My First Pregnancy Was Textbook. This One Feels Like a Minefield
Collage by Cathryn Virginia | Images Courtesy of Getty
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My First Pregnancy Was Textbook. This One Feels Like a Minefield.

Acceptance from loved ones is hugely helpful, but we still need better trans awareness in healthcare.
November 1, 2021, 5:39pm
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A column about being a pregnant trans dad, and all the prejudices, healthcare challenges, personal dilemmas, and joys that come with making a family in 2021.

My first pregnancy was textbook. Early on in my second, after a rockier road to conception, I have this nagging sense that everything that could go wrong will.

In June, around ten weeks into my first trimester, my 3-year-old SJ and I are having Sunday lunch at a friend’s house. Cate and Daniel’s kid was born a few months after mine, and we met at an extremely chilled parent-baby group that a mutual friend held at the local independent record shop (I can’t deny, it was as perfect as it sounds).

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In the years since, Sunday roast—with the crossword from our mutually-preferred paper and Formula 1 on the TV—has become a regular thing. We didn’t know each other before the kids were born, but those babies sparked a family friendship I now can’t imagine life without.

The magic thing is that Cate is also pregnant again, a couple of months ahead of me. We three adults are excited to become parents again at roughly the same time. There’s not much we don’t share or compare notes on about our different experiences. The fact that Cate is a cis woman and I’m a trans man is usually by the by.

No, reader, I cannot explain how I got this lucky as a solo transgender dad.

So when, towards the end of the meal, I feel something bad happen, being with them means I don’t immediately panic. I stand up with a “Just popping to the loo” walk through the kitchen and into the downstairs toilet. No one bats an eye.

“The fact that Cate is a cis woman and I’m a trans man is usually by the by.”

As I’d sensed, there’s a scary amount of bright red blood in my boxers. It’s not the “spotting” that’s fairly common in early pregnancy. My insides lurch as I think of the December miscarriage: “Oh, you’re fucking kidding me, not again.”

Cate is the kind of excellent person who keeps period products on the window sill. I use a pad, clean up, and slip from the toilet through narrow double doors into their garden. The others start to clear the table, and I wait for Cate to come into the kitchen to catch her eye.

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“I’m bleeding,” I say, as she walks outside, looking just slightly worried. No doubt she’s already read something on my face.  

“OK,” she says, perfectly calmly, meeting my potential panic with the exact energy it needs at this moment.

“Like, a lot?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you want me to drive you to the hospital?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

We’re out of the house and in their car with SJ in what feels like less than a minute. In the strangely subdued rush, I forget SJ’s shoes, sweatshirt, and balance bike. With the engine started, we regroup. Cate suggests ringing ahead to the nearest hospital’s Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU). She’s remembering that, given the day and time, we might get there and end up being asked to go back tomorrow. I feel like she’s walking me through everything and being my brain, which is a relief because mine has checked out.

“Good idea,” I nod.

She starts driving slowly. A friendly voice answers my call.

“Hi,” I say. “I’m uhhh, I’m calling because, well, I’m uhh… I’m pregnant and I’m bleeding. I’m about ten weeks pregnant and I’m wondering if um… well, what should I do?” 

I follow with a nervous laugh that’s meant to communicate: “I know it sounds like I’m pranking you but surprise! I’m not! I’m just a trans guy! Please understand that part, like, right now, without me having to explain further...!”

“Are you calling for your partner?” she asks, still friendly but now slightly confused.

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“No, it’s me. I’m trans. I’m about ten weeks pregnant.”

Mercifully, it clicks and she moves on, as friendly as before.

“OK, so the best thing to do is call back in the morning to make an appointment. Then we can get you in for a scan. It’s not something we can do today, unfortunately. You just need to keep an eye on the bleeding.”

Cate turns towards my parents’ house. That’s where I want to be tonight. For some reason, however, my panic still isn’t rising. If anything, I’m starting to feel calmer. There’s nothing to be done now, and I think the bleeding has stopped.

SJ and I go into the house to find my stepdad cooking dinner, while Cate drives my mum round to ours to collect toothbrushes and pyjamas. Later, when my parents’ friends arrive for dinner, the kid and I are already sound asleep in the spare room. 

The next morning, Nana takes SJ to nursery, and I luckily get an appointment at the EPU. Cate had braced me for potentially having to wait a couple of days.

I drive the half-hour to the hospital with my mum. I need the distraction of being at the wheel. There’s been no more blood, but I’m feeling fatalistic, like what will be will be. I have a clear memory of my paternal grandfather being described as “fatalistic” and thinking it sounded cool. I’ve never understood so viscerally what that means.

Simultaneously, on another very deep and secret level, a whisper is saying: “I think things are going to be OK.” I have no idea from what part of my brain this confident little twerp emerged. He has no right to be here and is not helping, I rationalize.

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Into the cramped Labour Unit carpark, through sliding doors, down a shadowy corridor, to a blue side door that looks like a cupboard but says “Reception.” Until we’re inside the ultrasound room, I consciously hold myself in a way that’s meant to convey: “I’m just a dude, pay me no mind. Maybe I’m a visitor, maybe my mum is my pregnant wife. Whatever the case, I am indeed utterly uninteresting.”

The sonographer is as friendly as the person who answered the phone last night. I wonder if this hospital and its staff are somehow “different” because a trans guy already gave birth here three years ago. I know this because that trans guy was me. 

But, equally, I’ve no idea if she knows that and suspect that it’s arrogant to assume. Hospital staff are professional carers, after all. She is just doing her job. It shouldn’t feel extraordinary to be treated with respect and compassion when you come in for an emergency scan because you might be miscarrying, no matter who you are.

She squirts the gel and presses the sensor into my abdomen. Immediately, it picks up a heartbeat. 

“There we are,” she smiles reassuringly, as my mum squeezes my hand.

That cocky little voice in my head knew something that I was too scared to acknowledge. It was OK. Scary, yes, but a fleeting episode. The blood, essentially a small clot, must have taken up residence and then picked the evening before to thoughtlessly check itself out. The sonographer thinks she can see the area of uterine lining it came from and says there might be a bit more, but it should stop by itself and isn’t concerning.

On the way home, we get a drive-thru. That Big Mac is among the best I’ve ever, and suspect will ever have. I even treat myself to a banana milkshake, which, if you know, you know. They are manna from heaven. As I sip away in the passenger seat, I have a silent word with the tiny bean in my belly: “Hey baby, can we chill now? Let’s wait until you arrive for the adventures, OK?”