Gender Transition and Motherhood

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I have been tossing up writing my story down for all of you for a while now, however I feel that the time has come.

One of the hurdles I know that mums face, not only from my own experiences in motherhood but also through conversations with clients is about putting on the brave face. It is rampant. Pretending that your child eats and sleeps as they are “supposed to” just so you don’t have to face the unwanted advice from well meaning family, friends and of course strangers.

My journey through motherhood has been incredibly complex. I am a single mum – separated in the midst of my second pregnancy. I have experienced IVF, miscarriage, traumatic births and post-natal depression, to name a few. My girls are my life and I love them so much. Even now writing this, knowing that they are asleep curled up in their beds makes my hear swell with love.

There is more to my story than meets the eye, as there is with everyone’s really. However I have committed myself to living an authentic life. And a huge part of that is being authentic with what is going on with me both as an individual and as a mother. The strength I have gained through the unique circumstances at the end of my relationship is amazing, it is that which I want to pass on, teach and inspire mothers around the world to be the best. So for that to happen, let me be honest about why I am here where I am today.

My Story

Everyone loves a good drama and my life certainly has had enough of them. Ask anyone who has ever known me and there is always something happening to me. To be truthful I wouldn’t have it an other way. The times when things are smooth sailing and nothing is happening, they bore me. I much prefer action and change as I am a firm believer in the fact that change is the main catalyst for growth. Our purpose here in this life is to grow, to learn. The change I was faced with in June 2013 was not expected.

I was in a same-sex relationship for almost 5 years. We had one child together, Miss M. Born to me through IVF and the use of my eggs and donor sperm through a fertility clinic here in Sydney. In June of 2013 I was 28 weeks pregnant with our second. I had fallen pregnant after a frozen embryo transfer in February. One Sunday evening sitting at the dining table having dinner my ex-partner calmly told me that she had an appointment with an endocrinologist on the coming Tuesday and was going to begin the process of gender transition from female to male.

I did know that she had wished she had been born male. We had previously had discussions about her embracing her masculine side. However she had never said she wished to go through a medical transition. So this revelation came to be quite a shock as I was eating my dinner.

I don’t remember every emotion I felt. I remember feeling betrayed that she had not discussed this prior to making the appointment, or prior to me becoming pregnant with our second child. I was angry with her for making this decision now, when I was at a very vulnerable time (pregnancy is not easy for me emotionally with a history of post-natal depression and anxiety). I was in shock and a bit all over the place.

The next day I was over at my best-friends house telling her about it all, sitting there crying on the couch. What was going to happen now? Where does that leave me? Where does it leave me and our children? I didn’t know what to do.

Should I stay for the sake of the children?

Should I stay for the sake of having someone around to help me while I was pregnant?

Should I stay because I made a vow at our commitment ceremony?

This was not a clear cut decision, there were many layers to go through. There was one thing that I did know, I had to look after myself.

Now things had not been perfect in the relationship prior to this anyway. Anyone who is reading this who has had small children will know the immense stress that it puts on a relationship. A history of unequal expectations, emotional abuse and a lack of empathy and support for me could not be ignored. Coupled with her decision to make her gender transition immediately, without any discussion with me about whether or not while I was pregnant was the most suitable time, I knew that the relationship could not last.

Also there was the simple fact that as a lesbian I am attracted to female and want to be in a long-term relationship with another woman, not a man. My ex-partner was changing genders, into the one that she should have been born as, male. And since he would identify now (in his words) as a heterosexual male, we were no longer a fit.

I did consider staying. As like many lesbians I have been in relationships with men. That is not however my identity and I knew that I could not compromise who I was for anyone. I was not going to stay in a relationship, with a man, with someone who had been emotionally abusive to me. I knew that for my girls it was my job, my responsibility to be a role model for them. It was and still is so important for me to demonstrate that you do not remain in a relationship that is unequal, where one partners desires are continually placed as a priority above another’s. My girls were not going to grow up, learning from an early age that this was an appropriate way for someone to treat you (regardless of gender).

So I ended the relationship and asked my ex-partner to leave.

Now the particulars of the aftermath of the separation are not something that I wish to go into. Like the end of any relationship emotions are heated, things are said and done by all parties involved that are inappropriate and often regretted later. Feelings are hurt. Grief is experienced. Tears are shed.

The rawness of the emotion of the split are healing. It has been two years now, and I am happier than ever.

The uniqueness of the separation means that there are ongoing factors for me and my girls to adjust to.

I have of course lost my partner. I liken it to a death. The woman who I fell in love with, who I had children with, who I planned to spend the rest of my life with no longer exists. Instead it is only her male self that remains. Now some people may choose to argue with me about her not being here any more and I’d like to challenge that. Gender effects everything that we do. It is one of the filters that we use to perceive our world, where we fit into it, our role, our expectations, what is appropriate and inappropriate for us to do, say or think and so on. When you change your gender, you change this filter and hence your perception of the world, and in turn the way you play your role in it changes. In combination with the effects of testosterone therapy and surgical procedures the female ceases to exist. In essence (and of course her desired outcome) she became a male, including legally.

