Skip to main content
Arthur, pregnant, leaning against his partner Santana

Jun 3, 2024

On Pregnancy: our experience having a child as a trans couple

Arthur MacNair

Santana is a designer. Under her brand NARCISSISM, she makes looks for drag performers but trans people are at the heart of the brand. We met because she booked me for her first ever show. We were both in quite different places then. I always wanted to be a dad and as our relationship got more serious, I realised I really wanted to try and have a family with her. It was a scary conversation to have; because we had both been on HRT for years, we needed to make a decision quickly. People say there’s never a ‘right time’ but we all have ideas in our mind about the context in which we do these things. Santana is a meticulous planner, realistic and cautious. I am a dreamer and when I want something, nothing stands in my way of trying. We needed both of those things to make this work.

Arthur and Santana in their home

We couldn’t afford any fertility treatment and didn’t think that we would be accepted for adoption. Our option was to come off hormones and try and conceive in a ‘traditional’ way. It was very difficult to find trans couples like us who had managed to have a child - we had both been on HRT for 4+ years. There is a lot more anecdotal evidence for trans men being able to have biological children after HRT. All of the healthcare professionals and online resources told us the chances for Santana to have a biological child were almost nil. Trying to get pregnant was gruelling. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings that surfaced and the way I would feel in and about my body. Santana went through some very dark times too. When you feel like giving up, the lack of visibility and those messages of doubt are very hard to fight. When I look at our baby now, it feels almost insignificant - but it’s worth remembering the hope we had and the strength it took to keep going. Hopefully she will know how much we wanted her.

Arthur, a transman in pregnancy, posing topless

Visibility is an interesting thing to navigate - we wanted to be careful about how and why and to whom we are visible. I want to be open and available for the community, but we also need to be guarded for the family we have created. I found dignity in the privacy we were able to have, and wanted to make sure we honoured that for ourselves at as many stages as possible. I have felt very vulnerable at every stage in this process and was really keen to protect ourselves so that we could be present in that vulnerability.

I found pregnancy exceptionally demanding. I worked full time as a chef until my 37th week which added both a physical and emotional pressure; Double shifts, no breaks, not enough food/water etc and the sickness and pain that became a part of daily life was a transformative experience. Hormonal adjustments and the mental and emotional preparation of becoming a parent can be really overwhelming. I think it is important to express that side to pregnancy. The elevated anxiety that comes with pregnancy was tough for me too. I was in a state of almost constant fear that something would go wrong. The responsibility of caring for this growing baby is vast, and the more I dived into what that meant, the more that sense of duty and love expanded. At times I wasn’t sure if my head or my heart was big enough for that. Now Carmen has been born, it’s even more powerful.

Arthur, a transman in pregnancy, sitting up in bed

I wrestled with my masculinity the most at work. I realised that being capable and physically strong was an important part of my identity as a man. These things were challenged as the pregnancy developed. My hobbies became too dangerous or too physically demanding and my wardrobe choices got more and more narrow. My sense of self felt really wobbly. I’m working on understanding who I am under those things now, as a man, as Santana’s partner and as a dad.

Santana poised on a chaise lounge

I have experienced masculinity in so many different ways, before and after transition. Pregnancy has shattered a lot of the illusions I had about manhood and has also healed a lot of wounds that I had blamed on forced girlhood and femininity. The first thing I made peace with was that I had willingly entered a women’s space. At first I felt defensive and frustrated that it was so guarded. But as time has passed, I have looked more closely at the mothers in my life; my own, my sisters and now, Santana. I see protectors and providers full of grit and determination, humour, ingenuity... All these masculine traits I have aspired to for so long were first modelled to me by the women in my life. What an honour to be part of this type of work and see a side to humanity through this lens.

Santana and Arthur posing in bed with their dogWhen we took the photos, I had a really hard time. I really didn’t want to try to be masculine or sexy; I had struggled so much with my body image through the pregnancy and I thought it would be a disservice to that journey if I wasn’t honest about where I was at. Equally, it was a huge struggle to show what my body was like now it was focused on growing a baby and surviving the restaurant work. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be without the armour of hrt, exercise, my normal clothes. This process has taught me that running towards these experiences is where growth and, eventually peace is. I’m proud of myself for being brave and hope it gives others hope - or joy.

Santana poised against a chaise lounge

I really want to thank Santana and acknowledge how her love has allowed me to be ruined and rebuilt in safety. I can’t imagine going through this process without her. A lot of pregnancy and parenting is done alone. That’s the example I was given and I am so very grateful to be doing it with her. It’s the hardest thing we have ever done, but the most joyful, surprising and meaningful thing too. 

Photography by Mischa De Stroumillo