a person and to stand up for what she believes in without him being true to who he was.
Because of this his postpartum, while hard, was empowering but also isolating. Being treated like a mom when you are a trans male can be very emotional.
For me, I never expected to be a non-carrying parent so experiencing this side first made my second postpartum experience just slightly different as I had experienced it from both sides.
WHAT DO YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE REALIZED ABOUT CONCEPTION THROUGH POSTPARTUM WITH A GENDER TRANSITION?
Oh so many things! Not just with assigned gender transition but also with each parent their needs, fears, and anxieties are not cookie cutter.
There are so many things that can trigger a person and preparing for a baby can really magnify emotions. When your emotions are also tied to your assigned gender at birth this can be really damaging.
If I had to choose *one* wish, it would be that medical professionals, friends, family, birth workers, everyone really, asked questions in a respectful way. If you don’t know, just ask! It really can go a long way.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE HURTFUL? (EVEN IF WELL INTENTIONED?)
We were really lucky to have a super supportive family, birth experience, the community surrounding us during Hayden’s birth. Although there was a lot of learning, people worked very hard to stay respectful.
Where we really felt hurt was when I was pregnant with Milo and after. People seemed to be astonished that I hadn’t birthed Hayden (because we ALL know there is only one was to have children…cue sarcasm). We were often having to explain over and over our family.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS PEOPLE SAID/DID THAT WERE MOST HELPFUL IN A DIFFICULT TIME?
Actual honest to goodness help. Having a community that is there for the parents and not just the cute babes (even though they are the best) is incredible. Making meals, folding laundry when they visited and making Hayden feel special was huge.
I think the biggest thing was when people would just listen. Not offer advice, just listen.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
A persons family makeup is different no matter what it might seem. It’s so important that we don’t ASSUME anything.
From conception to parenting methods every family takes a slightly different path so if you don’t know…just ask!
There are so many ways to be a family, none of them wrong and all of them amazing.
If you’d like to talk more, are going through a similar experience or just have more questions you can contact Amy here.
Thank you to Amy for sharing her journey of inducing lactation and the experience of motherhood both as the birthing and non-birthing partner.
Related: Postpartum with Chronic Illness
This series, Postpartum Narratives, aims to bring awareness, normalization, and understanding to different postpartum experiences. No two postpartum experiences are the same, and as a society, we cannot have one view of what postpartum is or should be. By sharing stories, we diversify our own understanding and can then advocate for better support and resources for each person and space that affects a postpartum family- the home, the workplace, the medical field, social constructs, etc. if you have a postpartum narrative you would like considered for contribution, please contact me here.