I have had to grieve her loss. Maybe it could have been different if our split had been more amicable and not filled with messiness, but it wasn’t. I see him now (and I use the male pronoun as ‘she’ no longer exists) and it is like seeing a ghost. The feminine washed away by facial hair, a deeper voice, redistribution of fat and muscle and a sea of overpowering aftershave! There are times that he will laugh and I hear her giggle though. That brings back happy memories, but that person will never exist again.

I have had to adjust to hearing my eldest call him ‘dad’. Rightly or wrongly this is probably the most difficult thing for me. I do refer to him as ‘dad’ so not to confused the girls but it does break my heart and on some days makes me sad or angry. But that is my stuff.

My eldest knows as much as I think she needs to at the moment.

Whenever I talk about my ex and something that we did together in conversation with someone I use the female pronoun ‘she’ and her female name. I did not have a relationship with him so I cannot talk about experiences with him that I did not have. When I talk about something that happens in the present, or at least since he asked me to call him by his male name I of course use the male pronoun and his current name. It may sound like compartmentalizing it all but that’s the way I have had to structure it so I can cope.

When my eldest hears her name, she has said “that used to be my dad”. And I of course say yes. I will not lie to her about any of this. It is not the type of person I am, or the type of mum that I am. I have told her that she was not happy as a girl and went to the doctor to take some medicine to become a boy and now is happier. This is always followed by “both of us love you very much” to try and prevent her feeling that any of this has been her fault. It seems to have been enough for now.

My youngest has known nothing else, but there will be the day that she will be told – probably by her sister!

We were discussing how babies were made a week or so ago. My brother and his wife just had a baby girl and Miss M was asking me how she was made if her dad used to be a girl.

This question had me a bit stumped. How much detail do I go into? How do I explain the process of IVF and donor sperm to a 4 year old? The adding gender transition on top of this? I can’t recall the exact words I used but it was along the line of going to a doctor to help get some “special seeds call sperm” from someone who didn’t need them to help me fall pregnant. I didn’t use the words biological father.

She is very smart though and I know that the question will not be too far off… So who did the special seeds come from?

I have all the donors information and he is willing to be found when my daughters are 18 if they wish to – something that I would encourage and support if they choose to go down that path. The question I face with is what do I do now.

I have not been able to find any books on IVF and donor sperm AND gender transition all in one neat little package. So I have decided to write my own. A family scrapbook so to speak – a book about our journey.

Watch this space as I share my creative process with you!! If you’d like to get the updates as I do it sign up here!

There are specific parenting lessons that I have learned and goals that I have designed for our little family thanks to this ongoing journey.

  1. I am incredibly protective of my girls. I am that true Mumma Bear! If you cross me and try and do anything that could possibly hurt them in any shape or form BEWARE! The wrath of Heather will come down upon you like nothing else you have ever known.
    To me this is a good thing and one I am proud of. I will be here to protect my girls from the inevitable hate that they will get as much as I can, and if I can’t protect them I will damn sure be here for them to run to for support. 
  2. I value honesty and openness as a parent. Yes I could choose not to tell the girls anything about the separation, gender transition or the IVF but I don’t believe that will serve them or us as a family. Finding out about something like that when you are older would be incredibly hurtful – not necessarily because of the content but because of the deceitfulness of your mother not being honest about where you came from, about your identity. 
  3. The importance of self-love and respect. While my girls will not learn the lesson so much at their current age, as they grow up and learn more and more about how people treat us and the relationships we have with special people in our lives, they will learn from me, from my words AND actions that you must first love and respect yourself, and your own path in life before bending to another’s. 
  4. The amazing strength it take to be a single mum. There are mums out there who make joke that their husbands work so much or are away so much that they feel like they are a single mum, but it is not the same. That which is often called solo parenting lacks one main part of being single, the singleness of it all. While my ex and I have legal shared parental responsibility, in practicality it is I who make all the decisions at the moment (this may change, this may not). That is an amazing amount to bear.
    I have been told so many times “I don’t know how you do it!”. The thing is, I had to – there was no other option for me. The lives of my children were in my hands, my responsibility. I had to step up and while dealing with my acute and ongoing grief and adjustment to my partners transition also go from being a mum of one to a mum of two!


All the work that I do through Blissed Out Mums, all the mums that I talk to, that I am here to help all benefit from these and many more lessons that I have learned over the last two years. And these same mums and those who I help and inspire to transform their lives in the future will benefit from this and everything else that is yet to come.

I love being a mum! I am an amazing mum!

I am not perfect. I strive to be the best that I can be, never accepting second best. This is for the benefit of me and my girls. And hopefully millions of mums world wide who by the end of my journey on this earth (in a long long time) will have gained strength and support from what I teach.

 

Heather

xo

 

If you’d like to be a blissed out mum and become a SuperMum in your own right, get in contact with me here and let’s start the conversation!

1 Comment

  • amy@socialsynergy.com.au'

    Amy-Louise

    Reply Reply August 12, 2015

    Thanks for being so brave and sharing this story for others. It’s so important for us to be true to ourselves for ourselves and others.

    I am looking forward to all the goodness you have to offer and share with all the mums out there!

    Xx
    Amy-Louise

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